Sunday, August 30, 2015

Lake Tahoe, California

Part 1. 
I've been trying to post for almost a week and a half now. Between just having fun, my adorable nephew, traveling and finally, facing reality (returning home), I just haven't managed to find time to sit down and do this. But now - Sunday evening makes this a priority.  This is part 1 because this is just the first half of my week in Tahoe. I hope it won't be another week and a half before I post the other half. There's too much else going on.

I decided to drive from LA to Lake Tahoe. I'm so glad I did for a number of reasons. First of all, I love that part of California. It is so isolated. There is really just the one road back there. In fact, there is a radio commercial at the moment that mentions one of the towns on the road. It's a car insurance add and the guy asks what would happen if he hits a tree in Lone Pine. ha! That's pretty funny - but maybe you have to be there - at anyrate...
I love that area of California. It's hot. and dry. and desolate. and if you run out of gas - good luck.
The second reason I'm so glad I drove is because I got to visit (very briefly) someone I used to babysit! Aline is now living in Mammoth Lakes with a three-year-old of her own and it was so SO fun to catch up with her. It was the perfect midday break from driving. Her daughter is absolutely adorable. The visit was prompted by a different visit with her mom and the rest of her family whom I haven't seen in ages either and that was a wonderful catch up as well.

But Aline said, "are you sure the road is open?" I hadn't even thought of that. There was a huge fire at Lee Vining, which is where you make the left to go to Yosemite. The road to Yosemite was indeed closed, but thank goodness 395 was not. I'm not sure what I would have done if it was. There really aren't a lot of options back there.
I got some amazing views of the fires. Wow. 

I made a pit stop at Mono Lake because I love it too.  It was very smokey and hazy, of course. 
I had originally wanted to spend the week at June Lake (also on 395) and hike in my favorite area. But it's probably a good thing I didn't. The air quality there was not good at all. Things happen for a reason I guess. 
I arrived at my time share late in the evening after having driven through Carson City, NV and around the north of the lake. I've never been to Lake Tahoe so this was all new to me. 

After an orientation meeting with the staff of the time share, I set out to find 1. an espresso maker at a thrift store and 2. a hiking book for the Lake Tahoe area. I was successful on both accounts. (See, 'cause,  the time share only had a drip coffee maker which made the most vile brew and I wasn't going to make it through the week without the espresso maker. $3!)
In the afternoon I went down to the lake.  I found a quieter beach down the road from Tahoe City. I was surprised by the rocky "shore." I thought it would be uncomfortable - but it was much nicer than any sandy beach.  The water was beautiful and clear.  I dipped my toes into the water and then settled down to read the hiking book and another book Ann loaned me - Telling the Bees by Peggy Hesketh. What a beautiful book and the perfect place to enjoy it. I ended up coming down to the same spot every afternoon and reading.  The rocks held the warmth of the sun, but the beach was in shadow and it was a perfect combination. Warm but no sunburn! 

Tuesday I was supposed to go on a hike organized by the time share, but that fell through. I had signed up with a woman I'd met at the front desk the night before, who had told me how fabulous everything was :). There were supposed to be 12 people on the hike, but it turned out to be just the two of us. Since the plans changed we decided to hike to Base Camp via Shirley Lake.  To get to the trail head you just walk out the back of the lodge. That's it. Then good luck. The place is crawling with people who have created a lot more trails than the real one.  I'm glad we asked the Recreation guy about it and he said just follow the blue marks. OK. Well that's fine but ya gotta find 'em first. 

We did pretty well including the massive scramble up the granite facing.  This is a look back the way we came.

At Shirley Lake we took a break. It was gorgeous.   

Then on to the top!  

And we made it! 
I'm not sure what I expected to find at the top, but what we did find wasn't it. 
At the top is not only, a restaurant - try two, and a swimming pool, and an ice skating rink - which in the summer is a rollerskating rink, and TONS of people. The people? all paid $39 to ride the gondola up to the top and hang out in a swimming pool. $39! (The trip down is free - so since we hiked up - free ride down! - more on that in a sec.)  
Even though hike was short - about 2.5 miles - maybe 3 - it was steep steep steep! We climbed at least 1400 feet. I needed a treat.
I bought myself the most expensive ice cream sandwich ever. $7. But it was so good. It was homemade on a giant chocolate chip cookie with vanilla ice cream spooned inside.

And it came with a rather nice view.
Denise, my new hiking buddy, had ordered some veggie shish kebabs and we devoured our treats. Then it was time to catch the gondola down. What an experience. Wow are you high up in the air!
This is a shot from the gondola looking down on the time share. The building is the beige upside down L thingy. The dark spots are the parking lots.
And what took us the better part of the day to ascend, took 20 minutes to descend.
Conclusion? Tahoe is pampered wilderness. Seriously. People go there to be out in the wild, the fresh air, blah blah blah, but they also go there because they can do that in a swimming pool with a restaurant after riding to the top of the wilderness with modern technology. Scoff Scoff. On the other hand, at least they are outside and enjoying it. Still - the rugged outdoors? it is not.


Hike to the Five Lakes Basin.  This was the organized hike by the Lodge and we had an interesting time to say the least. We saw a lot of nature and our guide pointed out several interesting plants including elderberry, gooseberry, manzanita, and other things I'm forgetting now.  

The five lakes don't actually have names - they collectively are called The Five Lakes. This is another one of those hikes where so many people have wandered around that there are a lot of trails which might be legitimate, but aren't.   
God bless our sweet, young, and cute guide, but he was slow. Denise and I could have done that hike in about 3 hours. Instead it took five. I'm not sure why he was so slow.  We were certainly trying to push him to go faster, but who knows? 

Thursday I struck off on my own.  I wanted to do a hike that was recommended to me by the guy at the sporting goods store where I found my hiking book. He said Ellis Peak was gorgeous and not that heavily traveled. And he was right. The hike is not easy.  It is straight up for about a mile, maybe a little less, but really - I mean straight up.
As you hike you get a few views through the trees of the lake. 
At the top of the first mile you find yourself out on this ridge. 
 And in the early morning sunlight, it was gorgeous.
The views are almost 360°
It was interesting being in such foreign landscape. I didn't know what anything was or  what the major landmarks were. That lake back there? No idea. (It's not Tahoe - that is behind me.)

After the trek on the ridge, you hike down into a Lodge Pole Pine forest. The moss is covering the trees.
My favorite color!   
 With a little under a quarter of a mile to the top you have the option to go to Ellis Lake.  I decided I needed to see the lake too. It was a perfect place to eat a sandwich. The surface of the lake was covered with dragon flies. I don't think I've ever seen so many.  From here you also have a perfect view of where you are going. That ridge right in the middle of the photo, that's Ellis Peak.  
The last part of the hike is also seriously straight up. At least its shorter than the beginning.  Once you've finally made it to the top you really do have 360° view of the world.  It was beautifully clear and so much to look at. I didn't know which direction to look in.  

I could see the lake where I'd stopped for lunch.
I had a complete view of the lake. It is a big lake.  

I was also able to see the tiny speck in the distance that was the gondola house of where we'd hiked on Tuesday. 

Now that I've written this, I realize that there isn't that much more to the trip and I should just post all of it! But for some reason I can't load any more images to this blog post. Maybe I've reached the maximum capacity. So I'll finish for now, and hopefully write the conclusion of this thrilling trip in the next few days. 

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