Day 13: Lake Tahoe Beauty & Reno Charm

I woke up on the wrong side of bed this morning, and, I’ll admit, was a little irritable.  It didn’t help matters when we were having breakfast at the Harrahs Café and Jim played Keno using our birthdays and alleged anniversary.  The problem was, he inadvertently used the wrong numbers.  You can imagine how well received that was by me in my already cantankerous state, although it did make me laugh, especially when seeing the mortified look on his face.  Plus, I got to hold it over his head for a while and that made me feel better, too.  Sometimes it’s the little things.

Emerald Bay in foreground with the main lake in the back while the whole shootin’ match is surrounded by Sierra Nevada mountains. Awesome.

All that behind us, we headed out to soak up more of the Lake Tahoe beauty, and there is a lot of it.  I’d like to mention that Lake Tahoe is the second deepest lake in the United States behind Crater Lake.  Although of course we would have loved to see the deepest lake in the United States, depth seems a bit irrelevant due to the fact we’d be viewing it from the top, not the bottom.

Our first stop was to a scenic vista overlooking Emerald Bay, and the water was looking more blue than emerald this morning.  It was stunningly beautiful, with the massive lake surrounded by mountains that already had snow atop them.

Our view reward after the Eagle Falls hike to the lake.

Our second stop was a 2-mile roundtrip hike up to Eagle Lake from Eagle Falls.  It was another one of those straight uphill to get there deals but the end result was more than worth it.  Again, we were the only ones there, well, except for the bears.  While we didn’t see any bears (only several Bear Warning signs posted), this brings me to what Jim likes to call my Bear Conundrum.  I desperately want to see a bear in its natural habitat, but at the same time I am a little bit afraid of them having never seen one in the woods before.  Ok, I’m a lot afraid of them.  Therein lies the rub.  See, the problem is, certain bears you are supposed to make noise around, others you are supposed to back away quietly, some you are supposed to make yourself look big, others you want to be as unthreatening as possible.  Even supposing you can remember which bears you do what with, you still have to be able to identify the bear to figure out which path to take.  Black bears come in something like 6 different colors (including brown), brown bears can be almost black in color, then you have your grizzlies and Kodiaks that I think are part of the brown bear family but…  it’s a lot to remember and I really don’t think if I saw a bear – any bear – I’d be able to run down the list of distinguishing characteristics and figure out what was what.  It’s such a conundrum.  The Bear Conundrum.

Everywhere you turn there is a bear warning in this state.

None of this was an issue, however, as we didn’t see any bears.  There is a good chance one saw us, though, as just a short while later we were talking to a guy that had also been up to Eagle Lake just after us and he said there was a bear right there at the lake.  I’m not sure whether I’m really disappointed we didn’t see it or relieved.  There you go, the conundrum again.

Lake vista from the Rubicon Trail

After our hike to Eagle Lake (which we’d highly recommend, by the way – it gives distant views of Lake Tahoe, the hike is among beautiful environs, and the lake itself is idyllic, which was pretty spectacular when we discovered we were the only people up there), we headed down to the DL Bliss State Park.  The only way to get down there was to park at the very top and walk down the paved road that leads to trailheads and the actual park, as the road was already closed for the season.  We hoofed it down a mile or so and found the Rubicon Trailhead and then hiked some more.  Look at us, hiking left and right.  The Rubicon Trail goes quite a distance up and down Lake Tahoe and offers spectacular views of the lake and surrounding mountains from its high perch on the side of the mountain.  Although the trail goes up and down the lake with very few converging trails, we managed to get a little turned around when we tried to find the Lighthouse Trail.  This was probably because Jimmy was going the right way and I thought I saw a sign that said to go a different way and before you knew it we were back to the same vista point we’d seen several minutes earlier.  I have no sense of direction and I really don’t know why Jim would listen to me when it comes to navigating.  Ever.

Either way, the vista point was as beautiful as we left it and we decided just to backtrack out the way we came in (hiking in the mountains is a lot of up and down, you see) because we still had to hike back up to the car and we were both getting a little hungry.  So we trekked back out and ate our PB&J sandwiches in the parking lot with a lovely forest view, laughing nonstop at our hiking shenanigans.

As much as we want to be full-time hikers instead of the part-timers we are, the 6 miles or so of constant up and down wore us out so we were done for the day.  We decided to take a spin over to Reno, as we were so close (only about an hour and 20 minutes) and Jim had never been to the downtown area.  I’ve been there several times, as my family, or, more specifically, my father’s side, loved going down there and it was a convenient place to meet up with family from southern California.  My mother would like me to stress here that it was my father’s side that influenced the decision to do the family trip to Reno.  I would just like to add that my mom never did exactly put her foot down on the idea…  Either way, I have very fond memories of the place.

Aaaah, Reno

We rolled into town a little after 3:00 PM and parked at the Eldorado.  I wanted to roll out one of Reno’s finest hotel/casinos for Jim’s first impression.  He was really amazed at the size of the casino (and subsequent casinos we visited), as he had imagined the entire thing being a lot smaller.  Well, they don’t call it the Biggest Little City in the World for nothing.  After the Eldorado we dipped in and out of the other various casinos (Cal Neva, Harrahs, Circus Circus, Silver Legacy, etc.) along Virginia Street and the entire time Jim’s mouth was agape at the number of pawn shops and motor lodges interspersed with the casinos.  He also wondered aloud if there was anything in this town from the 21stcentury.  I think that is part of its charm, especially the motor lodges, as that is the exact kind of establishment our family would stay in on summer road trips.  In fact, it wasn’t until I was in my teens that we stayed in an actual hotel where you didn’t pull your car up to the room door.

Reno, our new little charge

When we were in Circus Circus we found ourselves in the Midway, where we played a horse race game.  Jim was in the lead for most of it but in the 11th hour I hit my stride and ended up winning.  The prize was a stuffed moose in a Christmas hat and scarf.  We named him Reno and he is now safely seatbelted into the back seat to continue our journey with us.

After wandering around for an hour or two it was time to head back to Lake Tahoe and leave behind the “City that Time Forgot,” as Jim described it.  We arrived back to Tahoe around dinnertime, so we ate at Base Camp Pizza in Heavenly Village (it was Pizza Friday, after all) and then went for a bit of a gamble before turning in for the night.  We were sad to think of leaving the beauty of Lake Tahoe behind, and I was especially sad to think of leaving that incredible hotel room with two bathrooms.  Now that was something else.

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