Sunday, August 25, 2013

Best Drives In Tahoe - Kingsbury Grade To Carson Valley

Most roads that climb up and down mountains follow gradual valleys or ridges. This is also the case for most roads in and out of Tahoe. Less common are those roads that cut along the side of a steep mountain and give you amazing views. Tahoe has two of those.
The most well-known is the short section of cliff-edge road from Echo Summit down toward Meyers on the South Shore.
A less well-known example is from Daggett Summit at the top of Kingsbury Grade down to Carson Valley.
While the Echo Summit drive gives you the great views associated with a 1200-foot drop-off, Kingsbury Grade gives you a nearly 3000-foot drop-off.
The views are spectacular. You can enjoy them from both directions, going up or down, but they are most dramatic going down from Tahoe. As with the Mt. Rose Highway that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, the Kingsbury Grade/Carson Valley drive can be done as part of a nice counter-clockwise loop.
From Stateline on Highway 50 at the southeast corner of the lake, turn east on 207 Kingsbury Grade. You will climb 1100 feet up to Daggett Summit before dropping 3000 feet down to Carson Valley.

When you get down to the floor of Carson Valley, take a left on Foothill Rd. Drive north to Genoa, Nevada's tiny and very-charming oldest town. Continue north out of Genoa on Main, which turns into Jack's Valley Rd. That takes you to Highway 395 just south of Carson City. A short distance north on 395 will get you to Highway 50, which you take west up and over Spooner Summit and back to Tahoe. (As always, print out a Google map to make your navigating easier.)

The giant lake shimmers behind you as you head up Kingsbury Grade...

A last glimpse of the water...

Did you ever notice that every pass in and out of Tahoe is within a few feet of elevation of the others?

Carson Valley in the distance

The Grade winding down below you

The road is well-designed and signed, with shoulders where you can pull off.

In the distance are the twin towns of Minden and Gardnerville. In the far distance, 395 climbs up out of Carson Valley on its way down the Eastern Sierra.

It feels much like descending in a small plane.

If you look very close, you can see a bunch of black dots on the field in the center of the photo. Got a guess as to what they are?

Foothill Rd. stretches out below you like a runway for your Cessna.

Here are some of those "black dots" up closer. The mountain in the center is Jobs Peak. It looks 1500 feet higher than it does from Tahoe because we are 1500 lower. In fact, Carson Valley is almost the same elevation as the bottom of Lake Tahoe.

In the distance is 11,000-foot Highland Peak near Markleeville.

More black dots... Although Carson Valley is technically a desert as far as precipitation goes, it gets year-round runoff from the Sierra to its west, keeping the ranch land green all through the hot summer.
The entire loop from Tahoe to Carson Valley, north to 50, and then back west over Spooner Summit takes about 90 minutes. It demonstrates the incredible contrast from lake resort country to the beautiful ranch land just a few miles east and 1500 feet below Tahoe.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Is There River Rafting In Tahoe?

When people think of white-water rafting in California, the focus is usually on the major rivers flowing west out of the Sierra: The American, the Tuolumne, the Merced and others. Their first thought isn't usually Tahoe.
But we have fun, safe, and easily-accessible rafting on the Truckee River. You won't find anything beyond Class 2 rapids, which is perfect for a leisurely ride with just enough excitement to elicit some whoops and hollers. Note: There is more significant rafting on the Truckee River below and east of the town of Truckee. This post is about the gentle ride beginning in Tahoe City. This is a simple 5-mile float trip. You need no experience, and you won't have to do much more than sit and enjoy the scenery.
Just below Lake Tahoe's dam in Tahoe City are Truckee River Rafting and Truckee Raft Co. They provide parking in a couple of different places, and they will shuttle you to and from the put-in and take-out spots.

You ride from Tahoe City down to the River Ranch at the entrance to Alpine Meadows ski resort. The water is cool and shallow, the scenery pretty, and the ambiance ranges from calm to let's-have-a-beer-or-three-and-party. Expect a few loud groups of young people during busy times.

Here, the fast water spreads out into a wide, calm, shallow area.

