Thursday, June 28, 2012

Lake Tahoe 4th of July 2012 planner

Why Tahoe?

The Lake Tahoe area has always been one of America's most popular destinations for 4th of July weekend because of its natural beauty, it's super-clean water and beaches, and its many entertainment options in the summertime. Where else can you not only lay on the beach, but also hike, mountain bike, paddle, shop, gamble, or go to your choice of concerts and comedy shows.
Plus, unlike most other summer destinations, Lake Tahoe can guarentee cool weather. Even with 1000s of cities breaking all time heat records across the USA, Lake Tahoe has had temperatures in the mid 70s. Even if it's 100 degrees in Sacremento, I can assure you it won't be over 80 up here.

4th of July Events

Arts and Crafts fair at Heavenly Village
  • There are arts and crafts fairs all over Lake Tahoe on 4th of July week, including ones in front of Heavenly Village, the Horizon, the American Legion Hall, and up at Squaw Valley / Kings Beach on the weekends before and after.
  • Run to the Beach 4th of July 10k run in Kings Beach, CA


About the Fireworks

It also dosn't hurt that Lake Tahoe's annual fireworks event "Lights on the Lake" has been named one of the best small town fireworks displays anywhere. Last year we were #6 on AOL's nationwide list, and this year we were featured on NBC's Today show. Our local fireworks display is an automated music-synchronized display from award-winning area family business Pyro Spectaculars, Inc. The fireworks are shot off from a barge anchored off of Nevada beach just the other side of the state line, and can be seen from all over south Lake Tahoe. The fireworks begin at 9:45PM on July 4th - Tune into KRLT-FM 93.9 or KOWL-AM 1490 to listen to a synchronized musical broadcast for the best effect.

Eye Level to the Fireworks

If you're a little more adventurous than the rest, Lake Tahoe's high-rises and mountains provide a uinque opportunity to get a perspective on a fireworks display that most people never get. For the intrepid, there are organized hikes to the top of mount Tallac west of Lake Tahoe where you can be above the fireworks. For the less intrepid you can take the Heavenly Gondola up to the top of Heavenly ski resort for their annual top of the mountain 4th of July Gala. You can also get a nice high view from close to where they set off the fireworks for free by setting up in Khale Park on Kingsbury Grade.

Fire Safety

Tahoe is a forest, and this year the forests in Tahoe are exceptionally dry. It takes everyone's cooperation not to burn the forest down on a major holiday like 4th of July. As I mentioned before, private fireworks of any kind (even as little as a sparkler) are illegal in the Lake Tahoe basin. Barbequeing is not permitted on forest service land except for designated fire pits in campgrounds and beaches. For more information check out this article from Lake Tahoe News

Watching from the Water

The absolute most spectacular view of the fireworks you can get is from a boat out on Lake Tahoe. From a boat, the fireworks display is almost straight up and appears to fill the whole sky. The lake can be crowded with boats on the 4th of July so unless you feel comfortable driving a boat at night on a very crowded lake, you may wish to consider other options.

The Tahoe Queen or M.S. Dixie II

Both of Tahoe's famous mississippi-style sternwheelers, the Tahoe Queen and the M.S. Dixie II offer special Fireworks cruises on the 4th of July where you'll be guarenteed the absolute best spot on the lake to see the fireworks. Tickets are $47 but they sell out fast so contact Zephyr Cove Resort to make your reservations well in advance. Check out my video of the Tahoe Sternwheeler Races to see thise beautiful boats in action.

