There is more than one way to give your heart a work out. You know the feeling where you find it beating so hard that you fear it will push right through your skin. And honestly, does anything make you feel more alive than when your heart reaches this level of intensity. Aerobic workouts can do the trick. So can an adrenaline rush. Yet what I experienced on this week’s hike topped the charts. L-O-V-E.
My father, 83 years young, was visiting and wanted to spend some time with Aubrey, my granddaughter of 6. I am also spending time babysitting Porter, (the grand-dog) while his parents are off gallivanting around Turkey. Where could I take a hike that would easily accommodate all three with ease? After a short bit of pondering, it dawned on me that the trails along the Valhalla Estates were perfect. On this particular day, we parked the car at Kiva Beach and headed toward the cabins in the direction of Camp Richardson.
For those of you not familiar with this tourist destination, the Tallac Historic Site is an area along the Highway 89 (Emerald Bay Highway) shoreline which at one time was the summer “get-away” for socially elite families in the early 1900’s. In recent years, the US Forest Service along with the Tahoe Tallac Association have restored the buildings and grounds to provide visitors the opportunity to glimpse into the charm and lifestyle of yesteryear. Enough history for now – back to the hike.
Throughout this hike, one has the options of strolling along the beach, venturing out on piers overlooking the crystal clear water, meandering along the garden trails, peering into cabins furnished to recreate their original purposes, and resting on well placed benches to take in the surrounding beauty. So off we went. I didn’t realize how ideal this hike was for such a wide variety of age and legs until we were actually there. For dad, a nice easy flat stroll. The pace was tolerable with numerous breaks (Porter puppy feels inclined to sniff every bush/pole/tree/pinecone along the way) to take the time to reflect on days gone by. For Aubrey, there were many garden circles to race around, bridges to tromp over, signs to read and questions to ask. As for me, I lagged behind assuming the role of the silent observer and photographer. That’s when I felt the heart grow from a flutter to a point where every nerve in my body tingled. Look at them – 83 and 6. They held hands. She asking the how and why questions, he answering as best as he could. “Yes Aubrey, this cabin was here before black and white TV.” “See this Aubrey, this is where cold foods were kept as there were no refrigerators.” On and on this dialogue continued. After awhile, I realized I was no longer hearing their words. Instead, I found myself watching their movements, a dance of life. 83 and 6. Bookends of four generations sharing precious time. No doubt, generations of families have enjoyed similar experiences here along the shores of Lake Tahoe but this was my moment, my family and my LOVE.
What a week! Between “Teflon Real Estate” (non-stick escrows) and Columbo Lending (Oh, just one more thing) the phones never stopped ringing. And the phones weren’t just ringing for business. Adding to the manic business schedule, I hosted a Dining For Women meeting, a reception for an art exhibit and organized an association luncheon for next week. Making matters even worse, there has been more than a fair share of heavy news involving close family and friends. It reached the point where it seemed there were so many voices yakking in my head that I couldn’t think straight over the noise, self-inflicted noise reaching higher levels each day. It finally dawned on me that the only way to turn down the volume was to fill my senses with fresh stimuli. Time to take a hike. Knowing I was scheduled to host an Open House in Montgomery Estates, I decided to lace up the sneakers and venture up the nearby High Meadow Trail.
The High Meadow trail can be accessed at the top junction of Marshall Trail and High Meadow Trail roads. I would classify this hike as “Good for Grandma.” Then again, I am a grandma and could handle a much harder trail if I wanted to (operative word – want) The trail is wide and easy and has a gradual incline during the lower part of the hike. About 30 minutes into the stroll one can experience a steeper grade with options to cross over to single wide trails. Scenics along the way include blossoming wild flowers, babbling creeks with small waterfalls, an open meadow and impressive rock formations.
