With a tent, roll-mat and sleeping bag still crying out to be used again before we were to relieve ourselves of the camping equipment on our journey south to enter the world of Mexico and beyond, and with a spacious boot to carry the load instead of our backs, we planned to head North to camp at Lake Tahoe for a few nights.
Situated on the border of California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is America’s second deepest lake covering 191 square miles, and lies 200 miles inland from Cali’s coast, being part of both California and Nevada. We jumped in the car from the Big Sur and made the 6 hour adventure to camp on the Southern shoreline near the imaginatively named town of South Lake Tahoe.
We had been told by other adventurous souls that Lake Tahoe has a ‘serious’ temperature difference between night and day. As we rumbled over the passes and down the twisting turning roads to our final destination, with the first glimpses of the largest alpine lake in North America in view whilst the sun was still glittering of its never ending surface, with a car air conditioning conditioning the air, we were not seriously worried or trepiditious about the cold.
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We had booked ourselves into the mildly historic Camp Richardson. With a history that spanned back about as far as it could for the area (circa 150 years) the camp spanned a fairly large area, sitting a mere 100m from the shoreline of the lake and situated within a rustic untouched protected forest that we were warned we were to share with coyotes and bears. We had had our share of dangerous wild North American animals over the past couple of months, but the warming spacious lodge and sprinkling of RV’s close by stemmed any real fears from surfacing as we welcomed the warming showers and bathrooms that our more rustic campsite at Mount Tam, and previously our camping expedition in the Yukon, previously didn’t house.
The main attraction of Lake Tahoe, maybe somewhat unsurprisingly, was the Lake itself and we made plans to explore some of its more well known coves, shorelines and beaches, once again enjoying the freedom and mobility that our own car gave us. We spent a luxuriously lazy day sitting on the shores of Emerald Cove and wandering around it’s shoreline; reading, juggling, throwing juggling clubs into freezing waters, paddling, snoozing and having to swim after the said club in just boxers (to the delight of the nearby women) …. the usual antics.
With the mountainous backdrop, aquamarine shimmering waters, and sun dappled shores, the next day we headed out on a great trail run along a shoreline path, circumnavigating and exploring a couple of beaches and some vertigo inducing drops, before visiting a trickling waterfall and catching some beers and food back at camp.
However, the warning and precursors were soon to be realised; when the sun sets the heat sets as well, and as our camp slowly became engulfed in a cold bitter evening, our freezing digits wondering why chopping vegetables numbed and froze them, and washing up involved them scrubbing pans in ice cold running tap water, my mind was confused whether to enjoy the beautiful moon dappled forest with another tea, or climb into the warming, welcoming, sleeping bag lined tent. A little of both was thrown in as we warmed water up into our drinking containers, hugging them like water bottles in the tent, and drifted off to sleep still in trousers, t-shirts, jumpers, hat and scarf.
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With a couple more days in the area however, a little cold at night didn’t stop us from enjoying the area and planning some more trail runs and relaxing days. As the rays of the sun slowly warmed our tent and campsite, we cooked our breakfast over our little gas stove, made a brew and planned another trail run the next day; planning some extra driving to some other overlooks and beauty spots along the following.
We had both recently finished a book by Cheryl Strayed called ‘Wild’, an enjoyable easy read that outlined a woman who decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, and as such we both fashioned a fancy to try to hike or run a miniscule portion of this gargantuan Mexico to Canadian 2663 mile long trail ourselves. A consultation of the maps and some local knowledge, and we found out that the PCT ran a few miles to the West Coast of the trail, and also coincided with, as one local told us, her ‘favourite hike in the area’; a small loop that headed up and through some local mountains passing by 5 different alpine lakes in the process.
The run was exhilarating, physically demanding, beautiful and promised all that it could be in a 20km route that we had mapped out. Starting off at Lower Echo Lake we joined the PCT straight away and followed the route for some time as it slowly wound its way along the shoreline, before heading over a ridge, along a trail that had views of the sister lake, Upper Echo Lake, before we took our leave of the PCT to drop down through a forest into the alpine lake named ‘Lake of the Woods’. The first half of the run was done and we stopped for a small energy driven snack. As we started off making our way to Lake Aloha, we soon hit the PCT again and headed back via a slightly different route.
What had startled me most about the run though was the difference in geology and terrain that we ran through and around. From perfectly formed images of what I had envisaged ‘Alpine Lakes’ to look like, to puddle-esque alien shapes of a lake, to rough strewn boulder fields, moon like landscapes and comfy pine needle floored forest. I could see why we had been told that it was someone’s ‘favourite hike’. By late lunch we were back at the car having experienced some great scenery and some great running.
Throw in a sprinkling of another couple of cold nights, figuring out eating in our car was better than at the table, warming oats, copious amounts of tea, some great beer tasting (and not so great), some more views, vistas and visuals, a ‘locals were impressed as well’ pink sunset, and only one bear scratching near our tent, and our time at Lake Tahoe came to a close. Yosemite may have been closed for us, but we didn’t feel aggrieved as we got to experience Lake Tahoe and more because of it.
With a small stop at the wine region of Napa Valley on the way home, we checked into a hostel for one more night before boarding a plane.
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“Ding dong ….. we’ll shortly be arriving in Las Vegas. Remember everyone, what happens in Vegas….” Our air steward announced
“Stays in Vegas” chimed the ever ready passengers in an almost embarrassing chorus of chuckles and laughs.
“May stay with you forever!” replied the comedian of a steward.
Vegas, here we come …..