The bitter wind blowing right through you as you tromp out to clear off your car windows are only a dim memory from… when? I’ve been coming to Tahoe to ski since the late 80’s and have fond memories of waking up to an extra two feet of fresh snow several times. I bet you can remember getting ‘stuck’ for an extra day when it happened on the last night of your trip? My rental was engulfed one year by almost 4 feet! The parking lot was one level – chest deep white. So you called work to say, ‘Well, we just can’t get out until they clear the roads (hang up, and then to your buddy)… So we might as well hit the hill and go back to work tomorrow…’
Some of you remember Donner Pass being completely buried to the point where the roads were lined with 20 plus feet of snow. Houses were smoothed over to the roof lines where the only noticeable feature was the chimney! Inside the house, it was dark, all day long. Those situations make you grateful you’ve got modern technology to ease the struggle to survive - like the Donner Party had to.
Have you ever tried to put yourself in that scenario? I love the outdoors, but that’s too extreme even for me! The locals I know keep a decent stock of ‘emergency supplies’ (which varies greatly depending on what you can’t live without) in case you get ‘snowed in’ or the power goes out for 3 days… Nowadays the ‘emergency' might include ‘Oh my god, I can’t charge my phone…’ Then Karl Malden steps out from behind a tree saying, ‘What will you do?’
So, winter’s here, but you hardly know it this month. Winter coats are left in the car when you run into the store wearing a T-shirt and spring wear. The snow blower you fired up last November to make sure it was good to go is still…all good to go! Spring allergies are taking the initiative and moving in with the warm weather. Birds we rarely see this time of year are staying, or visiting for the first time. I had a beautiful Varied Thrush in the yard yesterday. People are out riding their bikes everywhere, even on the trails.
On that note, since it has been so… nice, we decided to take the dog for a walk over to Skunk Harbor. This place gets a little crowded during summer time, but the 1.5 mile downhill trip, and the required climb to return to the road makes most folks who come here opt for an approach by boat. Wimps! The Lake was a placid pane of glass on this June-uary afternoon with highs reaching 55F and warmer. Since this is January, no boats were cutting wakes anywhere I could see. With the sun shining across that open range of blue, it looked perfect for a boat ride (and water skiing!). A truck with kayaks loaded in the bed passed as we parked and I found myself thinking of our canoe. Yep, a perfect day to be out on the lake, and have it all to yourself. Or, enjoy a scenic dog walk!
The path down to Skunk Harbor is mostly a Forest Service road. So it’s a smooth jaunt - especially with no snow to plow through! There are a few cutoffs to the switchbacks which make for a little extra vertical effort, and that’s what we go hiking for in the first place. Get the blood moving! Along the way you are afforded several photo-worthy vistas of Lake Tahoe and its crown of mountains to add to your memory banks. On days like this, you can see deep into the emerald water, which make you want to drink it all in, absorb it fully. It’s simply mesmerizing.
When you reach the lake, there are some lovely stone structures from a bygone era that have been preserved for historical perspective. You can see why this place was chosen! Location, location, location! It offers a natural harbor to moor boats – to the dock that used to be there. All that is left now are the pilings that extend right to the edge of a drop off that looks perfect for boat access. Information on history of these buildings is related on a few plaques that have been stamped into a granite slab. It’s quite interesting and worth a quick read. Standing at the base of the foundation, you’ll gain more understanding of what these folks represented, and more appreciation for what it took to create and maintain a place like this. If you actually hike in from the road, you’ll also gain some health benefit from pleasant exercise. You’ll find it rewarding, and your dog will love it too.
So (far), we’ve got a light winter. This is it, folks! Let’s make the make the best of it, of every day possible. Go out and enjoy the outdoors, and especially - enjoy Life!