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“Don’t ever swim there”: Visiting Lake Tahoe

Sybil Fawlty: “Mr and Mrs Hamilton were telling me about California. You can swim in the morning and then, in the afternoon, you can drive up into the mountains and ski.”

Basil Fawlty: “Must be rather tiring.”

Fawlty Towers, Waldorf Salad (1979)

There are so many reasons to love Lake Tahoe, and not just because Kate Bush sang a song about it, on 2011’s 50 Words For Snow, one of the Bonus Beats entries in a recent Perfect 10 feature on the singer.

With 72 miles of shoreline, Lake Tahoe is straddled by two states and divided into five counties across America’s Sierra Nevada mountain range. It‘s a place where Sugar Pines and White Firs spiral their way into the heavens, where Alpine forests blanket hillsides loom into the skies.

Naturally, it‘s a popular weekend getaway and vacation destination due to its beautiful lakeside lodges location with innumerable outdoor activity possibilities. If you’re thinking of visiting the West Coast, the basin is bursting with things to do — from hiking trails and horseback riding, to single-track mountain biking, paddle-boarding and rock climbing.

I’m not a skier, but if snow is your thing then the world-class skiing in the crisp mountain air is a must-do. And for me personally, it was still bemusing to see traces of the white stuff for the first time in years as we drove in from another stunning American landmark, California’s Yosemite National Park.

Of course, the main reason to visit is the awe-inspiring lake itself: one of my aunt Julia‘s very favourite places and most certainly one of the most beautiful bodies of water I’ve ever seen, it shimmers and glistens by day and night.

The outdoor variety is endless, though be careful if you feel like a swim in the crystal-clear-but deceptively-cold-waters. It can be lethal, with several drownings a year, owing to strong, shifting wind patterns that can whip up ocean-like swells in a matter of minutes, which can also threaten boaters who are caught off-guard by the conditions.

There’s some great bars and restaurants too, not to mention some cunning interstate politics: the Nevada-California state border runs right through the middle of the lake, so it was funny listening to the Emerald Bay bartenders quietly boasting how they work on the Cali side but live on the much cheaper Nevada side, as if it had never occurred to anyone else.

I guess you had to be there. 

Anyway, have some lovely… photos.

Steve Pafford

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