Bike, Ski, Hike? Activities Confusion at Lake Tahoe

Dale Campbell, Co-Editor

During this planning phase, Sharon was communicating with a cousin of hers that lives in the Sacramento area. In the week before the trip, Anita mentioned several times that the mountains surrounding Lake Tahoe had an abnormally high level of snowpack for early June. Thinking like a Coloradoian, Sharon suggested to me that we take snowshoes on the trip. "Snowshoes in June in California," I remarked, "just doesn't seem logical to me. Let's think warmer weather thoughts, such as bicycling and hiking." Well, as you've probably guessed, we should have taken the snowshoes. Let me explain....

Flying into Sacramento on Sunday, 5 June, we drove east into the mountains to the north end of Lake Tahoe. We arrived at our lodging later in the afternoon and immediately noted cool evening temperatures. No problem; we're from Colorado and can layer clothing. Well, Monday morning, we awoke to an inch plus of snow on the cars, roofs, lawns, etc. While it melted quickly, it was still somewhat of a surprise. During timeshare orientation that morning, we were informed that the Lake and surrounding mountains had received over three feet of snow in May and then more than a foot in just the first few days of June. And, later in the day, I heard information from the California Water Control Board that the mountains on the first of June had the snowpack equal to what's normally expected on April 1st. Was this some sort of late April Fool's joke? Taking a look at the surrounding mountains later on Monday when the weather began clearing, the truth was evident. There was plenty of snow here, even down below the 7,000 foot elevation!

To put that into perspective, it's time for a few statistics. The maximum elevation of Lake Tahoe is 6,229 feet. The surface temperature varies from 40 degrees F in the winter to a maximum of 70 degrees F in the summer. The Lake has 72 miles of shoreline and a surface area of 191 square miles. A drop of water entering the lake via rainfall or stream runoff takes 700 years to traverse through the Lake and exit via the Truckee river (contrast that with a 23 year traverse for a drop of water in Lake Erie).

While the weather continued the clearing trend on Tuesday, it still wasn't conducive to cycling. So, recognizing possible alternatives, we decided to go wine tasting in the El Dorado region southeast of Sacramento. Driving down the west shore of the Lake, we enjoyed multiple outstanding views and scenery, including a stop at an Emerald Bay overlook. Our route soon intersected with US Route 50 (yep, the same one that goes through Pueblo!). Heading west on US 50 brought us down out of the mountains and into the wine region. After stops at four wineries, we concluded that there are some pretty good wines available from this region of California (ask us about some of choices).


BFC April 2011 Issue - Vol 4 Issue 4, 1 August 2011

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