Keep Summer Blue: Lake Tahoe, the Perfect COVID Vacation - Part One
October 22, 2020
By Kat Thomas
This summer multiple members of the Edible Skinny family were lucky enough to vacation in Lake Tahoe, CA! As anyone in 2020 knows, COVID-19 was the hurdle to this year's summer, with many metropolitan dwellers searching for the perfect relaxable place, ideally somewhere that was easily drivable so you could nix a plane ride and embraced the world of social distanced activities. And thus Lake Tahoe, with the pine-scented atmosphere and its multitude of summertime water sports, became the perfect solution (as if it wasn't already) for anyone living in the Bay Area.
Lake Tahoe, located 200 miles northeast of San Francisco, is widely considered one of the most beautiful places in the world. Nothing can diminish the first impression of driving towards the lake and seeing this giant pool of indigo-blue water cradled between mountain ranges. The lake is located 1,897 meters atop the majestic Sierra Nevada mountain range on the California and Nevada border (2/3 in California and 1/3 in the state of Nevada). The clear, cobalt blue lake welcomes about three million visitors annually while the year-round resident population is about 53.000.
First there's the Lake itself at a depth of 1,644, Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America. Having been on this earth for 2 million years, the lake is considered an ancient lake. It is the second deepest lake in the United States (Crater Lake is the winner winner chicken dinner!) and one of the deepest in the world. The most popular visual image used for contexts is that you could completely submerge New York's Empire State Building, which stands at 1,454 feet at the tip, and you wouldn't see it at all. At the longest and widest, Lake Tahoe measures 22 miles by 12 miles, with a shoreline circumference of 72 miles.
Then there's the water in this lake; it's as pure as drinking water. The water in Lake Tahoe is 99.994% pure, according to the Tahoe Fund, making it one of the purest large lakes in the world. For comparison, commercially distilled water is 99.998% pure, so it's pretty darn close! Pretty much everywhere you dine urges you to kick your bottle water habit and replace it with Tahoe Tap!
I had visited Tahoe once in the winter for a skiing adventure (which was simply fabulous and rightfully so as this location hosted the Winter Olympics in 1950), but this was my first time at the Lake during the summer. Now I knew I was in for an entirely different experience, but truthfully I hadn't fully comprehended the Perfect Storm of water sport activities that is Lake Tahoe. The lake is the perfect excuse to get out and enjoy the 300 plus days of sunshine: sailing, standup paddle boarding, and river rafting. No wonder it had become one of the Bay Area's favorite playground's even before a certain buzzkill disease!
So with that in mind, here's some fabulous things we experienced during our times in Tahoe this summer (there were enough, we broke it into 2 articles)!
Here's to life being delicious, all your moments being postcard worthy, and 300 plus days of sunshine allowing you to do every watersport under the sun!
WELCOME TO TAHOE CITY
The areas of the Lake itself are as varied as the activities you can do upon it. The south shore is more popular among those looking for socialized entertainment and nightlife experiences such as bars, restaurants, and casinos, but not during the time of COVID.
Instead the Edible Skinny crew stayed in the small town of Tahoe City on the north side of the Lake (mainly because that is where the house we were staying at was located). Overall, north Lake Tahoe is more known for its quieter, more laid-back atmosphere. On this side of the Lake, the towns are smaller in size and most businesses have earlier closing hours, resulting in visitors experiencing a quaint community feel. And the shining star of the north Lake Tahoe experience is Tahoe City!
Located at an elevation of 6,250 feet, this small mountain town has a quiet relaxed hamlet feeling as the town's population is only 1,557 people. The city's heritage dates back to the Gold Rush, when fortune hunters passed through on their way to mine for silver in the Comstock Lode. Tahoe City is perched on the north shore of Lake Tahoe at the headwaters of the Truckee River, the Lake's only outlet. The walkable downtown is four city blocks long, yet despite its size contains a vibrant mix of recreation, innovative cocktail culture, and breathtaking natural beauty. That along with the night sky make it a five billion star vacation!
