Sunday, August 31, 2014

Best Hikes In Tahoe - Bayview Trail To South Maggie's Peak, Southwest Shore

Category - Strenuous - This hike is only for experienced hikers in good shape
View Rating - 10 out of 10!
Distance - 5 miles round trip
Elevation Gain - 1800 feet
Highest Point - 8700 feet

Do you want to know what may well be the single most spectacular hike in Tahoe? Better, even, than Mt. Tallac or the Sand Harbor Overlook near Herlan Peak? A hike the summit of which is almost deserted? Try the Bayview Trail up to South Maggie's. 

"Wait," I hear you saying. "What could possibly be more spectacular than hiking Mt. Tallac?"

A reasonable question, especially since Mt. Tallac's summit is 1000 feet higher. But Mt. Tallac is twice as far from Lake Tahoe as is South Maggie's. And South Maggie's looms directly over Emerald Bay, which many people think is the most spectacular part of Lake Tahoe. Ask people who've done both hikes, and you'll find that many agree with me. South Maggie's Peak simply offers a more dramatic view, which happens to also include a great look at Mt. Tallac!

This is what Maggie's Peaks look like from the highway just south of Emerald Bay. The north peak is the one on the right. Our target is South Maggie's on the left. It is only 200 feet higher than the north peak, but it has a nicer summit and is much easier to get to.

The beginning of this hike from the Bayview Trailhead is in most trail guidebooks. But the end - the last portion up to the summit of South Maggie's Peak - is not. The likely reason is that the final portion isn't a well-constructed trail, and the Forest Service doesn't like hikers to go just anywhere because that leads to erosion. In fact, they won't like that I'm telling you about this hike. (But I'll also tell you how to mitigate your impact so you don't have to feel guilty!)

Here's where to go. At Emerald Bay, don't park at the Vikingsholm lot or the Eagle Falls Trailhead lot. Instead, drive to the southernmost part of the highway around Emerald Bay and pull into the Bayview Campground lot directly across from the popular vista point overlook.

Drive in past the campground and go to the end where the trailhead parking is. (Remember to avoid weekends and always get there early. 8 a.m. is a good time to arrive if you want to find a parking place.)

This hike goes into Desolation Wilderness, so you'll need a permit. Because you're just going for a day, you can fill out your own permit at this sign. They're in the box to the right. (Bring your own pen.)

When you get to this sign, go right. (The Cascade Falls Hike is detailed here.)

The initial trail is a strenuous single track that climbs up a forested slope. It is work and it doesn't have a lot of views, setting you up for the big surprises to come.

Soon, you will pop out at the top of the Rock Slide, where a big chunk of mountain slid down into Emerald Bay in 1955. Don't worry, you can walk up and look down at the view without fear of falling. (This area was featured in Tahoe Deathfall.) Fannett Island (Tahoe's only island) with its stone Tea House is easy to see. The big boat on the left side is the Tahoe Queen, hovering just out from the Vikingsholm Castle, which is hidden in the trees just in from the swimming beach.

Here's a zoom shot of the Queen.

Continuing up the trail, you come to Granite Lake, hiding at 7500 feet below Maggie's Peaks. Granite Lake is a great place to take off your shoes and cool your feet on the way back down.

As the trail rises above Granite Lake, you move into a forest of giant California Red firs. These grow to 6 or more feet in diameter as you approach 8000 feet of elevation (their climate sweet spot).

Here's a Red fir with a giant burl that allowed me to pretend for a moment that I was King Louis the Sixteenth, sitting on his throne.

The trail zig-zags up a serious slope to the saddle that lies between North and South Maggie's. To the north and west, you can see much of Desolation Wilderness spread out below you. Don't go too close to the overlook (BE CAREFUL!)  

Here, I'm trying to channel John Muir. 1000 feet below me is Eagle Lake, a popular destination up the Eagle Falls Trail. PLEASE NOTE THAT ONE CAN FALL FROM ROCKS LIKE THESE! HANG ONTO YOUR CHILDREN IF YOU GO NEAR DROPOFFS!

