Table Mountain wildflowers slow to sprout in chilly spring

A multitude of wildflowers in early April start to bloom at Table Mountain. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

With it being such a cold, wet spring, the flowers at Table Mountain were far from their peak on the first Friday of April.

The good thing about this is that we were also able to see plenty of water flowing from the falls.

Douglas violets stand out in the wild green grasses at Table Mountain. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

In other words, we were on sensory overload (almost) with this becoming a waterfall and wildflower hike. With how the clouds appeared in layers, some eclipsing the sun, it made for interesting shadows and an added depth to the natural landscape.

North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve in Oroville is 3,315 acres of land that the state has owned since October 1993.

Blue dicks sprout from a field of goldfields. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

It might be another week or so before the flowers will be the most robust. Poppies were just popping, with most of them closed up when we were there because of the cool temperatures. The few lupine that were out were not very tall.

Red larkspur hug a wall of rock. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

This will all change as more normal spring temperatures persist and the rains go away.

Goldfields create a carpet throughout much of the terrain. Against the volcanic rock that is everywhere, the contrast of light and dark is stunning.

It’s as though the flowers at Table Mountain touch the horizon. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The California Native Plant Society says Table Mountain is the best place to see sky lupines, purple owl’s clover and the rare, endemic yellow-flowered Jokerst’s clover.

Some of the other flowers at this preserve include: birds-eye gilia, frying pans (a type of poppy), white nemophila, yellow monkeyflowers, blue dicks, Sierra mock stonecrop, white meadowfoam, paintbrushes, bitterroot, and redmaids.

Mother Nature creates a bouquet of flowers. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Remember, don’t pick a bouquet of wildflowers unless they are growing in your yard. Yes, some people actually need to be told this.

Tennis shouldn’t be sacrificed to grow pickleball

“Pickleball players gave us money.”

That’s what one of the board members who manages the parks in Chico told a group of tennis players who attended their latest meeting.

We were there because of a rumor going around that more courts were going to be converted to pickleball. We wanted to let the powers that be know that we weren’t going to stand by idly and watch our sport be taken from us.

It seems unconscionable that a city with more than 100,000 people only has four tennis courts. No longer are the high school and college courts public.

Pickleball courts are replacing tennis courts in Chico. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

I won’t argue whether pickleball could use more courts. But I will argue that it should not be at the sacrifice of tennis courts.

Community Park used to have eight tennis courts. Incrementally that has decreased to four as they were converted to pickleball. Considering one is used for teaching for nine months out of the year, there are really only three tennis courts.

So many red flags went up for me in the short time we were at the meeting. Like, they favored pickleball over tennis because those people gave them money? Bribery was the first word that came to my mind. It certainly makes me want to get a hold of their financials.

Chico’s parks are run by the Chico Area Recreation District (CARD). It’s a special district with an elected board. All five members are old white men. There’s a lot of that demographic here. Not all of them looked like they even recreate. Yes, I’m being judgmental and I’m OK with that.

Until I went to the meeting I didn’t know CARD wasn’t a department, so to speak, of the city of Chico. I still have a lot to learn about my new hometown.

At the meeting we were told there are no plans for at least five years to change the tennis-pickleball court numbers.

The pro at the tennis courts said he has not been asked to give input about tennis court removal. This is absurd. Another red flag. Why try to grow the game of tennis and not have any place for these people to play?

The following is what I wrote up to read to the CARD board at the March 28 meeting. I was essentially stopped when I said I hoped I had been given wrong info. I did carry on to read the part about their master plan.

It was interesting the board and staff engaged our group in dialog. That doesn’t usually happen with non-agendized public comments. Not sure if this should be another red flag or not; did they violate protocols or the Brown Act? They did violate the Brown Act. I just don’t know if they have to follow it.

OK, here’s what I wrote, which I left with staff to be put in the public record:

Thank you for allowing me the time to speak with you today. My name is Kae Reed. I am a resident of Chico and a regular tennis player at the public courts. 

It has come to my attention the city is considering converting more tennis courts into pickleball courts. I hope I have been given bad information.

Mary Helen Sprecher, managing editor of Sports Destination Management, wrote in the National Recreation and Park Association’s magazine that, “70 percent of all tennis is played at public facilities, either free or for very little cost. And, the appeal of tennis goes across all demographic and socioeconomic groups. It is, after all, the sport for a lifetime. It can be learned in childhood — or adulthood, for that matter. It can be played by three generations and, sometimes, even more. Because of this, and because of its wide appeal, the sport aligns with NRPA’s Health and Wellness and Social Equity Pillars.”

I was 10 when I first stepped onto a tennis court in the Bay Area; much like the ones I’m playing on now as an adult in Chico. My mom signed me up for lessons. Probably much like the lessons I see being taught on the public courts here. 

I agree with Miss Sprecher – tennis is a lifetime sport. It is for me and my friends. There aren’t many sports that you can play your whole life. Why would you consider taking that away from people? 

