Sunday, June 24, 2018

Tahoe Wildlife - We Have A Very Prickly Neighbor

We've seen porcupines in Tahoe, but those sightings are rare. Yet on a recent hike, we encountered the biggest porcupine we've ever seen.

photo from
When that tough guy sensed our presence, he (she?) turned away from us and fluffed up its quills until it was a ball of spikes.  Yikes.

All we could think of was what it must be like for a coyote or bobcat or dog to come upon this creature and swat at it with a paw or start sniffing too close.

There is a rude joke that skunks and porcupines only have one natural predator - the automobile. Sad, but probably true.

So we waited, and our prickly neighbor eventually wandered into the brush, safer from any and all threats than rattlesnakes. Not even those master predators from the sky - the raptors - have much chance at taking a porcupine. Porcupines are a marvelous example of how evolution can conjure up impenetrable defenses.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Tahoe Wildlife - Coyote!

Last summer, my wife and I saw a coyote pup wandering past our house, below our deck. It was small enough that we worried it didn't have a parent teaching it to hunt. Yet over the course of the summer months, it would reappear in the evening, on the prowl, while we were barbecuing dinner.

photo from

Gradually, it grew. It seemed robust and radiated health.

Then came winter and we didn't see it anymore. Or, more accurately, we didn't see any single coyotes on the prowl through our yard. Occasionally, as we always do, there would come groups of coyotes through the forest, carrying on their social-hunting routine. And we would awaken in the night to their loud, yipping, almost-screaming conversations.

photo from

This spring, our single coyote reappeared in our yard. We think it's the same coyote. Mostly full grown, quite large now and beautiful. Very robust. One can't help but admire the coyote, so smart, so adaptable, so able to do well even in areas where people have taken over.

They also keep down the populations of many creatures that would take over our yards and invade our houses.

Yes, they sometimes eat our pets. And that is a very sad day for everyone involved. But the coyotes were here first. So it's incumbent on us to keep our pets close so we can admire these amazing carnivores that thrive with no help from us and in spite of efforts from many people to exterminate them.

We feel lucky to see coyotes in Tahoe on a weekly - and sometimes daily - basis.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Tahoe Wildlife - Bobcat!

Last winter, I looked out the kitchen window and saw a really large cat walking through the snow. After a moment, I thought it was too large to be a house cat.

After it wandered away, I got out my "animal tracks" book, went outside and looked at its prints.


After the snow melted, my wife and I were hiking in the woods near our house when we saw the movement of a good-sized animal as it ducked under a fallen tree. We stopped and waited. The animal turned around and came out. A gorgeous bobcat. It sat down and faced us from 40 feet away, curious, watching, wondering what the humans were doing.

After five minutes of all parties remaining motionless, it turned and disappeared among the manzanita bushes.

It was a beautiful animal.

photo from

For those who are curious, the telltale characteristics are a cat that is roughly twice the size of a house cat or a little less, black tufts at the tip of its ears, and a short "bobbed" tail.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

New Trail Up Angora Ridge

I've written before about Angora Ridge Road here. It leads up to the old Angora Fire Lookout and some of the world's best views looking down at Fallen Leaf Lake and across at the peaks of the Crystal Range.
The hike gives you views of Mt. Tallac, all the way up.
The hike always used to be along the Forest Service Road that climbs up to Angora Lakes Resort. It's a wonderful hike and great for chatting with your companions. However, when the Forest Service opens the gate in the summer, there can be many cars crawling up the incline.

However, now there is an alternative, a single track hike that leads to the same lookout but does it along the west edge of the ridge. This means that instead of being in the small valley that shelters much of the road, you are on a ridge with views all the way up. The improvement in view goes from spectacular to REALLY spectacular.

The water in the foreground is Fallen Leaf Lake.
The distant water is the West Shore of Lake Tahoe.
To get to the hike, follow the directions in my earlier post (link in the first line above). When you are standing at the entrance to Angora Ridge Road and facing the gate, don't walk toward the gate. Instead, walk the main road (Tahoe Mountain Road) downhill 20 yards to your right (toward the west). Then look to your left. You will find a trail head (unmarked as of this writing). The trail immediately goes up in gentle switchbacks. Almost immediately you start to get great views, which grow in grandeur and stay with you all the way up.

You will be looking across Fallen Leaf Lake toward Mt. Tallac and north up the West Shore of Tahoe in the distance. Bring your "Wow" meter, because views don't get better than this.

This was our view from our lunch spot up next to the fire lookout building.
Looking down at Fallen Leaf Lake is like looking down at a Norwegian Fjord. Gorgeous.

The trail eventually puts you back on the road. Be sure to continue up to the old fire lookout buildings and walk up to them so you can look out across at the Crystal Range, the highest West Shore mountains in Tahoe. In the distance above you, you'll see an almost year-round snowfield, where lies Lake Aloha. For those of you who drive Highway 50 home, you can't miss Horseshoe Falls as you come around the big curves from below Echo Summit toward Twin Bridges. That spectacular falls is the water that flows out of Lake Aloha.


P.S. I learned about this new trail last fall on our daily Tahoe news source:

Check it out. Even locals like me continually learn new stuff about Tahoe!