Mountains around Tahoe

We returned from our Lake Tahoe/Sierra Nevada vacation late on Saturday. It should have been Friday, but a cancelled flight left us stuck for the night in Reno, which is really not the worst place in the world to get stuck.

We hadn’t vacationed since the summer of 2001 when we went to New York, New England and Quebec, and this time we wanted something that was easy and relaxing. Basically a vacation we wouldn’t have to recover from when we returned. Getting away to Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada mountains seemed like a perfect getaway.

Overall, we had a wonderful time away from central Texas where the sky is a furnace set on ‘hell.’ The weather in the Sierras was mostly sunny (one rainy day) and temperatures never reached higher than the low sixties. We stayed in Squaw Valley which is five miles north of Tahoe City, California and was the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics. We stayed at the Resort at Squaw Creek, which is a ski resort, but ski season was over and summer hadn’t really started so it was pretty quiet, and there were no crowds either in Squaw Valley or at the lake, just total peace.

The area around the lake is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Water and sky are so cold and blue and would come together as one if not for the mountains that surround the whole area. I’d forgotten how good mountain air smells, full of pine and a crispness that just doesn’t exist at lower elevations.

Here’s the run-down on the week:

Monday: Arrived in Reno and drove to Squaw Valley to check in. Drove down to Tahoe City, CA for our first look at the lake and to pick up groceries. Spent the evening sitting in our room, drinking beer, playing cards and watching the sun disappear behind the mountains while enjoying the slow changes in the sky as night settled into the valley.

Tuesday: Rainy day, but still a good one for exploration. We drove to Emerald Bay to view Tahoe’s one island and check out the waterfalls. Later we drove along the north shore to King’s Bay. We found a little record store run by a guy and three dogs that specialized in indie/punk/alt rock and bought the new Sonic Youth CD. Then we spent the rest of the day in the hotel lobby sitting by the fire, playing cards and watching the rain fall in the mountains.

Wednesday: Gorgeous, sunny morning. We drove up to the old railroad town of Truckee, CA, which has been heavily gentrified. We walked around the historic downtown before driving to Nevada City, CA in the western foothills of the Sierras to visit my aunt and uncle. We ate lunch with them in Nevada City at a little restaurant whose name escapes me, but it was probably the best meal of the trip. That night, back in Squaw Valley we went to Fireside Pizza for dinner and drank my favorite beer, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, which we learned tastes very different in California than it does in Texas, thus confirming what a beer distributor I know once told me: all California beers are skunky by the time they get to Texas.

Thursday: Another beautiful blue-sky mountain morning. We went hiking along the lakeshore at Sugar Pine Point State Park and even saw a bear. It crossed the trail about forty yards ahead of us so quickly we didn’t even know if it was a bear or a bird since we only saw it’s upper half. We came around the bend where it crossed and saw two other hikers frozen on a bridge. They tentatively asked if we were okay and if we’d seen the bear. They’d had a much better vantage and confirmed the sighting. I would like to have gotten a better view, but I guess I’m lucky just to have seen one.

After the hike we had lunch as Rosie’s Cafe in Tahoe City, which is apparently something of a Tahoe tradition. Then we wandered about the main drag, checked out the stores, but ultimately decided to drive back up to Truckee for our souvenir shopping. After some hard shopping, we enjoyed another Sierra Nevada Pale at a local bar and then headed up to Donner Summit to stand in some snow for a little while. We hiked around the trailhead of the Pacific Crest Trail and then cruised back to Squaw Valley for some beers in an Irish bar and then Pizza again for dinner.

Friday: Another perfect day, but unfortunately the one on which we had to leave. We wandered around Tahoe City, taking in as much of the lake as we could, filling up our minds and memories with mountains, lake and sky. We had breakfast in Truckee at a diner called ‘Coffee &’ and then drove out of the mountains and back into Reno. After we learned that our flight was cancelled, American put us up at the Reno Hilton and we wound up having a great time.

We got back to Austin on Saturday afternoon and reunited with Morrison and the hounds who all seemed to miss each other more than they missed us.

Pictures (real ones with the real camera – the one above is digital) will be ready tomorrow. I’ll probably post more about our trip through the week, but for now that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.