Saturday, August 22, 2020

Lake Tahoe travel and the COVID epidemic July 31 to Aug 5 2020

 I made my reservations for Lake Tahoe in January of 2020, far before we had even heard of COVID.  The intention was to return from two weeks in Hawaii on July 31 and leave for Tahoe for four nights the next day.  When I learned that we weren't going to Hawaii at all, I booked a week in Sunriver, OR.  (See my blogpost on this!)  However, this still gave us a week before we were scheduled to go to Tahoe so I needed to fill this time or risk feeling like I needed to work at my real job during the break-yuck!  I got to work on extending the Tahoe vacation.  By the time I started working on this, June 20 or so, Tahoe accommodations were quite occupied and there was very little available in our price range.  I managed to book an additional day onto our VRBO rental, and hoped to secure another Lake Village condo for another three nights prior, making our pack up and move in the middle of the week a little less stressful.  This was not to be, however, so I checked into Club Tahoe Resort in Incline Village for the first three nights of our Tahoe vacation.  I chose to book on the Nevada side, hoping for a less heavy handed COVID restrictions.


Well, whether in Nevada or California, COVID does not seem to be impacting the amount of fun people are having this summer in this area. The Tahoe counties (of which we drove through 5) are not Bay Area Counties, that is for sure. You are required to wear a mask indoors.  In outdoor restaurants on the California side, you can remove your mask when seated at your table.  In Nevada you can eat indoors at socially distanced tables with the same mask restrictions.  We did both, dining al fresco at the darling Scusa on Lake Tahoe Blvd, and enjoying breakfast at the Kingsbury grade location of the Red Hut.  Both felt really safe. Mini golf is open, trails are open, marinas and rental activities are open.  Wear your mask while you fill out paperwork and start off, then take it off--simple, right?

Some limitations popped up.  The clubhouse at Lake Village, with access to the pool, BBQ's, tennis, ping pong and pool, was closed. Club Tahoe Resort's bar was closed and there was no housekeeping.  Another big bummer at CTR was the moratorium on beach passes for Incline Village's private beaches, which forced us to the public beaches, yucky Kings Beach, a wasteland of heat and bodies, and much more pleasantly Lake Forest Beach, a quiet and secluded tiny spot against the water.  Public beach parking lots also decreased their capacities, necessitating the back up of cars on the highways early in the morning.  Ever eat your breakfast on the beach?

The beaches are all open and they are packed and no one wears a mask on the beaches.  Despite the crowds, there is plenty of room to social distance.   Days we were at the beaches, Pope, Sand Harbor, and Skunk Harbor, we followed the examples of others and marked out wide boundaries of "stuff" discouraging others from coming too close and giving ourselves a wide berth to gather our group.

We saw a few people wearing masks on the trails.  This is quite a surprise as the decreased oxygen in the air coupled with the heat and exertion would cause any normal person to just give up the ghost.  This is really where I draw the line.  There is no possibility that anyone who climbed 3300 feet to make it to the top of Mount Tallac has COVID-19, or anything else for that matter, except a strong aerobically sound body, and possibly some mental insanity.

Now if I said that everyone in Lake Tahoe was taking COVID seriously by socially distancing from all those outside their households I'd be big time lying.  Yes, I would say people were staying away from other parties, however, some of the parties were HUGE, as much as like 40 people.  Now, I'm not thinking these people were all living under one roof back in the Bay Area. Here in Tahoe with their "extended pods," people were definitely taking risks.  Oh boy.  We saw a group of like fifteen 20 year olds getting drunk as skunks huddled under one easy up on Sand Harbor Beach.  The girls were so lit they couldn't even stand, let alone execute sound COVID judgement. Another time we saw three boats in Skunk Harbor pull up side by side, each with about 8 passengers, tie off and start to co-mingle as if it was a normal day.  My fave was when rafting down the Truckee River we encountered like 5 eight person rafts pulled off to the side.  30-40 men women and children sat stood and swam, close talking and drinking beer.  We are not too crazy strict about this whole thing but my kids sat wide eyed at the spectacle.  My 20 year old daughter summed it up, "and THAT is how you spread COVID!"  Yeah, I get it.  It's families, cousins, college friends, who miss each other and want to have a good time just for a few days in a beautiful place and forget about the damn virus.  I can't say that given the same situation I wouldn't take the same risks.  I don't know.  It's nice to feel normal for a bit.


