Hiking to Vikingsholm...

Located minutes from our home is the exceptionally beautiful Emerald Bay.  Today, instead of gazing at it from above, we hiked to its shore to explore Vikingsholm, a magnificent castle that is a unique blend of "Nature's spectacular beauty and man's architectural ingenuity."
 
Vikingsholm, situated majestically among towering pines and cedars, was built as a summer home by Mrs. Lora Knight in 1929
.  We have visited this picturesque location several times, but always by boat.  Today's weather made us want to be out in it all.

The one mile stroll down and the more laborious hike up was worth all the effort.  The Manzanita were in bloom.  The sun was incredible warm.  And even though an aggressive Canadian Goose got a little personal, our picnic, in this amazing setting, was perfect.  What an ideal way to pass the day.

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Our guest room is ready...

The paint has dried, the bed is made, and we're ready for guests.  The boys and their gals arrive for the Memorial Day weekend and we're looking forward to reintroducing them to Lake Tahoe.

Please let us know when you want to visit and we'll compare calendars.  You're going to love it here!

"The ornaments of your house will be
the guests who frequent it."

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Earth Day... South Lake Tahoe-style!

What a spectacular Saturday enjoying a belated Earth Day (another first for us)...a day which recognizes, celebrates, and promotes our region's unique beauty while educating the public about local environmental issues.  It was an opportunity to learn about ways to counteract global climate change through recycling and composting, alternative energy, water conservation, sustainability, and reducing our ecological footprint.

We attended as volunteers.  Our first job held the very impressive title of "Zero Waste Educator".  We learned about composting and recycling and were in charge of sharing that knowledge with the public.  It was rather fun, deciding what goes into which bin.

After a barbecue lunch, provided by Kiwanis for our volunteer efforts, we strolled the park, listened to bands, observed children engrossed in the varied activities and then went to our afternoon work shift, "Crossing Guard".  People were rewarded by walking or biking to this event and we were there to make certain they made it, across Tahoe's busy streets, safely.  Steve put on his safety vest and became a whole new person...arms flapping, fingers gesturing (in a good way), smiling at everyone.  Very fun to see.

It was a day of being in the glorious outdoors, learning more about treating the planet better and of meeting some really interesting people.  In addition, it gave us the opportunity to find out the important details of living in Tahoe, from the locals.

I'm not just a tree-hugger,
I'm an air-breather.
-Robin Williams in "Man of the Year"

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Cowboys & Poetry... who knew?

I love "firsts".  They only happen once and today's was definitely unique with us visiting Nevada's first permanent settlement, Genoa (1851):

The Genoa Cowboy Poetry & Music Festival is a wonderful blend of setting, heritage and western culture and entertainment.  Nestled at the base of the Sierra Nevada in the beautiful Carson Valley, historic Genoa is the site of the first ranch in Nevada and still has working cattle ranches literally steps from the town. From its 19th century beginnings, cowboys and ranching have shared work, words and music here. You'd be hard pressed to find a better place to celebrate the unique forms of Cowboy Poetry, Western music and the Western lifestyle.
Q.  Just what is Cowboy Poetry, anyway?
A.  Not exactly what you think! Cowboy poetry has associations in the music and verse of Europe, Africa, Asia and the American West. It is poetry that is preferably recited, not read.  Usually it is metered and rhymed. Its subjects reflect the lives of men and women whose experiences with animals and the land have brought to them a special perspective on life.  Cowboy poetry is a statement of philosophy and a form of entertainment. Its appeal exceeds the bounds that are implied in its name. Sure, cowboys enjoy it, and the odds are that you will, too.  http://www.cowboypoetrygenoa.com/

Steve and I knew we wanted to spend time in Genoa, and this festival was a great introduction.  After yesterday's rainy, blustery day, strolling the quaint town and taking in all the events offered made our day warm, spring day completely unforgettable.

My favorite hour was spent with Mark Twain (portrayed by McAvoy Layne).  It was as if we were sitting with the amazing man himself.  I laughed and learned.  What an awesome, and too quick, sixty minutes.

We learned about the Pony Express, "Snowshoe" Thompson (who will get his own blog post one day) and the famous and infamous Gunfighters of the 1850s.  Each event provided a wonderful lesson in a town that embodies history.

We ended our day at the Genoa Bar (est. 1853), Nevada's oldest thirst parlor.  Many notables have consumed libations here before us:  Mr. Twain, Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and "Teddy" Roosevelt, Carol Lombard and Clark Gable, Lauren Bacall, Ronnie Howard, Red Skelton, Cliff Robertson and all of the Nevada Governors.  What an appropriate place for us to conclude our Genoa history lesson with a toast to some pretty amazing characters.

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'Lucky' Baldwin, Lucky Tahoe

In a quest to know more about our new hometown, I read the engrossing book, Lucky Baldwin: The Story of an Unconventional Success.  There is way too much to say about E.J. 'Lucky' Baldwin in the space of this blog but I want to mention his lasting impact on Tahoe and I recommend learning more about this California legend.

When the Comstock Lode was in full swing, the old growth forests of Tahoe were decimated.  To see photos of this area, then, it appeared post-apocalyptic. 
In 1879, Baldwin visited the Lake and in the next year, he purchased 2,000 acres of uncut forest with one mile of lakefront, "My land acquisition will save this vast forest from the beauty-destroying ax of the woodsman so that the magnificent pines and cedars may be admired by generations to come."

Today, E.J. Baldwin's forward thinking has preserved this land for us to enjoy.  Our summer will be spent in this forested museum and after reading how it came to be, I am even more impressed and I feel lucky to be a part of it all.

