Sadly, we left the Redwood National Forest, and pointed the Fireball east for the first time in months. Got one last photo of the giant tree in our campsite ‘backyard’. As close as we could measure this with our Stanley 10′ tape measure, it was nearly 38′ around.
One last pass through Crescent City was in order, as this was our last view of the Pacific Ocean as well. The old lighthouse there (still operating), sitting on its picturesque island is a beautiful sight for any camera lens. McArthur-Burney Falls State Park was our next stop for a brief overnight. The never-ending county road took us through the Siskiyou Mountains. Bet our average speed for a 40 mile stretch was no more than 25mph, but what a gorgeous route. Sometimes, it pays not to be in a hurry.The campsites at McArthur-Burney were large, secluded, and barely populated. We wandered down to the spectacular falls. Not only does water thunder over the top of the falls – it also pushes through the bedrock walls on each side of the main falls. I’ve never seen anything quite so dramatic. Water flow was good, and we could hear the falls back at our campsite, even though it was probably 1/3 mile away. The Pacific Crest Trail runs through this point, so I even got to walk a few hundred yards on this trail, perhaps made most famous by the book and movie “Wild”.
An early start was in order for the next day, as we wanted to check out Lassen Volcanic National Park, and (hopefully) get in a brief hike. Closed!! Even the Visitor Center was closed for the season (doesn’t open until Memorial weekend). We wandered around the area, checking out the early seismograph located there. For miles around, there are huge chunks of volcanic rock – although I don’t know the history of this volcano, it must have been one enormous eruption, or series of eruptions. It’s a gorgeous area, and we were sad not to be able to explore. Even the State Highway is closed for the season at that point – we had to backtrack to get to Lake Tahoe, our next destination.
This was one of the rare times we really didn’t know where we were going to ‘land’ the Fireball. We had pinpointed several campgrounds in the nearby National Forest, but all are closed for the season. We finally found one state park on the west side of the Lake, which had probably a dozen open campsites. So, Ed Z’berg Sugar Point Pines State Park became our home for three nights. What an interesting spot. This is a huge State Park with over 175 campsites. But, we were the only campers there. Showers were all locked up, but we did have flush toilets. Solitude, very cold windy nights, and a huge starry sky. Bonus – we woke up on Day 2 to snow.Lake Tahoe is deep and cold. It holds 39 trillion gallons of water, enough to cover the state of California with 14″ of clear, drinkable water. It’s an amazing sparkling deep blue color. The average depth is 1600′ feet, which I find incredible, since Lake Superior has an average depth of less than 500, and is about 1350 at its deepest spot. We hiked, biked, and wandered everywhere we could. It was difficult not just to sit and appreciate our good fortune for being able to land in such a spectacular spot.One point of interest was Vikingholm, a large Scandinavian style home built on the southern shore in the 1920s.. Dappled light made photos difficult, and I was disappointed not to get a great photo of the snow-covered sod roof which covers a section of the home. Completed in 1929, it now is part of the Park, but was closed (nothing apparently opens until Memorial weekend). But what a pleasure to walk around.
Saw this notable cedar of some type with its curly bark, and a large pine tree with an unusual repair job to cover up a wound.
The rest of our time was spent viewing the lake from every possible elevation and angle. With the bright clear skies brought on by the prior night’s snowfall, it was a photo dream. I could probably post a hundred photos, taken just because I wanted to imprint these images on my brain.
Lake Tahoe was the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, and part of them took place right on the trails in our campground. How could we resist taking our mountain bikes (and rifles – HA!) and heading out to the biathlon course? We got off to a great start, but soon ran into old icy snow piles. Wham! Suddenly I was face-planted in the cold icy stuff. Luckily John didn’t see it, but he did ask me to recreate the scene for a photo. NOT! I managed to biff a second time before we came to a huge (50 yards long) deep muddy hole. There’s no way we could tell how deep it was, and there was no way to bypass it, so we turned back. Yes, I did fall once again on the return. For my efforts, I have a sore knee and a bit of ice burn on my leg. Badges of honor on an Olympic course – I’m proud.
The Donner Party met its demise in this area, so we headed to Donner Lake State Park to see the new Museum there, which just opend in Fall 2015. The Donner Party was a group of 89 pioneers headed to California in 1846-47. They took a ‘shortcut’ which didn’t turn out to be that, and bogged down for months. The upshot was that about half died along the way, and their bodies were consumed by others in a desperate attempt to survive. Only 47 of the original 89 survived that brutal winter, the worst in 100 years. Other areas of the museum are dedicated to the Chinese laborers who cut the railroad tunnels through the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the 1860s. The labors of these workers are finally being appropriately credited to them, after years of silence for this achievement. The Museum doesn’t really lend itself to photos of these exhibits, but a statue outside, dedicated in 1918, pays tribute to all those California pioneers.We left much unseen in the Lake Tahoe area, in the hopes that we’ll make a return trip. Hard to believe, but we’re already feeling the pressure of moving eastward to make our deadline of being in Maggie Valley, NC on May 18. How are we going to cover all of those miles in a mere month?
We’ve rolled into Carson City NV for a few days. No more camping in the woods by ourselves – we’re in a crowded RV park. But there’s WiFi! Showers that aren’t coin-operated! Electricity and water. All the things we haven’t had but for a day or two in the last two months. If it wasn’t for all the traffic noise, other campers, and barking dogs, it would be great!
The trek eastward continues.