 Some places, multiple rafts are on the river.

People watch from the shore. Note the black and white Great Dane in the foreground.

Here, the river splits into two channels. These people took the narrow one to the right.

Some exciting water near the end...

After your trip, you can relax and have a cool one on the sundeck of the River Ranch

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Best Drives In Tahoe - Mt. Rose Highway

For people who aren't able to hike and bike at high altitude, driving is a great way to see the area. Simply driving around the lake will give you a good feel of Tahoe, and I'll write more about that in a future post. But there are many other great drives that add to the experience.
One of my favorites is the Mt. Rose Highway from Reno, up and over the highest year-round pass in the Sierra, and down to the lake at Incline Village.
Note that while the pics below only show the Reno-to-Incline drive, you can make this drive as part of a loop that you can access from any point. One is a counter-clockwise loop: Tahoe-to-Carson City via 50 over Spooner Summit, north to Reno, back to Tahoe on 431 Mt. Rose Highway, then south to back to Spooner. Another is a clockwise loop from Tahoe north to Truckee on 267 Brockway Summit, east down 80 through the Truckee River canyon to Reno, then south to 431 Mt. Rose Highway, and back up to Tahoe. A variation would be taking 89 from Tahoe to Truckee instead of 267.
Here are some shots that show the sequence.

Below, we are heading up the desert slope above Reno. Mt. Rose is the cloud-shadowed mountain just above the solid painted white highway line. Don't confuse it with the mountain on the left, which is the location of the Mt. Rose Ski Area. You'll drive by the ski runs after you climb about 4000 feet. It is a nice ski mountain, but the summit is nearly one thousand feet below the 10,776-foot summit of Mt. Rose, the third highest in Tahoe after the South Shore's Freel Peak and Jobs Sister.

As we climb, we drive from desert sage into a Jeffrey Pine forest. The road switchbacks over and over. Below, center, is a bit of road we drove up several minutes before. In the distance beyond is Little Washoe Lake at the north end of the Washoe Valley.

If you take a left turn at Winter's Creek Road, you will come out on the side of the ski area mountain and get a great view of Washoe Valley to the south. Washoe lake disappears in drought years. In the far distance is Carson City. This is where hang-gliding thrill riders jump off the mountain and ride the wind to the valley floor.

Turning to the north, you will see great views of Reno on the desert 4000 feet below.

Turn around, return to the Mt. Rose Highway, and head back up the mountain. 
Eventually, we come to the top of the pass.

This is the trail head to hike Mt. Rose. It's not technically difficult, but the hike is without shade and has nearly 2000 feet of elevation gain. Be sure to bring plenty of food and WATER!

After you crest the pass and come into the Tahoe Basin, you can see the giant lake in the distance, beckoning.

To your left are the Mt. Rose Meadows, jumping off point for several trails and popular snowshoe and cross-country ski territory.

In another few miles, you will come to an amazing overlook, "down" at 7800 feet. The ski runs of Diamond Peak ski area are to your left.

To the south and west is a vista unlike any other. This is the view looking down the East Shore.

This is the view looking to the southwest. The singular mountain left of center is Mt. Tallac. To the right of Tallac is Emerald Bay.

Looking straight west you see Tahoe's North Shore. In the distance on the left is Alpine Meadows ski area. In the distance on the right is Squaw Valley. In the foreground is the golf course at Incline Village.

When you finally get down to Tahoe's shore, you can look to the South Shore mountains, 25 miles away. Heavenly ski area is comprised of the mountains to the left. Jobs Sister and Freel Peak, Tahoe's two highest mountains, are in the center.

 Nice drive, huh?!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

What's The Best Thing That Can Happen To A Writer?

At the top of the list are those things that make you feel that storytelling is worthwhile, such as email from readers who love your books. A variation on that is the rave review. This one is just in from a well-known book blogger named Cathy Cole. I really respect Ms. Cole for the quality of her writing. She is articulate and creative. Check it out:

Cathy Cole of Kittling: Books

Click for Cole's review of Tahoe Chase