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Following the Pony Express Route U.S. 50

Steve and I took a long drive for shopping in Sacramento.  Along the way we savored the rich history this region affords us, especially on U.S. Highway 50.  The Pony Express Headquarters was located in San Francisco and its eastern route generally followed our path through El Dorado County over Echo Summit to Lake Tahoe. Remount and relay stations along this route are marked as State Historical Landmarks.

One such station was
Strawberry Valley House (1856), a popular resort and stop for stages and teams of the Comstock, which became a remount station of the Central Overland Pony Express in 1860.

We meandered through the lobby, of the now named Strawberry Lodge (photo #1), and promised to come back for a country breakfast.

We passed through towns that have been left for decades (Whitehall) or are so small their welcome sign humorously says it all (Kyburz).  Each outing presents us with new and interesting sights to discover.

History is a mighty dramos, enacted upon the theatre of times,
with suns for lamps and eternity for a background.
~Thomas Carlyle

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Our day of Tahoe History...

We began our morning at our favorite breakfast spot, The Red Hut (1959) and then went to meet Carolyn, the Executive Assistant for the Tahoe Tallac Association.  Steve and I plan to be active Volunteers and one of the top places on our wish list is Valhalla.
 
"Valhalla," the Heller estate, was conceived in 1922 by San Francisco investment broker Walter Heller. The name "Valhalla," taken from the great hall of the Viking after life, provided an apt description of the Heller residence, which featured a vaulted central living area surrounded by a horseshoe balcony, all of massive timber and stone and sufficient in size to accommodate several dozen people.

Now, it is the location of some amazing events:  a two weekend long Renaissance Fair; a Father's Day Concert on the Lawn; theatrical plays; A Native American Arts Festival and, the event I'm most excited about, "
The Great Gatsby Festival and Tea".

We continued our history lesson at the Lake Tahoe Historic Society Museum, established in 1968 by a group of dedicated volunteers.  We enjoyed a fantastic video of life here in the 1800s as well as learning a great deal from exhibits and speaking with the docent.

Our warm summer-like day included lunch in our backyard with dinner on the front porch.  It was a fabulous weekend of getting to know Tahoe better and share our new neighborhood with the folks. 

The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious.
And why shouldn't it be? -- it is the same the angels breathe.
-Mark Twain, about Lake Tahoe

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Steve's folks stop by on their way home. After driving across America, from Florida, Ross and Betty come for the weekend. 
Last night we sparked up our new, really awesome, barbecue given to us by Ellen DeGeneres (this is what we used one of our gift cards for).
After a leisure breakfast in our cabin, we decided to circumnavigate the Lake.
This was my first dip into Lake Tahoe whose temperature was between 40 to 50oF and numbed my ankles.  I can't wait until summer.
We have been intrigued with the local history and we were excited to stop at the Cal-Neva Lodge.  Built in 1926, Frank Sinatra owned the Lodge from 1960 to 1963 and built the now famous Celebrity Showroom and entertained celebrities from around the world. History says Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Marilyn Monroe (among others) "sang for their suppers" in the Celebrity Showroom and the Indian Room while politicians and Hollywood stars played at the tables and in the private cottages overlooking Lake Tahoe.
Sinatra renovated the Cal Neva, adding the celebrity showroom and a helicopter pad on the roof. He used tunnels to shuffle mobsters and celebrities beneath the resort so they wouldn't be seen by the general public. The tunnels were built in the late 1920s so liquor could be smuggled in during Prohibition.  They offer a tunnel tour, that one day we plan to take.
The Lodge gets its name from its location:  half in California and half in Nevada.  Here we are holding hands in two states.  Silly fun.
Lunch was at Gar Woods Grill & Pier in picturesque Carnelian Bay.  Garfield Wood did as much for the sport of boating as any single individual in history and it seems only fitting that the restaurant that bears the name "Gar Woods" be found on this particular spot on Lake Tahoe, close to the Sierra Boat Company. "Kathryn," a 1931 Baby Gar, was the second to last 33-foot runabout built by Gar Wood and launched here.  It was a spectacular location and a delightful lunch.
The next stop on our magical history tour was Tahoe City and the Gatekeeper's Museum, a cabin that was the home of the Watermaster who controlled the flow of water out of Lake Tahoe.  The Watermaster no longer lives here and the cabin showcases Tahoe history, from the Washoe people through the logging and mining eras and the establishment of the tourism industry at Lake Tahoe. Exhibits include Native American baskets, resort memorabilia, historical photographs, clothing, oral histories, maps, archival documents, newspapers and artifacts.
I wanted to see an exhibit on the baskets of Dat So La Lee (1829-1925) a Washoe Indian who became extremely famous for her skill and to see such a collection was impressive.  Last of the famed Washo basket-weavers, her unexpressed dreams and her love of beauty were woven into her masterpieces. Her baskets were unsurpassed for their artistic conception and symbolical significance. She gathered all known materials, with the aid of her husband. This work was tedious and required careful attention. Her materials were cured, seasoned and tied up ahead for the next year's work. She was among the last of those Washo weavers whose ancient art had been practiced by countless generations.
Lake Tahoe's exact elevation is controlled by this dam in Tahoe City and depends on how much water flows in from the mountains and how much is let out into the Truckee River.
Me and my fanny then hung out at "Fanny Bridge".  Local legend has it that the bridge received its name from all of the fannies that can be seen from the road as visitors and local alike stare over the edge into the cool waters spilling through the dam on Lake Tahoe filled with wild Mackinaw, German Browns, and Rainbow trout cruising for fish food dropped by their human friends. Located over the only outlet of Lake Tahoe, Fanny Bridge is a must-see historical spot.
This was one of my favorite stops on our 72 mile drive around the Lake.  Emerald Bay is one of Lake Tahoe's most photographed and popular locations.  Can you totally see why?  What a perfect day with the folks.

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