A Summer Vacation to Lake Tahoe

Oct 20, 2019

The fact that I'm finally journaling a little bit about our family vacation that happened three months ago is evidence that things have slowed down here. This vacation took place the week before Aaron was diagnosed. At the time, we didn't have even the slightest suspicion that anything was wrong. He hiked and kayaked and buried himself in sand just like the other kids. Just a few days later, as we sat in the hospital, I thought back longingly to our time at Tahoe; it seemed like it came straight out of another life.

But as time has passed, the memories from this time together as a family have become more and more dear--both as a reminder of the way things were and as a promise of good things to come.

Two summers ago, we went on a fantastic family vacation to the redwoods. On our first day of driving, we made it to Lake Tahoe and stayed there for the night. We took advantage of the few short hours we were there to go to the lake. As we sat on the sand and looked at the crystal clear water hemmed in by striking mountains, we looked at each other and asked, "Why are we going somewhere else? Why don't we just stay here instead?"

Of course, we're glad we decided to continue on because we loved the redwoods, but we made a promise to ourselves that we would come back to Lake Tahoe and make it the destination rather than the pit stop.

And this summer, we did just that.

We rented a cabin and explored Lake Tahoe for four glorious days. That first glimpse two years ago told us we would love it, and we were not disappointed.

My brother, Gordy, and his family came with us in 2017, and they were also convinced they needed to give Tahoe its proper due, so they came with us again this time. And as you know, it is never a bad idea to bring along cousins.

Ready for a few highlights?

Baldwin Beach, Take 1
On our first full day, we went to Baldwin Beach. We got there before 10:00 in the morning, which meant that the beach was still mostly empty and we could snag a picnic table. We set up lots of shade, and the kids wasted no time getting into the water. (I, on the other hand, had to wait for the sun to arch up several hours before I was ready to immerse myself because that water was cold!) We brought a kayak, and so did Gordy, and it was heavenly to paddle around the lake, especially before the big boats stirred up the water. Mike decided to rent a paddle board for fun because none of us had been on one before. We all took turns with it, but some were more naturally talented than others (I was among the wobbly). The sand on Lake Tahoe is very coarse, which makes it really easy to brush off. My kids loved to bury themselves deep inside it (and after I got wet, I could understand why this was so appealing). We also had several snorkeling sets, and it was actually the absence of things that made looking underwater so cool. It was almost like looking through a glass of drinking water--it was that clear.

Early Morning Run
I really wanted to go running in the mornings while we were at Tahoe--not because I am in any way dedicated to an exercise routine (I'm not), but I feel like running (or walking or biking) gives a more intimate view of a place, and I like that. I only made it happen one morning, and it ended up being fairly short because I am not a hill runner (and that's pretty much unavoidable at Tahoe), but I loved being out in the cool morning before anyone else was awake. Mike and I went to the High Meadows Trail, which wound through the tall pine trees and gave us glimpses of the lake.

Emerald Bay
We tried to visit Emerald Bay on our first morning. We thought we would be fine if we got there before 10:00, but all available parking was completely gone (unless we wanted to hike in, which we did not). So the next day we got an early start and were there just after 8:00. We didn't have any trouble getting a parking spot, but I was shocked that in the fifteen minutes it took us to put on sunscreen (and calm down a tantruming Ian), the parking lot filled right back up. It was easy to see why this is such a popular spot on Lake Tahoe. From above, you can see the green-hued bay with an island cocooned in the middle and the lake stretching out behind it. We hiked down to the water's edge (a lovely hike--almost completely shaded). The kids were eager to get in the water, but it felt super cold (maybe because it was still early in the day). By the time we were ready to hike back to the top, the sun was high in the sky, which made it not as much fun as the way down. Still though, we couldn't get enough of those views.

Eagle Falls
When we were at Emerald Bay, we saw a sign pointing to Eagle Falls. We hadn't heard anything about it, but we decided to check it out anyway. I'm so glad we did. It wasn't a hard climb, and the waterfall ended up being quite a bit bigger and more impressive than we were expecting. It was a  little detour that was totally worth it.

