Lake Tahoe is one of those places whose name I was familiar with but I couldn’t quite put my finger on anything specific that I knew about it. Indeed, one thing that I thought I knew about it — that it was in California — was only partly true.
Although I usually try to stay away from check-box tourism — that is doing things just to complete a set or increase a count — I did pretty well numerically this time. I got almost all the way around the lake, just missing out on the south east corner, and added another state, Nevada, to my tally.
The drive up from the Bay Area was fascinating in its own right. It’s easy, as a tourist, to see only the “obvious” places. In the Bay Area you see San Francisco, the Golden Gate, Alcatraz. I love to also see the “normal” parts of a country and a road trip is the ideal way of doing this. Stopping off en route for a quick bite to eat is a great way to sneak a quick look at the less travelled parts of a county, and that’s exactly what I did here, stopping at Davis and Auburn.
I stayed in a small town on the north shore of the lake called King’s Beach. It was small, even more rigidly grid-shaped than most other American towns I’ve been in and, except for the main road, very quiet. It was even possible to lie down and sleep near the water front.
It’s easy to go hundreds of miles on the freeway, but it’s a little more tricky to figure out how long it takes to get around on smaller roads. So for my first trip out of Kings Beach I decided not to go too far. According to the guide book there was an easy walk to a fantastic view of the whole lake. It was not wrong.
The weather was good — hot even — and I was out of shape, which meant the walk was harder than it should have been but it was absolutely worth it when I got to the top. I can even say that I’ve done part of the Tahoe Rim Trail, a walking route around the whole lake.
Even in July some of the nearby mountains still had snow on them. People had been skiing until only a few weeks earlier.
On my first day wandering around Kings Beach I did think about walking into Nevada. I knew that it wasn’t that far away but the map wasn’t great. It was either just around the next corner, or five miles away; I just couldn’t tell. It was hot and, well, I was lazy…
So the next day I drove around the coast, through Elevation Village (no connection with U2 as far as I know), to some beauty spots right at the side of the lake.
In late afternoon, with the low light cast over the lake, a couple of yachts slowly making their way north and the mountains in the background, it looked like a postcard.
I went back to Nevada a couple of day later, this time continuing on the road through Elevation Village and ending up about half way down the lake. I passed a number of harbours whose names amused me. The first one was prominently signposted: Secret Harbour. Not so much any more. The second was called Skunk Harbour. (The only reason I didn’t make it any further is that Glenbrook Bay isn’t nearly as funny.)
My destination was Spooner Lake.
When I arrived there were a number of tents erected between the car park and the lake. It turns out that there was a race and Spooner Lake was the end point. As I walked around the lake I was passed by a number of energetic and, sometimes, very tired joggers.
Towards the end of the loop, near the end of the race, were some bizarre signs, including this zombie haiku and a life-size poster of a zombie, complete with blood dripping from his teeth. I never did work out the significance of it all.
The next day I headed further around the lake, to the south-west corner where there is a well known Scandinavian house and waterfall, called Vikingsholm.
I guess Lora Josephine Knight must have been to different parts of Scandinavia to me as I didn’t think that it felt terribly Nordic. Though, in its defence, the location was stunning. There was a long, snaking path from the car park down to the lake. For much of the walk there were views across the lake, and down at our destination you could see that almost everything was taken from a palette of rich greens.
Down at water level, the path meanders past the house and splits off into various routes, some into the woods, some down to the water front and another, the one I decided to take, to a waterfall.
Perhaps because the winter lasted so long, the water seemed to be flowing very quickly and up on a viewing platform there is considerable spray and it doesn’t take long for a fine mist to cover everything from my t-shirt to my camera. I decided to head back to the car before it causes any serious electrical damage!
For the last day near Tahoe, I decided to head back to near where I started. Shortly after the turnoff for the walk I did on the first day is another one labelled Tahoe Meadows. (Actually, the main indicator is a line of cars parked by the side of the road!)
As soon as you’re out of the car you can see why it’s called “meadows.” There are green, rolling hills going down some way before it turns into the familiar pine trees that seem to circle the whole lake. It doesn’t feel dramatically higher or cooler here, but there are still large expanses of unmelted snow on the ground. In the shade of the trees it’s still white, crunchy and untouched.
It was a relatively short and easy walk but very pretty with the lake making beautiful, sharp reflections of the higher peaks and the views all the way down to the lake and some of the distant mountains.
It’s a great area and I could happily have spent more time there, though I can, unfortunately, only afford to take so much time off work! Since they’re both areas of outstanding beauty and are both in California, I couldn’t help but think of my time in Yosemite a couple of years ago. I started thinking in terms of which was “better” but left thinking that they were both distinctive and had different things to offer. I’d happily go back to either!