From the saddle, the trail continues southwest. In just 100 yards or so, we are going to leave the trail and strike up the open forested slope to the left.

Turn left off the trail and just head up. If you only go up, you can't miss the summit. Because there isn't a formal trail, erosion is a concern. You can avoid creating a path that would channel water and cause erosion by simply walking carefully up at a gentle angle, zig-zagging up the slope as you would if you were climbing on cross-country skis. It is the more direct, steeper paths, caused by hikers and mountain bikers alike, that contribute to erosion. A "Leave No Trace" philosophy prevents erosion just as it prevents litter.

When you near the summit of South Maggie's, head for the north (left) portion. The views are better, and the perfect lunch spots more numerous. To the left rear is Lake Tahoe and the town of South Lake Tahoe adjacent to it. Front left is Cascade Lake, a private lake where John Steinbeck once wintered and wrote (and did some serious drinking!). Rear right is Fallen Leaf Lake. In the distance is Heavenly in the center left and the Freel Peak massif on the right. At 10,880, Freel Peak is the highest mountain in Tahoe.

Speaking of lunch...
Turkey, tomato, spinach, and cheddar on a whole wheat ciabatta roll. 
If that sounds too healthy, don't worry, we took the edge off the health
quotient with a whole lotta chips!

As you look down from the summit, Granite Lake is 1200 feet below you, and Emerald Bay is 1300 feet below that.

After lunch, plan to take some time to memorize the view. And what a view it is!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Best Beaches In Tahoe - Pope Beach

Pope Beach – (Southwest corner of Tahoe)
Parking – Plenty, but always a good idea to get there early!
Fee - $8 per vehicle
Dogs – Sorry, not allowed, not even in vehicles!
Boat Launch – No, unless your boat is a kayak, paddleboard, or canoe that you can carry to the water. (Remember to get your boat inspection.) You can also rent a kayak or paddleboard during much of the season here. Give them a call for schedule.

One of the greatest beaches in Tahoe is only a short distance from the "Y" intersection in South Lake Tahoe where Hwy 89 (Emerald Bay Road) goes north from Hwy 50. Turn north at the Y and drive 2 miles toward Emerald Bay.

 Look for the sign.

Pope Beach is huge, and although very popular, we stopped by on a weekday morning in August and the place was almost empty!

There are many picnic tables and barbecues.

You will see some waterfowl, and the lake and mountain scenery is in the Wow range.

The parking lot accommodates many cars, so even during the height of the season, you'll find a place if you get there early.

Another great benefit for a day at the beach is plenty of restroom facilities.

Note that these pictures show the beach when Tahoe's water level is low. After a big-snow winter, Tahoe's level goes up six feet, and the beach becomes quite a bit narrower!

Bring your hat and sunscreen and sunglasses, and have fun!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

An Early Kayak Ride - Is This The Best Workday Morning In Tahoe?

During the busiest season of the year - continuous book launch events, book and art exhibits at art and wine festivals, and my wife's artist-in-residence at Valhalla - we often end up working from the time we get up to the time we go to bed. The idea of an entire day off isn't workable. 

But what about an hour or two break to go kayaking in the morning?

Last week, we were at the gate to Baldwin Beach at 8 a.m. when they opened. The morning was cool, and the clouds were spectacular.

We hauled our tandem kayak down to the beach and took off up the West Shore. There wasn't enough time to go to Emerald Bay, the standard destination for Baldwin Beach kayak paddlers. But the experience was wonderful just the same!

All aboard our grand ship.
Nice views from out on the water.
The water is so clear, you can't tell if it is 10 feet deep or 40 feet deep.
Lots of birds along the West Shore. These might have been Mergansers,
but before we could get close enough to tell, they performed their vanishing act
and disappeared into the depths.
Kayaking is a great way to sight-see the lakeside houses.
Here's a sailboat just like the one where Owen and Gertie take refuge in Tahoe Ghost Boat.
There are many good places to stop for a  picnic lunch, but we have to get back to work.
Mt. Tallac pops into view through the forest.
Now it's time to head back to work through the scintillating waters. Quite the beautiful morning break!
There are uncountable ways to have a great Tahoe morning, and kayaking is certainly a contender!

