Tahoe recreation sites open with caution urged by officials

Tahoe recreation sites open with caution urged by officials


It will be harder to find secluded places in the Lake Tahoe Basin as tourists return. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Tourists are in Tahoe even though they aren’t supposed to be based on edicts put out by various government entities. In some locations, like the city of South Lake Tahoe, they could be faced with a $1,000 fine, though that isn’t likely to happen.

No public land owner or law enforcement agency has enough employees to write tickets. Even though administrative citations can be handed out by non-sworn personnel, those fines are more difficult to collect. It’s a regulatory issue, not a criminal one. This is why education is the approach officials are taking when it comes to groups congregating without abiding by 6-foot social distancing guidelines.

Officials with the basin’s arm of the U.S. Forest Service and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency personnel were part of a webinar May 22 sponsored by the Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce.

“We are less interested in citations and more interested in education,” Daniel Cressy with the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit said. “We are not able to require the public to wear masks. Wearing masks is a sign of respect for others and the community’s health.”

All national forest trails and lands are open. That doesn’t mean all amenities are available, like bathrooms. The gate at Kiva Beach was unlocked May 22. More places will open this coming week. Campgrounds and visitors centers will be some of the last to be available. Staffing is an issue, and then ensuring workers and guests are protected in this new era of COVID-19.

The gate at Van Sickle Bi-State Park on the South Shore is open. California State Parks is having a soft opening. Porta-potties will be added to some parks. Sand Harbor in Incline Village is open, though only 300 of the 600 parking spaces will be available at any given time. While the East Shore Bike Trail is open, access to Sand Harbor from the path is not allowed. Angora Road should be open June 1.

Even when restrooms at recreation sites are open, the Forest Service is quick to point out they won’t be cleaned between every use. However, more portable toilets and handwashing stations will be placed at day use and beach locations.

Devin Middlebrook with the TRPA said for the past two years recreation managers, land managers and nonprofits have been convening to work on ways to improve the user experience while protecting the environment. This collaboration, he said, has worked well during this crisis. Working to solve issues at hot spots (aka congested areas) can include providing temporary bathroom facilities and more garbage cans, or more frequent trash collection.

Middlebrook said reservation systems and improved parking had been talked about before the pandemic and might be able to be implemented sooner to test these ideas. No further details were provided.

When it comes to boats, to start with watercraft with the Tahoe-only sticker will be allowed. Most launch sites should be open by June 1. Inspections are still suspended, with no date revealed for when that will change. Some marinas have boats for rent.

Cressy stressed the only way the recreation experience is going to be successful is if “we all come together.” He said to plan ahead, expect reduced services, respect others, stay home if you are sick, leave places better than you found them, and that it’s a good idea to wear a mask.


            Deets:


Coronavirus deals fatal blow to Tahoe’s Lakeside Inn casino

Coronavirus deals fatal blow to Tahoe’s Lakeside Inn casino

Lakeside Inn in Stateline is going dark — permanently. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Lakeside Inn and Casino in Stateline won’t be reopening, even after this pandemic is history.

“After 35 years of being a source of entertainment for thousands of guests, we are permanently closing our doors. This includes all areas of our business including our casino, restaurant, and hotel. This decision was not made lightly. We hoped that we would be able to resume operations once this COVID-19 situation improved. However, that’s just not in the cards for us,” Lakeside said on its website April 14.

Lakeside, one of five casinos on the South Shore of Lake Tahoe, was always considered the locals’ gaming establishment. It had a more laid-back vibe. It was known for deals geared to the people who called the South Shore home. The lobster and prime rib combo was legendary. So were the breakfast deals at the Timbers restaurant.

I spent my 45th birthday at Lakeside. It was so relaxing – and perfect. A staycation. It wasn’t fancy, but it was a perfect Tahoe get-away. The staff was so friendly, the food delicious, the setting tranquil.

The hotel-casino, which opened in May 1985, had 218 employees.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak in mid-March said all gaming facilities must close. This included all aspects of those facilities – hotels, gambling, restaurants, other entertainment.

