Prologue: There are times in life, especially in a Lake Tahoe life, whereby a hike is not just a hike. In fact, it may not be a hike at all. It just might be an outing in a canoe. A gorgeous red canoe in fact. Such was the case (or at least the excuse used) for my vowed hike this past week.
The Hike (sans walking): It had been an unusually busy week within the real estate community and not an hour of free time had come my way. Not one. As I hosted my open house this past Saturday, group after group stopping by made joyful comments regarding the beauty of the day, or how they had just come back from a swim in the lake or how sweaty they were following a bike ride in the woods or how cool the display was at the Wooden Boat Show. You got the picture, right? Outdoor envy got the better of me so I picked up the phone. “Don, let’s take the canoe out this evening and have a picnic.” No argument on his behalf. I wrapped up the Open House, headed home to change clothes, pack the goodies and off we went.
We decided on our usual launch pad, Baldwin Beach and within minutes of arriving, we were in the water. Following a short bit of discussion as to which direction to head, we decided to paddle somewhat southeast toward Kiva Beach with a plan to head back toward the entrance (if there was going to be one) where Taylor Creek flows into Lake Tahoe. Taylor Creek is the only outlet for Fallen Leaf Lake and begins at the Fallen Leaf Lake dam on the north side of the lake. From there it winds its way northward entering the wetland of Taylor Creek & Tallac prior to entering Lake Tahoe. We were experiencing a tolerable level of swells and chop from the combination of the afternoon breeze and multiple recreation boats/jet skis playing in the afternoon sun. No problem and in fact, rather fun. As we passed the spit of land separating Taylor Creek from Lake Tahoe, our guess that the creek level was too low to paddle directly from the lake to the creek appeared (yes, I said “appeared”) to be correct. After passing the Kiva Beach area, we decided it was time to turn back and see if we couldn’t paddle even a small way up the creek.
When we reached the spit of land separating the two bodies of water, we beached our canoe, donned our sandals and began our portage. Reaching the creek, we were surprised to see that the waterway was actually wider and deeper than anticipated. Plop. The canoe was once again back in the water and paddling underway. Allow me a small clarification – Don was paddling. I had a camera hanging from my neck and by golly, there was “work” to be done. Don assured me that he could handle the paddling on his own and who was I to argue with Jeremiah Johnson. Folks, let me tell you. This little trip up Taylor Creek through the wetlands is a world in and of itself. Quiet. Tinkling water. Darting Damsel Flies. Sleepy geese. Frogs. Herons. Beaver dams. Fishing Osprey. Blissfully quiet. All the sounds from the lake’s bustling activity was gone. It was so tranquil we found ourselves no longer casually chatting amongst ourselves. Just listening. Quiet.
At one point a Blue Heron who had been hanging out with the geese, chose to lift off and casually fly away directly in front of us. An osprey dramatically plunged into the waters and was rewarded with the catch of a trout that turned Don’s eyes green. A few remaining wildflowers lined the banks of the creek adding to the environment’s overall color palatte. All too soon, we arrived at a point where we had to turn around. Don hopped out of the canoe to wade a bit further up the creek in search of whatever. I stayed in the canoe and continued to listen. I hadn’t used my legs yet on this “hike/outing.” Why start now?
Upon Don’s return, we slowly paddled down creek toward the lake. At one point I thought I saw a kayak enter the creek directly from the lake. I mentioned my observation to Don yet from his point of view, they too had portaged. Realizing they may have entered just a bit further down where there was a significant bend in the creek bank, Don followed with, “On the other hand, let’s check it out.” Sure enough the creek actually did make it all the way to the lake with enough depth to paddle through. Hurray! Not so much because it saved us from having to lug the canoe across the beach but rather because we were delighted to see that there was apparently more water in Taylor Creek than we had thought possible following the past winter’s minimal snowfall. For some reason, this gave us an elated sense of hope. You know the feeling. All is well with the world. Okay, maybe not the world, but it certainly in Lake Tahoe this past Saturday.
The pledge to partake in a weekly Tahoe hike continues in full stride. Some of these walks have been stunningly beautiful. Some have been challenging and others have been inspirational. This last week’s hike was, shall we say, interesting? How about a classic case of unexpected consequences? Come to think of it, serendipitous is a fitting description.
I didn’t set out with plans to take a hike. In fact, it was the furthest thing from my mind. My schedule was jam-packed with appointments, scheduled phone calls, and appointments to photograph new listings. Curious? Do you have any idea how poor my sense of direction is? With this story of my most recent hike, I invite you to prepare yourself for a nice chuckle on my behalf.
