Live in snow country and you have an opinion about all that the white stuff that keeps falling. By now snow is not a nice four-letter word for many people.
As someone who no longer owns a snow shovel or blower, my opinion is that is so incredibly beautiful. I had the pleasure to spend a couple days in South Lake Tahoe the last full week of January for a book event. Snowshoeing along the edge of Lake Tahoe with friends was a perfect outing under blue skies.
What was a surprise was how high the snow was from the water’s edge. The water was a couple feet down from where we were standing. Even in most heavy snow years there isn’t this height difference.
The snow depth creates a tunnel effect on Highway 50. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
With few breaks between storms and the temperatures staying cold, there was essentially no time for the snow to compact.
I knew from all the pictures on the news and social media I was going to be surrounded by snow. This was evident when the snow was higher than the Jeep driving along Highway 50.
The depth was further confirmed Feb. 1 during the second annual manual snow survey of the season near the entrance to Sierra-at-Tahoe. The snowpack is 193 percent of average. Statewide, it is 205 percent of average. The depth was more than 7 feet. This is an increase of more than 2 feet from a month earlier.
Ice on Valhalla pier on the South Shore on Jan. 24. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
The Sierra snowpack is critical because it accounts for about 30 percent of California’s water supply.
Now being a flatlander that matters even more to me. And being next door to the State Water Project’s largest reservoir, Lake Oroville, brings the snowpack into a different light.
Lake Oroville is the start of the state system that provides drinking water to 27 million people (39 million live in the state) and irrigates 750,000 acres of ag land.
Taylor Creek reflects Mount Tallac. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Lake Oroville on Jan. 31 was at 65 percent of capacity, according to the Department of Water Resources. The good news, though, is that is 112 percent of its historical average for that date.
Yes, there has been a substantial amount of rain and snow this season, but California is still in a drought. Fingers crossed the spigot stays on, but with less intensity than what the state has experienced so far this winter.
Paradise Lake has more than 7 miles of shoreline. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
It doesn’t take long to get out of the flatlands of Chico and be surrounded by pines. In 20 minutes it’s like you are in a different world.
Welcome to Paradise—elevation about 2,000 feet, with conifers the dominant flora.
Walking along Paradise Lake it’s like being transported to the mountains. It’s magical in many ways, especially with there being no evidence right at the lake of the devastating 2008 Camp Fire.
A few of us are out on this first day of the new year. It’s a wonderful way to start the year—hiking a little more than 5 miles in a rather secluded area. Much of the trail is wide enough for the two of us.
Most of the dirt trail is flat and meanders along the lake. When the water isn’t visible the tall trees envelop us.
A kayaker and fisherman are out enjoying the tranquil waters.
In some ways this 204-acre lake is reminiscent of Jenkinson Lake near Sly Park in El Dorado County.
The Paradise Lake trail goes along the east shore. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Paradise Recreation and Park District has been responsible for the recreation amenities and operations since June 2020. Prior to that the Paradise Irrigation District took care of everything at the Butte County facility.
The 84 acres available for fun include walking trails, picnic area, two boat launches, fishing, and kayak rentals when it’s warm.
However, with the primary purpose being the water supply for nearby residents, that means motorboats are not allowed. Dogs, horses and swimming are also not allowed.
This is one of two reservoirs providing water to the surrounding community. Paradise lake contains about 11,500 acre-feet of water. Magalia Reservoir is smaller, with a capacity of 796 acre-feet. It is along Little Butte Creek downstream from Paradise Lake. Paradise Dam separates the two bodies of water. No fishing or recreation is allowed at the smaller body of water.
As a teenager growing up in the Bay Area, seeing the latest Warren Miller movie meant the start of ski season.
My adrenaline would be pumping watching those skiers—and they were just skiers then, no snowboarders. Their ability, their antics, there personalities—all so amazing and captivating. And then that scenery. Absolutely breathtaking.
Warren Miller in South Lake Tahoe in 2010. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Those films are what made me want to go helicopter skiing. They made me want to travel to ski. They made me want to be in the mountains.
I never made it heli-skiing because I never felt confident in my ability to even look into it. I have skied at many resorts in the United States. I lived in Tahoe twice and still feel most at home in the mountains.
Warren Miller, as they say, brought the stoke to the sport.
While many filmmakers followed in his footsteps in the ski industry and other sports filmmaking, he can be credited with being the founder of the action sports film industry. He was 93 when he died in January 2018.
