With the arrival of another weekend, it seemed like a good plan to do a little more exploring. This time I set out for Lake Tahoe, as several people had raved about it to me. As it turns out, it was well worth the trip. I didn't get ouf of San Francisco until late, so it was already getting dark when I rolled into Tahoe City. I claimed the last room in a hotel on the main drag, then wandered around town for a while. Didn't find much beyond supper, the town seemed to shutdown relatively early.
The following day I asked around for good hiking trails, and without any solid leads decided to just start driving around the lake until something presented itself. The lake itself was worth the drive, and I nearly decided to just spend my whole day on its edge. But crossing into Nevada I ended up in the Lake Tahoe State Park and ended up doing a five mile hike into the "backcountry". A very beautiful trip, and one that showed me I'm starting to get out of shape -- though maybe I can blame my tiredness on the 8,000 foot elevation.
Lake Tahoe is 22 miles long, 12 miles wide, and 1,645 feet deep (making it the third deepest lake in North America). Its only outflow is the Truckee river which flows further into Nevada feeding Pyramid Lake, from where the water evaporates without reaching an ocean. In spite of cold winter temperatures up in the Sierra Nevadas, the lake never freezes, instead as the water cools toward freezing on the surface it sinks and lighter warmer water rises to take its place.
The Tahoe basin was formed some ten million years ago as the Sierra Nevada Mountains were pushed up out of the crust by tectonic uplift, the basin itself being on a faultline in an area which sunk. The basin filled with water about two million years ago when further tectonic action and volcanic mudflows blocked the Truckee River. Its depth has varied through the years, being as much as 800 feet deeper thanks to Ice Age glaciers further blocking the outflow. The waters are known for their clarity, though whereas in the late 1800's you could easily see 100 feet below the water's surface, you can now only see down about 70 feet, most of the loss in clarity happening in the past 35 years. Much effort is going into slowing the loss of clarity.
It was a pretty time of year to visit the lake, with all the fall colors.
I nearly decided to spend the whole day just wandering around the edge of the lake, but instead found a hiking trail up into the Sierra Nevada's. This is at the start of the trail, before it started climbing. There was quite a breeze, so all the leaves were dancing and rattling filling the air with a vibrant energy that made me glad I'd decided to venture away from the lake.
Most of the evergreens in the area are Ponderosa Pines which leave massive pine cones all over the place. I picked this one up from the middle of the trail, feeling the base and coating my hand in sap. Walking along the trail, I tried to place the smell, and finally realized it smelled like bubble gum! Further along the trail I finally got curious enough to taste the sap on my hand, and was startled to discover it even taste like bubble gum. At this point, a sense of paranoia made me wonder if in fact what I'd thought was sap was instead some bubblegum that someone had spit out earlier, baking in the sun. I quickly gathered more pine cones relieved to find that they all smelled (and tasted) like bubblegum (though with a much more bitter aftertaste). In doing so, I somehow managed to get the sap all over my hands and face and on my camera and in my hair. This brought back memories of when I was perhaps 7 years old and I woke up screaming because my pillow wouldn't let go of my head. My mom had to come in with scissors and cut me free, evidently I'd gone to sleep chewing bubblegum. Fortunately there were no emergency haircuts necessary today.
This hill was about four miles back along the trail. I found it pretty, and toyed with the idea of climbing up to the top of it. Fortunately better sense prevailed, for as it turned out I'm far more out of shape than I'd ever expected. I doubt I'd have been able to make it to the top of that hill.
Marlette Lake has an elevation of 7.823 feet, and was my destination. Near the center of this photo, a little to the left is a rock knob. That was where I took my final views before turning around and heading back down.
Brook trout were introduced into Marlette Lake in 1877 to eat all of the fresh water shrimp that were clogging the water pipes that carried water from the lake down to Virginia City, a mining boomtown. The experiment was a success, and in the 1880's the water company began a commercial fishery which lasted into the 1950's. In 1963 the lake was purchased by the Nevada Department of Wildlife, and they resumed the fisheries, introducing Cutthroat Trout in 1975 and Rainbow Trout in 1984. This photo is of the spawning ladder, from which eggs are collected. Catch and release fishing is allowed in the lake during the summer months.
It's really too bad this photo didn't turn out better, as this was what the hike was all about. It's a view overlooking Marlette Lake in the forground, and Lake Taho in the background. I spent an hour and a half enjoying the view, and taking advantage of a surprisingly strong cell phone signal.
Proof that I indeed made it to the Marlette Overlook, and didn't just make this all up from fliers provided by the Nevada Division of State Parks. I'm at about 8,000 feet, while lake Tahoe in the distance is at 6,225 feet.
A caterpillar that caught my eye as I walked out the five miles back to my car.