Although the goal was to “turn off the noise,” it took nearly 20 minutes before my mind began to clear. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t the tranquil beauty that did the trick nor the elevated heart rate. Just as one might hang a wind chime or install a water feature to deflect road noise, it was tuning in to nature’s choie that did the trick. At first I became aware of the steady crunch of my footsteps along the trail. Before long the “cheeseburger” birds were serenading throughout the forest. (What is the cheeseburger bird you ask? A black capped chickadee. Click here for a demonstration.) As I ventured further, the sounds of a nearby creek called to me. Squirrels chattering happily while chasing one another around tree trunks. A gentle breeze was rustling the pine branches overhead. Stellar Jays were doing what Steller Jays do – squawk.
Approximately 40 minutes into the walk, I estimated that I had approximately 20 minutes before I needed to head back to be in time for the Open House. Rather than continuing with the walk, I opted to impersonate a lizard on a large granite boulder. As the warmth began to seep into my back, I closed my eyes, exhaled deeply and tuned in deeper to Mother Nature’s concert. No miracles took place and none of my pending issues magically vaporized. Yet, for a small window of time, there was a sense of balance. An “all is as it should be,” if you will. My shoulders retreated from my ears and the conflicting voices in my head lowered their volume to just above a whisper. It was time to head back.
While heading down the trail, I remembered once reading a quote from Mother Teresa. Thank goodness for the internet. I googled Mother Teresa and quotes about noise and there it was. And here it is: “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass-grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence . . . We need silence to be able to touch souls. “ Trust me, I get it. And those words still resonate in my heart. Quiet the senseless noise. Breathe In – Breathe Out – Let Go. Yet my visit today showed that nature is not at all silent. Nature today was a finely tuned orchestra. Minor falls and major lifts. Pure harmony. Bravo! Encore! Thank You.
Yesterday – Friday morning – phones are ringing, deadlines are approaching at the speed of a freight train and the paperwork is piling up higher than the new World Trade Center. My granddaughter is home with the flu and her mom can’t leave her to pick up supplies. The computer guru is coming to hook up the new printer and . . . (you got the picture.) What’s a girl to do, especially an old girl that pledged to take at least one hike a week and report on it? MULTI-TASK!
Knowing that there was not enough time to drive to a destination, I decided to lace up the trail shoes that I had stored under my desk for the past two years and head out the front door. Guess what? I have now discovered my new favorite hike. If you haven’t already done so, you simply must check out our little treasure right through the middle of town. From my office here at Pinnacle, I headed down the sidewalk toward the new Lakeview Commons. Once you reach the commons, you have a choice of staying up along the sidewalk paralleling the highway (level & easy but not my recommendation) or head down the steps toward a second trail that runs just above Lake Tahoe’s shoreline. The views epitomize the classic phrase, ‘breath-taking.” Especially if you hump along at a brisk pace. This is a hike in which you can include an aerobic workout should you feel so inclined. Throughout the hike, there are opportunities to stroll along the beach, climb up and down some stairs and partake in a few lunges if you really want to enhance the work-out. Heck, I think I will grab a couple of arm weights next time. Then again, maybe not. The best part of the walk was good old-fashioned people watching. Moms with babes playing in the sand, grandpa’s strolling along watching the clouds, a couple of Jedi warriors, on and on. The air had the perfect amount of briskness and the puffy white clouds could have inspired Joni Mitchell to write a song.
At one point up ahead, I noticed a woman walking toward me who was obviously taking in the beauty as well. I think her smile must have been as wide as mine and we were drawn to one another. The first words she spoke to me were “Isn’t this glorious?” She went on to tell me that she has been coming to Lake Tahoe for over 30 years and has never been disappointed. We chatted about the changes she had seen along Lake Tahoe Blvd over the years yet how the beauty of the lake remains a constant. I took a quick phone call and snapped a couple of images (remember that I am multi-tasking,) and our conversation soon meandered into discussing some of the treasures today’s technology provides. She shared with me that she was in her 80′s and every day she has the opportunity to “visit” her son in London via Skype. I mentioned that there were certainly aspects of life that might have been better in the past and with that she gave me the following advice. “We shouldn’t move backwards. We must move forward for every day has it’s own pleasantries.” OMG! I couldn’t believe it. I was in the presence of a Swiss Yoda. At that point I had to do the one thing I so rarely do and boldly ask if I could take her picture. She graciously allowed me to do so, asking if she could hold a pine cone to show that she was in the mountains. And in true classic style, asked that I please email her a copy. This was one woman that most certainly was taking advantage of life’s daily pleasantries. Martina Tuffli – I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You made my day.