CARD’s own five-year master plan published in 2018 and updated in 2019 says, “Tennis continues to be a popular activity in Chico. However, the growth of pickleball has put stress on the existing tennis courts. In 2015, one tennis court was converted into four pickleball courts, and another tennis court was converted in 2018. The district should explore new construction of courts in another park as not to compete with tennis.”

I’m going to read that last sentence again to you and remind you that these are your words, your recommendation what you signed off on when you approved the master plan update. It says, “The district should explore new construction of courts in another park as not to compete with tennis.”

But that isn’t what you did. Instead you took two more tennis courts away from us and gave them to pickleball.

A park that once had eight tennis courts now only has four.

Tennis is a viable sport. These courts are used year round. I know. I’m on them. Lessons are being taught March through November. People want to learn the sport.

Your own document said even with six tennis courts pickleball was encroaching on tennis. Now we have four courts; really it’s only three because one is a teaching court.

Chico is growing. So is tennis. Really. The Tennis Industry Association reports that U.S. tennis participation grew by 1 million players in 2022 with more than 23.6 million playing the sport. That was the third consecutive year that the sport has seen an increase. The numbers for 2023 have not been published.

You should be considering adding tennis courts in Chico, not eliminating them. As you go through the resurfacing process this year, seriously consider returning what you took away from us by converting pickleball courts back to tennis.

Thank you again for your time and consideration.

Loss of thousands of trees redefines skiing at Sierra-at-Tahoe

Gone are thousands of trees in the West Bowl area of Sierra. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

It’s not the same. It never will be. But that doesn’t mean it’s not good or even better in some ways. And that vibe, it’s still there. An altered landscape hasn’t changed the soul of Sierra-at-Tahoe.

“I’ve learned to appreciate what’s here,” Adam Parris of Oakland said while taking a break from snowboarding at Sierra-at-Tahoe this season.

“You get out there and remember what life is all about,” he said gesturing to the slopes. To him, it’s all about being in the mountains riding. It doesn’t matter that it doesn’t look the same.

Eighty percent of the resort’s 2,000 acres were affected by the Caldor Fire. Every lift needed repairs—some because of heat, some had trees fall on them. Lift towers, haul ropes and terrain features had to be replaced.

The brick shop building with millions of dollars of equipment was reduced to ashes, while the wood structures remained intact.

West Bowl amenities survived the Caldor Fire even though the trees around it did not. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The Caldor Fire started Aug. 14, 2021, near Grizzly Flats, which is about 30 miles from the ski resort. It blew through the resort on Aug. 29, forever changing the ski area.

“I’m amazed with what they have done,” Roger Hubbard of Meyers said while riding the Grandview lift in January. “I think most everybody misses the trees.”

Those trees. Those trees that are no longer there. Approximately 34,000 were removed after the fire. It used to look like a forest and now, well, it doesn’t. At least not at West Bowl. Instead of tree skiing it’s stump skiing.

Some say it’s more like bowl skiing in Colorado or even Europe, which West Bowl never was. Clipper and Dogwood are now wide-open powder runs.

What’s gone are the stashes of powder at West Bowl. It used to be easy to find them even days after a storm. This was all because thousands of trees hid those fluffy piles of white stuff.

“The first time I saw West Bowl it was like a moonscape. There wasn’t any tree skiing there,” Rebekah Richard of Roseville said.

She says the resort still has the same feel, and she’s more than happy it reopened.

For Lilia Prather, also of Roseville, Sierra still feels like home.

“I think it’s a different beauty. You still have trees, but some are sticks sticking up,” she said. “It’s still beautiful. It’s just different terrain.”

Two guys relaxing at the Solstice Plaza came up from San Francisco for the day to ride. They didn’t even know there had been a fire. A man from North Carolina visiting for the first time was unfazed by the terrain, saying he thought he saw signs of a fire but didn’t think much about it.

Ramon Belasqued of Santa Rosa knows what Sierra was like pre-Caldor. “It’s windier now that the trees are gone,” he said. But he’s not complaining. In the same breath he adds it’s easier to move around the slopes because of the lack of trees.

The top of Grandview looks as though there was never a fire. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Still adapting

John Rice, who has been the resort’s general manager since 1993, initially wasn’t sure Sierra would rise from the ashes.

“We are still facing challenges,” Rice admits.

It’s figuring out the wind, where snowdrifts form, even how the lifts are affected by the wind.

“Disasters take their own path. This fire got the shop and left the ugly buildings,” Rice says, still amazed by this reality.

The thought at the time was to put all the valuable equipment—including several new snowcats—snowmobiles, employee tools and other items all in that brick structure with the belief it could survive. It was as packed as it could be.

While Rice would not reveal the actual dollar figure in losses from that one building, he said it was in the multi-millions.

A new structure with new equipment has taken its place.