I was fortunate to have met him when he was in South Lake Tahoe in 2010to receive a lifetime achievement award at the X-Dance Action Sports Film Festival that was in Stateline. That voice is what captivated me. It was as distinct in person as it is on the screen. Not only did he direct the films through 1987, he was the narrator through 2004.
For a while, I saw each Warren Miller film when it came to Lake Tahoe. Then my attendance became more sporadic. When I was there in November 2021 I went with friends to see the latest film. Still outstanding, captivating and awe-inspiring.
The talent of the athletes has only gotten better. The footage even more surreal. The terrain more diverse. The stories even more interesting.
While, I’m no longer a die-hard Warren Miller movie-goer, it hit me hard learning there will be no new movie for the 2023-24 season.
“January 24th represents many things to me, sadly this is the anniversary of Warren Miller’s passing in 2018 and coincidentally it’s also the day that we traditionally set off each winter to film the annual ski/snowboard movie that bares (sic) his name. However for the first time in my 30 years with @warrenmillerent and for the first time in the companies (sic) 74 year history – No one will actually film the movie this winter,” Chris Patterson, director of photography for Warren Miller Entertainment, posted on Instagram.
2022, the last year a Warren Miller movie will have new footage.
Time Warner bought Warren Miller Entertainment in 2005. Pocket Outdoor Media bought Warren Miller in 2020. In 2021, Pocket bought Outside Integrated Media and Outside TV and rebranded itself as Outside.
Patterson on social media went on to say, “Due to financial challenges at Outside, the executives have chosen to assemble the future movies entirely with ‘existing footage’ – no need for a camera crew, plane tickets, lift tickets and for that matter, no need for athletes or snow.”
I’m sure there is a ton of footage that ended up on the editing room floor. I’m sure the money crunchers don’t see the need for new, thinking recycled will do.
But it won’t be the same.
I’m just happy Warren Miller isn’t here to see what others have done with company, his brand, his name. While they can’t tarnish his legacy, I am saddened by this turn of events.
Sierra Nevada Bigfoot aged in bourbon barrels. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Sometimes the bottle is so fun you don’t want to open it. Sometimes it’s too big for one person. Eventually, though, it’s time to open that big boy to see what all the hoopla is about.
Such was the case with a special bottle of my sister gave me at the holidays.
A 750 ml, 15 percent ABV bottle of beer wasn’t something I wanted to experience on my own. So, I waited until a beer drinking friend was in town to open it.
What we had to share was a bottle of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot barleywine-style ale that had been aged for seven years in bourbon barrels in collaboration with Buffalo Trace.
The Chico brewery doesn’t even list this beer on its website. A Bigfoot is there. But not the one aged for seven years. I would be interested in trying it to see the difference.
A description about the beer on various websites other than Sierra Nevada says this, “Since 1983, Bigfoot Barleywine has captivated beer drinkers for its versatility—a force when fresh, and an adventure when aged. But the pinnacle of Bigfoot flavor? Hibernation in spirit barrels. And there are no distilleries more awarded than Buffalo Trace Distillery whose E.H. Taylor Jr. Collection honors the ‘Father of the Modern Bourbon Industry.’ Together we hand-selected Kentucky bourbon barrels to finish a seven-year vintage of Bigfoot Barleywine. If you’re lucky enough to hold this extremely limited bottle, may you enjoy it alongside the best of friends and family.”
PorchDrinking,com says this about the beer, “First released in 1983, Bigfoot was the second major modern American Barleywine to hit the market, after Anchor Brewing’s Old Foghorn, and it’s bold assertive Pacific Northwest hops and smooth full-bodied caramel-malt warmth have ensured that it remains an annual favorite among strong beer lovers. While there have been previous barrel-aged Bigfoot releases, including one of Sierra Nevada’s high-profile Trip To The Woods series, the Colonel E.H. Taylor is breaking ground at new levels of fancy, having been created through a refined blending process, much like a whiskey itself.”
It went down easy. While it was dark, it wasn’t heavy. It was a bit sweet, even chocolaty. It definitely had a unique, sweet taste. It was the perfect complement to hot tubbing after a day of hiking.
Would I buy it in the future? No, because there are better beers out there. But it was fun to try something unique. I don’t know how much my sister paid for this bottle, but I’m guessing it might have been one of the most expensive bottles I’ve had.
Waterfowl on Jan. 21 at Llano Seco south of Chico. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
It’s not your imagination. As the sun sets, bird calls do get louder.