Your Own Boat

Among Tahoe locals lucky enough to have a boat, it's pretty common to take your own boat out. Since local boats are usually launched long before this time of year it can be a pretty convenient option for them. If you bring your own boat, boat Launching stations are available at Tahoe Keys Marina, El Dorado Beach, Ski Run Marina, and Cave rock. Boat launching runs $13-$20 dollars depending on where you launch, you can find a full list of boat launches on Lake Tahoe and their fees at Lake Tahoe Access.
However, if you're not from Lake Tahoe you need to realize that there are special complications to launching your boat here. Because of the threat of aquatic invasive species you will need to get a boat inspection (and possibly decontamination) at one of the boat inspection sites on the way into town before you can launch your boat, and the boat inspection stations aren't anywhere near the boat launches - they're at the inspection stations at Meyers and Spooner Summit on the way into town. For more information about locations and opening hours for the boat inspections visit Inspections cost $35 to $100 depending on the size of your boat, though if you're a local you can get a discount by getting inspected early.

Rent a Boat

If you don't want to deal with the hassle of a boat inspection but still want to take a boat out, there are several options for places to rent boats on the 4th of July. You can rent boats at the Tahoe Keys, Ski Run, and Zephyr Cove marinas. Fair warning: Supplies of rental boats in Tahoe are limited and they tend to sell out very fast, if you plan to rent a boat on a holiday weekend up here make your reservations well in advance and expect to pay handsomely for the privilidge.

Watching from the Beaches

The most popular places to watch the fireworks are Lake Tahoe's many beaches. Though just about every beach on the south shore of Lake Tahoe has a good view of the fireworks, you're going to have a different view and a different experience depending on which beach you choose. Be aware that most beaches in Tahoe charge $20 to $25 for access on 4th of July proper, and plan accordingly.

Lakeview Commons at El Dorado Beach

If you're looking to share the 4th of July with a big crowd, there's no better choice for that than the brand-new stone ampetheatre at Lakeview Commons. Closed the last two years because of ongoing rennovations, El Dorado beach is poised to regain its historic position as the all-time favorite place to watch fireworks in Lake Tahoe. Besides an excelent view of the fireworks, they offer barbeque facilities, vendors, bands, and the biggest and most enthusiastic 4th of July tourist crowd in Tahoe.
If you plan to view from Lakeview Commons, plan on showing up early and spending your whole day there because all of the seats are usually taken by mid afternoon. Bring a picnic, wear sunscreen, and enjoy talking to the crowd. Be aware that alcohol is banned at Lakeview Commons on 4th of July and this is not a particularly pet friendly venue, especially for a long day.

Nevada Beach

View of Nevada Beach
If you're looking for the absolute closest beach spot to the fireworks, you can't do any better than Nevada Beach. Located directly behind the fireworks barge, Nevada beach is more of a beach blanket venue than a stone ampetheatre. There are picnic tables and BBQ pits, but they go extremely fast on holiday weekends, so plan to show up early if you need these facilities or bring a picnic dinner with you that you can eat on your beach blanket. Nevada beach has a small dog-friendly section toward the stateline end of the beach, but be aware that it's usually very busy with lots of dogs on holidays.

Dog Friendly Beaches

If you want to do 4th of July in South Lake Tahoe with a dog, better choices for your dog include Reagan and Kiva beaches in South Lake Tahoe. These are less crowded than the two main beaches and more dog friendly. These beaches tend to be a little less touristy than the others and offer a family-friendly locals oriented holiday option.

Party for 4th of July

Most of Lake Tahoe's public 4th of July events are NOT oriented toward drunken reveling. We pride ourselves on being a "family friendly" holiday location so if you're idea of a good 4th of juloy is a wild party with a lot of adults, you should consider some of our more adult venues. All of the south shore casinos offer adult-friendly 4th of July options with gambling and alcohol allowed. The best views are from the 19 kitchen / bar at the top of Harvey's; but there are cool 4th of July events on the tops of all the stateline parking garages.

Alcohol Friendly Beaches

View of Stateline Beach
Alcohol is banned from public beaches in Lake Tahoe on major holidays like the 4th of July; but that dosn't mean you can't have a beer anywhere. Both of South Tahoe's main private beaches at Stateline and Zephyr Cove have concession stands that serve alcohol even on holidays. The beach fees at the private beaches tend to be in the $25-30 range instead of the usual $20. These beaches tend to have a wilder, more party like atmosphere, and may be a little less family friendly than the others.

