Lake Tahoe, located in northeastern Nevada, is one of the clearest and most beautiful lakes in the country. Its 37 trillion gallons of water are deep blue and so clear that objects can be viewed from up to 67 feet.
I first visited and stayed in South Lake Tahoe in 1972. Back then the town was small and a bit tacky from the many tiny casinos and motels. Today, 46 years later, is has grown hugely and become an affluent vacation town and destination.
I recall from 1972 my late wife Sue and I spending an afternoon sitting on a beach. The temperature was 72 but due to the powerful sun it felt like 90. Despite that hot sun, we could not stick even a toe in the water – it was simply too cold. Few appear to swim in the majestic lake but all visitors seem to love the place because of its high mountains, green forests, and gorgeous lake.
I drove in from Reno which I also recalled in 1972 being a relatively green oasis for a high desert location. I remembered many large trees and crossing the wild Truckee River many times. Today, a much larger Reno struck me as so dry as to lose the oasis feel to it – the Truckee River seems buried to the point of invisibility.
The following picture of Lake Tahoe was taken as I approached it from the north side of the lake. I drove around the rim to the southern side of the lake to park the car and peruse the village of South Lake Tahoe.
Main South Lake Tahoe plaza from enjoying views of the lake.
The main plaza is a great location to relax, enjoy a picnic meal, and look at the lake.
After a two-hour visit, I left Lake Tahoe and headed south down US 395 to Yosemite National Park, a three-hour ride. The following picture was taken about 60 miles north of Yosemite – one crosses over five mountain ranges to reach the park.
Yosemite National Park’s mountainous topography.
The Surprise Valley – Barrel Springs National Backcountry Byway is a driving loop of about 93 miles that loops from Cedarville north to Fort Bidwell, east into Nevada and then back to Cedarville which is just past El Portal on CA 140. Cedarville was closed when I arrived due to a forest fire that raged about twelve miles from the park entrance.
Yosemite’s mountains are very rugged as shown in the following picture of the park’s general store and gift shop.
Yosemite’s famous meadow is one of the park’s more beautiful attractions.
Yosemite National Park contains the National Elk Refuge that is managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service of the Department of the Interior.
Example of smoke haze covering the park and obscuring approximately 70% of the scenic vistas along CA 120, the main park road.
I overnighted at the Yosemite View Lodge located in El Portal, eleven miles from the park’s main entrance and accessed by CA 140, Yosemite’s loop road and the heart of the park – El Capitan and other fantastic treasures are viewed from it. CA 140 was closed to all traffic a mile past our lodge – the Cedarville sister lodge was threatened by the fire and closed.
The fire created chaos with the Yosemite View Lodge’s electrical system – ATM’s and other electronic connectivity were down. Food service operations scrambled to resupply so basic meals were the norm. Pizza, a salad bar and soft drinks were all that was available the night of my visit, and coffee and donuts for breakfast. The air, full of tiny carbonized particles, was breathable but slightly nauseated me after about 15 minutes sitting in it.
I’d waited my entire life to experience CA 140 loop road to finally view Yosemite’s numerous treasures. In the morning, I consulted with a desk clerk who informed me that 70% of the loop road’s scenic vistas would probably be similarly unviewable as my experience driving CA 120 the day before to the lodge.
I faced a 400-mile-long drive to Las Vegas as a $37 room awaited me at Harrah’s. A new mini-city created by 5 hotel casinos – Mirage, Harrah’s, Flamingo, Caesar’s Palace and the smaller Lynx – would turn out to be an interesting, fun, and gambling free evening. I had to bypass the CA 140 loop, a 3 – 4 hour-long tour, to arrive in Las Vegas by 7 PM. If I do the loop with 3 – 4 more hours breathing particles, I arrive 11 PM.
I headed for Harrah’s and enjoyed the drive across the empty California and Nevada deserts and the night on the strip. I entered the sprawling desert metropolis by first driving the north side of the strip, five miles full of small tacky motels and casinos and dozens of homeless people on the sidewalks and plazas.
One crosses over a dividing line onto South Las Vegas Boulevard and an amazing world of opulence, over-abundance, and screaming neon solicitations greet you. The mass stimuli is almost over-whelming.