In recent years gaming properties have made more money off non-gambling aspects of their business. Northern Nevada casinos have been hit hard by Indian gaming in California. People no longer had to deal with chaining up in snowstorms or driving as far. Gaming is now available throughout California. While Lakeside had a couple restaurants as well as a 124-room hotel, the lodging component was outdated. This was a fact Lakeside officials admitted to in 2016. The plan then was to make the Kahle Drive-Highway 50 corner a focal point, with the hotel moving there.

Lakeside had tried to stay relevant. In the first half of 2008 the company spent more than $1.5 million to freshen up the place. The bulk of the money went into the kitchen and Latin Soul restaurant that opened that July.

In July 2018, Lake Tahoe News wrote, “Lakeside Inn has long been the favorite casino for locals. Now it wants to be the preferred employer. The hotel-casino a couple years ago had designs of re-creating itself so it would be a focal point when driving in from the east. Those plans have been shelved and instead the owners are focusing on the locals and not just the tourists. Yes, physical improvements are under way that are designed to modernize the property and appeal to the guests, but there is also a renewed emphasis on the employees.”

Now those workers will be looking elsewhere to work. And the community is left wondering if there will ever be another locals’ casino.

The last interview I remember doing at Lakeside was in December 2017. It was with a homeless man I had met downstairs in the entry. I invited him to eat at Timbers. While it really had little to do with Lakeside other than the man taking refuge there from of the cold woods where he slept, it was the perfect location for such an intimate conversation. The property’s powers that be didn’t know we were there. It was clear my “guest” was hard on his luck. It didn’t matter. Staff treated us with respect, without judgment.

More recently Lakeside’s gift shop sold my book “The Dirt Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Hikes.” It was one of the better local retail outlets when it came to book sales. I will always be grateful management said yes to carrying my book, especially considering this was my first book.

As a journalist, through the years I had ups and downs with Lakeside. Sometimes staff was accessible, sometimes not. There was more to it, but none of it is relevant now for so many reasons.

Lakeside has provided lasting memories – mostly good – for hundreds of thousands of people. That is a statement few businesses can make.

Free Exhibit Captures Essence Of Photographers Adams, Weston

Free Exhibit Captures Essence Of Photographers Adams, Weston

The photography of Ansel Adams and Edward Weston are on display at Stanford University until Jan. 6, 2020. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Similar, yet different. This is one way to describe the photography of Ansel Adams and Edward Weston.

Each captures the landscape surrounding them in a way that draws the eye to examine every detail. The play of light, lines and natural beauty beckon one to admire what their lenses captured. As with all great photography, it goes beyond the equipment. It’s having an eye for the subject and the patience to capture the moment.

A sampling of their works is on display in the exhibit “West X Southwest” at the Cantor Center on the campus of Stanford University.

“This installation explores how Weston and Adams expressed content and navigated aesthetics during early and formative moments in their careers. It considers how the artists sharpened their modernists visions through a selection of images created in the place that biographer and curator Nancy Newhall (1908-1947) called each artist’s ‘Paris’,” Elizabeth Kathleen Mitchell, curator and director of the Curatorial Fellowship Program, wrote of this exhibit.

Adams is known for his work in Yosemite and the Southwest, while Weston explored Mexico.

Together, in 1934 they were founding members of Group f/64, a San Francisco Bay Area photography collective. They had met in the mid-1920s; then crossed paths at various times. It was Weston who introduced Adams to Death Valley, while it was Adams who showed Weston Yosemite and other parts of the Sierra.

Adams said, “(We) had both come to be sympathetic to each other’s work, though we were never on an identical wave length.”

This sentiment is obvious as one walks through the exhibit. What I learned is that in 1941 Adams was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Interior to photograph national parks, mostly in the Southwest.

Having been an admirer of Adam’s for years, it was his photographs that captured my attention the most. This exhibit includes his iconic “Moonrise” at Hernandez, New Mexico. Before reading the description for “Dune” I thought the photo was a winter scene of plants struggling to survive in the snow. Instead it is an image of White Sands National Monument in New Mexico.

With the latest trend being printing on canvas, seeing an exhibit like this makes me wonder what the future of photography will bring. To me, this is real photography and a better representation of an artist’s craft.


