Westward Ho! Part 2 – Lake Tahoe

Lower Eagle Falls on its way into Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe. Fannette Island is in the background.

After Russ and I spent a few days in Yosemite National Park (see Westward Ho! Part 1), we drove north on twisty-turny mountain roads to visit Lake Tahoe, famed for its crystal-clear waters and scenic mountain vistas.

We had a few days there by ourselves before my youngest son and his lady friend arrived to join the fun. The weather cooperated while we were by ourselves – 70 degrees and sunny, which was similar to the weather we experienced in Yosemite, and much different than the rainy, gray weather in our hometown of Duluth. We felt so fortunate to escape and soak up some Vitamin D sunshine for a while. Snow crept in for the latter part of our trip, but it was a mountainesque snow globe kind of snow, much prettier than what we get at home, so we weren’t bothered.

The view out the back window of our condo.

The first thing that struck me was that the forests seemed healthier than those in Yosemite. Yes, there were some burned over areas, but they were few and far between compared to Yosemite. Apparently, the drought wasn’t as severe here.

Our condo in South Tahoe backed up against a National Forest, so we had a view unmarred by evidence of humankind, which was fine by me. Tall ponderosa pines and scattered boulders greeted us each day.

Fannette Island in Emerald Bay

Our first stop was Emerald Bay Vista, just outside of South Tahoe. Wow! What a view. This picturesque bay is probably the most-photographed feature of Lake Tahoe, with its turquoise waters and conical island in the middle. The island is named Fannette Island and it sports a small square stone building at its peak, which was built as a tea house by the people who used to live in Vikingsholm, an impressive Nordic-style house on the shoreline nearby.

We also hiked to Cascade Falls, a waterfall that empties into Cascade Lake, which is not far from Emerald Bay. Despite what the Internet and guidebooks say, the hike is NOT easy (don’t believe them!). Maybe the beginning of the hike is easy, but the trail quickly turns into a strenuous, rock-strewn and up and down experience. The falls themselves weren’t that impressive, but the views of Cascade Lake and Emerald Bay almost made up for it.

The next day, we hiked to Lower and Upper Eagle Lake Falls (the trailhead is near the Emerald Bay vista). The lower falls is right near the highway and if you don’t have a lot of time, I’d suggest you spend it here rather than hiking to the upper falls. At the lower falls, you can walk right up to the top of the waterfall where it spills precariously down the mountainside and into Emerald Bay – super impressive!

The Safari Rose tour boat.

That evening, we took a champagne sunset cruise aboard the Safari Rose, an aging luxury yacht that used to be the company boat for Minnesota’s 3M Corporation (think post-it notes). Its African-themed décor was probably quite the thing back in 1959 when it was built, although it doesn’t really stand the test of time. The outside of the boat looks like it could use some TLC. But, we enjoyed the cruise into Emerald Bay and the chance to see Fannette Island up close.

One tip: get in the line to board the boat early because seating is limited. We did not know this and ended up sharing a table with a very accommodating family of four from California who didn’t mind having a couple old folks sitting with them.

We ended up taking a day cruise later in our stay with my son and his girlfriend on the same boat. The tour narrative included new information, so we feel like it was worth doing it twice to learn new things (plus, we got our own table this time!)

Nevada Beach

A paved bicycle trail runs through the forest in many places, including near our resort. We used it to access Nevada Beach and Round Hill – home to a fifty-year-old closed resort. Its buildings are still intact and provide an interesting diversion among the trees.

One of our last days, we drove around the entire lake. Some of our relatives had raved about the town of King’s Beach on the north end of the lake and said we “had” to see it. Perhaps because it was early in the season (and snowing) many of its attractions were closed. But we found a good gift shop and did our best to support the local economy.

On our very last day, after finding a trail we wanted to hike closed, we ended up walking on the paved bike trail to Baldwin Beach during a gentle snow fall. On our way back to our car, we had the privilege of glimpsing a black bear, which was walking on a large downed tree about 100 feet away from us. Luckily, the bear was afraid of people. As it reared back its head to turn around and hightail it back the other way down the tree, I caught a glimpse of a white ruff of fur on its neck. We were glad the bear was running away from us and not toward us.

After enjoying ten days off, reentry into the workaday world was unpleasant for me, especially because I had a big event to host the day of my return, but I wouldn’t trade this trip for anything. Tahoe is truly beautiful, as I hope my photos will attest.