The polish to the end of summer break was a return to South Lake Tahoe. For this is where Janna and I ended our Sierra Cascades bike tour the following summer, and it is a place we came to love. As we traced our route south from Lassen Volcanic National Park, we took the roads that we would have ridden last summer had we continued north. And honestly? Thank god we didn't. They were car-chocked, narrow-shouldered, and not nearly as epic for views as the routes we had ridden through in the Mohave and the Sierras. We enjoyed the "Lost Sierra" as the area is coined and its large coniferous spreads. It was heartbreaking to see how much had burned in the fires of last year. Seeing Greenville with buildings in ashes was solemn. We ended picking up several PCT hitchhikers and driving them to Chester along our way.
Janna had booked us at the Campground by the Lake - a city-owned campground near South Lake Tahoe with really solid camping, trees, and decent sites. We spent a few days there just relaxing and enjoying the beach where we biked to get around. Every evening, this massive black bear (the largest I had ever seen in my life) would come rambling through the campground all night long until the city police and animal control would come flying through multiple times a night on patrol to chase him off. But he got plenty to eat before they came as people seemed non-plush about putting their food away.
On our third day, we decided to summit Mount Tallac. It's a 9,734 foot peak with about a 3,500 feet of gain located in the Desolation Wilderness next to Fallen Leaf Lake right outside Lake Tahoe. We actually had no intentions of summiting it when we started. I had been perusing Gaia GPS, just scanning for hikes nearby, and saw one next to Fallen Leaf Lake. As filled our our permits for the wilderness and hiked in, I was gobsocked by how beautiful the area was - the plant life was diverse mix of Sierra species on high and desert species down low. We hiked up to a ride along Fallen Leaf Lake that afforded expansive views of Lake Tahoe and its ridge-bowl.
We arrived at Cathedral Lake, a small alpine lake. Janna and I dove into the water immediately on this hot day. The water was cold but crazy clear and the immediate evaporative cooling in the day's heat was solid. After swimming, we decided to hike onward, rising above treeline where we encountered a massive singular sequoia growing in the col of the mountain. Switchbacks carried us through and above a massive boulder-field to a saddle where I could see way back into the Desolation Wilderness and parts of the High Sierra in the distance. The trail seemed to continue up, so we decided to just go ahead and summit. After several hours of hiking through alpine flower fields, we came to the top.
The views were incredible in scope. All Lake Tahoe stretched before us as a small, inland sea with white coasts of sand rippled by waves. The distant ridge-bowl peaks on the other side of the lake where dappled with shade from the rising cumulus of possible summer monsoons. Behind us stretched the Eldorado National Forest and the repetitive peaks of treeless Sierra Nevada Range peaks. Pikas ran about the boulders while we sat - I was stoked to see them because climate change had really been altering their ranges.
After a while, we descended with late afternoon's softer light and into the day-warmed heat of the lake region. A day or two later, we packed up to return home for the start of the 2022-2023 school year.
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