Deets:

  • Exhibit is open Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday from 11am-5pm; Thursday from 11am-8pm.
  • Exhibit ends Jan. 6, 2020.
  • Cantor Arts Center is at 328 Lomita Drive, Stanford.
  • Cost – free.
  • More info is available online.
Just completed East Shore trail captures majesty of Lake Tahoe

Just completed East Shore trail captures majesty of Lake Tahoe

Nearly three miles of paved trail are open for walkers, dogs and cyclists in Incline Village. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Breathtaking. That is one of many superlatives to describe the East Shore multi-use path that opened earlier this summer. The nearly 3-mile paved route goes from Tunnel Creek to Sand Harbor in Incline Village.

A few years ago, for a story I did for Lake Tahoe News, I had the opportunity to walk along part of what was the planned route. Even then I knew this was going to be something special. It’s so much more spectacular than anything I could have imagined.

“It is a trail that takes you someplace, but the journey is the destination,” Amy Berry, head of the Tahoe Fund, said during that excursion in 2014.

It takes a while to walk the trail because there are so many vistas to photograph. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Estimates during the planning stage were that 100,000 people would use this trail each year.

The East Shore of Lake Tahoe has some of the most dramatic scenery in the basin. This trail allows almost anyone to enjoy this slice of Tahoe that until now may have been off-limits to certain people. Before it meant seeing these views from a vehicle whizzing by on Highway 28, being on a mountain bike along the Flume Trail, dealing with the masses at Sand Harbor beach, or risking your life parking and darting across the highway to get to the water.

The pavement is 10-feet wide and built to ADA standards. There are a couple curvy and steep sections that had skateboarders using their foot as a brake, and some cyclists panting. Walking didn’t seem like any big deal.

Looking north with Highway 28 in the foreground. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Planners were able to keep 11 offshoots to the lake. This is the only place bikes are not allowed. With the lake being so high this summer, not all of those locations offer much sand to sprawl out on. Still, it’s nice to know these spots are there for those with dogs who would want to have a drink.

Major troublesome spots for dogs are the six steel-fiberglass bridges. The longest is 810 feet. This also happens to be the longest bridge in the basin. An Ohio company made the bridges. After dogs had their pads damaged from the hot surface, signs were posted warning people about the bridge temperature. At the long span and another bridge are wagons people may use to transport their canine. The Tahoe Transportation District, which oversaw the project, would not say if anything is going to be done to lessen the danger on the bridges.

Some of the bridges are so hot that local residents have left wagons to transport dogs. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

A good rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t go barefoot – on any surface – because of the heat, a four-legged family member shouldn’t be either. This includes asphalt and sand. At sunset the temperature wasn’t an issue.

TTD manager Carl Hasty would not say if the heat of the bridge should be a concern to cyclists’ rubber tires.

Bike racks are plentiful along the whole trail. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

A nice attribute to the route is the abundance of bike racks, as well as the couple stations to do minor repairs, including adding air to bike tires.

The total endeavor came with a hefty price tag – $40.5 million. This was a mixture of private and local-state-federal government dollars. About half went to the trail, underpass and parking, while the other half was for environmental and highway upgrades. Considering construction was right next to the lake, this meant more environmental concerns; then there is a tunnel where the path goes under Highway 28 taking people from the mountain side to the lake side; plus, there are a multitude of granite vista areas – ideal for sitting to take in the views. Parking spaces were also added. Eliminated is all the highway parking between the two points of the trail, with this being done mostly as a safety concern.

More than half of the trail is along Lake Tahoe. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Eventually it will cost to park at some locations. Tahoe Transportation District officials would not say what the fee will be or when it will be implemented. The payment portals are already in place.

For those who want to enter Sand Harbor State Park it costs $2 on foot (dogs are not allowed), while it is $10 to drive in.

While the bi-state Tahoe Transportation District was the lead agency to make the path a reality, it will be the Nevada Division of State Parks which maintains it. It took three years to build it.

Views along the trail are mesmerizing. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

This is the second section of the greater 33-mile Stateline-to-Stateline trail. One day it will cover the entire Nevada side of the lake, thus the reference to the state lines. The end/starting points will be Stateline and Crystal Bay. The first section was completed it 2013 with 2.2 miles that go from Rabe Meadow in Stateline to Round Hill Pines Beach.