Avoiding a DUI

It's always a bad idea to drive or boat while drunk, but FAIR WARNING: The South Lake Tahoe police department and the Douglas county sherrif do heavy DUI enforcement on holidays including 4th of July and the weekends before and after which make it virtually impossible to avoid getting checked for DUI if you drive that night. I strongly suggest you have a non-drinking designated driver or call a cab if you have no other option. Tahoe Yellow Cab can be reached at: 1-530-544-5555.

PS. If you're dumb enough to get caught, don't think the state line will save you. It's a federal crime to cross a state line to avoid law enforcement and there's another roadblock just the other side, anyway. You can't outrun the radio, so don't even try or you'll wind up in America's Greenest Jail.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Lake Tahoe Paddle Festival 2012

The Lake Tahoe Paddle Festival June 20-24th, 2012

Kawaiulu 'o Tahoe canoe club paddling demo

I went out to El Dorado Beach June 24th to make a video of the Lake Tahoe Paddle Festival for my YouTube channel.  Described as "A solstice celebration of human powered watercraft" this event celebrates all the ways people can paddle all over the world.  They're having a weekend of workshops and events to teach about the practices and history of canoeing, kayaking, and stand up paddling, as well as all kinds of other human paddle-powered transportation.

Stand Up Paddling

Stand Up Paddler on Lake Tahoe
I talked with John Thomaselli of South Tahoe Stand-Up Paddle, who told me a lot about why he loves paddleboarding: "I moved up from San Diego this month 40 years ago and when I moved up to this lake, I said to myself 'If there was waves and we could surf this lake, it would be heaven.' And what's evolved is the stand-up paddle. It's brought us on the lake. We are now surfing the lake, riding waves.  It's been a lot of fun.It's the newest, latest, greatest sport, and it's evolving at record speeds!
It's evolving so fast that it's just unbelievable how it's taken off.

"But it's really a sport that brings a lot to you. I can't tell you how good it is for your body and your mind. You can go out and paddle on a beautiful glassy day and it's just unbelieveable
that you don't have to get out there on a boat.  You're out there by yourself, paddling around: no gas, no noise. I've had a boat all my life and I havn't had it in the water for 3 years now because
I'm out on the lake more, and enjoying it more than I ever had before."

Thomaselli continued "I'm almost 60 years old and I can honestly say I'm in the best shape of my life because of stand-up paddleboarding. My back's messed up from skiing, my knees are messed up from bicycle riding, and anyways this sport has allowed me to get in incredible shape, and has done unbelieveable physical and mental benefits to myself.  We're just bringing this sport here to turn people on, To give them a new altenative form of recreation that's low-impact, but has a high intensity volume of life fulfillments. "

It's turned into racing, we have races now on the lake. We're having a big race at the end of the month of June. June 30th through July 1st, come out and check out "Race the Lake of the Sky" You'll see some of the top atheletes here.

Kawaiulu 'o Tahoe canoe club

The Kawaiulu 'o Tahoe canoe club is a non-profit canoeing club that paddles out of Timber Cove in South Lake Tahoe.  They do recreational and competition paddling all over northern California and southern California, and this particular day they were giving free canoe rides in their 60ft Hawaiian outrigger canoe.  

As their man Alex Bebou told me: "It's a 44-foot, 400-pound spec boat for 6-man paddling. Very capable, seaworthy for any ocean, any distance. So if you want to learn the proper technique and stroke, especially for you stand-up paddleboarders out there, the outrigger canoe technique and training is your best prerequisite.  So come out and paddle all paddle sports: it's always a great exercise - an exercise in humanity."

World Tribe Canoe Project

Hand-made wooden Hawaiian outrigger canoe made by Tom Pohaku Stone
This year’s event will highlight the World Tribe Canoe Project ceremony and starting construction. This 70’ trimaran will be carved by Craftmaster’s from around the World and when completed will sail on tour the Earth educating peoples of the threat to our most precious resource… WATER.

