All things Autumn in Tahoe
By Tim Hauserman
A ribbon cutting was held on October 22nd for the opening of the 2.2 mile paved bike trail which leads from Dollar Hill to the end of Fulton Crescent Road in Cedar Flat. The trail, which passes through the forest and over Dollar Creek is the first step towards eventually connecting Tahoe City and Kings Beach via an off the road paved bike trail.
The trail started as an idea in the mind of Larry Sevison in 1988. Sevison, who has been on the Board of the North Tahoe Public Utility District as well as the Placer County Board of Supervisors, was seeking to connect the Tahoe City Public Utility District’s trail network with the Regional Park network of trails in Tahoe Vista. This network then connects to Kings Beach. But even though this first phase was only two miles long, there were a ton of issues getting it built. There were land ownership problems, environmental concerns and of course funding. But finally, with a lot of help from the federal government, Placer County, the Tahoe Conservancy and even the non-profit Tahoe Fund, it finally has come to fruition.
I took the trail for a spin the day of the ribbon cutting. Actually I went twice. I arrived at the ceremony early, and headed out on the trail once before the speeches started, then joined a few others for an after the cutting celebration ride. The trail begins at the end of the Dollar Hill Trail just east of the 7-11, and right before the entrance to Dollar Point. There is also an off-street parking lot that can be accessed to begin the ride.
The trail heads immediately away from the highway with a gentle incline, circling around the edge of properties in The Highlands. It then begins a downhill, and passing over a popular mountain biking trail which is also the Blue Trail at Tahoe XC in the winter, before crossing a bridge over Dollar Creek, and then once again crossing the Blue Trail.
While this trail is a paved trail perfect for road bikes, it also provides access to a wide variety of dirt trails used by mountain bikers. On the day I rode in addition to bikes I also saw runners, dog walkers and a skate boarder. While the skate boarder was keeping a pretty good pace on the downhill and screeching around the corners, I was hoping I wouldn’t have to put my first aid skills to use if he went skidding off the trail or took a major tumble.
From the bridge, the trail begins to climb. While it is well graded you will get a good workout as it winds through the pines, firs and manzanita and takes a few sharp turns to ease the grade. In several spots the trail is built right next to some interesting boulders. After about a mile, the grade eases, and then it glides gently downhill before taking a sharp turn to pop out at the end of Fulton Crescent, near the top of Old County Road.
The goal eventually is for the current end of the trail to just be an access trail to the main trail, which will continue towards Tahoe Vista. There are another six miles to go. Hopefully the pace of finishing this next segment will be quite a bit faster, otherwise i will be too old and feeble by the time it is completed, and I can’t wait to be able to ride off the highway from Tahoe City to Kings Beach.
In the meantime the trail is still a great addition to the trail network. It would be a perfect place to teach kids how to ride. It is off the highway, there is parking right there, and the trail shouldn’t get the crowds seen on the Truckee River bike trail between Tahoe City and Squaw Valley. It will also give bike riders a ten mile out and back ride from Tahoe City, instead of the current six miles, and four of those miles will be through a quiet forest.
Between this new addition to the trail network, and the mile of trail between Sugar Pine Point and Meeks Bay, bike trail ridership will spread out a bit reducing the numbers on the overly busy section of trail between Tahoe City and Squaw Valley.
by Tim Hauserman
The decision to take what might be my last paddle of the fall came to me quickly. I was driving at 9 am and saw that the lake was a sheet of glass. Holy cow I said (or something along those lines) I gotta paddle! I rushed home, threw my kayak on the roof of my car and headed to Hurricane Bay. During the next two hours of paddling to Homewood and back I saw two paddle boarders, one other kayak, and two low flying jets flying in formation. And zero motor boats. It was a glorious way to spend the morning.
On mornings like this, you can see every rock and errant golf ball on the bottom of the lake as you float on the water like you are flying through the sky. It is quiet, with the only sound being the gentle splash of your paddle, and the occasional leaf blower prepping a lakefront home for winter. While a month or two earlier, you maneuvered your way through all the boats on buoys, now just the buoys themselves remain, the boats are all safely hibernating for the winter. It’s a calm and blissful experience until you have to get your feet in the water to remove the boat…that water is no longer the swimming paradise it was, it is now downright cold.