Cyclists enjoy the scenery at one of the many granite rest stops. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The third phase is already being planned, with the comment period on the U.S. Forest Service’s draft environmental assessment document having ended Aug. 11. The documents are available online. This next section will be eight miles from Sand Harbor to Spooner Summit.

As with all the sections, it’s not just a multi-use path that is being laid down. A major goal is to eliminate parking on the narrow Highway 28 and to create parking areas that are safer. Improvements to utilities, a focus on erosion, and reducing sediment from reaching Lake Tahoe are all goals of the project.


Isla Espíritu Santo — more than swimming with sea lions

Isla Espíritu Santo — more than swimming with sea lions

Isla Espíritu Santo off the coast of La Paz is a full day of outdoor splendor. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Belly rubs. Who knew a sea lion would love one?

The baby swam around me, then stopped underwater as I stroked her stomach. It was just like petting my dog, AJ, where she can be so submissive. I had no idea how playful these wild creatures could be, or how soft they would feel.

Swimming with sea lions was one of the highlights on this particular excursion to Isla Espíritu Santo off the coast of La Paz.

In addition to being a national park, in 1995 UNESCO declared it a world heritage site and biosphere reserve. Espíritu is 15½ miles long and nearly 5 miles wide. The highest point is about 1,968 feet. It is the 12th largest island in Mexico, at more than 31 square miles. There are more than 1,000 islands just in the Sea of Cortez.

A blue-footed booby on Seagull Island. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Hector, our guide with Alonso Tours, and captain Polo, were wonderful with the information they provided and skill in navigating the waters in what was a rather small panga. It was perfect for the seven tourists who hailed from Baja, Europe and the United States.

The tour is actually of three islands which make up the national park. Isla Partida is where we stopped for lunch on the beach in Ensenada Grande Bay. Just north of it at the top of the trio is Los Islotes where the sea lions were.

Even before we reached the main island, which takes about an hour to get to by crossing the San Lorenzo Channel, we cruised by Seagull Island. We were treated to the rare sighting of a blue-footed booby. Baja is a gathering place for birds from North and South America, making it a paradise for birders.

The land and water are beautiful in their own right. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Thirty-eight endemic species call Espíritu home, with 500 animals on land or water residing in the area.

The heads of a few green sea turtles seemed to bob in the water as they came up for air. Dolphins and a couple manta rays did their dances.

As we snorkeled past the sea lions, it became an underwater party with all the fish – puffers, parrot fish, trumpet fish, golden jack, balloon fish, sergeant major and more. We swam through a narrow rock passageway that led to a lovely coral reef. Here sea urchins, starfish and other creatures were nestled into the coral.

These sea lions reside here year-round. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Without a wet suit, being in the water for about 30 minutes was plenty.

We had another opportunity to swim and snorkel at our lunch stop; glad we chose to do so.

Unfortunately, we were not permitted to explore on land beyond the beach; this was a protected area. A hiking trip might have to be the next trip.

Captain Polo guides the panga through the arch. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Espíritu is mostly volcanic rock and sandstone. It’s an interesting blend with the volcanic rock appearing to be prehistoric and the yellow-red sandstone looking almost delicate to the touch. A few cacti are growing out of the rocks. Other vegetation seems to be minimal, at least from our vantage points.

Most of the trip is on the boat – which is wonderful in itself for sightseeing, then swimming with the sea lions, and the lunch stop.

Hector, the guide, brings lunch supplies from the panga. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The only negative was witnessing a worker from another boat rinsing off the lunch plates in the otherwise pristine waters. This happened with an occupied park police vessel two boats down. Back on our boat, I mentioned this to Hector, our guide, and he said everything on the plate would be natural, citing the ceviche in particular. I called him out on this, saying that isn’t what fish eat. He said in recent years there have been a lot of improvements when it comes to being ecologically mindful, like not having individual water bottles for patrons. He concluded that things like dish washing in these protected waters is the difference between how a First and Third World Country treats national parks.

Going to Espíritu requires doing so with a guide or purchasing a permit. Kayaking and hiking are also available, with multi-day excursions an option.

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