P.S. If you want to rent a kayak at Baldwin Beach, check out Kayak Tahoe. They have kayaks and standup paddleboards on the beach during much of the summer.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Notes For Writers - The One Thing Ye Dare Not Do After You’ve Written Your Novel

Let’s say you’ve just finished writing your novel. It is, obviously!, a masterpiece. The characters are so real you know what they order at Starbucks. The plot is so tense, if you think of it after 5 p.m., you won’t sleep all night. Your entire high-concept vibe is taut as a piano string.
What do you do? You start sending out query letters to agents. Or you spend a couple of hours online choosing one of those publishing scenarios where you don’t spend too big a chunk of your retirement savings, and you get a package that puts a reasonable cover on your opus, assigns an ISBN number and the other tedious details one needs to publish a novel, and, a few hours later, your book is live on Amazon.
Yea! Rapture will follow shortly, right?
Except for one problem.
You didn’t hire a professional editor.
In fact, you didn’t even buy your sister a red pen and beg her to be a beta reader.
Next thing you know - if you’re lucky - someone buys your novel, downloading it to their Kindle. Then the miracle happens. They are so motivated by the experience that they post a review on the ’Zon.
But what does it say?
“I might’ve liked this book, but I couldn’t get past the thousand copy edit mistakes, the homophone substitutions, the misspellings, the head-hopping point-of-view shifts within a single scene, the missing quotes, the reversed apostrophes in contractions that begin with apostrophes (like the ’Zon), the forgotten periods and commas, the periods included before dialog tags, the repeated words, the missing words, the surfeit of adverbs, the business-letter formatting with spaces between the paragraphs and no paragraph indents, the non-serif font, the excessive use of exclamation points and words SPELLED OUT IN ALL UPPERCASE LETTERS, the massive passages of exposition, the run-on sentences, the innumerable cliches... The problems were so numerous that I barely noticed the story, and I decided to give this a two-star review. But when I came to the worst, most unforgivable mistake of all - the confusion between the pronoun its and the contraction it’s - I realized that no matter how grand the author’s vision, this pile of verbiage deserved only one star. Sorry to be harsh, but the editing on this book sucked. Maybe next time the author will hire a professional editor.”
Did I exaggerate to make a point?
Of course. But only a little. If you cruise Amazon’s offerings in your genre and click on one-star reviews, it won’t take long to find large numbers of reviews very much like this. Imagine if it happens to your book. This is death by a thousand copy edit mistakes. This is public humiliation. This will make you wish your artistic goal in life had been to knit hotpads for cooking.
And it is all unnecessary. Those might have been five-star reviews if only you’d slowed down.
Why did you do it? Why were you so eager to see your magnificent words in print that you skipped the last, most important step before publication?
You probably thought, I read it through eight times, I rewrote it four times. I believed it was clean.
Unfortunately, writers don’t see what they wrote, they only see what they think they wrote.
You need an editor or three.
Just to be sure you didn’t skim past that sentence, I’ll restate it with excessive caps. YOU NEED PROFESSIONAL EDITORS.
We all write for story. If instead you focus on your copy while you write, you will produce dead prose. Limp prose. If you focus on story, as you should, you will get a much better story but you will also produce prose filled with a thousand mistakes. We all do. But if you don’t hire a pro to clean it up, your future reviewers will not only diss your work, they’ll flame you in print. Which will kill your sales. Which will kill your career. Which will haunt you forever with questions about what coulda, shoulda been...
That’s why you need an editor.
How to find a good editor?
Same as with all the other stuff you learned in writing your masterpiece.
Research. Google “Fiction Editor” and all manner of similar phrases. Ask other published authors which editors they recommend. Then check references. See what they’ve edited. Don’t just fall for some fancy “Book Doctor” jargon. When you’ve found a few solid editors, ask them to edit ten pages that you know have a wide range of the common mistakes listed above. (Yes, there may be a fee for this.)
Expect to pay well for editing. Standard rates vary by editing type. Copy editing (finding the pesky little problems) is different than content and story-flow editing, which is different from general fiction prose problems like dialog structure and point-of-view head-hopping. Prices will depend on what you’re asking for. But as a general starting point, many editors charge a dollar per page for the basics on a manuscript that is already very clean. If your work is gushing with problems, you’ll pay much more.
Many writers sign up for Amazon’s editing services, which can be good, although their comprehensive package at $1800 is more than you need to pay.
You might be thinking, I’m a starving artist and I can’t afford to pay any money for editing.
If so, trade editing services with other writers in your writing group. Choose those writers who are not your good friends. You need harsh critique. No one is doing you any favor if they’re afraid to tell you the truth. You each agree in advance to do a careful, thorough edit and critique of the other’s writing. When done, rewrite again, then repeat the process with another writer. Then repeat it again.
I have four editors. Mistakes still get through. No editor finds every problem. But your goal is to find most of your mistakes and make it so readers concentrate on your story and not on your mistakes. The four and five-star reviews will follow…
Anyone can write a book. But don't forget that last, most important step. Don't skip hiring an editor! Smart, careful writers know that they need editors to clean up their mess. Those writers are the ones who succeed.

