Last year my wife got to visit Lake Tahoe with her mom. After spending a couple of days there she was determined that I should visit as well. She felt it was the type of place that would really resonate with me, that I would enjoy it quite a bit.
Fast-forward to summer this year, and we both were presented with an opportunity to visit. Our friend Julie was going to be doing the Tahoe 200 mile race and she welcomed us aboard her team as crew and pacers. This would give us an opportunity to be there and see a lot of the area in a short period of time. This review isn’t going to be about the race, but about my impressions of the place itself, as a tourist.
One of the things that I discovered very quickly was that the entire lake is dotted with small towns that all have a very NorCal feel. Small cafes, bike shops, kitschy arts and crafts, were all over the lake. There were a couple of larger cities, such as South Lake Tahoe, that had more of your standard suburban fare, but most of the towns we went through were quite small.
These types of walkable villages are my jam. The morning after the race finished I woke up in Tahoe City and walked over to a small coffee shop a block away, Syd’s Bagelry and Espresso. This place was the perfect place to spend a quiet morning. I got my usual decaf Americano and a breakfast sandwich and simply relaxed. As I left, I noticed a back door to the establishment that led to the lake walk. I headed down and breathed in the fresh air.
I got to spend a nice relaxing morning watching waterfowl, and looking at the sunrise over the mountains across the lake. I enjoyed it so much that when Lisa woke up, I dragged her over to the cafe for her breakfast and a walk as well. We even went back to this same coffee shop the next day! It’s relaxing little places like Syd’s that feel like a vacation to me. Somewhere I can decompress, watch the water, and maybe do some writing.
The entire town of Tahoe City reminds me a lot of towns along the North Shore in Minnesota. When we were doing out laundry at a local laundromat I reminisced about when I was doing laundry up in Grand Marais. Doing the little chores of life in a small shore town seems like a silly thing to enjoy, but in many ways I do.
We also got a chance to explore many of the natural features of the lake both during the race, and after. As part of my pacing duties I got to visit Snow Valley Peak which had one of the most striking views of any of the points around the lake. It’s a long, slow, 7 mile climb to get to the top, but the reward was so worth it. We also visited Emerald Bay and Vikingsholm on the southwest corner of the lake. These are two very hot tourist destinations, but the beauty of Emerald Bay is totally worth it.
I can certainly see us coming back to Tahoe someday. It’s filled with things that we love and enjoy, and that make us feel relaxed. It’s a long way to travel, so it may be quite a few years before we return, but I don’t think this is a one-and-done type of place.