Tag Archives: Lake Tahoe

Fire and Smoke and Evacuations


Leaving heavy smoke in Tahoe on Wednesday 8/19

We headed back home on Wednesday, leaving the heavy smoke in Tahoe from the Loyalton Fire, through the smoke filling the Central Valley to reach the heavy smoke in the Santa Cruz Mountains from the CZU Lightning Complex fires.


Looking south and west from the house  (Wednesday evening, 8/19)

 
Ash and charred leaves deposited around the house (8/19)

As we came through Vacaville and Fairfield on I-80, we slipped through just before the LNU Lightning Complex fire jumped I-80 and even saw flames from the interstate:

 
LNU Lightning Complex Fire about to cross I-80 near Fairfield on 8/19

On Wednesday and Thursday we prepped for evacuation, loading up the cars with necessities and some irreplaceables, prepping the house as per wildfire pre-evacuation recommendations (moving furniture away from windows, etc).  Sure enough, the mandatory evacuation zones were expanded Thursday evening to include everything west of highway 17 (including downtown Scotts Valley).  We’re a little south of Scotts Valley and just east of highway 17, but we decided to go ahead and evacuate Thursday night – heading back to Tahoe.

The evacuation areas are expected to remain in effect for a few weeks.  Darlene will be renting a place near Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto as she’ll be returning to work next week.

So far, it looks like they’ve been able to mostly hold the fire west of highway 9 and north of Santa Cruz and Davenport.  Unfortunately, we’ve got the potential for more fire starts due to more dry thunderstorms expected around the Bay Area from Sunday (8/22) through Tuesday morning (8/24).

Here’s a combined, interactive map showing both the perimeter of the ZCU Lightning Complex fire and the evacuation area.  63,000 acres burned, 77,000 people evacuated – snapshot as of Saturday, 8/22:

Here’s a really nice mapping tool (CalTopo) that can overlay various satellite data (like VIIRS) on a map source of your choice and plot additional weather data like wind patterns.  You can even zoom in to see individual temperature sample numbers showing where the fire is hotter and cooler or no longer present:

For more info on the Santa Cruz Mountains fires, here’s some resources:

Update (Thursday, 8/27):  81,000 acres affected as of this morning but they’re continuing to get good control of the fires across the Santa Cruz Mountains.  As the mandatory evac area was never extended to where we are (just east of highway 17), Darlene headed back on Monday evening since she had to go into work at the hospital on Tuesday and I headed back with the cats on Wednesday evening as things seemed to be continuing to go well.  As of 3 pm Thursday, they’ve lifted the evacuation order on Scotts Valley and surrounding areas.

Update (late September): As the number and size of the wildfires continue to grow across the western states, we get a taste of our potential future norm, including days that look like night and seemingly right out of “Blade Runner 2049”:

And when we ventured up through Oregon to pick up the Transit campervan in mid-September, we encountered some of the worst air yet: PM2.5 counts of well over 500.

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Big Bear Visit

We had a big bear visit the Tahoe house a few days ago – for size comparison, that bear box holds two full size trash cans and then some:

Update: And another couple of visitors in September:

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Some More Tahoe Trail Riding

While up at the Tahoe house over the past two weeks, we got in some nice rides – and avoided any crowds.  We hit up the usual Sawtooth Ridge loop (just south of Truckee), found some fun trails accessible from the house (KB Trail and Rise and Shine, etc. just above Kings Beach) and we finally, finally, made it all the way out and back from Stampede Reservoir (some 24 miles) on the Emigrant Trail starting from the amusingly named Donner Party Picnic Area (seriously?).  I was totally spent, sore and dehydrated, but no need for cannibalism.  Darlene on the other hand was all smiles – as she was riding her new pedal assist e-mtn bike!

Click through for the full gallery:

   

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Bear Inspection

We came across a bear near the Tahoe house today – inspecting a neighbor’s “bear box”:

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Last Week of Skiing

Darlene and I were up in Tahoe for ten days in early March right up until all the ski resorts decided to close down and the Bay Area counties decided to tell everyone to “shelter in place” to try to slow down the spread of Covid-19.  As it happens, Resi, Troy and Aiden joined us at the house just before that for those last two weekends – and we finally got a nice big snow storm this season – albeit on the last weekend for this unexpectedly shortened ski season.

