THANKSGIVING IN LAKE TAHOE, CA
Travel Date: November 2016
Location: Lake Tahoe, CA
Accommodations: La Cabana Carmelita
Activities: Truckee, King's Beach, Fallen Leaf Lake, Emerald Bay State Park, Sledding and snow-play at Mount Rose, Eagles Falls Trail, Eagle Lake Trail, Fallen Leaf Lake Trail, State Line Lookout Trail, Skunk Harbor Trail
I was born and raised in the Bay Area of Northern California, so trips to Lake Tahoe were frequent and make up some of my favorite childhood memories. Tyler, having lived his whole life in Southern California had never been to Tahoe before our first trip there together in November 2016. As we drove up the mountain after spending a weekend with my mom in Moraga, CA he began to understand why I talked about this place in such a special way and why it will always be one of my, now our, favorite places on earth. There was already enough snow to cover the pass and all the surrounding peaks, the evergreens were all dusted with snow, and some of the smaller lakes were already frozen as we drove past. As we continued to climb in elevation and the mountains became more magnificent and the vistas more striking, Tyler could not stop commenting on how beautiful everything was and how he’d never seen anything like it in his life. I smiled the whole drive, filled with delight at finally being able to share this place with him. Ruckus slept snug as a bug in the back seat of the JEEP the entire way until we finally reached the quiet town of Truckee.
Once we got to Truckee, we walked up and down Donner Pass Rd. checking out the cute shops and stretching our legs before checking into our AirBnB. We let the fresh mountain air fill our lungs with deep-full breaths while Ruckus got to play in the snow for the first time. After lunch, it was time to head to our cabin in King’s Beach. When we arrived at La Cabana Carmelita we climbed down the stairs to the private entrance to the rental, which includes a huge private deck with an unobstructed perfect view of the lake. Homemade chocolate chip cookies and a friendly note from the owner awaited us inside the tiny but cozy cabin. The whole thing consisted of one main room containing the mini-kitchen, mini-dining table prefect for two, and a love seat just right for cuddling, a teeny bedroom, and a bathroom. It doesn’t sound like much but this adorable cottage is so perfectly warm and inviting, it is probably our favorite place we have EVER stayed ANYWHERE. Without enough daylight left for any significant hike, we drove the few minutes down the hill to King’s Beach and walked up and down the sand letting Ruckus explore and play with the other dogs. We had stopped at the grocery store on our way into town and purchased everything we’d need for the trip (see our blog post on adventuring on a budget) so we went back to our cabin and made dinner as we watched the sunset across the lake through the perfectly placed bay window of the cabin. As you know, our favorite times are the ones that force us to unplug, and the fact that this rental has no TV helps you do just that! We spent our evenings talking about the day’s fun, planning the next days adventures, listening to music, reading our books and snuggling.
On Day two we were up bright and early and headed to our first hike, Eagle Falls to Eagle Lake in Emerald Bay State Park. What a hike to start with!! We could not have asked for more pristine conditions. Snow blanketed the ground making for a slippery but stunning landscape. The sun was out and shining without a cloud in the sky which provided views that went on for miles in all directions. We reached the falls and continued up the trail finding open fields of snow banks that Ruckus could not get enough of! He’d never seen snow before this trip, but it was instantly apparent that he’d found his calling as a snow puppy. He bounded all around chasing Tyler through snow that nearly covered him to his shoulders, a giant trademark Ruckus smile on his face the entire time. The scenery on the trail to Eagle Lake was breathtaking and ranged from tall evergreen trees to large granite boulders. Eagle Lake was so serene and beautiful, definitely worth trudging through knee-high snow to get there. We had a hard time leaving it was so stunning.
