Today, we are driving 140 miles north west to Lake Tahoe. Today is also daughter No 2’s birthday, so she starts the morning in style eating last night’s ice cream. With a stick. Meanwhile, the rest of us have our delicious Best Western grab & go breakfast to look forward to; 2 long life muffins, a satsuma and a fluorescent yoghurt!
After our tasty and nutritious breakfast, we set off in the direction of Lake Tahoe. Loading the car takes a while. It’s fair to say that there’s been an over purchase on the snack front (or perhaps an under consumption, depending on your point of view).
We are soon out of wine country and driving through olive groves and nut trees, past the urban sprawl of Sacramento, onwards and upwards to today’s first stop; El Dorado National Forest. We park by the ranger station – according to the internet, a source of maps and information. It’s closed. The map box outside is empty, but there are some newspapers which contain a very rudimentary map. We start walking along what appears (on the rubbish map) to be a trail to a waterfall. Pretty soon we reach a ‘keep out’ sign and a lot of smoke and burning wood. Two firemen appear and attempt to give us directions. Each gives very detailed and very different directions. The result, not surprisingly, is that we get lost. The others attempt to walk in the opposite direction. I’m over aimless wandering in the forest and volunteer to guard the car (and the crisps).
We’re parked next to a log flume, which the fireman told us was ‘pretty cool’. It’s actually empty. A fireman, in a forest, lighting fires, with poor knowledge of water sources!
After a delicious lunch (cold cheesy chips and Oreos) in a clearing in the forest, we drive the final 40 miles to South Lake Tahoe. It’s a spectacular drive along the banks of South Fork American River, running parallel to the old Pony Express Trail. As a child, Buffalo Bill used to ride the mail to the gold rush towns along here.
We climb and climb through breathtaking scenery. The road contains several sections of contraflow, where we must drive in convoy following a pilot car, so no opportunity to stop – all the lay-bys are cordoned off. So, we crawl along, cameras hanging out of the windows.
Finally, we reach the summit at 7300 feet and start to descend towards the lake. We reach our hotel; Motel 6, which has an unsettlingly large number of bear warnings posted around the grounds.
The initial plan was to drive the 2.5 miles to the lake, but the kids have other ideas and determine to walk. I’m far from convinced as we set off and moan (a lot) about it being a long way and America not being equipped for walkers as we walk along the cycle trail, as there are no pavements. Finally, we reach the lake and descend some very snowy steps to the beach. I sink into a snow drift up to my knees and get completely soaked.
It’s very beautiful on the beach, but there’s no way I’m going to attempt to climb back up through the snow drift so we edge our way along past private jetties and stairways trying to find another public access point. Finally we find one and set off on the long walk back to the motel.
We decide to drive towards the Nevada state line for dinner and end up in the ski resort of Heavenly at Basecamp pizza. I have a pear and Gorgonzola pizza topped with rocket and balsamic vinegar. It’s very tasty, which is good as it’s probably the most expensive pizza I’ve ever eaten. And the suggested tip is 25%. Only in America would it be acceptable to request $10 just to bring a pizza from the kitchen to your table!
After dinner we walk to the state line which has a disappointing lack of state line signage and then to the lake, which is all fenced off so we can’t actually get anywhere near it. By the time we reach the car we’ve walked a total of 12 miles today and I am totally exhausted.
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