Closer at hand, it was the trees that ruled. To south and east the wood went on as far as Jon could see, a vast tangle of root and limb painted in a thousand shades of green, with here and there a patch of red where a weirwood shouldered through the pines and sentinels, or a blush of yellow where some broadleafs had begun to turn. When the wind blew, he could hear the creak and groan of branches older than he was. A thousand leaves fluttered, and for a moment the forest seemed a deep green sea, storm-tossed and heaving, eternal and unknowable.
-George R.R. Martin (A Clash of Kings)
Last Sunday, the Greek and I set off for Tahoe; I suppose you could say that a trip in late May is becoming one of our traditions–last year it was Eureka and the redwoods and now, continuing with the theme of beautiful California destinations, it was a picturesque lake surrounded by craggy mountains. It was my second time in Tahoe, but this time I was experiencing the lake from a slightly different angle. Truth be told, it doesn’t really matter where you are; from each side, you feel not only dwarfed by nature, but as if you’ve stumbled into some scenic postcard. The landscape of this particular late-May postcard was a blend of winter and spring: baby blue skies, water lapping at the shores and snow-capped mountains in the distance.
Our first night there was nothing short of relaxing. We went to admire the views, to see if the lake was warm enough to swim in (ha, maybe in a month or two!) and then found a place to have dinner. Thanks to the helpful staff at the Tahoma Meadows Cottages, where we were staying in the Bear’s Den, we made our way to Spoon, a tiny restaurant no larger than a small cabin that serves “comfort food with a twist.” For me, the twist was Shrimp-Stuffed Shrimp with mashed potatoes and for the Greek, it was tri-tip with a garlicky Chimichurri sauce. The portions were more than ample and all the comfort I could need to prepare me for the next day’s hike. My only regret about the experience was that we were so stuffed from dinner that we didn’t get to try the soft serve, which, based on the amount of people coming in for sundaes and cones, I sensed was the most popular item on the menu.
After a lovely and filling breakfast at the B&B the next morning, we set off for what was supposed to be a pleasantly strenuous hike to both Eagle Lake and the nearby Velma Lakes. Always one to think ahead, I had suggested we take lunch with us from a local deli, PDQ (home of gargantuan sandwiches made for two). We were prepared and enthusiastic and, most importantly, we couldn’t have asked for a more gorgeous day.
And, initially, all was well; we were on the trail, we were making good time, there were other hikers around…After Eagle Lake, we stopped to have lunch, sitting amongst the rocks, trees and ants. At that point in the day, I was again happy that we had settled on the pesto bread and doubly glad for the size of the PDQ sandwiches. The extra calories were not only appreciated, but, as it would turn out, necessary since we soon took a wrong turn on a badly marked trail.
I won’t bore you with the details (especially since I know my grandmother is reading), but let’s just say that it was a simple of case of what goes up must continuing going up or it has to come down somehow. I’ll admit, however, that I was a little scared, that I professed my eternal hatred of hiking and nature, but that I also surprised myself with my fortitude, even if, by the end of what turned into a seven-hour hike replete with a fair amount of scrambling and an unexpected encounter with snow, it was a begrudging fortitude that made me think that if I were ever to compete in anything like The Hunger Games I might just be the first to go. Alas. Some of us are better suited to urban hiking, in heels and with a latte in hand.
But, after descending the mountain, salvation was nigh: a dinner reservation at the River Grill awaited us. We were seated at a table with a gorgeous view of the river and, given the day we had had and the pain from the hike and the sunburns we both suffered, we wasted no time in getting down to the business of replenishing our exhausted systems. Let me just say that I have no idea how many calories we burned on our hike, but a cocktail each (the Greek’s was appropriately termed the Painkiller, while I had an Orange Dream), a shared appetizer of some of the most delicious crab cakes (with zucchini) I’ve ever had, an entree each and a shared dessert of a warm, ice cream topped Apple Crisp later and I still was not stuffed. Really, after all that, I don’t know if I’ll ever feel stuffed again.
The next day, our last in Tahoe, was much more relaxing, save for an attempted “Wildflower Walk” that resulted in the Greek and I running back to the car being pursued by ravenous mosquitoes (to all the girls out there: You’ll know it’s forever when a man removes his sweater to beat the mosquitoes off you). After that near-death experience, we decided just to stroll along the lake, on man-made sidewalks, and to look in a few shops. Not only did I find a gorgeous clay baking dish in one, but the Greek got to talk European politics with its Austrian owner.
On our way home, we stopped in Truckee, a tiny mountain town that must have once been quite the hub of commerce, for lunch and a quick walk around. Going on these trips, I’ve realized just how vast California is–from the mountain towns that preserve the state’s not so distant history to sweltering Sacramento–and both how little and how much I’ve seen of it.