Our next destination of the day was Fallen Leaf Lake, another picturesque, blue-green lake, surrounded by resplendent snowcapped mountains. Everything in Lake Tahoe looks like it has literally been torn from the pages of a storybook. On our way back to the car we spotted a huge open meadow covered with a few inches of snow. We let Ruckus loose and he sprinted back and forth between the two of us in pure elation from this playground in the snow. We spent over two hours in that meadow playing and wrestling around with him in the snow. We had the time of our lives goofing around together. Its times like this you can’t rush because they become the most precious memories. Then it was back to the cabin for a home cooked meal, another stunning sunset, and more reading.
The next morning we headed Northeast to a sledding spot near Mt. Rose that our hosts had recommended to us. The well-known hill on the left of the highway was coated in knee high banks of untouched snow meaning packing it down enough to make a sled run was tough work and all three of us were panting within minutes! Ruckus had his jacket on, but his long hair collects snow so quickly that he was soon carrying giant snowballs attached to his underbelly. Every so often we would toss ourselves back in the JEEP and turn on the heater until his snow clumps melted away and his paws warmed up enough to go back out for more. We adventured across the highway into a vast open field that stretched for miles. The snow here was even deeper and traversing thorough it was tough for us, especially Ruckus who had to practically jump his way from spot to spot. He absolutely loved it of course!! We played and chased each other through the trails we created in the snow, constantly tripping and falling into the pillows of white all around us. In desperate need of a snack we were back in the car and went looking for more sledding spots. We found one that was certainly not an official sledding hill but was too perfect to pass up. Ruckus, even rode on Dad’s lap in the sled down the hill a few times! Luckily we had our GoPro with us to capture the whole experience. We had so much fun and laughed so hard we had trouble catching or breath. Luckily, when we flopped on our back in the snow from exhaustion, Ruckus was there to dive on us and lick us back to life! When we had our fill of sledding, we walked along King’s Beach again as the sun was setting before heading back to dry off from being hip deep in the snow most of the day, make dinner, and relax for the evening.
Day four was Thanksgiving Day, our favorite holiday! We started the day by hiking the State Line Lookout, an easy trail along which Ruckus made many friends. The top of this hike provides stunning views in all directions of the lake and its surrounding peaks. Next we started down the Nevada side of the lake to the trailhead for Skunk Harbor. This hike is a slow decent all the way down to the shore of the lake, making for a certain challenge on the way back. The small beach you reach at the bottom of the trail sits at the edge of the turquoise lake and seems almost untouched my anything other than the waves. Ruckus tried to swim but we couldn’t let him in the lake on account of how cold it was and how long it takes his coat to dry. So he contended himself with sniffing everywhere and finding every stick he could to chew on. After climbing our way up to the highway, we decided to revisit our perfect meadow across the road from the sledding hill. We explored deeper into the meadow this time and a little into the surrounding woods, Ruckus looked like a little snow bunny bouncing in and out of the powder. When we’d finally had our fill of playtime we went back to the cabin to start cooking our feast. This was the first Thanksgiving dinner I was actually cooking and not just helping with so I was adamant about making all of our favorite traditional parts of the meal. We roasted a turkey breast in the oven with a simple glaze, made garlic mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, and baked tons of our favorite dish of all time, stuffing! I cheated and bought a store made pumpkin pie because I knew we’d rather spend the day outside playing than inside baking. You always have to find a balance.
On our final morning of this dream we ate left over Thanksgiving food for breakfast, packed the car, said goodbye to our hosts, and retraced our steps back to the Bay Area to spend a weekend with my dad in Benicia. As we left this magical place we recounted every moment of what was now in the books as one of our favorite adventures to date. There is something uniquely special about Lake Tahoe, which was clearly evident in the way we felt after spending just four days immersed in its breathtaking beauty. We were so relaxed and content (Ruckus was exhausted and fell asleep the moment he jumped in the car) from spending time outdoors away from the stressors of everyday life. We also felt more in love than ever after spending time alone with our fur-baby doing things that make us both happy. Escaping, exploring, and enjoying life together is something we truly cherish and always brings us closer together.