A golden sum­mer

Away from the ski crowds, all is warm and won­der­ful

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence -

WAYW TO GO, TA­HOE Pine forests, sandy coves, sparkling turquoise wa­ter and snow-capped moun­tains. Lake Ta­hoe has it all. But have the Yanks been keep­ing this a se­cret? Visi­tors to the largest alpine lake in North Amer­ica are over­whelm­ingly lo­cal. Dur­ing a week in early sum­mer I en­counter only Amer­i­can ac­cents. If I were to tell a lo­cal shop­keeper I am from Mars, not Aus­tralia, I doubt he could look more in­cred­u­lous. Maybe over­seas visi­tors only head here in win­ter to ski. Yet sum­mer by the lake, with cloud­less days and lin­ger­ing twi­lights, is a treat. Just don’t tell any­one, please. More: vis­it­inglake­ta­hoe.com.

A KNIGHT TO RE­MEM­BER Vik­ing­sholm is a Nordic fan­tasy castle, in­clud­ing wooden beams carved with dragons, earthen roof and grey stone walls. The 38-room man­sion was built not by a Scan­di­na­vian but an Amer­i­can, Lorna Josephine Knight, a wealthy di­vorcee who backed avi­a­tor Charles Lind­bergh’s trans-At­lantic flight. The land she se­lected for her sum­mer home on Ta­hoe’s south­west shore re­minded her of the Scan­di­na­vian fjords, and so she built a res­i­dence in keep­ing with that land­scape. Knight en­ter­tained her guests at Vik­ing­sholm and at her tea­house on Fan­nette Is­land across the way. Vik­ing­sholm is reached by boat or a down­hill walk from the carpark. Af­ter ex­plor­ing the house, I hire a kayak to cross to her is­land and climb to the now-ru­ined tea­house with its stone fire­place and 360-de­gree view across Emer­ald Bay. Seated atop the rocky out­crop, the only is­land on Lake Ta­hoe, I feel rather like Brun­hilde and fancy a Valkyrie might whisk me back to shore. More: vik­ing­sholm.com.

WHATW THE DEUCE You can lose money even be­fore you exit Reno air­port, the clos­est ma­jor gate­way to Lake Ta­hoe, where slot ma­chines line the route from the bag­gage carousel. Strad­dling sunny Cal­i­for­nia and the gam­bling mecca of Ne­vada, the lake’s casi­nos are cor­ralled at South Lake Ta­hoe on the Ne­vada side. Not be­ing a gam­bler, I wan­der through the Hard Rock Casino to see the mem­o­ra­bilia. Against a back­ing-track of ring­ing, ping­ing one-armed ban­dits, I take in the vel­vet school­boy uni­form of AC/DC’s An­gus Young, Joey Ra­mone’s leather pants, Richard Ave­don’s psy­che­delic Bea­tles por­traits and Michael Jack­son’s diamond-stud­ded white glove. Ta­hoe has had other brushes with fame. More: hardrock­casi­no­lake­ta­hoe.com.

THUNDERBIRDST ARE GO He was the ec­cen­tric Cal­i­for­nian recluse with a taste for the ex­otic. Ge­orge Whittell’s most con­stant com­pan­ion was Bill the lion who rode in his master’s con­vert­ible, leav­ing claw marks on the dash­board. Whittell built Thun­der­bird Lodge, his lakeside man­sion, with vast in­her­ited wealth af­ter buy­ing more than 16,000ha on the Ne­vada side, in­clud­ing about 30 km of shore­line. He be­came its in­ad­ver­tent saviour, and the rea­son the eastern side re­mains so pris­tine, when much of his es­tate went to the state af­ter his death in 1969. There are guided tours around his lodge, in­clud­ing the card room he used for poker games, un­der­ground boathouse, and ele­phant house. Mingo the jumbo, and other an­i­mals in Whittell’s pri­vate zoo, are no longer in res­i­dence. De­spite vow­ing never to do a day’s work, this un­likely role model has a lo­cal high school named af­ter him. More: thun­der­bird­ta­hoe.org/lodge.

U UNTO THE BEACHES Sandy coves en­cir­cle the lake, which has a shorel line of 116km; these are ideal for pic­nick­ing, sun­bathing, hir­ing boats or wind­surfers. But swimming is only for the truly hardy as wa­ter tem­per­a­tures are cool even at the height of sum­mer; the fresh­wa­ter lake is fed by moun­tains and at 500m deep, it’s a long, chilly way to the bot­tom. Skunk Cove, once a pri­vate pic­nic area, is among the most se­cluded of the lit­tle beaches. It is reached by boat or a 2.5km walk through mead­ows and conifer for­est. More: tahoe­ac­tiv­i­ties.com.

