As pet friendly hotels in Lake Tahoe go, our stay at the Deerfield Lodge at Heavenly was glorious. Still, we did manage to drag ourselves out for a couple of day trips in the Lake Tahoe area. Our first excursion was to circumnavigate the lake, including a little jaunt northwest to see some sights in nearby Truckee.
The lake itself is pretty impressive, with 71 miles of shoreline and an average depth of 989 feet. It’s the highest altitude lake, and the second deepest in the U.S., behind Crater Lake, Oregon – which we visited a few weeks back. On average 1,400,000 TONS of water evaporate from the lake’s surface every 24 hours – though the resulting drop in lake level is only one-tenth of an inch!
We took off from South Lake and our first stop was Taylor Creek, to see the Kokanee Salmon spawning. All the trails here are managed by the U.S. Forest Service (we love you guys!) and are pet friendly. The only challenge was keeping Buster out of the creek – all the splashing salmon made him especially curious.
The next stop on our route was Emerald Bay. I’m not sure how they decided on the name – it looks more like Sapphire Bay to me.
From Emerald Bay we continued on our way around the lake, stopping at the lookouts, and moseying through the towns. Tahoe is a year-round vacation destination, with the lake being the draw in the summertime, and the snow sports grabbing all the attention in the winter. The communities around the lake are obviously focused on drawing the tourist’s dollar, but they’re not gaudy about it. The villages still have a “hometown” look and feel to them.
At Tahoe City we took a little detour away from the lake to visit Truckee. A trip to the famous pass though the Sierra Nevada mountains where the Donner party‘s wagon train was trapped during the brutal winter of 1846/47 is a necessity, and the views of Donner Lake are the payday. Standing atop the rock outcroppings, it’s inconceivable to imagine a covered wagon traversing this terrain. Though we sometimes feel like modern-day explorers, the pioneers who settled our country were brave beyond belief.
Back on the Tahoe Circle, we noticed how different people might be attracted to different parts of the lake. If you’re into the casinos, shows and buffets, the east side of the lake, on the Nevada side of the border is for you. South Lake Tahoe has some great restaurants and lots of recreational opportunities, and you still feel like you’re in the middle of it all. If you’re looking for a quiet get away and don’t mind cooking in, the west side of the lake would be best. Custom homes with lake views and huge pine trees allow you to imagine you’ve got the whole place to yourself. The north side of the lake seems to be bit of a combination. The housing here lacks some of the character of the west side, but with a couple of small casinos and good lake access it may be just the right thing for you.
A few years ago, in a Philadelphia wine bar, I discovered my favorite wine of all time. We’d planned to visit the winery on our way to Yosemite, and though RV repairs derailed the Yosemite part of the trip, we decided to make the drive from Lake Tahoe down to the Ironstone Vineyards anyway.
We opted for the less direct route through the Stanislaus National Forest and must have been right at the peak of the aspen’s fall colors.
It took us A LOT longer to get to Murphys, where the winery is located, than we thought. Part of the delay was because we stopped so many times – including once to hike around a little lake. But, the 1-1/2 lane high mountain road also demanded a slower pace. And it was absolutely worth it. Buster had so much fun, and Ty … well, Ty was Ty. He was mostly focused on the inside of his eyelids and when he wasn’t worried about keeping his paws dry.
We got to Ironstone about a half hour before closing, and had just enough time for a sandwich, a tasting, and a life-enriching wine purchase. The grounds looked gorgeous and are pet friendly. We’ll have to make sure we allow time to explore when we visit again.
The town of Murphys is also worth a visit. Main Street was bustling that Saturday afternoon and walking our banshees on leashes would have been a nightmare. But on a quite weekday, exploring the renovated old buildings brought back to life with cafes, galleries, and boutiques would have been the picture of perfection.
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