I was wrapping up the shoot for a new listing when it dawned on me that there was a pretty nice forested area leading to a beautiful meadow nearby. Knowing this nearby access to outdoor recreation was a strong selling feature, I thought it a good idea to gather a few more images to add to our marketing program for the cabin. The entrance to this forest area was just around the corner but I chose to jump in the car instead of walk. I simply didn’t have the time to walk. Less than a minute later, I had parked the car and headed toward the trail with my camera.
The trail was well marked and offered just the slightest of inclines. On either side of the trail, there were wildflowers blooming and remnants of fences that had seen better days. I couldn’t help but wonder if the random fence pieces had stories to tell. Were they once marking the borders of a pioneer’s rustic dwelling? Did a young couple with dreams of a new life in the Wild West settle here for a period of time? I was having a grand old time conjuring up these images when I looked ahead and saw filtered views of the meadow ahead. Deciding that a full panoramic image of the lush green grasses could have an impact on those “shopping” online, I meandered a bit further down the trail. Feeling pretty pleased with myself in that I thought I would be able to present a lovely representation of what this cabin had to offer, I decided to wrap up my little adventure and head back to the office and the various calls that needed to be made.
This is where my adventure began. At one point, I began to realize that the trail out was taking as much longer than the trail in. Hmmm. Shoot. I’m lost. How embarrassing. How can this be? Why I bothered to even ask myself this question is comical. Deciding I didn’t want to be the subject of uproarious laughter in the office, I decided not to call and report my current dilemma. (yes, the trusted phone was in my pocket. An inner voice told me that I needed to continue leftward. Yes, leftward. I have no concept of north vs south and all that that entails so the compass on the phone would have been useless. (in case you were wondering why I didn’t use it.) “Leftward” I headed and eventually found the trail leading back to an access street. Problem was, my car wasn’t there. Sure enough, I was still lost. I was in a neighborhood but not where I had started. I walked until I found the corner sign indicating which street I was on. Perfect. This street was leftward of the cabin I had photographed. When shooting the images, my car was parked across the street from the cabin pointing left. I was pretty sure I had driven forward when I had headed for the trail (wrong.) I certainly don’t remember doing any U Turns. Feeling I had my bearings in line I began walking up and down the streets that also led to forest access points. After about 30 minutes I knew I wasn’t making advances. Ah, what to do? I had phone calls scheduled and I had a phone. Figuring I might as well find my way back to the cabin and start over, I proceeded to make those calls and get some business checked off the list. And yes, among those calls, I let Don know of my current wanderings. I assured him I would sit down and call for a rescue if all else failed.
Does this little story sound frustrating to you? Can you “feel my pain?” More importantly, can you feel my laughter? Honestly, that’s what I was doing. Laughing. I mean seriously laughing. After all, how does one get to be my age and still fall into the trap of daydreaming while not paying attention to rather important details like where the heck I am? I was having such a good time laughing at myself I even made called a few friends knowing they would laugh with me.
My car? It was just around the corner from the cabin. “Rightward.”
Independence Day. A time to give thanks for freedom and recognize the beauty of the country where we live. What’s a girl to do? Go hiking of course. Not only hiking, but for the first time in a long time, hiking without a cell signal. No phone calls. No emails, no outside contact. An honest-to-goodness real day off. True freedom.
Even though I love the touristy energy of the Lake Tahoe beaches on the Fourth of July, all I could think of was heading to the hills to check out the wildflowers. Let me clarify a bit. As Lake Winnemucca in the Carson Pass area was the destination, using “hills” as a description is a bit of an understatement. Those with altitude struggles should know that this particular hike ranges starts around 8,500’ with an elevation climb of approximately 600′.
So off we went (gal-pals Lynette & Karen in tow) donned with cameras, water & snacks for our planned morning of chatter, sightseeing, fresh air and exercise. I wasn’t driving so naturally I surmised a purse wasn’t needed. It might have been helpful if I had at least grabbed my wallet. But no – the morning coffee hadn’t quite cleared all of the cobwebs as we and headed out the door at 7 am. Upon arriving at the Carson Pass parking (be sure to get there early this time of year as the parking lot fills up rather quickly) I remembered that the daily parking fee was $5. Heartfelt apologies on my behalf were met with Lynette’s calm, “I have it covered.” Of course she did.
This small stretch of Paradise crosses the Pacific Crest Trail coursing along the mountain crests through California, Oregon and Washington from Mexico to Canada. The hardest part of this particular hike of the day is honestly within the first 100 yards starting behind the privy’s which I recommend you visit prior to heading out. The following two miles or so offers fairly gentle climbing with views in every direction. Along the trek to Lake Winnemucca (what a great name) one will find treasures such as a reflection pool nestled in the shadows of surrounding pines, an meadow covered by a blanket of low-lying flowers (I am not a botanist & never will be hence names of flowers will not be provided), Bull Frog Lake, creeks, open vistas, mysteriously twisted tree trunks, a chorus of song birds, and of course the highly-sought after array of wildflowers.