The other buildings had been protected with Thermo-Gel, a fire retardant that the resort’s insurance company had applied. Everything that was sprayed survived, including the tent-like covering at Solstice.

It took a team to bring the resort back to life.

El Dorado Resource Conservation District and the U.S. Forest Service are to be commended, according to Rice.

Rice went to Washington, D.C., to lobby for support; pointing out the recreation asset that Sierra is.

McP’s Taphouse and MacDuff’s Pub in South Lake Tahoe each had fundraisers for employees, some of whom lost thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment.

Mammoth, Palisades and Boreal ski resorts were singled out by Rice for coming through with people, equipment and other resources.

Now Rice is a resource for others in terms of how to deal with an approaching inferno. Last year he advised resorts in New Mexico and Arizona to put their equipment in the parking lot—on asphalt where fire is more apt to run its course.

A snowboarder goes down the now barren Powderhorn run. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Figuring it out

Employees, community members (on the South Shore and West Slope), season pass holders, day trippers, most anyone with a connection to the resort wanted it to reopen. Rice was buoyed by their enthusiasm.

The rally cry became “it just might be better.”

Not just skiers wanted to come back—so did employees. Last fall six people reached the 30-year mark at Sierra.

While Rice recognizes he is at the tail end of his career, he also knows he was the right person to be at the helm for the recovery. He also admits he and others have gone through all the stages of grief, adding they went from being victims to being victors.

Then everyone involved in Sierra’s rebirth embraced every “re” word—repurpose, reimagine, re-create, reassemble, recalculate. Eventually, they could rejoice.

“You can change the landscape, but you still have the vibe,” Rice said while sitting inside the Solstice Eatery.

He refused to let those flames that reportedly reached 3,000 degrees when they ripped through West Bowl have the final say.

Sierra-at-Tahoe is surrounded by evidence of the 2021 Caldor Fire. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Sierra opened for two days in March 2022 to recognize the resort’s 75th anniversary. Not all the terrain was open last year; even on days when Mother Nature cooperated.

Resilient is one of many words to describe Sierra and the people who brought it back to life. Last fall a swarm of people descended on Sierra to plant 5,000 trees. This will become an annual event at least for a few years; after all not every seedling survives.

While the 200-foot pines will never grace these slopes in any of our lifetimes, life will eventually sprout from the soil.

The fire went from West Bowl south to the lower east side, where areas such as lower Jack’s Bowl and Preacher’s Passion were charred.

Still, there are plenty of places where it’s easy to forget there was a fire. Near the top of Grandview it’s like nothing happened; tall conifers dot the landscape, with snow filling the boughs. Other parts of the resort are like this as well.

Everyone knows the resort is different. No one is apologizing for it. Instead they are actually promoting Sierra as being a different resort.

“It’s not just a business, it’s a treasure,” Rice said of Sierra.

Note: A version of this story first appeared in the Tahoe Mountain News.

Ladybugs form aggregation at Paradise Lake

Ladybugs huddle on a branch near Paradise Lake. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

While ladybugs are usually solitary critters, that is not true during the winter months.

“Scientists believe ladybugs aggregate to regulate their internal body temperatures, share mates, enhance their defense, and share resources. Inside these aggregations, movement is disorderly rather than hierarchical, like a beehive or ant hill would be,” according to Treehugger.

Three of us on the last Saturday of February went to Paradise Lake to find a ladybug aggregation—which is what a large group of these beetles is called. These aggregations, which usually form November through February, are like a cluster of ladybugs hibernating.

Each winter ladybugs form an aggregation. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Ladybugs are living off stored fat that has built up after feeding on pollen and nectar when it was warm.

The seven-spotted ladybug is the most popular in North America, though 450 species are native to the continent. Throughout the world there are 5,000 ladybug species. California is home to 175 of them.

They are one of the good insects, as they feast on aphids.

While they were moving around on this particular day, they weren’t going far. Some seemed to be the proverbial bump on a log. They were on the ground, on sticks, flora, some on a rock. But it was a small area where most were congregated. Not more than 15 feet along the edge of the trail, and then in the plant closest to the trail. Most, though, were in an area about 6 feet long.

“… when the weather turns colder in autumn, they look for a warm, secluded place to hibernate, such as in rotting logs, under rocks or even inside houses. They like to group together, too, and these hibernating colonies can sometimes contain thousands of ladybirds,” National Geographic Kids says. (Ladybirds is another name for ladybugs; even the males.)

Ladybugs find comfort in this fallen leaf at Paradise Lake. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Hundreds (thousands?) of these insects were clustered in this one single area of Paradise Lake. It certainly seemed like an appealing location to hang out because it was so sunny. With it being more than 1½ miles in from the parking lot, it also wasn’t going to be visited by everyone.

It would have been easy to walk by without noticing these insects. Luckily, Gracie and Anne had been given good intel where to find them. They also shared this is a regular occurrence at Paradise Lake.