Paddling in October and November and even into December is a tricky business though. You have to be ready to move fast on a moments notice and get your craft down to the water. And you have to be ready to change your plans and do something else like hiking if the weather tells you so.
One day, like my paddle day, you might be focused on your to do list as you drive along the lakeshore when you look at that lake and it hits you smack between the eyes:The sky is blue, the lake is still and the temperatures are downright bearable. Screw the “to do” list, that can wait, I gotta paddle.
Than again, life can take the opposite turn. You’ve arranged your schedule, you got the morning off, you really want to get out on the lake today! So you bound out of bed, ready to roll, and see the winds blowing about 20, and it’s really cold. Like Oh Yeah, it is November Cold, and you have to go back inside, fix a cup of hot cocoa and read a book while contemplating your next option.
It’s all just another reminder of how to do Tahoe. Always have a repertoire of recreational options in your quiver, and each one is weather dependent. Snow: Ski or snowshoe. Warm and Calm Day: Paddle or road bike ride: Cold, dreary day: Hike, go for a walk, mountain bike with lots of layers, or sit by the fire. It’s all about carpe diem.
by Tim Hauserman
The first battle began early in the morning when I was startled by what sounded like a bomb hitting the roof of my house. It was followed quickly thereafter by a second and then a third explosion. My eyes tore open with the thought: what in the hell was going on? I ran to the front door and looked over the deck railing, just in time to see another fir cone bomb fly by, followed shortly thereafter by the loud screaming chirp of triumph of a squirrel. But not just any squirrel, this was the work of that hyperactive little monster of Sierra Nevada rodent land: The Douglas Squirrel or Chickaree.
Oh, I’d had my run ins with these Red Bull infused creatures before. Most memorably as we huddled inside our tent during a thunderstorm at 10,000 feet in the eastern Sierra. One of those little Alvin’s kept dropping fir cones onto the tent even as it was raining, and they arrived with such force that we thought for sure one of them was going to drive a hole in the tent.
Back at my house on that fateful morning, it was fully light by the time the squirrel took a break from the non stop chewing parade. I surveyed my yard and found my squirrel had dropped at least 100 fir cones already.
For the next week every time I emerged from my house the squirrel was quickly moving from place to place with a cone in his mouth. When he saw me he would often run towards me, put it down and scream and run towards me a bit more before finally backing off. I noticed him scurrying into a spot below my front deck, so I put up some bricks to keep him from heading there again. A few hours later I took a look: He had moved all the bricks out of the way.
A few days after my squirrel arrived I saw a pile of chewed up cone right on the top step at my front door. I didn’t see him sitting there eating the cone, but every time I swept it away within a few hours there would be another pile. I think he’s up to about 50 cones on the steps by now. It’s either his dining room table, or he is a cat and trying to leave me a prize. Either way, until he runs out of cones, I will keep on sweeping.
By Tim Hauserman
The turning of the leaves in the fall always sneaks up on me. I’m merrily rolling along on dusty hikes followed by a brisk dip into the lake, when boom, it’s cold and the aspens suddenly are covered with yellow and orange leaves.
Given that most of Tahoe’s trees are conifers, which remain green all year round, the Sierra doesn’t get the massive waves of bright colors like other parts of the US, which are dominated by deciduous trees. Instead, our excitement comes from narrow bands of bright yellow, red and orange leaves which contrasts so deliciously with the deep green of the pines and firs, and the dark blue of our clear, crisp sky.
One of my favorite places to observe fall colors is Page Meadows. The series of meadows are located about two miles from Tahoe City between Alpine Peaks and Talmont Estates. Each meadow has a different orientation to the sun, so you get several weeks of peak viewing. When one side of the meadow might just be reaching the peak of color, on the other side the aspen leaves are still green.