I finished the hike by crossing over the highway to Safeway and grabbed some “feel better” goodies for my granddaughter, took 3 more calls and negotiated a sale all along the way back to the office. If it had been later in the day, I probably would have wrapped up the walk with a visit to Picchettis for a bit of wine-tasting. Alas. Duty called and I opted to head back to the office corral. All in all, what a glorious hike. I highly recommend it.
I recently returned from an annual trip I take to “get-away” and not comb my hair/wear lipstick/you’ve got the picture. During this time, not an iota of business was overlooked or dropped and in fact we generally see an increase in activity. The difference in my work production is that the time spent on business is concentrated. There are less interruptions and less chance of the need to multi-task (a skill at which I find myself with declining talent.) One of the highlights of a “work-cation” environment is that I can usually accomplish in 6 hours what can easily take me 10 hours at home. With the extra time, I find myself exploring soul-refreshing activities – “me time.” It never fails that when I end my time away and prepare to return to the “normal” lifestyle, I swear to myself that I WILL make all attempts to recreate this working environment back in Tahoe. After all, we live in an international playground. For Heaven’s sake, it can’t be that hard to do. Yet year after year, I fall into the same old patterns. Work, work, work and wondering where the time went. NOT THIS YEAR!
As luck would have it, the weather upon my return to Tahoe has been, simply put, blissful. There is no excuse not to move forward with the plan. Therefore, I have made the decision that I WILL explore a new hiking trail (or revisit some of my old favorites) every week from this point forward. That is until the weather says “enough already.” Nothing works better for me to stay on track than accountability. Announcing to others that I am going to do something is the strongest driving force against my ability to procrastinate. So there you have it. I am telling all of you that I not only will venture out on a hike every week, I will share with you where I have gone, post a few images and give a brief description of the hike.
First on the list – the 2013 maiden hike was to Cascade Falls. This is not the first hike I have ever made to this area but certainly the first time I have gone this early in the year and found no snow blocking sections of the trail. This trail begins at the Bayview Campground (across from the first Emerald Bay Lookout.) At this time, the gate to the campground is not open so we parked just off the Highway. The beginning of the hike is a level and wide dirt trail, perfect for idle conversations if walking with a friend. Public bathrooms (currently closed) are there as well. You will then come to a sign indicating Cascade Falls to the left and Desolation Wilderness to the right. Leftward we go. Pretty soon, the trail becomes narrow and is made up of primarily natural boulder steps. Most are fairly easy but occasionally those of us with shorter legs might find the need to carefully assess the best steps to take. The views are spectacular the entire way so don’t plan on making this an aerobic workout – let the beauty get your heart going instead. The distance is not too far and you will find yourself at the main waterfall within about 20 minutes. This is an ideal destination to enjoy a snack and just hang out. You can venture a bit further along the creek or across the large boulder flats however, the trail does end fairly quickly at that point. Trail markers are everywhere but if you get off a bit, just listen for the falls and head back in that direction. You will find the trail again with little problem. Also, there are almost always other hikers out and about in the area, especially in the summer.
Now, here’s the kicker. I had this wonderful outing (okay , I did answer a couple of phone calls and emails on route) and yet was back in the office by noon. Work efficiency level? By the end of the day, the check list was complete and a smile was on my face. It’s all in a Tahoe’ day of work.