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Summer in the USA: Tahoe Road Trip

After two weeks in Portland and Roseburg, it was time to road trip it South with Nanny and Poppi.

…with an overnight stop in Redding to see [Great] Grandma Trudy and [Great Grandpa] Cyrus, my mom’s brothers and their families. A bit like Roseburg on Lori’s side of the family, it’s one-stop-shopping when it comes to seeing family, and always a great time because of it.

At Redding, we leave the Interstate and head east on one of my favorite California drives — a gentle climb up Highway 44 east to Susanville via Lassen National Park and Old Station, then it’s 395 south all the way down to Carson City, NV via Reno, 50 west over Spooner Summit (elev. 7,146 ft.), then finally around the south end of the lake, crossing back into California at State Line, NV and on to South Lake Tahoe.

Getting into town on this particular mid-summer Thursday was not particularly fun — lot’s of road work and an accident blocking the only route in/out of Zephyr Cove. But the upside was that they completed the bypass around Carson City, easily cutting off 20 minutes and meandering through the city on surface roads!

Getting the wiggles out at one of California’s awesome rest areas off the highway.

We were spending an extended weekend at our friends’ cabin up near Emerald Bay. They’d join late Friday night through Sunday afternoon. Until then, it was Nanny and Poppi’s time with the Mister.

It’s a beautiful cabin and we’re very fortunate to have such great friends who’d extend the invitation. We spent a week almost exactly a year ago, when Noe was just about two months old. At thirteen months, he’s way more mobile now, but still a pretty chill kid.

He’s generally good about knowing what he can play with and what he’s not suppose to get into, so fortunately not a lot of baby-proofing was required this time around — which is good since cabins aren’t generally what you call baby-proof. But neither is our house in Laos (far from it), so he’s had some practice.

Behind the cabin lies Desolation Wilderness, an amazing natural area in its own right that Lori and I have only gotten tiny samplings of over the years. In 2015, we climbed Maggie’s Peak, which barely crosses into the wilderness area, offering stunning views of Lake Tahoe, and Desolation behind. Today, we’re doing a short hike down to Cascade Falls, which essentially traces the boundary of Desolation Wilderness. We arrived later than expected and parking spaces were disappearing fast. We managed to nab one of the last parking spaces, but our relief turned to frustration when we realized we had left Noe’s carrier at the cabin. Bummer, yes. But no worries, we thought, given that the trail was listed as “easy” and only about a mile each way.

“Easy” is relative, particularly when carrying a toddler in your arms. There really needs to be some universally accepted difficulty scale beyond the typical Easy-Moderate-Strenuous ratings given to trails. Pre-Noe, Lori and I gravitated toward moderate to strenuous hikes, but with a baby, we have a new appreciation for “Easy.”

Generally, what we’ve come to expect when a trail book or publication rates a route as “Easy” is a few miles max roundtrip with minimal elevation gain or loss and a solid, well-maintained path — generally something that a five-year-old could do, or that can be traversed easily on a mountain bike. While Cascade Falls trails is short and has a net loss of about sixty feet down to the falls, the path is dusty and slick in parts (even with solid hiking shoes) and requires navigating a number of boulders and large rocks. For this reason, we determined about halfway down the trail that it just wasn’t the safest or smartest thing to proceed with a baby in arms, so Nanny volunteered to stay back with Noe in a nice, shaded outcrop overlooking Cascade Lake while we continued the remaining half mile to the falls.

Gorgeous views of Cascade Lake in the foreground and Tahoe in the distance, on a perfect day.

The initial mile-long trail down to the falls gets you to the top of the falls (which are at that point essentially a quick-running stream). It’s a longer and more strenuous hike from there down to the bottom of the falls — or you can hook on to any number of trails that will take you much farther afield. We rinsed our hands and faces in the cool water, took in the view and made our way back to Noe and Nanny.


