"At last the lake burst upon us--a noble sheet of blue water lifted six thousand three hundred feet above the level of the sea, and walled in by a rim of snow-clad mountain peaks that towered aloft three thousand feet higher still! As it lay there with the shadows of the mountains brilliantly photographed upon its still surface, I thought it must surely be the fairest picture the whole world affords."
I won't even begin to describe the beauty that surrounded us in this storybook place called Lake Tahoe. I'll leave it up to Sir Mark Twain, who seemed to sum it up best when he described the landscape in the above narrative. Nothing can prepare you for that moment when your car takes you over a hill and you find yourself staring at nothing but these magnificent, intimidating beasts in front of you. As they get closer, you feel as if you're entering the most powerful place on earth - a place of beauty, of wilderness, of mystery...
The vast landscape of the Sierra Nevadas wouldn't be the same if they weren't paired with the pristine waters of Lake Tahoe. Fed only by fresh mountain springs, Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in the United States, and competes for the bluest water you've ever seen. With an average depth of 1,000 feet, it holds its own in mystery and power, and creates quite the spectacle as its banks coalesce seamlessly with the base of the mighty mighty mountains.
It was our first real family vacation as three, and it went off without a hitch. Sure, we had a few minor mishaps, including one interesting (and bumpy) landing in Reno, but we learned as we went, and did our best to ensure that we enjoyed every second of these precious days in a new place with nothing to focus on but our little man and some some pretty unbelievable scenery. I quickly learned that one of my favorite things about being away on vacation was that it forced us to focus on nothing but each other - not on doing laundry, cooking dinner, running errands, responding to emails, and writing on this blog - just five days of us in a place that had serenity written all over it.
We had a wonderful time together, and I'm pretty sure Beau and I were laughing and smiling all the way back to Iowa. We made so many fun little memories that I will always hold close, yet it's a little bittersweet to think that although most of these memories center around Cruz, he probably won't remember them. One day, however, I'll show him the pictures and tell him about the many memories we made on our trip to Lake Tahoe.
...our senses were alive and well in this beautiful place, and we often found ourselves overwhelmed by the smells, the sounds, and the sights of this natural wonder. One morning, as we walked a mile downhill to the base of Emerald Bay, we stopped many times just to take in its drug. The fresh running water that swept over rocks and under our feet as we moved across the trails. The smell of crisp pine and fresh air that danced in my nostrils and made me think of Christmas trees. The cool, dry air that felt like the most perfect Fall morning as we walked under the sun. The surroundings in this place truly fed our souls, and I tried to breathe in enough for a thousand lifetimes...
...the weather. It could be triple digits in the rest of the country, but it's always a perfectly dry 80 degrees at 6000 some feet above sea level. Since Cruz Man was a little off on his time zones, he frequently woke up around 5:00 am (7:00 am normal time), just 45 minutes before sunrise. So, we did the only thing we could do at this time of the morning --- we chased the sun. There we went, in pajamas and sweatshirts, walking through a deserted city, soaking in the crisp air from the sleepy lake and watching the sun climb Mount Tallac.
The weather was perfect and secretly made me excited for Fall. The air was fresh and crisp in the morning, and sunny and warm in the afternoon. Our first day it rained off and on, but the sky stayed blue and at times, sunny. It'd be sunny and warm, then 20 minutes later it would pour, big, fat drops that begged for puddles, splashing, and the kind of letting loose that only vacation can bring.
...Emerald Bay. The natural beauty, history, and geology of this unique island make it one of the highlights of Lake Tahoe and our favorite spot of the trip. Located just 20 miles from our hotel on scenic Hwy. 89, this breathtaking wonder boasts quite a site. Every morning, we'd drive through the mountains to the cliffs overlooking the bay, and do our best to drink in this view. Natives claim its the third most photographed spot in North American - Beau claimed it's third next to our living room and backyard fence :)
One morning, we walked to the bottom of Emerald Bay, peeked in the windows of Vikingsholm, a 38-room mansion at the base of the bay, and walked along the dock to get as close as we could to Fannette Island, the only island on Lake Tahoe. We let our ears guide our way to Eagle Falls, and chased the ground squirrels into a hollowed out base of a tree that could just as well be a home for the three of us.
...The city streets of South Lake Tahoe. I've never stayed in a mountain town before, but this was just as I pictured. With your main form of entertainment fueled by the surrounding mountains and lake, the quiet city provides the perfect pick-me-up after a day of exploring the great outdoors.
More Tahoe to come! To be continued...