Considering ladybugs can’t fly until the temp hits 55 degrees, they likely stayed at this spot into March. They will start mating when the thermometer hits 65 and above.

Gondola linking Palisades Tahoe to Alpine creates mega-resort

Even on a blustery day one can appreciate the rugged terrain the gondola crosses. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Convenient. Comfortable. Scenic.

That’s how people describe the $65 million Base to Base Gondola at Palisades Tahoe.

Wayne Paulson (1915-1995), who founded what is now known as Palisades Tahoe, envisioned long ago linking his resort with Alpine Meadows. While he didn’t live to see it become a reality, his successors made his dream come true with the opening of the gondola in December 2022.

Parking at the resorts is one reason people are opting for the gondola. Bill Stewart of Carnelian Bay prefers starting on the Alpine side, whereas Rick Barr of Truckee leaves his vehicle at Palisades.

“I’ve never liked driving here,” Barr said after exiting the gondola on the Alpine said. “This has solved that problem.”

Bob McCullough from Napa Valley say he rides the new gondola every other time he comes to the mountain because of the convenience.

Some facts and figures about the Base to Base Gondola:

  • Opened December 2022
  • Seats 8
  • Takes 16 minutes
  • Winter operation only
  • 96 cabins
  • 4 miles long
  • 33 lift towers
  • Can be operated as one continuous lift for two lifts from the respected bases to the top of KT-22.
  • Sightseeing tickets available.

Source: Palisades Tahoe

It’s also possible to ride it as a sightseer, which is what Sue and Roy Vinyard of Discovery Bay were doing in January. Normally they take it with skis in tow.

“I love it because it’s such easy access to Alpine. A lot of times we ski both mountains in the same day,” Sue Vinyard said. “And the scenery is beautiful.”

Her husband commented on how comfortable the cars are.

David Long and Joyce Youngs, who live on the South Shore, came up in December to check out the gondola without any intent of skiing.

“While riding the gondola, I was able to appreciate the steepness of the canyons which drop into Alpine Meadows. We only caught a glimpse of the lake on the ride due to cloudy conditions,” Long said. “Once past the KT-22 chair you can see what looks like an old chairlift which was assumed to be part of a private land holding that was a stumbling block in the gondola’s development. The scenery is not as spectacular as that on the funitel or the tram, but much more panoramic than the others.”

They rode all three apparatuses that day.

The new gondola is steps from the funitel at the base of Palisades. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The towers one sees are on the land owned by Troy Caldwell. About half of the gondola goes through his property, including the mid-stations. Palisades pays him rent to do so. He also owns the top of KT-22.

While the resort is not releasing exact ridership numbers, employees have said more people are taking the gondola this season. It’s also not known what the breakdown of skiers vs. sightseers is.

Gondola cars are not heated, so you definitely want to dress for winter.

Warning signs at the top of KT-22 likely keep many riders in the gondola car. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Even with a Stage 1 wind hold in mid-January, this year-old gondola barely swung. If one closed her eyes, it would be impossible to know the weather was less than ideal outside. It is that smooth.

Wind is one of the complaints, though. If the gondola closes because of wind, skiers would have to take a bus back to their starting base. And wind is a regular occurrence here.

With Alpine and Palisade linked as one resort, it makes this the second largest in the United States with 6,000 skiable acres. Park City in Utah (7,300 acres) took the stop spot when Vail Resorts’ connected Park City and Canyons with a gondola in December 2015.

Note: This story was written for Tahoe Guide.

Diversity lacking throughout the ski industry

Most of the skiers at Heavenly Mountain Resort are white. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Diversity and skiing are two words that do not go well together. That’s because the industry is still dominated by white people.

Sierra-at-Tahoe and California are doing much better attracting people of color than the country as a whole. Sierra last ski season reported a 30 percent diversity rate, while the state came in at 29 percent—the highest percentage of any state. Across the U.S., whites dominated skier visits at 88.1 percent.

“Nationally, numbers-wise we don’t see a lot of change over the last decade,” Adrienne Saia Isaac with the National Ski Areas Association said. “With the most racially-diverse generation in our nation coming of age, it is critical that young people feel welcome playing and working in our mountain spaces. The Pacific Southwest sees slightly more racial diversity than other regions of the country, specifically from visits by people identifying as Asian/Pacific Islander.”

Sierra is seeing an influx of Asians as well, sometimes with families coming who enroll their kids in school, with the adults hanging out in the plaza area.

“We don’t do targeted marking by race or ethnicity. We do it by location with a lot of major marketing efforts,” explained Shelby Dunlap, spokesperson for Sierra. “A lot of marketing efforts are in the South Bay. That typically has a high Asian population.”

Sierra also focuses on the greater Sacramento area, with its diverse population being a key factor, as well as proximity to the resort.