After lunch, we drove a short way to the area’s most popular beach: Pope Beach, taking advantage our only full weekday in the area — meaning we were able to actually drive to the beach and snag a parking space with minimal waiting. Additionally, we were able to grab one of the last free stretches of golden sand right along the water.

Prior to arriving we had read that the beaches were far more crowded this year over previous years, not so much due to increased numbers of visitors, but higher lake levels owing to increased rain and snowfall. To put this in perspective, both Pope and Baldwin beaches were about a third to half the size they had been the previous August when we were here. The local government this year was actually encouraging people to take to the lake and engage in water sports rather than beach activities to help alleviate the pressure on facilities. I’d imagine this also benefits the local economy, given that most off-shore activities involve renting something or other. With Noe, we were content to remain landlubbers this trip.

As in Thailand the previous month, Noe loved playing in the sand, and particularly loved tearing down his Poppi’s sand castles.

Though, I’m not sure what he made of the brisk water of the alpine lake, given that all his life he’s only known bathtub warm pools and sea.

While I much prefer the warmer waters of the tropics, I wasn’t about to pass up a refreshing swim in Tahoe on a hot day.

Saturday morning was a particularly exciting morning for us and Noe. Uncle Lee and Aunt Jamie had gotten in from San Francisco around midnight while we were all sleeping. Lori, Noe and I were up around sunrise, so Lori and Noe went on a short stroll around the neighborhood in the brisk morning.

It was absolutely hilarious to us to see Noe all bundled up because we’ve had so few reasons to put warm clothes on him over the past 13 months — he just didn’t look like Noe, but some strange creature from the frigid north. So did Lori, but I’m a bit more used to seeing that occasionally.

When the two of them returned, the rest of the cabin was still sound asleep. Noe was being quite verbose, so we decided to take a drive into town and seek out a coffee shop. We ended up at the nearest coffee shop open on a Saturday morning at 7am — Revive. Very cool, cabin vibe on a wooden lot in the center of town with a variety peaceful outdoor seating and delicious Nitro Cold Brew on tap. Highly recommended!

When we returned from our early-morning outing, we were finally graced by the presence of none other than The Dude, himself, and their faithful, fuzzy companion.

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Noe loves puppy dogs, particularly small and fuzzy ones. Ellie was less excited about him, to say the least, but eventually warmed up to the other pint-sized creature on the premises.



Taking in the stunning view and awesome weather on an after-breakfast walk.


And, off to the beach again. This time, a comfortable walk to Baldwin Beach via a bike trail.





Cabin bath. Is it that time of the week already!?

Baby snack. And later…

Adult snack. Uncle Lee’s legendary Manhattans. Cabin. Bourbon. Family and friends. It don’t get much better than this.

Sunday morning we fought the crowds down to Vikingsholm castle on the banks of Emerald Bay. The trail and castle, themselves, weren’t that crowded. But by golly the parking sucked mucho. Lee and Jamie took one look and headed back to the cabin. We probably should have followed suit and tried again later in the day. But it took enough for us all to get suited up for the mile long trek down to Vikingsholm and morning out, so I dropped Lori, Noe, Nanny and Poppi off at the parking lot and made 3-4 round trips up and down the highway before settling on a dusty pull-out about a mile up the hill from the main lot. The two mile walk downhill from the car to Vikingsholm was a breeze. The return trip, however, I’d rather not say.

Emerald Bay, as emerald and lovely as always.

Vikingsholm, built nearly a century ago, was originally conceived as the summer home for the eccentric Lora Josephine Knight. The castle has 38 rooms and took 200 workers to construct using mostly local materials and old-fashioned Scandinavian construction methods.





By mid-afternoon, it was already time for our good friends to bid farewell. We’d follow suit the next morning after our traveler’s breakfast of Mexican food leftovers from one of our favorite places in town — Jalapeno’s Taqueria.

Writing in the guestbook and battening down the hatches on the cabin after an awesome handful of days with friends and family.

And now, the nine hour journey back to Roseburg.


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