Updated: Dec 19, 2021
When each of my husband's nieces and nephews turns 12, it's like a rite of passage and they get to come out to Lake Tahoe with Grandma and Grandpa and stay for a week with us. Because the kids come from a larger family that includes 4 children, it's a big deal for them to leave their siblings at home and take a trip on their own – all the way from Minnesota.
We enjoy coming up with activities for each of the kids' trips, tailored to their interests and abilities. Last year was supposed to be Lincoln's turn, but we all know what happened last year, so his Tahoe adventure was postponed until this year, which means he's actually 13 now rather than 12.
Lincoln is a relatively athletic and high-energy kid who loves a thrilling adventure and prefers to be kept busy. In fact, I think we were asked to "tire him out." 😂
Mountain Biking Adventure
For the past year, Lincoln has been enjoying mountain biking and skiing (mostly the terrain park) in the Midwest. But since he's coming out here during the summer, we rented a suitable mountain bike for him, and on his first full day in Tahoe, he was introduced to the famous Marlette Flume Trail. My husband took him on an 18.6-mile ride with 1,627 feet of elevation gain, not to mention, riding 7,000 feet above sea level the entire time. That's no easy feat for a kid coming from the Midwest, where his hometown sits at 902 ft.
Lincoln thought riding the uphills here was hard, but he did enjoy the views at the top and some of the giant boulders along the way.
Then, as if that long ride wasn't enough, later in the afternoon, my husband took Lincoln on the Tyrolian Downhill for some fun jumps and berms.
Later that evening, after dinner, my husband took his parents and Lincoln to the lake for a swim. They headed down to Sand Harbor and enjoyed spending some time in the cove where my husband and I got married.
One of Lincoln's favorite activities during his trip was climbing on all the huge boulders.
Parasailing Over Lake Tahoe and Camping Adventures
Thursday morning, we got up early and headed to Kings Beach, where we checked in for parasailing. The sun was shining, the skies were bright blue, and the air was warming every minute that went by. We found the beach kiosk, got our life jackets, and awaited further instruction. In the meantime, a middle-aged guy showed up and asked the kids working the kiosk if they thought they'd let him drive the boat. He claimed to "have flown a lot of kites as a kid." We chuckled.
Pretty soon, it became clear that 1) the kite-flying wiseacre was our captain, and 2) we were going to have to wade through shallow water in order to board the dinghy that would transport us to the parasailing boat. I had dressed in layers (my swimsuit being the bottom layer) because at that early hour the air is still cool and will feel even cooler when you're zipping around the lake on a high-speed boat. I didn't really care if my pants got wet, but I removed them anyway, as well as my light sweatshirt, stowed them in my bag, and proceeded toward the water's edge where we each left behind our footwear in the sand.
It turned out that another party of 8 would be joining Lincoln, my mother-in-law, and me on the boat. Of that group, one of the boys was celebrating his 15th birthday, so naturally, while we were all on the dinghy, we thoroughly embarrassed him by singing "Happy Birthday" as loud as we could.
I have only been parasailing once before. I was in college and on a Florida trip with my aunt, uncle, cousins, and my younger sister. One of my cousins and I parasailed over the Gulf of Mexico. It was awesome. So, I was looking forward to doing this again over beautiful Lake Tahoe. And I know that Lincoln was excited.
Our threesome was the last group on the boat to fly. We had originally planned on all 3 of us flying together, but the captain said there wasn't enough wind, so he broke us up into pairs and Lincoln was the lucky one to fly twice...
Once with me...
And once with his grandma...
The skies and the weather were perfect. We knew the forecast was predicting that area wildfire smoke was to start rolling in thick tomorrow, so we got really lucky today.
When we returned home from this awesome adventure, it was time to get the camper packed up and ready. My husband took his dad and Lincoln on an overnight in Jackson Meadows. They had originally made reservations for a campsite down by Ebbetts Pass, but that entire area was either totally smoked out or evacuated due to the nearby Tamarack Fire, so my husband changed plans.
He took them on the super bumpy road to Bowman Lake.
The dam at Bowman Lake.
The canyon with Webber Falls.
A huge flock of sheep!
Sunset at Jackson Meadows Reservoir.
The smoke was still pretty thick in the Tahoe Basin on Friday, but after the boys returned from camping, we decided to continue with our original plan to hike up Shirley Canyon to High Camp at Squaw. It was still a warm/hot summer day, so we took the doors and roof off the Jeep.
Upon our arrival at the parking lot at Squaw, we looked up at High Camp and it was incredibly smoky up there. It was a little disappointing at the prospect of us hiking all the way up to that and then not being able to show Lincoln the amazing views. The first mile and a half of the hike smelled like wildfire smoke, so it didn't seem like it was moving out.
When we started out the hike today, Lincoln didn't know that once we reached the top, we'd be riding the tram down the mountain. We were planning to keep that a surprise, but he figured it out before we got there.
The official trailhead. Because we'd gotten a later start in the day, it was already hot. And we didn't expect there to be much left of any waterfalls by this time of year, and someone's homemade sign at the trailhead confirmed we wouldn't see much for moving water along the way.
Approaching the rock face section of the climb.
When we reached the rock face, Lincoln, the youngest of our group and the only one not carrying any weight, proceeded to sprint up the steep rock face. After about 2 minutes of that, he stopped and sat down. He told me he'd burned himself out. I laughed. I told him that was the trick with hiking. You have to plan for all kinds of different terrain, elevation gain, and distance so that you can pace yourself. Not surprisingly, though, he recovered quickly.