While Vail Resorts, which owns Heavenly, Kirkwood, and Northstar, would not reveal skier demographics, it acknowledges there is a problem.

“Vail Resorts and the broader ski industry have incredibly low representation from people of color. We believe that to address this, we must make changes internally before we can lead externally with authenticity and value,” Cole Zimmerman, spokesman for Vail’s Tahoe resorts, said. “We’ve established a roadmap for a multi-year journey to address the lack of diversity on the slopes. We are focused on driving inclusion in three ways: 1) fostering a welcoming culture, 2) diversifying our talent, and 3) broadening access to our sport.”

Sierra and the local Vail resorts believe a huge step to diversifying the slopes is to have employees of color. It’s been proven over and over that until people see people who look like them—be it gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or some other distinguishing factor—people see barriers and not opportunities.

That is why hiring is a component local resorts are paying more attention to.

“When you come to Sierra, even from the staff perspective, there is diversity across different departments,” Dunlap said. The head of snowboarding is African American, as is the woman running the pub.

Dunlap didn’t provide the racial or ethnic breakdown of all employees.

Zimmerman said, “In 2021, we started a career program introducing Colorado youth from SOS Outreach to career opportunities in our retail stores and at resort properties, with the objective of introducing youth to careers in the outdoor industry. That pilot program has expanded from Colorado to Park City and the Tahoe region this year and is informing the way we address building diverse talent and career pipelines for youth in our access programs.”

While the goal to have a diverse payroll is applauded, it might not be easy.

“I think we do face a unique challenge in trying to be more diverse in the workforce. We are limited by the community’s where we exist,” Mike Reitzell, president of Ski California, said. “Where do the employees come from? We may need to wait for communities to catch up.”

Ethnicity breakdown of skiers/snowboarders at U.S. resorts, with some people reporting more than one category

                                                                            2021-22 season                            2022-23 season

White                                                                   88.7 percent                                      88.1 percent

Asian/Pacific Islander                                   5.7                                                           6.5

Hispanic/Latino/a                                           5.5                                                           5.6

Black/African American                              1.5                                                           1.5

Native American/Alaska Native             0.6                                                           0.8

Another race                                                      1.6                                                          1.5

Source: National Ski Areas Association

Eliminating barriers

Those in the industry acknowledge the sport is not cheap, which is a huge obstacle for newbies of any color.

Beyond the price of a lift ticket, there is the cost of clothing, gear, and having a vehicle that is capable of handling winter conditions to even reach the slopes.

Ski California, which has 35 member resorts in California and Nevada, recently hired a consultant to focus on diversity, equity and inclusion issues.

Things like having goggles available that fit different faces, helmets for various hair types, clothes for all sizes—those are barriers not always thought of at first glance.

The study also found there is a perceived ski culture that is neither welcoming nor inclusive.

“As an industry we are trying to break down that perception so they can see skiing and riding for what it is,” Reitzell said. What it is, he said, is fun and inclusive once people make it to the mountains.

“Part of what we do know is there is a large part of the population that is diverse that has not experienced snow,” Reitzell said.

His organization’s goal is to the have the ski slopes be more representative of California’s diverse population.

It doesn’t matter the race or ethnicity, getting kids interested is critical. Sierra and Vail Resorts both have for years focused on ski school.

“We have the largest youth outreach program of all the mountain resort operators, and have invested more than $16 million in youth, adaptive, and continued access programs across our resorts to inspire the next generation of skiers and riders,” Zimmerman said of Vail Resorts.

But it’s more than that. Resorts also know people want access to the snow, and may never ride. They might forever be content on the tubing hill, sledding, snowshoeing or having fun in the white stuff in some other manner.

Having those entry points to snow, though, might be the first step to getting converts to skiing and snowboarding.

Trend setters

When Tere Tibbetts and Gary Bell started skiing they didn’t think about breaking barriers, stereotypes or being part of any sort of movement. They were participating in a sport that was fun. That was the only statement they were making.

The 80-year-old Tibbetts, who was born in Cuba, first skied at Heavenly in 1970. In 1971, she was hired as a ski patroller.

Tere Tibbetts at Heavenly Mountain Resort in the 1980s (Image: Tere Tibbetts)

“I was the diverse person on the ski slopes in those days and I think in all of Tahoe,” she said with a laugh. “I used to joke I was the only member of the Cuban ski team.”

While she went on to teach in Lake Tahoe Unified School District and at Lake Tahoe Community College, Tibbetts continued to ski until three years ago when her eyesight made her hang up her gear.

She said when she was teaching full time hardly anyone in the Hispanic community was skiing or snowboarding.

“The only barrier I see now is price. It is an elite sport for sure,” Tibbetts said.

The 67-year-old Bell has been skiing since he was 3.

The only discrimination he felt on the slopes has been as a telemark skier, not because he is African and Native American.

