Monday, July 23, 2007

Things that make you go ...

Okay, I have to come clean. There was a little bit of time for a couple quick sketches up at Tahoe. You think to yourself, “I knew it! Sneaky bugger!”
But, really, we were exploring enough of the time that I didn’t feel like pulling out my whole set of paints. I would’ve gotten attacked by the chipmunks, ravens, or ants, had I actually sat around long enough to paint, as it was.

At the campsite, watching the big ants.

It wasn't hard to find a gnarly tree up in Tahoe.

I was reminded of something as we drove along the lakeshore to CampRich during our second trip. I’d mentioned that a friend said that everyone that she knows that’s visited Lake Tahoe has vowed, including herself, that they have to find a way to move there. It’s not hard to imagine everyone falling in love with the place.

But as we were driving along, I just felt like I was home.
In Hawaii.

And then it finally hit me: It was so much like home.

I grew up commuting along long stretches of the ocean, with the water off my right shoulder, the shallow bay at Heeia with row boats tied off, long solitary piers stretching a few hundred feet in. The road curves, winding back and forth, and there’s a little bit different view of the water at each turn; all part of the whole, yet each a separate, spectacular gem. You think, “Ooooo”. The grass grows tall, and there are pine trees and lush groves to drive through. There are produce stands along the way, art galleries, ice cream (shave ice) shacks, a recreational park, a house here, here, dotting the road. But mostly there’s that wide, shallow bay, with gentle lapping waves. Driving along Lake Tahoe was remarkably, surprisingly like driving along Kamehameha Hwy, home to Kahaluu, Waiahole. Driving up past Camp Richardson was like driving along further, through Kaaawa, the North Shore.

I blinked with that realization; It was beyond even just déjà vu.

(or: 'Oh. Chicken Skin')

Now, certainly, I’ve spent plenty of time driving along Pacific Coast Hwy, too, through Malibu, with the same Pacific Ocean off the passenger-side window, and homes off to my left. Sure. But the waves are big, the beach yellow, the houses really humongous, and the scenes off in the distant are rendered in those dusty pastel hues of Southern California. And there are sandy beaches in Hawaii with big waves, big houses, too.

But where I grew up, there’s a mellow bay that’s calm and quiet, where the canoe groups paddle, and the view of the ocean is endless, looking out into the sunrise. And that’s what makes me feel most of home.

Well, besides all those yummilicious scenes from ‘Lost’ and Bellows Beach.

So, it finally struck me how similar our drives from South Lake Tahoe, up along the west side to Emerald Bay, Camp Richardson, Tahoe City were to all those drives home, in Hawaii.
I sat up and went, “Oh”. And the blues and greens are just so vivid, like they are in Hawaii; it’s amazing. Nothing subdued and pastel. It’ll wake your eyes up, that’s for sure.

So, yeah, it’s nice, beautiful and relaxing. And, um, yeah, I’m sure the white of winter is pretty, uh ... cold. But there’s something that’s very much like home there that tugs very hard at my heartstrings.

[typing. typing. typing.]

Oh wow. And I just remembered this:

While we were in Hawaii over Christmas, we visited the Art Walk that is held at the Zoo over the weekends. Nothing really caught our attention, actually, except there was one small painting that I lingered over… for quite a while. It was a painting of Diamond Head and the beach, in profile. You can imagine; you’ve seen it a gazillion times. But this wasn’t rendered in the Hawaiian blues and greens that you’d expect. It was depicted, as if in a dream, in steely blue greys, in the snow, surrounded by forests of pine trees, with a cabin in the foreground, the smoke from a fireplace curling upwards. It’s as if Diamond Head crater had been magically transported to some high Sierra range over this’a way, in the middle of a snowy winter.
I remember being drawn strongly to that painting, thinking it was something I probably wouldn’t see again. No, I didn’t buy it, but the image stays with me, as I suspected it would. The scene was very incongruous, for sure, and yet in my mind, it was actually pleasing. I recall that it made a good deal of sense, in a very reassuring sort of way.


So. Are you going to move?
We hope to. If a trip back in the winter doesn’t faze us.

Not for a while…
Not for a while.

Can’t you imagine us there?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Lake Tahoe, Trip 2

You really didn't think we could resist going back, did you?

We drove up back to Tahoe, set up our tent this time, and settled in for a few more days.

Our tent at the South Lake Tahoe Campground

Our tent proved water-tight the first day, and the cloud cover kept the days lazy and cool. The third (?) day, the clouds broke, and the vivid colors of the lake resumed.
Just heaven.

We wandered through the area for a bit more and were pleased to follow the suggestion to check out the Lake Tahoe Keys. The marina felt so different from the casinos, the Heavenly ski area, and the overall expanse of the lake. They're restoring a marsh/meadow area, and the birds and wildflowers are just flourishing like crazy. There's a path from the marina to the edge of the water, crunchy gravel underneath. Crunch crunch crunch. We walked along right at dusk and felt like we'd really stumbled onto another facet to this gem of a place, one that most visitors probably miss. I thought to myself, "Now, this, I have to come back and paint."

Meadow and marsh restoration, Lake Tahoe Keys

We actually did quite a bit of wandering, new sites that we'd missed the first trip. So much wandering together that we didn't actually get in any serious hiking (the hike back up the hill from Vikingsholm, while a bit, couldn't qualify as 'serious' hiking. It did make us remember, though, how out-of-shape we are, and that whole thing about how much tougher things are, especially going up hill, at higher elevation. :P ) or painting or sketching. Lots of time to unwind and enjoy the scenery, though, and that's priceless.

We couldn't tell if the number of visitors was down, because of the fire. We could see the burn area, the neighborhoods. So sad. But the air was clean, and the haze that was there didn't seem like it was any worse for the ash. The lake and all its delightful attractions were just as gorgeous as before.

This time, we stopped in Mammoth on the way back for a few days, to cut down on that last day, driving back home. The even higher elevation seemed to sap any serious motivation we might have had, and we wandered a bit, and napped even more. I haven't been to Mammoth in close to 10 years, and even then, it was during the crazy, busy ski season. The mountains really have a different personality, stripped of all that lovely white snow. The mountain biking and fishing looked great, if you're inclined to do so. The view from our room was great. Check out the photos:

Click here to see the Flickr photo set

Still, I think our hearts are set on somehow finding a way to get back to Tahoe.

For longer.

I mean, really longer.

We'll have to see how it is during the dead of winter. Lots of snow.
Brr, sounds cold, hm?

That's where big ol' snuggly bears come in handy.

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?