A view from the rock face. Still a bit of smoke in the air...
And we finally made it to Shirley Lake.
After we took a few photos and chatted with a few other hikers at the lake, we kept on our way to the top. On the final stretch, we spotted a yellow-bellied marmot!
We were also treated to a bunch of wildflowers along the way.
By the time we reached High Camp, somehow, the smoke had substantially cleared out and we had great views!
And...we got to give our legs a rest and ride the tram down!
Once we returned to the ground, we walked around the village a little bit to try and find an open restaurant. After climbing over 1900 ft, we were all pretty hungry. I asked Lincoln if he thought the hike was a challenge, and he said yes. But he was a trooper.
Waffle Breakfast and Kings Canyon Road Jeep Adventure
During the crazy year that was 2020, we bought a Belgian waffle iron so that we could make a "fancy" breakfast at home when we were bound by restrictions. Well, I decided I would make homemade waffles for our guests on Saturday morning. The batter recipe I use typically makes 5 waffles, so I figured that would work out well.
We also made up some scrambled eggs and sausage links and we had ourselves a tasty little breakfast before my husband, his mom, and Lincoln headed out in the topless, doorless Jeep for another adventure.
The smoke was pretty bad today, so instead of driving up to Genoa Peak for exceptional views (which would be smoked out today) as originally planned, my husband took them on Kings Canyon Road – the infamous forest road I thought I was going to die on back in December. As they left the house, I shook my head and told them, "You guys are going to get SOOOOO dirty."
And they did, but they had a blast.
And Lincoln even got to drive a little.
When they returned home, first thing: "Bri! We got so dirty! The Jeep is covered in dust!"
(For the time being, my husband used the electric leaf blower to remove as much of the dust and dirt on the interior as he could, and then later spent a couple of hours cleaning the Jeep – inside and out – after our guests had gone back to Minnesota.)
Bike Park Adventures
In our little town, a group built a bike park with various kinds of jumps for riders of all ages. So, my husband and Lincoln took off from our house and headed to the park.
Lincoln wasted no time!
And then they rode to the beach to meet the rest of us for a swim. I volunteered to take some photos from the shore. (Look at all the smoke in the air! You can barely see across the lake!)
Even though it felt hot at our house, and a refreshing dip seemed like just the thing, a cool breeze was coming off the lake.
From my perspective, it was a little chilly that evening to jump into the lake, but my husband talked me into it and so I waded in until the waves were reaching just below my neck and I said that was far enough! It was definitely refreshing!
Hunting for Pine Cones and Mt. Watson Adventure
The next day, the air remained quite smoky, so we wanted to keep that in mind for our outdoor activities. One of the things Lincoln mentioned while he was here was finding some big pine cones. He had been eying up the giant Jeffrey pine cone on our dining table and had his mind set on finding one that size. I told him that is by far the largest Jeffrey we've seen in our 8 years of living in Tahoe, and we haven't seen one since, so it wasn't likely he'd find another one. But we can drive to an area where we know we'll find both Jeffrey pine cones and sugar pine cones, which can get quite large, and see how lucky we get.
So, we headed out toward Truckee and jumped on a forest road. It didn't take us long to come across large areas of Jeffrey pine cones. We got out and combed the area for the biggest ones we could find.
Then we diverted from the paved forest road to a dirt forest road that took us most of the way to the top of Mt. Watson. The views were pretty smoked in, but it was still fun to climb on all the boulders at the top.
After Mt. Watson, we headed back out on the forest road, out to find some sugar pine cones.
And, of course, we had to stop and climb on top of this large boulder along the forest road for a photo op.
As we were driving slowly, keeping our eyes peeled for sugar pine cones, two huge ones discarded by the side of the road caught my attention.
"Sugar pine cones! Stop!"
My husband all but slammed on the brakes, backed up, and Lincoln got out to investigate. He was pretty pleased with this find.
In addition to it being a good day for pine cones, we also spotted a Western Tanager on our route. My husband and I went probably 4 or 5 years having never seen one here, and this year, we've seen more Western Tanagers than we have seen all of the other years combined.
And as if that wasn't enough, on our way out of the woods, we saw a female mule deer and a little while later, this beautiful buck!
What a wildlife treat today!
One Last Mountain Bike Adventure
On Lincoln's final day in Tahoe, my husband took him out on a mountain bike trail again and then they ended up going back to the bike park for some more jumps because we're pretty sure that's Lincoln's favorite part of biking.
After all of that fun, we decided to head down to South Lake Tahoe to grab dinner from our favorite pizza place. Lincoln was on a quest to find a souvenir t-shirt (after about 5 stores, he found the right one!) and then we stopped for a photo op at the Heavenly gondola.
When our food order was ready, we drove up to Cave Rock State Park and enjoyed our dinner while overlooking the lake, which was pretty smoked in, but it was nice nonetheless, and, of course, the pizza was awesome. In fact, Lincoln even said it might be the best pizza he's ever had.
Despite having to deal with smoky skies for a couple of the days, mostly from the Tamarack Fire...
Here's part of the smoke plume from Tahoe:
...I think Lincoln's inaugural trip to Tahoe was a success. From what I've heard, he's already talking about coming back in the winter for some mountain skiing.