“Admittedly, I don’t remember way back as a young child when where was probably more discrimination,” Bell said. “I have pictures of my parents and their friends at Alpine and Homewood. I bet they had a tougher time because there was more discrimination at that time in the ’60s.”

He doesn’t believe it’s the responsibility of the resorts to have initiatives to attract people of color, nor does he believe they are even trying to change the demographics.

While he said it’s great to get new people to ski and snowboard, he questions whether “we really need more people standing in line at any given time up there.”

Bell said, “It is expensive sport. There are lot of people who are just not going to try to become part of it. If they want to diversify and invite more people into the sport, they need to make it more affordable.”

Other ways Tahoe is embracing diversity:

The California Tahoe Conservancy board in December 2023 voted to spend $409,000 on diversity projects in the Lake Tahoe Basin:

• $150,000 to Environmental Traveling Companions for an outdoor adventure and education course for under-resourced youth that will include backpacking at Lake Tahoe, and a program to teach safe paddling skills to people with disabilities at Emerald Bay.

• $84,000 to the Lake Tahoe Waterman Foundation to provide transformative paddling experiences for under-resourced youth, people confronting physical disabilities, and those facing mental health challenges.

• $60,000 to the Tahoe Cross Country Ski Education Association for a year-round program to provide Latina girls with instruction and equipment for cross-country skiing, mountain biking, and other outdoor activities.

• $115,000 to the Tahoe Rim Trail Association to upgrade trailhead kiosks along the California side of the TRT. Kiosks will include improved trail and accessibility information and maps, and an acknowledgment of Tahoe as the homeland of the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California. All will be in English and Spanish.

Source: CTC

Note: A version of this story first appeared in the Tahoe Mountain News.

Rains create magnificent waterfalls at Table Mountain

 

Kae and Cleo take in the views from Table Mountain on Feb. 25.

A four-waterfall hike in one outing? You betcha.

Table Mountain in Oroville is one of Mother Nature’s marvels, boasting of more than a dozen waterfalls depending on the season.

Because these waterfalls are not snow fed, their robustness ebbs and flows throughout the winter and spring based on rainfall. Waterfalls and seasonal streams are formed by the basalt rock soaking up rain water. The water flows from small streams before tumbling over a rock formation to create a waterfall. With how little water is in the streams, it’s rather astonishing how spectacular the falls are.

Crevice Falls flows between two rock formations. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

More than 20 members of the Chico Oroville Outdoor Adventurers were out there on the last Sunday of February. A fellow hiker had been to Crevice Falls four days earlier. His video showed raging water, which made our viewing look more like a trickle.

It didn’t matter. It was a glorious sunny day, with clouds making interesting formations in the blue sky. The hike had been postponed twice because of crappy weather, but those added rains had to have helped the falls.

Instead of starting from the main parking lot, our excursion began about mile south. In a clockwise manner we hit Schirmer Ravine, Schirmer Falls, Coon Falls, Ranch Falls and Crevice Falls.

Table Mountain is aptly named — it looks like a flat table. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Mom’s phone said we did just more than 6 miles, mine said 5+. We are going with 6.

Not having a designated trail made this outing a bit of an adventure, and a bit more challenging. Basalt is strewn all over the ground as though it’s a rock garden. This can make walking a challenge, especially for someone like mom who is 89 and seven months out from knee replacement surgery.

Ranch Falls spills for more than 140 feet. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

While the elevation gain wasn’t much—442 feet—it was mostly straight up and down, and over and on rocks when we crossed tiny streams.

With the naked eye it was hard to see much water coming down from Schirmer Falls, which was the farthest away. Binoculars helped one person, while my camera aided me. The blackness in the rock signaled where to look.

Areas of Table Mountain are like walking in a minefield of rocks. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

 

Ranch Falls appeared to have the longest flow of water. It’s more than 140-feet long. It almost looked like it had a crook in its flow instead of being a linear stream.

Crevice Falls was aptly named as the water dropped into a crevice. It is fascinating to see the start of a waterfall. This has been a rare occurrence for me throughout my years of hiking.

It was a spectacular outing.

Revisiting favorite ski resorts with some ability challenges

 

Wide-open spaces is what West Bowl at Sierra-at-Tahoe is now all about. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

It’s like riding a bike.

I lost count of how many people told me that before I hit the slopes last month for the first time in more than six years.

They were right. Just like when I’m on my ebike on a mountain bike trail I seem to fall at least once. Same with skiing. Only I did it after being stopped. It’s like I just fell over. I laughed while my friend looked at me wondering what the heck just happened.

I will tell you it’s easier to get up after a mountain bike fall than a skiing tumble. I didn’t remember it being any big deal to pop up after falling in the snow. Apparently, I don’t pop up anymore. I wriggle, and laugh and wonder, like my friend, what the hell is happening here.

Darla Sadler finds some soft snow to ski through at Sierra on Jan. 23. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

This is my friend, Darla, who I grew up skiing with. She’s a beautiful skier. So fluid, and seemingly effortless. I’ve never demonstrated those traits on skis. Even less so in January. It was obvious I was rusty.