The photos provided here were taken on October 6th, when much of Page Meadows was at the peak of color. Fortunately, a few sections still have a few weeks left, but I wouldn’t dilly dally. Winter is coming, when hopefully all that yellow and orange will be replaced by a blanket of white.
Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village provides Lake Tahoe residents and visitors the opportunity to see great writers read and discuss their work at the Writers in the Woods speaker series. Each event includes a free reading on Friday evening and an inexpensive workshop Saturday morning with the author or authors.
The next writer in the series is Lidia Yuknavitch, who will present on October 12th and 13th. Her bestselling novel “The Small backs of children” was the winner of the 2016 Oregon Book Award’s Ken Kesey Award for Fiction. Her other works include Dora: A headcase, The Book of Joan, The Misfit’s Manifesto, based on a Ted Talk about her own life as a misfit, and her unflinchingly honest memoir, The Chronology of Water. Cheryl Strayed, the author of Wild, called The Chronology of Water “a brutal beauty bomb and a true love song. I am forever altered by every stunning page. This is the book I’ve been waiting to read all my life.”
Yuknavitch, who has a doctorate in literature from the University of Oregon founded a writing workshop series, Corporeal Writing in Portland, Oregon where she lives with her husband and son.
On November 9th and 10th Claire Vaye Watkins, will present at Writers in the Woods.
Watkins short story collection Battleborn is the winner of the Short Story Prize, the Dylan Thomas Prize, and a number of other awards. She is a Guggenheim Fellow and author of the novel, Gold Fame Citrus. Watkins was born in Bishop, CA and raised in the rural desert in Tecopa, CA and Pahrump, Nevada. She graduated from University of Nevada, Reno and earned an MFA from Ohio State. She is the co-founder and director of Mojave School, a festival of art and literature in the Mojave Desert. clairevayewatkins.com/
By Tim Hauserman
Yes, sports fans, it’s time once again for Tahoe’s favorite fall activity: Predict how big a winter it will be! Of course while no one knows anything, even the weather forecasters, we still like to come up with rationale for why this winter will be big! This fall the most popular are: A) it wasn’t big last year, so it should be big this year. B) The squirrels around my house are going bonkers collecting more fir cones then I ever, and of course, the most popular reason underlying reason amongst skiers C) Because I want there to be lots of snow for skiing!
One of my go to weather sources, Brian Allegretto from Opensnow recently said this about the coming winter: “The long-range models are not very reliable, less so the further out they go. The CFSv2 has below average precip for CA through January. Then it has above average precipitation starting in February.” In other words, while meteorologists are getting pretty dang good at predicting weather 10 days out, long term forecasting is still pretty much a crap shoot.
Another thing that people talk about this time of year is: I just want an average winter! Well if you remember from statistics class average precipitation is the total divided by the number of years. So if you have a year with 200 inches and a year with 100 inches the average for the two years is 150 inches. Except getting an “average” amount of snowfall in the Sierra is actually quite rare. If you look at the chart on the back of the dam at Fanny Bridge you will see that the vast majority of years give us way more snow or way less than the average. Over the last hundred years you can count on your two hands how many years were actually pretty close to average. The rest were copious snow and rain producers that made us plead for a break, or winters where we were begging for snow.
So I guess all we can do is hope. Here is what I wish for: A few rainstorms in October and November to wet down the dust. No major snow storms until about Thanksgiving so we don’t waste snow when it will just melt, then a healthy set of storms by early December to set up a nice base for Christmas. Good snow off and on through January and February to continue building up a base, but not so we are shoveling more then skiing. Then springtime melt for good spring skiing and snow melted in time for mountain biking in May.
By Tim Hauserman
An early September morning found me on the Tahoe Rim Trail between Barker Pass and Ward Creek. This has always been one of my favorite sections of the TRT. The trail traverses across a fascinating volcanic slope, passing a number of small streams and seeps flush with greenery and a few remaining flowers. It also provides expansive views of both Blackwood and Ward Canyon, and Lake Tahoe in the distance. But my favorite part of this trail are the trees. At 8000 feet on the west shore of Lake Tahoe there is a lot of snow, and the trees that thrive on the deep powder: Red fir, western white pine and hemlock grow tall and strong along the trail. In fact, in a particularly lush grove at the headwaters of Blackwood Creek is said to be the biggest hemlock in the Tahoe region.