These two weekends at Homewood (and Alpine Meadows during the week) made quite the contrast to each other: from getting pretty barren to turning warm and slushy to an overabundance of fresh heavy snow and people getting buried and digging out left and right!

On the first Sunday, Aiden finished up his “Super Sliders” season with a slalom race and awards ceremony.  On the last Sunday, with about two feet of new snow, all the major ski resorts had decided to close the night before but Homewood chose to go one more day – for a final huge powder day for passholders and advance ticket holders only.

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Who Needs New Snow?

It’s been a pretty dry January and February for snow in Tahoe, but we got the gang together at the Tahoe house for an early February weekend all the same. Darlene and I joined Greg, Erin & Merritt for a sunny Saturday at Squaw Valley and then Resi, Troy & Aiden at Homewood for a very windy Sunday.  But it would seem the wind didn’t slow down Aiden at all…

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Christmas in Tahoe

Christmas in Tahoe… fresh snow, skiing, snowshoeing, hanging a ceiling fan, playing new board games (Covert and Pandemic Legacy: Season 2).

 

But then… uh oh, my cat broke:

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Ghost Bear Visit

I noticed a curious thing on the Tahoe house front camera after a recent snowfall: first a pristine layer of snow across the driveway and then, a little later, a set of tracks across the driveway and *directly* under the camera….. but no recording of the creature that left them. This camera triggers a recording every time a passing car’s headlights even just illuminates the driveway and yet… no recording of the mysterious creature.  Spooky!

Now given the size and shape of the footprints, and how they lead under the front porch, there can be only one conclusion: it was a visit by the ghost bear!!

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Another Weekend in Tahoe

Troy, Resi and Aiden joined us for the weekend in Tahoe, including an afternoon at Kings Beach and a hike from nearby Watson Lake to find another excellent view of Lake Tahoe.

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Sunset Dinner on Kayaks

Darlene and I met up with Nanci and Mike on Labor Day to take our kayaks out for a sunset paddle and dinner from Sand Harbor on the east shore of Lake Tahoe.  Being late in the day, the water was pretty choppy but we successfully navigated around from the beach side to the more protected cove.  And fried duck chicken for dinner!

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More Tahoe Trail Rides

Mark and Eve came up to the Tahoe house ahead of the extended Labor Day weekend, joined by their friends Matt & Lindsay for some excellent Tahoe area mountain biking.  Mike and Nanci then joined us on Sunday.

Here’s the video montage I put together for all four days of riding:

On Thursday, Mark, Eve, Matt, Darlene and I hit up the Incline Flume trail starting from highway 431.  We continued with an out-and-back on the classic Marlette Flume trail before Eve and Darlene opted to take Tunnel Creek Road down to lake level and the rest of us climbed the Incline Flume trail back to the cars.

  

On Friday, Darlene opted out and Lindsay joined us for a one-way ride from Watson Lake (above Tahoe City) on the newly completed Big Chief trail down to Sawtooth Ridge, outside of Truckee.  The upper section of Big Chief is rated expert/”black diamond” and is filled with lots of big drops – much more than what I’m comfortable with but the lower, intermediate section was fun and includes a long flow trail section too.  We finished up with Matt and Mark taking the west ridge, rocky portion of the Sawtooth Loop while Eve, Lindsay and I took the fast, flowy eastern side of the loop.

 

Matt left on Saturday, but the rest of us ended up trying a loop climbing up and around Incline Lake from the Incline Flume trailhead.  This was a mixed bag of very steep unrideable portions of trail to get up there but with some fun singletrack once we did.  Might be better to take the Old Mt. Rose Highway dirt road to get up there.  (Mike has a suggestion for another route that he uses that we’ll try sometime.)  For our return, Mark took the Tyrolean Downhill trail while he sent us to try a new trail through some recently logged terrain.