STANDUP PADDLEBOARDING AT TAHOE CITY KAYAK
We like big boards and we cannot lie! The best experiences at Lake Tahoe are on the water so to ensure a constant smile, Kelly and I rented 2 paddleboards from Tahoe City Kayak. Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) offers a fun way to play on the water, with the added benefit of a full-body workout to boot! And, since you (eventually) stand at full height on your board, it gives you a unique vantage point for viewing what's down under the water and out on the horizon.
The calmest water for paddling is in the morning, so it's ideal to paddle early in the day. And the ladies and gents of Tahoe City Kayak made it super duper easy with a water launch site located right at Commons Beach, the public beach in the four block town. Opting for the half day experience, Kelly and I packed sandwiches for the ultimate waterfront dining experience on Carnelian Bay. Up close and personal the water of Lake Tahoe is amazingly clear, and more than a bit chilly billy! A plunge into Lake Tahoe can literally take your breath away. Lake Tahoe's average surface temperature in the summer is 63 Degrees, and can drop to 53 Degrees just 18 inches below the surface. But that didn't stop the Thomas Gals from jumping in multiple times to experience some of the freshest water in the largest plunge tank on the planet.
Girls just want to have sun! Now anytime Kelly and I vacation together we always decide to make some of our adventures epic photoshoots! What do you expect from two sisters who spent all their time pretending to be Madonna when they were kids? Especially considering the backdrop it couldn't get better! The beautiful hues of emerald, green and blues, shorelines peppered with massive boulders, and multiple costume changes. Once we got the basic poses, I started experimenting with some simple yoga poses. Humble never felt so crisp and refreshing as I fell into the water an infinite number of times. In the end, we had hundreds of shots to remember the perfection of this day for years to come
JAKE'S BY THE LAKE
They say you should never chase anything but drinks and dreams! And the perfect place to do both is Jake's by the Lake with a Kimo's Mai Tai, one of Jake's signature cocktails from the shores of Lahaina aka "Aloha in a Glass." Family owned and operated since 1978, Jake's On The Lake is the ultimate lakefront dining experience in Tahoe City. Now I have to admit, I was a bit surprised that Mai Tais would be a "Lake Thing," but it turns out Jake's Tahoe dining philosophy is: "come to altitude and let Tahoe change you with Jake's Mountain Aloha."
Jake's restaurant menu is inspired by California and Hawaiian flavors. Our entrees reflected this island's vibe! I sampled the Macadamia Nut Halibut, where the fish was wild line caught and paired with Black Forbidden Coconut Sticky Rice, Asparagus, and Passion Fruit Beurre Blanc. With every bite I felt like I should be on the shores of the Maui instead of the middle of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Kelly had the Pacific Sea Bass with Ginger Saffron Coconut Risotto, Summer Squash, Pancetta, and Sweet Chili Pineapple. All she could say was Mahalo Jake's!
But the shining moment of the meal was Jake's famous Aloha Pie. As we sat down to dinner, a slice of it caught my eye from across the (social distanced) aisle and right then and there I declared by the end of the night that pie would be mine! Hula Pie originated at Kimo's in Maui and has since spread to other restaurants across Hawaii and the mainland. It even makes an appearance at a few restaurants like Jake's and Sunnyside the shore of Lake Tahoe. This pie is so famous it comes with its own special pie plate and although it is portioned for sharing, it rarely goes unfinished.
Hula Pie is made with macadamia nut ice cream stacked high on a scrumptious chocolate cookie crust. A layer of cool chocolate fudge sits atop the ice cream giving form to this delight. Whipped cream that is carefully applied to resemble a hula skirt dances at its base before decadent hot chocolate fudge is poured over the top and drizzles to each side. Finally more toasted macadamia nuts fall and cling to the hot fudge bringing together everything your taste buds need for a vacation. The tip of the Hula Pie is always pointed towards the "I" on their signature plate because first impressions are everything when it comes to something as serious as dessert.
All I can say is A Hui Hou Jake's (Translation: Till We Meet Again)!
Kat Thomas is the Editor in Chief of Edible Skinny, a site dedicated to making your life postcard worthy. She is also the CEO of the creative media company This Way Adventures. You can find more about both brands at http://www.thiswayadventures.com