By Tim Hauserman
While snow has covered the upper reaches of the Sierra, at lake level we got just a dusting from the last storm. I made some lemonade out of that lack of snow by heading down to Sugar Pine Point for a hike along the lake shore. Not only did I get a chance to enjoy this amazing park with just a few other visitors out and about, but I was treated to an avian spectacle like none I’d seen before.
I parked my car along West Lake Blvd. and followed the hiking trail which will hopefully soon be a cross-country ski trail on the lake side of the highway. I ended up getting five miles of hiking in, mostly gentle ups and downs on what are known as the Yellow and Orange Trails on the cross-country skiing maps displayed on the trail. There were three highlights on the hike:
I encountered some of the largest incense cedar that I remember seeing in the Tahoe region. One in particular, just up from the shore, had certainly the widest base of any cedar I’ve encountered. Soon after I began to notice how the whole park is full of immense specimens of sugar pines, Jeffreys and cedars. Apparently it is an excellent spot for tree growth, and since the land has been protected by both private and public landowners for over 100 years, trees have been free to grow to their hearts content.
Just past that huge cedar I heard a loud ruckus in the sky above. I looked up and there, just 30 feet above my head was a bald eagle being aggressively chased by an osprey. The osprey violently bumped up against the eagle and tried to peck his head as they swiftly roared out of sight. Just a few seconds later, another osprey, went by in hot pursuit to join the fray. About thirty seconds later I noticed my mouth was still wide open in happy astonishment. Not sure if I will be lucky enough to see a sight like that again.
And finally, this was the perfect time to hike in Sugar Pine State Park. The temperatures were crisp, but not too cold, and only a few other hearty souls could be seen on the trail. And then there was the surface of Lake Tahoe, a sheet of glass without a boat or soul to be seen.