FRENCH CON­NEC­TIONS Half an hour’s drive east of Lake Ta­hoe, La Ferme res­tau­rant adds a touch of Proven­cal charm to Ne­vada’s wild-west ham­let of Genoa. In­side the 1880s pink wooden homestead, ce­ramic hens dec­o­rate the eaves, a French farm­house clock stands against the wall and there’s a fire in the grate. The menu changes regularly and in­cludes braised rab­bit leg, con­fit of duck and creme brulee on the night I dine. Gilles LaGour­gue and chef Yves Gigot opened the res­tau­rant about 20 years ago. LaGour­gue also over­sees the ad­ja­cent Menagerie Bou­tique with one-off jew­ellery, art ob­jects and home­wares. Once a bustling stop on the Pony Ex­press, the quaint set­tle­ment of Genoa is now home to just 250 res­i­dents. Its his­toric main street boasts Ne­vada’s old­est “Thirst Par­lour”. And look out for the skele­ton in a cof­fin in the lo­cal an­tiques shop; the store­keeper in­sists it’s gen­uine. More: lafer­megenoa.com.

GIN SLINGS AND GUN­SLINGERS The name might con­jure un­for­tu­nate im­ages of b belch­ing jug­ger­nauts, yet the town of Truc­kee is as pic­turesque as a film set. And in­deed Char­lie Chap­lain’s The Gold Rush was filmed there in 1925. The name refers to the greet­ing a na­tive Amer­i­can chief gave to the first Euro­pean visi­tors — “tro-kay” mean­ing “ev­ery­thing is all right”. Truc­kee was once a ma­jor rail­road town, and many halted there en route to the Cal­i­for­nian gold­fields. Trains run­ning be­tween Chicago and San Fran­cisco still stop, but Truc­kee’s main­stay is tourism. Some come for Truc­kee Thurs­day, the weekly farm­ers mar­ket and fair, held from 5pm dur­ing sum­mer. The im­pos­ing old Truc­kee Ho­tel on the cor­ner of Bridge Street serves more gin slings than gun­slingers these days. The town is about a 30-minute drive from the north of the lake. More: truc­kee.com. TAKET A HIKE Hik­ing trails sur­round the lake, es­pe­cially on the west and south­west side, and they range from easy strolls to up­hill bat­tles. An­gora Lakes hike is about an hour’s round-trip to an area named af­ter a herd of an­gora goats that used to graze here. Food and boat hire are avail­able at An­gora Lakes. Mount Tal­lac is among the most chal­leng­ing day hikes. But the stren­u­ous climb re­wards with jaw-drop­ping views from the sum­mit. Wild­flow­ers are abun­dant in late spring and early sum­mer, in­clud­ing pur­ple columbine, blue flax and red alpine paint­brush. Note that moun­tain weather can change sud­denly and dra­mat­i­cally so pack rain gear. More: taho­e­va­ca­tionguide.com/ac­tiv­i­ties/hik­ing.

IT’S SNOW TIME Some ski-lifts op­er­ate even in warmer months and give hik­ers ac­cess to higher, more re­mote trails. But it is in win­ter when the lakeside is blan­keted in snow that the ski re­sorts come alive. Squaw Val­ley, which hosted the 1960 Win­ter Olympics, is among the most pop­u­lar. Skiing cov­ers six peaks across more than 24000ha; there’s an 868m ver­ti­cal drop and 42 lifts. As well as down­hill skiing and snow­board­ing, there’s cross­coun­try, sled­ding, snow­mo­bil­ing and ice-skat­ing. More: ski­lake­ta­hoe.com.. HOUSE-PARTY HAVEN I rent a house with six friends at Glen­brook, on the lake’s eastern shore. The com­fort­able fourbed­room house is a five-minute walk from the lake. On warm nights we dine on the deck with lake views, or on cooler evenings in the large liv­ing-din­ing room with its open fire. We stroll along the nearby sandy beach to see the sun’s first rays catch the snow-capped moun­tains, and watch squir­rels in the pines. But we avoid the bears; a neigh­bour shows me the claw marks on her door. Ac­com­mo­da­tion at Ta­hoe ranges from camp­ing grounds and con­dos to up­mar­ket ho­tels, in­clud­ing the Hy­att Re­gency Lake Ta­hoe Re­sort (pic­tured). More: glen­brookrental­pro­gram.com; laketa­hoe.hy­att.com.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.