The combined TRT and Pacific Crest Trail begins at the top of Barker Pass. Catch the road, across Highway 89 from Kaspian Park about 4 miles south of Tahoe City. Climb seven miles up the canyon to the end of pavement, then follow the wide dirt road an additional half mile to the PCT trailhead on the right.
The TRT begins climbing through a lush forest of red fir, then passes through wide fields of Mule Ears with views to the south of Desolation Wilderness. At about a mile, you reach awesome views across Blackwood Canyon to Lake Tahoe. Now, the route traverses along the edge of the canyon soon reaching two large volcanic knobs.
From here, the trail drops down into the bowl which contains those humongous hemlocks.The walk is now sublime with views of Tahoe, seep springs, ancient trees and craggy volcanic rock formations. After a gentle descent, an extended climb begins on a series of long switchbacks to the top of the ridge. Here at the edge of the Granite Chief Wilderness, 360 degree views are found as well as giant western white pines, battered by the winds.
Next, the PCT and TRT part, as the TRT heads to the east over the shoulder of Twin Peaks, and down into Ward Canyon. It’s a long descent through alternating thick forest and fields of Mules Ears with views of Twin Peaks and the Pacific Crest. You pass little McCloud Falls just off trail then cross on a bridge over Ward Creek, before a last few miles of gentle descent to the road.
by Tim Hauserman
Since the first few smaller winter storms are now under our belt, it’s time to move from road construction season to controlled burn season. In an effort to reduce the potential for a catastrophic fire in the Tahoe region, a slew of government land managers conduct controlled burns each fall and into the winter to reduce the amount of fuel that could feed a fire, or to stop a fire in it’s tracks when it happens.
For the most part a controlled burn is the last stage of a tree thinning project. The larger trees are removed for lumber or firewood, and the smaller trees and brush are assembled into piles. These piles sit out to dry anywhere from a few months to a few years until the burning agencies have the time and the right atmospheric conditions to burn the piles. In Tahoe, that means once the fire danger has abated but before multiple feet of snow cover the ground. Frequently you will see the fires light up just before an impending storm, which allows the fuel load to be reduced and a high level of assurance that the precipitation coming in will be sure to put the fire out.
(Area burned by the Washoe Fire in 2007)
The best evidence I’ve seen of the importance of reducing the fuel load in the Tahoe basin was the Washoe Fire near Sunnyside ten years ago. The fire started from a BBQ on a back deck on Washoe Blvd in the Tahoe Park area. Heave winds raced the fire up the hill through thick forest into the neighborhoods above. The fire had burned six homes in a short time and many more were threatened, all the way to downtown Tahoe City, when it entered an area which had recently been thinned and the fire fighters were able to get a handle on it.
In the Tahoe basin Lake Valley, North Lake Tahoe and Tahoe Douglas fire protection districts, as well as California State Parks, California Tahoe Conservancy and the U.S. Forest Service are all set to burn in the next few weeks, including in these locations:
D.L. Bliss State Park
Diamond Peak Ski Resort area
Upper and Lower Kingsbury Grade
Near Lake Tahoe airport
By Tim Hauserman
Every year Tahoe City shows it’s fall colors not only with its vibrant red maple trees lining the streets, and of course with the lovely October weather, but with a host of scary scarecrows tucked into many corners along North Lake Blvd. The scarecrows are produced by local schoolchildren, artists and Tahoe City business people as a gift to the community. Be sure and wander around downtown and find your favorites. Here are a few of mine:
Haven’t had a chance to check out the scarecrows yet? A perfect time to do so is Halloween Night. On October 31st Tahoe City hosts the Downtown Trick or Treat. From 4-6 pm local businesses are dishing out the candy and the town is full of wandering Ice Monsters and goblins. Start the evening at Heritage Plaza (That’s next to the Syd’s Bagel scarecrow pictured above) and get a free bag to contain all the booty.