How long is this hike? For most folks, the average walking time is about an hour in and 40 minutes out. The three of us on this particular day took 4.5 hours to reach the lake. Seriously! Folks greeted us as they passed going in and bid us a great day as they once again passed upon their return jaunt. We were so slow we gave the phrase “slow as molasses in January” a run for its money. There were simply too many glorious visual treats demanding our attention. It would have been rude to pass them by without paying due respect. And besides, there were hungry mosquitoes and biting flies that had been waiting all morning for our arrival. (word to the wise – bring bug spray) We couldn’t let them down, now could we?
It never fails that while hiking, some thought manages to enter my brain and like a song on an endless loop, that thought gets worked from every angle possible. On this particular day, the voices were dwelling on feedback I had received from various folks to whom I had mentioned I was going to check out the wildflowers. “There simply not here this year.” “A disappointment compared to previous years.” “It’s not like it used to be.” Why, I wondered, does there always seem to be a level of comparison.” Is it that hard to just dwell in the uniqueness of the moment? It’s beautiful. Whether one flower is in full bloom or an entire hillside, it’s beautiful. Why do we set level of expectations? Why is it so natural to make judgments? The lesson I am earnestly going to try to take with me from this lovely day is to simply be as open as I can to the present moment. Something tells me that by doing so, I will actually see more.
Not a year goes by that I don’t make this hike and each and every time, I am thrilled with the overwhelming beauty. Keep in mind that this hike is popular and the odds of finding yourself alone on this trail is rare. But at the same time, one can’t help but notice how happy everyone is along the way. It’s an infectious feeling and adds to the joy this hike provides. If you have a moment, check out this snappy little slide show. It will show you a small sample of the beauty of the Lake Winnemucca hike.
Epilogue: We wrapped up the outing with a glass of wine and a fabulous bowl of Burgundy Beef Stew at Sorenson’s. (A must do for all.) In an effort to be both appreciative and gracious, I suggested Karen and I buy Lynette’s lunch as she had volunteered to drive. Karen enthusiastically agreed and it was then I once again remembered that I had no money. Whoops. “I have it covered,” Karen responded. Of course she did.
We didn’t make it to the fireworks this year. But then again, the display of color we witnessed on the mountain this Fourth of July held a splendor all its own.
Time was very limited this past week, so the only logical decision to stay true to my weekly hike vow was to search out a destination that wasn’t time consuming yet provided a refreshing break from a busy work schedule. Being overdue for a “girls’ play-day,” I called upon “soul-sis” Lynette for company. Feeling rebellious concerning the daily need to look “presentable,” I donned the one pair of shorts that my “what not to wear” fashion adviser, Karen Leland overlooked when she threw out the majority of my clothes a month ago. To top off my “I am not into fashion” look, I completed my ensemble with an old over-sized shirt, a base ball cap and a pair of very unattractive hiking shoes. Much to my delight, Lynette greeted me at the front door with a greeting of, “I look like a real dork” and pointed to her calf high socks, equally unattractive shoes and a walking skirt. You got the picture, right? But then again, we decided it was pretty fun being at a point in life where one simply does not care if others notice or not.
We started our hike at the trail entrance at the west end of Skyland Drive within the Skyland neighborhood of Zephyr Cove on Nevada’s East Shore. As parking can be limited, I strongly suggest reversing the direction of the hike and instead start at the Zephyr Cove Resort area. Either way, this is a win-win outing. Within an approximately 2.5 round trip excursion, one will experience a tranquil forested environment, endless lake views and a colorful resort atmosphere (during tourist season.) Trail arteries meander in a variety of directions yet seem to always work their way back to the main path. I highly recommend you take your time and explore. Two years ago, the forest service thinned the forest and burned some of the lower growth. Remnants of their efforts are still visible yet this hike is enveloped by beauty. Soaring pines, chirping birds, lapping water along the shoreline, sandy beaches and impressive granite boulder formations call to you in nearly every direction.
At one point I wanted to head toward the shoreline only to be surprised to find that our path ended abruptly by a new fence line restricting admittance. Turns out, there is a plant from the mustard family that is an endangered species and Lake Tahoe is the only place in the world in which it grows. Those that know me well are aware of my mustard obsession. I was in awe. This was like discovering a powerful new vortex right here in Lake Tahoe. A rare mustard plant. Who knew? One more reason to rank Lake Tahoe at the list of the world’s most popular destinations. Recovering my composure, we ventured westward until we found a new trail that did indeed take us to the shoreline. Continuing along our hike, we found a large estate that is now owned by the US Forest Service (but apparently not used for any known functions,) ideally located park benches and Lynette’s “picnic rock,” the perfect place to sit and soak up the sun.