 

On Sunday, Mike and Nanci joined me and Darlene on part of the Emigrant Trail between highway 89 and Stampede Reservoir.  This trail turned out to be a lot of flowy fun through varying scenery with some nice long ascents that turned into great descents on the return.  Unfortunately, Nanci wasn’t feeling well and so she and Darlene bailed out early.  We’ll be trying this one again soon though!

Click through for the full gallery…

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Early Morning Bear Patrol

Video from my front camera at the Tahoe house early yesterday morning catches a bear checking the car doors of both Mark and Lindsay’s cars in the driveway.  Unfortunately my video stops short of showing how they try to pull on the door handles.  Lindsay noticed somebody’s car down the street appeared to have been opened up and searched by a bear that morning.  Matt went out the previous morning to find both of his passenger side doors wide open but nothing ransacked.  Last year, Troy found all four doors of his extended cab pickup truck open in the driveway with dirty paw prints over everything.  Looks like even if you don’t leave any food or trash in your car, this bear goes around checking for unlocked doors!

And on a related note, the Placer County Sheriff recently helped this crying cub bear get out of a trash dumpster:

 

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Sunshine and Hail in Desolation Wilderness

Darlene and I headed into Desolation Wilderness from the Meeks Bay trailhead on Lake Tahoe this Monday for three days, two nights of backpacking.  This turned out to be a pretty easy going climb and less than five miles to the first lake (Genevieve) and a few more miles to where we camped at Stony Ridge Lake for both nights.

On our layover day, we continued on up to Rubicon Lake and then set off cross-country to reach the saddle to the southeast in hopes of a nice view overlooking Emerald Bay.  Unfortunately, thunderclouds started coming in and we had to bail out before we could get to the overlook.  On our way back down, we were caught in a surprisingly heavy hail storm and then had to dash down off the heights in the rain as the thunder and lightning approached.  We returned to camp pretty soaked and moved everything a few hundred feet to a better location to wait out the storm.  Happily the rain let up before the sun set for the day.

Fantastic night skies too, with no moon!

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Butterfly Eruption in Tahoe

There’s a massive eruption of butterflies in Tahoe this week – there are swarms of them all over the place, including on the highways and the trails around Tahoe.  According to this news report, they’re the California Tortoiseshell Butterfly and there may be millions of them around the lake right now.

“It is pretty phenomenal,” said Tahoe Institute of Natural Science (TINS) Executive Director Will Richardson, Ph.D. “It’s exceptional. I have not seen a flight quite like this before.”

Here’s some video I recorded in slow motion while mountain biking the Sawtooth Trail near Truckee yesterday:

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A Week in Tahoe

Bunches of pictures from a week in Tahoe with Darlene: hiking with Glenn and Michele along the old railroad bed from Donner Summit and through some of the tunnels, mountain biking with Mike up to the fire lookout at Martis Peak, kayaking from Sand Harbor to Secret Cove on the east shore of the lake, riding the Truckee River trail to Squaw Valley, watching the fireworks from the water’s edge at Kings Beach and, posted separately, soaring over Tahoe in a glider and saving the world from total ruin in Pandemic Legacy.

Click through for the full gallery of pictures and video:

 

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Soaring Over Tahoe

For my birthday, Darlene bought me a glider ride with the Truckee Tahoe Soaring Association based out of the Truckee airport and we were able to squeeze in together for a 40-minute flight over the mountains between Truckee and Lake Tahoe.  It was, of course, a wonderful experience and we got to learn a bit from our pilot Pablo about the capabilities of gliders – like the ability for them to sustain 1000-mile flights up and down the Sierra Nevada range, riding the thermals. Both Darlene and I did get a little motion sick (no doubt partly due to trying to take pictures and video) but not too serious.  It was a little noisier in the cockpit than I expected from all of the air rushing over and around the canopy but we were easily able to talk to each other.

While we were aloft we were joined by two other gliders coming in from more distant locations.  One of them was just coming across Lake Tahoe fairly low from the direction of Carson City and we watched as they searched out some thermals to get themselves back up again to a more comfortable 11,000 ft elevation over the 8000+ ft mountain ridges around the lake.

Click through for the gallery of pictures:

   

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