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South Lake Tahoe - Wednesday, June 23, 2021
Because no amount of travel is too much for Priscilla, she made us go to South Lake Tahoe for the weekend of my birthday. I prefer to spend my birthday at home catching up on housework, whereas she likes to go out, so she entices me with hiking as a compromise. I'd been to Tahoe in the winter 3 times for a company ski trip but never in the summer, so I didn't mind (too much) going there for summer hiking.

So that Friday, we made the 4.5 hour drive to Econo Lodge in South Lake Tahoe, where we would be staying for the next two nights. Our plan originally was to go to Kiva Beach to do some kayaking first, but I'm bad at leaving the house early. So instead of visiting the beach, we consigned ourselves to walking around Heavenly Village, walking through Harrah's, Harveys and Hard Rock (and at the latter, we hung out for a bit under a gazebo at the pool area when there was nobody else there), and walking by Lakeside Beach outside the fence since we didn't want to pay to go in. Obviously, we like to do things that don't cost money (and the hotel was booked using travel points).

The next day, we drove up State Route 89 to visit Emerald Bay. What a sight! The most majestic vantage point was one short segment of Route 89 where the shoulder of the road slopes down towards the water below and it looks like you're surrounded on most sides by water - Emerald Bay on the north, Cascade Lake on the south, and Lake Tahoe on the East. There were a lot of cars already parked along Route 89, so we had little hope that we'd be able to find parking in the main Emerald Bay lot. So instead, we parked on the shoulder halfway between Eagle Falls and the Bayview Campground. We took pictures at the "mid" Eagle Falls - a spot just below the road but above the Lower Eagle Falls. Then we did the short hike to see Upper Eagle Falls and then the longer hike to Eagle Lake, entering into what's known as Desolation Wilderness. It was less than a mile from the upper falls to the lake, but it was a little tiring because of all the rock steps. Definitely not like the packed dirt trails that we're so accustomed to when hiking in the Bay Area.

Eagle Lake was so picturesque! You have the trees and mountains in the background and crystal-clear water in the foreground. We stayed here a bit and ate some of the salad we brought before continuing on. At this point, Priscilla would've been fine with heading back the way we came, but I as always wanted to do a longer loop. Well, this loop ended up being a little over 8 miles and took us nearly 7 hours to complete because of the elevation gain, the rock steps, and the altitude. At one point, Priscilla felt lightheaded because of the thinner air. But she pushed through (with many breaks) because she knows I enjoy hiking and that's what compromise looks like.

This is one of the most scenic hikes that we've done. Everywhere you look, there are trees, canyons, lakes, and blue skies all around. Plus some mountains still capped with some snow. We ran into a fair number of people during most of the hike, but that didn't detract too much from the experience.

On my own, I also stopped by Granite Lake and Cascade Lake and Falls. Granite Lake, about a third of the size of Eagle Lake, was just off the beaten path but nobody else was there. It was nice to be able to gaze at the lake in total solitude. Cascade Lake was viewable from the Cascade Falls Trail but was not directly reachable; there are some houses on the north side of the lake (lucky them), reachable only by private road. The trail terminates by Cascade Falls, and while the view of the falls from there is likely not as grand as when viewed from the front, I was still in awe of the beauty and power of the waterfall. I sat near the edge of the falls for a few minutes, watching the water flow down the cliff below and marveling at the beauty of the landscape. For a while, there was nobody else around. Just me, sitting there in appreciation of nature, cares momentarily forgotten.

The last stop was Inspiration Point, a vista point with its own parking lot, looking down towards Emerald Bay. I rejoined Priscilla there, but we didn't stay for too long, as we'd already been treated to better views along the hike. So we headed back to town and picked up pizzas at Base Camp Pizza to replenish the calories we'd burned during hiking and then some.

Monday morning after checking out of our motel, we stopped by the Tahoe Trout Farm, the part of the trip that Priscilla had been looking forward to the most. She's more into fishing than I am, so I let her do all the work while I took care of the online research when it became evident that our method of baiting the hook was consistently allowing fish to get the worms without getting hooked. After a lot of lost worms and after one more adjustment, we finally caught a 13-inch trout! We'd been given a metal pipe to hit the fish with to humanely kill it, but after several hits, the fish was still not dead. It was sad to know that we probably caused the fish more pain than necessary, so if we do something like this again, hopefully we can learn how to kill the fish properly.

The final stop before heading home was the Kiva Picnic Area where we had lunch, followed by a short walk around the adjacent Tallac Historic Site (the buildings were not open on the day of our visit). The drive home was somewhat difficult as we were both tired, but we made it back home at last.

We had a good time in Tahoe. If it were practical, I would probably have wanted to stay longer and do more hiking/trail running in Desolation Wilderness and other spots. The scenery is so beautiful and there's so much to explore. I'd also want to kayak at Emerald Bay to Fannette Island. And there's so much to see all around the lake - the southern area is just a tiny portion of it. Priscilla would say that these are the best years of our (remaining) life, that we should be traveling more, and that we already have enough to have financial independence given our relatively modest lifestyle. I, on the other hand, feel that we go on a good number of trips already. I don't enjoy the actual travel and being away from home, but once I'm there, I enjoy the places that we get to see. And I feel that we don't have enough yet to be financially secure and that it would be difficult to take a lot more time off work. So I guess we're still trying to find that balance and compromise.
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