Waking up to sunlight coming through the curtains and the sound of waves lapping gently nearby could only mean one thing, we were on the shores of Lake Tahoe and what a place it is…
With its ski slopes (the lake is high up in the Sierra Nevada mountains), 70 miles of shoreline, 300+ days per year of sunshine and famed casinos, the towns surrounding Lake Tahoe have long been playgrounds for those looking for a place to relax and unwind and as we were in town for a couple of days, well, when in Rome…
Having spent most of the previous day in the car, we were in dire need of fresh air and exercise, so we headed to the Eagle Falls trail and set off up the mountain. It’s a popular route to hike as there’s a very well defined path which takes you up to a good viewing spot after which most folk head back down to their cars, however as this had only taken us about 20 our appetites had hardly been touched.
We knew what we needed – ideally a route where we’d have to use our heads to think about which rocks to step on, one where we could use our hands to grip while swinging feet to the next ledge, something to get the heart pumping and the adrenaline flowing – we needed a cliff-face scramble.
We looked about us and there was a peak about 600 feet above, which was a combination of boulder, scrub-land, cliff and rocky incline; it looked perfect. So off we went, one of us with cat-like grace and agility while the other rather less feline and a bit more bovine. It took us about an hour of good climbing, but the reward at the top was worth it as the view was superb and it was ours and ours alone to enjoy.
For our second day at Tahoe we wanted to enjoy its key feature – i.e. the lake – and having rifled through the various tourist leaflets and other bumf advertising boat trips, paddleboarding, water-skiing etc we set upon kayaking as the perfect activity as we’d both done it before, we could do it together and it was unlikely we’d end up stranded miles from where we started. So off we went way to Emerald Bay, paid our money, put on the life-jackets and after a quick safety chat, climbed in and paddled off.
The bay is a 3 mile long inlet on the south western shore and gets its name from the reflections of the pine trees on the hillsides all around. To begin with we paddled over to an island in the middle of the bay and climbed to a building at its top which is called the Tea House. It’s so-called as an early 20th century owner of the bay and surrounding land used to have herself rowed out to it by her resident hermit in order to take tea there. Actually, being a hermit (hermiting? hermitery?) was really only a part-time gig for him as he was also employed as the caretaker for her big house on the lakeshore when she was away and only decamped to the island when she was in residence.
The kayaking was great fun as we got to explore the shoreline from a different perspective, the clear waters meant we could see far below the surface to the plants and rocks on the bottom – however, as there weren’t any fish we could see, we had to leave our angling ambitions and thoughts of catching something for dinner on hold.
Returning the kayak on time and with no wobbly mishaps we made our way round to the north eastern corner of the lake to Incline Village where we’d heard that a lakeshore path had been recently opened. Driving into a car park by the lake and pausing by the booth to enquire how much it would cost to park and walk the path, unfortunately we encountered one of those ladies of the twin-set and pearls, snooty-boots brigade for whom the power to allow/refuse access had clearly gone to her head – I imagine she had a peaked cap, trench-coat and jack-boots hidden under the counter.
In a manner best described as “brusque yet patronising” she informed us that “This beachfront is for Village Residents only”, which, ok fair enough, I can understand that, it’s popular spot and restricting access to locals only can be done, if that’s what they want.
However to my question “Do you know where we can park to access the lakeshore path”, she threw me a look as though I’d picked up her coffee, lifted the lid a touch and belched into it before handing it back and then simply parroted her “This beachfront is for Village Residents only” fascist mantra.
She then pointed and added – with just a little bit too much emphasis on the first word – “YOU will need to go three miles that way if you want to go on the beach”.
At this point I was tempted to say “So you can only come here if you’re one of the Village People then?”, but I rather suspected that her knowledge of 70’s LBGT disco heroes would be limited and my crack would fall flat – if you’ll pardon the expression.
Anyway, undeterred we moved on round the lake to Sandy Harbour which is at the other end of the lakeshore path and walked there instead. It was fantastic – uninterrupted views across the lake to the mountains of the High Sierra, brand new bridges over creeks and inlets allowing us to look into the clear deep waters and all the time accompanied by the scents from the native plants and bushes lining the route and then finishing with an ice lolly. Marvellous.
As lakes for leisure go, Tahoe takes some beating.