Saturday, July 07, 2007

Road trip!

on the road ...


We’re back from our trip to Lake Tahoe. I know, you’ve been wondering.

A very long time ago, it seems, J and I were wondering where a nice guy that liked to hike in the mountains (we’re talking: granite) and a nice gal that needed to live by the water (a large body of water) could end up living. It’s sort of easy in SoCal to get one or the other, after all, but not both. I chimed in: Tahoe. Yes, Lake Tahoe. I’d heard it was nice, and all, and it seemed like it might be a nice compromise. Someday. Maybe. You know, if things worked out, down the road, and all.

So, for summer vacation, we’d wanted to get away, see some mountains and reconnect with some (large body of) water. We’d originally planned to go to the Oregon Coast and see the Redwoods, but as traffic and fate would have it, we opted to take the Eastern Sierra route, and ended up in Tahoe and just stayed for the rest of the week A trip to Tahoe? Perfect.

We rented a Suburban and headed off. We stayed at the Horizon Casino at Stateline/South Lake Tahoe and splurged for a room higher up: A room with a view. Check out the photos. Nothin’ like being able to wake to views of the lake, the mountains, the golf course next door. The casinos and shops might be busy, but the views really take you to a different place and frame of mind. The patio of a hotel room is no way to experience Lake Tahoe, of course. Not to worry. We’d gotten a campsite, as well, so we could set up for lazy days in the park. The campsite proved to be more relaxing, as you could imagine, more quiet. It was a lazy saunter across the street from the lake. We’d head there for afternoon naps and to cook up some soup and PB&J’s for dinner, take in the next campsite over’s bonfires.

Click here
to see the Flickr set

- Found a great Thai restaurant, Orchid’s, on the corner of 3rd Street and Lake Tahoe Blvd, South Lake Tahoe. Their Rama Curry – sautéed chicken on spinach topped with mild peanut curry sauce was worth at least a couple return trips. Yum.
- Pigged out a few nights at the Forest Buffet at Harrah’s (talk about fat and happy. Oh boy)
- Did I mention there’s a Nestle Tollhouse café down by Heavenly, too? The chocolate cookies? Yes, good, as you’d expect, but there are far, far more fattening, uh, yummy concoctions there.
- Went to The Beacon at Camp Richardson at the advice of some repeat visitors, right there on the beach. I’m not sure about their ‘renown’ RumRunners, but the food was really quite exquisite. You know, so good that your eyeballs roll backwards in their sockets.

Fat and happy. I know, never mind that I did intervals on the treadmill at the hotel and ran the 12 flights of stairs up and down; all in all, I would report that we returned: Fat and Happy. Sigh. I’ve got my work(outs) cut out for me.

Okay, I think I got all the talk of food out of my system.

We drove around to Emerald Bay a few of the days, drove to Tahoe City to get photo and art supplies, and to Camp Richardson a couple times, too. We worked our way just a bit around the lake that way: we’d find a nice spot to stop, make more PB&Js or take photos, lounge for a bit. So after getting back, I mentioned to a friend that we’ve decided that we really need to move there. She commented that *everyone* that she knows that has visited Lake Tahoe (herself included) has said that they’ve decided that they have to move there. So, certainly, it’s not a real original thought, but very sincere, nonetheless. Growing up in Hawaii, you figure one would be pretty spoiled by the great weather, the endless blue skies and puffy clouds, the lush green cliffs and mountains, bright blossoms. It’s paradise, right? No finer place in the world?

The inner Hawaii Visitors’ Bureau rep in me is going to cringe as I type this.

The skies were cloudless while we were at Lake Tahoe, and the warmth of the days brought out the most intense, vivid blues of the water. The colors were just so amazing; you could just explode. Could there be any more beautiful place? It would be hard to argue, really. And who can resist the smell of warm pine needles, crunching underfoot? Not me. Emerald Bay was stunning; all the changes in water colors – blue to aquamarine, to just a scant shoreline, and all the deep green evergreen forests. I’d gone briefly once during the winter to ski, but this is the first time I’d been during the summer.

My recommendation?
If you haven’t gone to Tahoe and have the chance: Go.

So, it was during the second trip to Camp Rich that inspired me to finally take out my sketchbook. I’d packed light, but my brain had packed heavy. It took a while to collect up a few more brushes in Tahoe City and an even longer while for the comfort of creativity and wonder to finally, finally sink in. Camp Rich proved to be relaxing, a nice spot for J to take photos. He got back just as I pulled out my sketchbook; I was going to draw a tree over by The Beacon. He suggested that we head back to the camp site, since there were more pine trees there, and we could lounge around more before it got dark. So we packed up and wandered up the road. “Hey, are those clouds? Those are the first clouds we’ve seen the whole trip. Or is it smoke?”


We were at Camp Richardson, very near where the Angora Fire at Lake Tahoe broke out. We managed to get out well before they ordered evacuations there; never in immediate danger, ourselves. We made it to the camp site, and then the smoke just got worse. And worse. And worse. And emergency vehicles kept coming, one after another. We figured we’d be better off breaking camp and heading back to the hotel. We managed to leave the campground just before they designated that area as an emergency contact site, where displaced residents could get information or stay. That morning started bright and clear, like the others before, but by dusk, the haze had settled in; a fiery hue – not clear sunlight - bathed the camp ground and the sunset was hazy, bleary pastel maroon. At dinner at Harrah’s, the 18th floor windows offered perfect views of the Heavenly Ski area and the lake, and the advancing, growing trail of smoke was clear to see. From our room, when night had fallen, we could see the hot spots at the tops of the hills in the distance. You hate to see devastation in a place so beautiful. We spent our last day, as planned, in the area, but with traffic on the main roads restricted, we wandered on foot through the immediate Heavenly Ski area, stopping in the North Face and Patagonia stores there.

On the way home, we meandered through the Mammoth Lakes area, stopped for some yummy Italian lunch. One rest stop area was filled with great, friendly wildlife that J stopped to photograph. Friendly? Maybe, ‘aggressive’ is better. A couple of chipmunks decided we were standing around still for far too long for their liking and came right up to demand some food! We drove s’more, stopped in Lone Pine for some chicken-fried chicken dinner. Too drowsy to feel motivated to finish the drive, we camped under the stars. Morning in the high desert is clear and quiet, but it’s still the desert - - hot. Getting to sleep in your own bed, starting in on a couple loads of laundry, and some beer / Snapple in the fridge? That’s a nice feeling, eh?

We got back tired, dusty, but grateful, filled with lust for the Suburban that we’d rented and with thoughts of the beauty of Tahoe.

And when can we go back, to take more photos and finally get in some time to paint?