If only I knew what these animals were saying. They seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as the people who were watching and listening.
A spectacular sunset danced along the wetlands at Llano Seco. Some of the birds huddled together in the water, while others took to the sky. It was hard to know where to look, but wherever my eyes landed I was almost on sensory overload.
Birds find safety in a protected, non-hunting area of the Pacific Flyway. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
“Dim light is classified as low-intensity light, which causes birds to erupt into birdsong. Some daytime birds become nighttime singers. Birds like the thrush, dunnock, robin, and other similar species can sometimes be heard continuing their songs well into the darkened evening and night,” according to BirdWatchingPro.com.
Llano Seco, which is about 10 miles south of Chico, is one of three units of the 9,600 acre Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area. Llano Seco has 765 acres open to the public, while 967 acres are off-limits as they are designated a sanctuary.
As the temperature drops, waterfowl find warmth in the water. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
“Historically, this basin consisted of a braided network of sloughs, channels, and oxbows resulting from the meanderings of the Sacramento River and Butte Creek, and comprised a significant portion of the wetland habitat available for wintering migratory birds. Today it is still considered one of the finest wetland habitat complexes in North America. The wildlife area was created to protect and/or restore some of these historical wetlands,” according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
One of the reasons the Sacramento River is considered California’s most important river is because of its riparian habitat.
This swath of land in the Central Valley is part of the much larger Pacific Flyway that goes from Alaska to South America.
An array of birds make a stop near Chico. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
The festival’s website says, “Millions of birds representing hundreds of species use this great avian highway each year, and nowhere is this abundance of wildlife more accessible than right here in the northern Sacramento Valley. With an ideal combination of mild winter weather, abundant food and rich quantities of water, the area attracts a huge wintering population of waterfowl and raptors. A local favorite among these is the majestic snow goose. With the estimated overall population of snow geese exceeding 5 million, as many as 1.5 million use the Pacific Flyway. Tens of thousands of these will winter right here in our own backyard.”
While there are a slew of events during the four-day festibal, most of which cost money, the birds put on a free show every day—and night.
Tiny napkins are the norm at restaurants in Baja Sur. (Images: Kathryn Reed)
Cocktail napkins should not be used as a dinner (or lunch or breakfast) napkin. They are too dang small.
That’s not the belief in Mexico, though. Well, at least throughout the Baja peninsula.
Restaurants in Baja are known for their penchant to provide napkins that can’t do the job. Well, they can, it just takes multiple napkins to get through an entire meal.
I’m not really sure how this is efficient. It seems like a waste of paper and a waste of money. It seems like an environmental nightmare.
These servilletas, which in reality are probably a hair bigger than cocktail napkins, are also usually thin. This contributes to needing more than one or two or three to get through a meal—even if you aren’t a messy eater or even eating something messy. It’s not like I’m eating barbecue or the like where more than one of any size napkin is necessary.
The worst is when the napkin is wrapped around eating utensils. Inevitably the napkin is ripped because it’s been secured by a wrapper that doesn’t want to come undone.
While many times a container of napkins is on the table, you can’t be guaranteed that is going to be the case. To me, this arsenal of additional napkins is evidence the original napkin is not enough to get through the meal. So, it’s not like restaurateurs don’t know there is an issue with the napkins.
I realize the size of a napkin is not usually something worthy of a rant. I just think if these restaurants in Baja would be helping the environment and customers if they would provide guests with a better, bigger napkin.
All of this makes me wonder what Mexicans do in their homes. What size napkins are they using? How many do they use in one meal?
Everyone seems to have an opinion about vacation rentals. But what is it actually like to live in the same house with these travelers?
I answer that question and so many others in my latest book Sleeping with Strangers: An Airbnb Host’s Life in Lake Tahoe and Mexico.
I will be speaking Jan. 24 at 5:30pm at the South Lake Tahoe Library (1000 Rufus Allen Blvd.) as a guest of the local chapter of Friends of the Library. The event is free.
After the reading I will be selling and signing books. Sleeping with Strangers is $20. I will also have copies of my other books Lake Tahoe Trails For All Seasons: Must-Do Hiking and Snowshoe Treks ($20), Snowshoeing Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Treks ($10), and The Dirt Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Hikes ($15). Cash or Venmo will be accepted.
If you can’t make it to the South Lake Tahoe Friends of the Library event, the books are available at various locations throughout the greater Lake Tahoe area, can be ordered through your favorite bookstore, or purchased online.