We spent a day at Sierra-at-Tahoe and a day at Palisades Tahoe. Both were working ski days for me. I know, tough job. Sierra was always my favorite resort when I lived in South Lake Tahoe. Palisades was my favorite growing up in the Bay Area. Both are places where Darla and I have had countless days of fun.

Wow. It’s the simplest word I have to describe West Bowl at Sierra. I stopped, paused, looked all around, took deep breaths with tears in my eyes before pushing on to the lift.

The devastation from the 2021 Caldor Fire is profound. It ripped through this ski resort near Echo Summit with such intensity that the landscape is forever changed. It will never be the same ski resort. So much of the tree skiing is gone as well as the stashes of powder that could linger for days after a storm. That’s because the trees are gone—all 34,000 of them.

My profound visceral experience surprised me. I have driven through the burn area multiple times. I’ve hiked parts of it. I’ve mountain biked in the burn. Something, though, about skiing at Sierra jarred me. Thinking about it still moves me.

Kae figuring out what to do on the slopes. (Image: Darla Sadler)

I used to have a ritual where I would start at the farthest run off West Bowl, then ski each one. This was my favorite area of the mountain. On this particular day, while the coverage was good, the conditions varied. It was slick on many of the West Bowl runs because the wind blows through there like never before. Other runs were left ungroomed, but this was not a powder day so we opted not to try them.

I need to go again. To see how this area really skis. This one experience was not enough.

In the past I also enjoyed a ton of runs off the Grandview lift. On this particular day I was not about to go on any black diamonds. I’ve never been an advanced skier, but I could always get down just about anything. I knew better than to test my luck that day. Nonetheless, we found plenty of fun groomed runs off Grandview, where the conditions were wonderful. Not a single complaint—other than my ability being subpar.

Even more amazing is how the fire swept through this area. At a point near the top of the Grandview lift it’s impossible (honest) to not know such a devastating fire hit the resort. Trees were tall, with boughs covered in snow. It was just like I remembered.

Between Grandview and West Bowl it was as though I had skied two extremely different resorts, and, yet, this was still the one wonderful Sierra-at-Tahoe. It’s always been one of my favorite resorts. If I were still living at Lake Tahoe (or even still considered myself a regular skier), this is where I would still go. I’d take the time to learn how it skis post-fire, find which runs would be my new favorites. Maybe discover new trees to schuss through.

Kae Reed and John Rice, general manager of Sierra.

The Sierra vibe is still intact. That hasn’t gone away. But West Bowl, wow, just wow.

The next day it was onto Palisades Tahoe. What different conditions these were compared to the last time I was at the resort—which was in July 2017 when I was wearing shorts to ski in. This January day was blustery and visibility was horrendous.

We were there for me to do a story about the Base to Base Gondola that links Palisades and Alpine. This really seems like an engineering marvel to me.

With the crappy weather day we didn’t see a ton. Lake Tahoe was out there somewhere. Nonetheless, it was an incredibly smooth ride—especially considering the windy conditions. We didn’t ski the Alpine side even though we were over there. This had to do with the threat of winds getting worse, meaning if the gondola shutdown, we would have to take a bus back to our starting point. Plus, neither of us knows the resort that well, so better to go back to Palisades where we spent much of our youth.

The skiing, well, the visibility had me losing my confidence. The snow was less than ideal. It was just one of those days where if I had a choice, I would not have been there. But work called and this was our chosen day.

I’d like to ride the gondola again to really appreciate the views. While it’s open for sightseers, it only operates in the winter.

What I realized, though, is that I really don’t miss skiing. These two days didn’t invigorate me to want to ski more often. I’m not ready to sell or give away my equipment, but it is the first time those thoughts have crossed my mind.

One thing that shocked me about both resorts is the cost of a daily lift ticket—$145 at Sierra and $259 at Palisades. I realize the most expensive way to buy a ticket in this modern world is to walk up to the window that day. Purchasing a ticket online in advance, multi-day packages and season tickets will drop the price. Still, it’s hard for me to justify that kind of money going forward.

Maybe it’s time to put the brakes on questionable ebike rules

Rules for where ebikes can be ridden seem arbitrary.

I understand not wanting motorized vehicles on paved multi-use paths. But to ban all ebikes and not just certain classes of them doesn’t make sense. They aren’t all alike.

Knowingly breaking the rules when it comes to riding an ebike. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

My ebike requires me to pedal for the motor to engage. That’s why it’s a pedal-assist bike. Yes, it’s still an electric bike.

Last month I took her out on the Midway trail, a popular paved path that runs from Chico to Durham. I ignored the sign saying no ebikes. The electric scooter rider also ignored the sign. The no motorized vehicles part of the sign applied to him as well.