As we neared the Zephyr Cove Resort, the sounds of sun-worshipers overtook the songbirds. An explosion of color met our eyes and the buzz of families having fun was in the air. That’s fun with a capital F-U-N! Dogs were chasing balls, kids were creating masterpieces in the sand, kayaks were gliding by, volleyball games were underway and folks were lining up for a “3 hour cruise” on the Dixie. (The round-trip cruise to Emerald Bay truly takes about 2 hours but I like the nostalgic ring of “3 hour cruise.”) Grinning from ear to ear, Lynette and I both remarked how important it was for us to take time to play like a tourist in our backyard. After all, folks come from around the world to do just this.
What I enjoyed most about this hike is that, aside from the beauty and fresh air, the ease of the outing allowed us an opportunity to chat freely and therefore solve the problems of the world. Meanwhile the transition from serenity to tourist buzz and back left me with the feeling of having truly escaped from the daily routine of work and chores. All of this under an hour. Trust me – this hike is a joy. Try it yourself and let me know what you think. Better yet, give me a call with an invitation to join you. I promise, I will make an effort to not embarrass you with my choice of wardrobe. But then again . . .
It’s rare that I find myself with an opportunity to enjoy Lake Tahoe’s gifts on a weekend. Especially a weekend when the sun is in full performance and the temperature is hovering at just about perfect. What the heck – it was perfect. As my dearest friend, Ann ws visiting, hubby gave me the day off. And as I had not yet taken my weekly hike per my public vow, guess what I suggested we do? Hike. In deciding where to go and knowing that there were no time restraints, I decided we should venture up to Echo Lake. Those of you that travel up Highway 50 to Lake Tahoe are familiar with Echo Summit. This is the point where one begins the descent into the Tahoe basin. The lake itself is approximately 2 miles in from the Highway at the summit. Easiest enough to find. Right?
Okay, not necessarily so easy for one with a pathetic sense of direction. It’s certainly not the first time I have been to the lake over the past 20 years either. Never-the-less, despite signs and arrows indicating the way to Echo Lake, we drove in circles. The third time we found ourselves back at the Highway entrance, I gave up and called Don for directions. With the patience of a saint (and the mind of someone that was probably conniving his next fishing trip) he led us back to the main road leading to the trail head. Eureka – we found it. For those of you that have not yet been to Echo Lake (or have as lousy a sense of direction as do I) take Highway 50 to Echo Summit and turn onto Johnson Pass Road. Stay left and the road will lead you to the parking area by Lower Echo Lake.
Following a minor incident of backing the car into a small rock wall, we laced up the walking shoes and headed out. At the beginning of the hike, there is a lodge type store and public restrooms. Strong advice – consider using those restrooms prior to your walk. There isn’t a lot of privacy along the way. The glacial lake is divided into two sections; an upper lake and a lower lake. The level of the lake is maintained during the summer months with a dam located at 7,414 feet above sea level. I point this out because those coming from sea level could experience effects from the altitude. Be sure to bring lots of water. Overall the trail is rated easy to moderate.
To begin the hike, head to the right, cross over the dam and veer to the left to locate the trail. THE TRIAL. The Pacific Crest Trail. For a moment, I embodied the spirit of Cheryl Strayed (author of Wild : From Lost to Found.) Reality hit as reality does and I remembered that I was only carrying a water bottle, a light snack and a small camera. And, I was only on a 5 mile round trip trail. So be it. We were on the Pacific Crest Trail. And what a trail! The trail climbs a bit to allow an endless view of the lake below where one can oversee a variety of small cabins, watch kayaks gliding by and fisherman tossing their lines. The uphill side of the hike provides a stunning display of striped granite formations adorned with lichen and small springs. Throughout the walk, a variety of songbirds performed, lizards scampered and hikers (as well as crazy fitness runners) passed by repeatedly expressing what a glorious day it was. Yes, there were numerous folks passing us by as we meandered along at a pace that very well could have caused a turtle some frustration. But how could one rush through this hike? Each Western Juniper held a beauty that called out to be individually admired. The wildflowers deserved attention. The clouds overhead were constantly changing to create a new visual landscape. This was truly a time to simply be in the moment and absorb all that was being offered.
At the point we felt was a good half-way mark, (midway through the upper lake) we sat to enjoy a small snack. I can honestly tell you that this was one of the best apples I have ever eaten. There is truth to the adage that fresh air is the best ingredient to enhance flavors. Eventually we encouraged our sorry tushes to get back up and on the trail again. Now here is a delightful bit of news to share with you. The hike back along the very same trail is a whole new experience. The views are even more dramatic. Or at least they certainly seemed so to us. All in all, this particular hike would take the average hiker about 2.5 hours. We took almost twice as long. As far as I am concerned, we doubled the pleasure.