Tahoe Trout Farm
This was the activity that took the number one vote from my kids. They loved it so much, and the next day they begged and begged to go back, but we had already caught all of the fish we could handle. We loved everything about this fish farm. It was beautiful and had a quiet rural feel about it. The owner could not have been more of a fisherman if he had tried. He was friendly and chatty and so patient with the kids. We took a couple of fishing poles, a bucket, and a net, and headed out to the pond. We could see the trout swimming around, but it took awhile before we got a bite. But Aaron finally caught one, followed by Maxwell, Bradley, and Clark (in age order, just like that). Maxwell has wanted to catch a fish for years, and even though Mike has taken him fishing many times, he had never caught one himself until this moment. Some might say it's cheating to catch a fish at a fish farm, but we all loved it. It was nice to feel so successful instead of going home disappointed. We ended up with four big fish. They gutted them for us there at the farm (Aaron and Max helped), and then we took them back to our cabin and froze them. When we got home from Lake Tahoe, Mike cooked them up, and we sat around the table and told big fish stories and reminisced about our trip. It was awesome.

Date Night
Because we were with my brother and his family, we were able to work out a little babysitting trade and each enjoy a night out sans children. When it was Mike's and my turn, we went out to eat, and then we explored a couple of trails that we'd heard about: Cave Rock and Chimney Beach. We had been thinking about taking the whole family to Chimney Beach the next day, but after doing it with just the two of us, we realized that there would probably be a lot of complaining with nine children. But Mike and I were so glad we had the chance. The lake was stunning. With every few feet on the trail, it looked just a little bit different, which made me exclaim again and again. The ambiance was heightened by the sun going down, casting a fiery reflection across the water. For some reason, we were the only ones on the trail, which kind of baffled us (and made us slightly wary) because we couldn't figure out why people would want to miss out on this kind of beauty.

Baldwin Beach, Take 2
On our last day at Tahoe, we decided to go back to Baldwin Beach. I was hesitant because I didn't want just a repeat of when we were there before. But it ended up being completely different and even more fun than the first time. This was because we chose to set up camp on a little strip of land that ran between the lake and an inlet of water. This was like a private little pond for us. It was shallow and since it was disconnected from the actual lake, the little kids got a chance to paddle in the kayaks by themselves. If you paddled down the channel of water, it started to twist and turn among the reeds and lily pads. I half expected to see an alligator's nostrils poking out of the water. The kids also found a crawdad, which kept them entertained for hours. It was the perfect way to spend our last day.

Family Time
We loved being at Tahoe with my brother Gordy, his wife Brooke, and their four kids (Charlie, Rose, Lyda, and Wally). We stayed at a spacious cabin and had plenty of room for all thirteen of us. The cabin had a hot tub, and our kids loved nothing more than getting back from the lake and climbing straight in to warm up. (We thought we were for sure going to be charged a cleaning fee for all of the sand they undoubtedly left behind, but we weren't.) Gordy brought their nintendo switch, and, if I'm being honest, that was another highlight for our poor video game deprived children. Our kids all played really well together. Clark, Rosie, Lyda, and Ian seemed to have some kind of imaginary game going on the entire time. Mike and I loved having other adults to talk to, and Gordy can make me laugh like no one else. Gordy also always makes a music video of their trips, and so we love when they come somewhere with us because then we get to be in the video too and it's such a fun keepsake to have at the end. Basically, we would always say yes to a vacation with them.

Even though there are many more places we want to visit as a family, I'd be surprised if we didn't end up back at Tahoe at some point. It is only a day's drive away, there is so much to do, and its natural beauty can't be beat.


  1. I grew up about 20 minutes from Tahoe and have many, many happy memories of summers on the lake and winters skiing in the mountains. We live on the east coast now, so I haven't been back in ages, but it was so fun reminiscing while looking at your pics today.

    I am so glad things have started to slow down for you. I pray they continue to remain as boring as possible!

  2. What great pictures!! You will cherish those!

  3. When I was working in San Francisco, I had a boss with an airplane and he flew a few of us young workers up to Tahoe. We had to wash his plane but then spent the rest of the day at the lake before flying home. It was amazingly beautiful, both the journey and the whole day.

    What a great vacation, and once again a talented photographer.


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