As a non-ebike rider and walker, I understand not wanting people to whiz by me on a trail like this on a moped or scooter or motorcycle.

Like many ebikes, mine comes with different settings. On flat I have it in its lowest setting to get a better workout. I’m not a fast rider. Someone on a road bike passed me. Really! So, clearly, my speed on my ebike is not a threat to others.

Perhaps I’m the exception to the rule because I’m slow. But I don’t think so. I think the problem is that the powers that be put in the rules without understanding the dynamics of electric bikes.

I understand ones with throttles being banned from paved paths. They are more like mopeds than bikes.

But at the same time one has to consider the alternatives for people on two wheels. In my case this would have meant riding on a dangerous road with no shoulder where vehicles go 55-plus miles an hour. I’ll take a ticket for riding my ebike illegally over the threat of dying.

It seems like a speed limit on paved trails might be the better solution for safety for all and it would mean being more inclusive. I don’t know what that limit should be. I really don’t know who is going to enforce it. Enforcement of ebikes on these trails is probably not a thing. It’s like any rule, we are supposed to self-regulate, self-police.

Or maybe it’s time to get the rules changed; at least this particular one.

Calif., Nev. making concerted effort for the outdoors to be inclusive

California and Nevada want more than just white people enjoying the outdoors. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Look around. Who do you see when you play in the outdoors? Do others look like you? Likely the answer is “no” if you are not white.

The National Ski Areas Association reported that in the 2021-22 season, 89 percent of skiers were white, 5.7 percent Asian or Pacific Islander, 5.5 percent Latino, 1.5 percent Black, and less than 1percent American Indian or Alaska native.

Officials estimate 75 percent of visitors to state and national parks in the U.S. are white, while as a whole white people represent less than 60 percent of the overall population.

Nevada and California are making a concerted effort to be more inclusive not only to people of color, but to those on the lower rungs on the economic ladder as well those with mobility issues.

“We know just looking at our typical visitors when you drive through our parks it is predominately white folks using parks for camping,” Bob Mergell, administrator for Nevada Division of State Parks, said. “Our goal is to try to reach out to groups who historically may not have utilized state parks.”

At the end of last year California released a document titled: Outdoors for All: Providing Equitable Access to Parks and Nature. In addition to English, it will be translated into four languages, which is another effort to be inclusive.

The public had an opportunity to comment on this document when it was released last summer, as well at the multiple workshops, including the one in Truckee.

“What I heard in Truckee and at other rural places is that you can be surrounded by public lands and still not have access,” Katherine Toy, California Natural Resources Agency’s deputy director for access, said. “Access to recreation in Tahoe can be expensive; transit is an issue.”

Expenses include paying more than $100 for a lift ticket, renting or buying gear, needing appropriate clothing, and possibly a lesson to know how to participate.

“One in 4 Californians do not have the same access to outdoors that others have. That is something we can do better,” Toy said. “There are a number of positive health outcomes for those who have easy access to nature. People deserve to have access to the outdoors in their everyday lives and not have it just as a special treat.”

Toy is in charge of the state’s Outdoors for All initiative that was launched in 2021 when the state allocated $1 billion to the cause. This included $500 million in grants to local communities for parks infrastructure, transportation and education programs, and the other $500 million for expanding access to State Parks and other state facilities through infrastructure and improvements to existing programs.

Professional skiers and those watching the sport are predominately white. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Forming alliances

Both states are working to hire more people of color as well as use promotional materials that reflect diversity.

It’s not just about getting people to participate in sports popular in the Tahoe-Truckee area, it’s about getting people to their local and regional parks. It’s about developing outdoor spaces where there aren’t any. People also need to feel safe, and that isn’t always the case for non-whites.

“The strategies outlined in this section will help achieve a future where every Californian feels safe, welcome, and encouraged in the outdoors, and can enjoy California’s outdoor spaces without hesitation,” the document says.

California’s is the largest state parks system in the country with 279. The state estimates 6 in 10 residents live in park-poor neighborhoods, which by definition is less than 3 acres of open space per 1,000 residents.

For comparison, Nevada has 27 state parks.

In mid-October, California State Parks signed a five-year memorandum of understanding with the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians (who are based on the West Slope of El Dorado County) at the future site of the California Indian Heritage Center known as Pusúune in West Sacramento. It’s being built for the protection, preservation, and interpretation for parks on the tribe’s ancestral homelands.

This is the fifth MOU State Parks has signed with a tribe in the last year.

Nevada is working with groups like Blacks in Nature and Black Folks Camp Too.

A bill approved by the Nevada Legislature in 2019 created the Office for New Americans. One component of the law is that every state agency must have a diversity and inclusion liaison.

For Nevada state parks that person is Janice Keillor. This designation is in addition to being the department’s deputy administrator.

“Little by little we are going to chip away at the barriers that exist,” Keillor said.

Note: A version of this story first appeared in the 2023-24 winter issue of Tahoe In Depth.

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