Well one thing is for sure.  The coronavirus did not keep anyone away from the lake.  In fact, it seemed that all those Bay Area families who, like us, were denied their Hawaiian, Mexican, and European vacations all went in their desperation to wherever they could go, and, like us, they went to Lake Tahoe.

Oh and the crowds were real, necessitating some real planning.  If you couldn't get your butt out of bed and to your beach destination early in the morning, you were basically up a creek without a lily pad.  Sand Harbor was only allowing about 60% of their usual parking capacity, requiring people to queue up on Highway 28 prior to 8AM opening.  On Saturday morning at 7:40 am we were a significant distance from the entrance, maybe half a mile, and feared having the gates shut on us!  Luckily we were able to slowly make our way up to the front to be admitted at about 8:10 am.  It is nearly certain the gates closed within minutes behind us, not to open to anyone for the day until 5 pm.  

The scary line to get into Sand Harbor

On Saturday we set up our easy up and chairs and left them to make our paddle surfboard reservation at 8:30.  Sand Harbor Rentals started only taking reservations at 8:30 and 9 as those who were getting to the beach later were getting shut out on parking and were getting stuck being charged for their missed later reservations.  After returning to our beach camp and spending a lovely day on the slightly overcrowded beach we drove back to our Lake Village condo.  Here we saw the damage to all the lazy shmucks ,that missed their wake up calls.  Basically every inch of Highway 28 in both directions was lined with cars.  People just parked and headed down the slope looking for water, many already ticketed having ignored the no parking signs.  There are real beaches down there, Chimney Beach and Secret Beach, but the real estate down there is not expansive, and the best part is you get to haul your stuff down there, and then back up at the end of the day.  No thanks.

Tuesday we returned to Sand Harbor at the same ungodly hour.  This time the highway patrol prevented us from queuing so we had to find a turn out and approach from the other side.  The week day seemed to                                                                             present a little less pressure.

On Sunday we arrived at the Mount Tallac trailhead at 7:50am.  It was full so we parked about .1 mile down the road.  No biggee.  On the way we passed by Pope Beach which had a queue on the highway.  After the hike we headed to Nevada Beach at 4pm hoping for a quick dip, but again parking was full and we wound up adding more steps to reach the beach from our roadside parking spot.

We finally DID get onto Sand Harbor Beach


With the extension of our vacation, we now had two full days to occupy ourselves in a completely new area of the lake!  One thing we had heard a lot about but had never tried.was rafting down the Truckee River.  Since we were to be in the area, I decided to book us a raft.

From start to finish this whole experience was a hoot and we would do it again in a second.  The put in site is located at 175 W River Road in Tahoe City.  Because of COVID the number of rafts on the river has been decreased by 50%  making reservations mandatory. Two to ten person rafts are available.  Each adult costs 55$ which include the rental of the raft and the shuttle ride back to Tahoe City.  Kids 6-12 are $35. Life vests are provided but I did not notice anywhere that wearing them is required. You can start as early at 8:30 or as late at 3:30, though on Saturday you must be on the river by 12:30 pm (last shuttle at four). 

First you are escorted to 5 minute parking where you can unload before your driver moves your car to an offsite lot and is shuttled back.  Then it's off to the put in site!

The whole venture is 4 miles long and takes anywhere from 2-4 hours depending on the level of the river.  It is a slow and scenic float trip along which is it easy to pull off, jump out, swim, and party if you want.  The current is very gentle and in most spots shallow enough to stand. There are a few portapotties along the way if the hang over the side and pee avenue is not your thing.  Soft coolers are allowed and highly encouraged as the partaking of adult beverages greatly minimizes the frustration of the raft floating into the branches protruding from the sides of the river and cooperating on the steering.  Pair this with a bluetooth speaker and a good play list and you have a lovely midday excursion including water, sun, music, beer, scenery and hopefully some good company.  Really, it's fabulous.  Big thumbs up.

Lots of opportunity to swim

The ride ends at a River Ranch Pond where you pull into a platform, your raft is taken care of, and you head for the waiting shuttle bus for your 10 minute ride back to Tahoe City.

Having lots of fun!

Well, that's about it for the summer travels.  Here's to hoping we will get some opportunities to get out of town in the future!!  Here are some pictures!

Words of warning at the Mount Tallac Trailhead

After I stopped crying.....

Dinner outside at Scusa

Skunk Harbor is a great piece of lakefront property, if you are willing to make the hike...

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