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Recalling the Sunshine of Youth
updated: Sep 04, 2010, 9:45 AM
Itinerary - Placerville to Lake Tahoe
Mile 508 - Placerville
A funny old place. A place where you go to eat. A corn dogs and chilidogs kinda town, the signs suggest, with several levels of Mexican food joints thrown in. Down in the Old Town you can find some interesting pork-out palaces, and some that are "different," such as Z Pie, where we had some fine potpies a few years ago. Yes, pot pies, the owners having eaten some great ones in New Zealand. Ze pies are about all that is served there. As I say, different. And fun.
This Old West town is the first place where either of us had been guided to a hardware store doubling as a tourist attraction. Again, interesting. Amusing. Lots of grand old hardware pieces therein, along with new stuff. It opened in 1852, making it the second oldest business in California. The oldest is a few blocks uptown -- the Mountain Democrat, a newspaper - The Mountain Republicrat, one local called it.
Then, after an excellent Mexican lunch with an old friend, we made one of the pleasantest auto trips in the state; the 60 miles up and away on Highway 50 through the pines to Lake Tahoe - at 6,000+ feet - the biggest mountain lake in the nation.
Mile 568 - South Lake Tahoe
We made a major (for us) discovery here last year: Summer is not Tahoe's busy season, as it used to be! Winter, with skiing, is the busy time, leaving the trails and lake shore(s) relatively free for the likes of us, who want to hike and look at the rural rapture, the grandeur, the forests dark and deep.
We walked a couple of miles downhill. (The Forest Service sign said 1.75 miles, but everyone knows they lie shamelessly. The signs are a kind of cruel practical joke, and have been that way for decades.) The trail (two miles, minimum) led to picture-perfect Emerald Bay, a place so lovely that it's almost fake. If you're not happy to be there, you need counseling.
We ate a sack lunch and I struggled back up, sustaining only one blister. The weather on August 10 was as fine as the view, so I only partially melted down. Didn't weep once. My wife and the other trail-toughened woman stopped several times for water and uttered that phrase most irritating to elderly ears: "You OK?"
Back in the Day -
There are impossibly long corridors of nostalgia for me in this place, beginning with the happiest summer of my youth when, at age 15, a wealthy friend's family took me to an even wealthier family's cabin behind Fallen Leaf Lake. Fishing, hiking, wandering "lonely as a cloud" -- a month-long idyll. Fished (even caught and ate a few), got lost, smelled the trees, saw a huge mule deer looking at me like Bambi's father . . . such happiness.
A summer later, two teen pals and I thought it would be fun to swim out to the island in the middle of Emerald Bay. A fourth guy, fortunately, rowed along behind us. Halfway to the island we realized that we were exhausted, not counting on the cold water in June, and our lack of swimming conditioning. We had used up our strength with frightening speed. Had it not been for the fourth kid rowing behind, there would have been three drownings.
That evening, we were refused entrance to a night club where a year before we had been allowed to put quarters on the roulette table. Buzzy, may he rest in peace, collected a dollar from each of us by winning a bet. Accepting our dare, he jumped, screaming and fully clothed, off the pier near Meeks Bay and swam to shore.
We were severely shushed by a ranger in the Meeks Bay campground when a man became incensed at the foul language we boys used late one evening. We heard him complaining, almost crying, to the ranger, "They're using the worst language I've EVER heard!"
We got quiet but continued to drink a few contraband beers an older guy bought for us and became true lunatics, escapees from a small high school that in some ways resembled an asylum.
It was a wild and crazy trip. Fortunately for society, and us, we soon got over it and grew up. Tahoe … what a time we had …
To be continued.
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