P.S. I didn’t hire an editor for this post, so it no doubt has mistakes!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Book Launch Diary Week 2

As this blog is being posted, I’m scheduled to be at the Red Hut Cafe at Ski Run Blvd. and Lake Tahoe Blvd. in South Lake Tahoe, Sunday, August 3rd, 8:30 a.m.
That should be a piece of cake, right? You spend a couple of hours hanging with the breakfast crowd and the fans who come just for books, signing books and chatting about Owen and Spot. And when it’s time to clean off the signing table, you order up an Owen’s Omelet and chow down. The life of an author is pretty sweet.
Oh, but there’s a few other things to do.
In the last week since my book launch, I did a talk at the South Lake Tahoe Library, an appearance at the Bookshelf in Truckee, an appearance at the street fair Truckee Thursday, and another talk at Shelby’s Books in Minden, Nevada. Like Sundance Books the week before, I had a good crowd at my talks, 70-something at the library, 40-something at Shelby’s, and they bought a lot of books. Yea!
I also let people from out of town order personalized, signed books, and I spent part of every day fulfilling those orders. Part of a book launch also includes sending out review copies to select reviewers and book bloggers. 
Bottom line? In the previous eight days, I’ve signed 837 copies of Tahoe Ghost Boat and 164 copies of my other titles and shipped them out or hauled them to bookstores. (Yes, I did get my fingers trapped in packing tape twice, but I haven’t yet gotten a signing cramp. Probably because my handwriting is so bad and irregular that my fingers never make the same moves twice.)
Between the signing and shipping stuff, I do emails. Already people are writing about reading Ghost Boat. So far, they all love it, although I’m well aware that if someone doesn’t like it, they’re not likely to write and tell me. As everybody knows, emails take a lot of time, but what a great task for a writer to have!
As of this writing, Amazon has sold 441 ebooks of Tahoe Ghost Boat. Based on previous experience, that number will swell in August and quickly outpace paper books. In the last year, I sold four times as many ebooks as treebooks, so I now look at my physical books as walking advertisements for ebooks. I feel very bad for bookstores caught in the ebook squeeze, but for many if not most authors, ebooks are an amazing gift from the tech gods. If you get good reviews, people will click the buy button, and Amazon puts the money directly into your account, no work necessary from you. After these first few days, nine people have posted reviews of Tahoe Ghost Boat. When that number climbs into the 100s (my last book Tahoe Chase now has over 800 reviews), more readers will notice, and that will translate into good sales.
In the coming months, I will have many more events, all of which will be listed on my events page:
There’s just one thing missing in all of these great experiences that authors have.
Time to write.
As with most lines of work, the business of writing is mostly business. But without at least one new book each year, most writers can’t maintain a writing career. So within a few months, I need to shift into stealth mode and get the next book written!
Until then, I hope you like my new book!