Since that boat is just beginning, they also had this amazing hand-made traditional dugout Hawaiian outrigger canoe made by famed shaper of surfboards, paddleboards, paddles, and Canoes: Tom Pohaku Stone chief of Ouahu, Hawaii.  According to its owner, John Preston: "He shaped it last year with 3 hawaiians and the Washoe children, the children of the Washoe tribe helped shape it and carve on it.  And I got to be lucky and spend 300 hours to finish it."  It was made exclusively with pre-electirc vintage tools, including a hundered year old draw knife from the Wilkinson Sword Co and a set of planes in use since the 1860s. 

"Being a fishing canoe, the front of the canoe has all of the things they need for fishing:
like this coa wood gath so they could catch big tuna with this, and mahi mahi and wahu which are native fish,using these whale bone lures.  These are made out of whale bones. These are like over 100 years old. You can't get these anymore, but these are just... they can be found once in a while.
And the hand tools and the hand drills, and there's no metal in it. It's all wood." Says Preston.
The paddles and Alma that holds the outrigger are made from a 600 year old native Cedar tree, while the boat itself is carved from a 125 year old native cedar tree.  All the wood is local to the Tahoe area because, as John puts it "I've been here 40 years, I've carved on trees forever on other projects like surfboards and furnature, and it's just that the wood up here is incredible and it's just fun to do a project like this." 

Weapon featuring DJ Synthesis setting up for the FREE music show

Live At Lakeview Commons Music Series

This event featured live music from DJ Synthesis and local reggae-rock band Weapon.  It was a part of the Live at Lakeview Commons summer music series.  Other dates in that series:
  • 6/20 - Jump Start
  • 6/28 Dead Winter Carpenters
  • 7/5 Frutition
  • 7/12 Keyser Sose
  • 7/19 40 watt hype
  • 7/26 Huckle
  • 8/2 Congress
  • 8/9 Forest Day
  • 8/16 The polyrythmics
  • 8/23 New World Jazz Project

Keep Tahoe Blue by cooperating with watercraft inspections!

Lake Tahoe's famously clear waters are threatened

The Tahoe Resource Conservation District (@TahoeRCD on twitter ) had a booth doing outreach to paddlers for their new Tahoe Keepers program which teaches paddlers how to clean, drain, dry, and properly inspect their own canoes, paddleboards, and kayaks to keep Tahoe blue by preventing the influx of invasive species into Lake Tahoe  such as Eurasian Millefoile, asian clams, quagga, and zebra mussels.  "We have inspection stations set up all throughout the entry points to the lake"  Check out my Tahoe Environment playlist and  video of the Tahoe Summit for more information about the problem of invasive species.


And, of course, no event is ever complete without vendors.  I talked to Luis Rubio of Tall Treez designs a screen printing shop who make tank tops, hoddies, and hats.  He told me " Everything we make we try to make locally. We have a couple of things out of house, but we have our own screen printing shop here in Tahoe. We basically try to promote a more local way of being, a less consuming lifestyle; and it's kinda easy living here in this great area and being around all these great personal businesses."  I also talked to Kelsie Kronig of which sells reversable vests, furry hoods, goggles, and other burning man attire.

Possibly the coolest vendor was Richie Levitt from Crystal Canoe and Kayak Company  They sell transparent canoes and stand-up paddle boards He said: "Any time you sit in it, anything this big magnifies to the size of your head! So, you can imagine what the view is like."

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Random Vlogging: America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride and Wagon Train 2012 in Lake Tahoe

Peloton of bicyclists passes in front of bicycle-themed Art box
America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride was June 3rd, 2012.  I was out there with my camera filming it and the Wagon Train for my YouTube channel. I somehow had the strange idea I could make a movie with no plan at all and get away with it. 

Unfortunately my good microphone had a dead battery after the first standup and I had to resort to using my camera mic next to a busy highway.  I appologize for how highly processed the audio sounds in places, but trust me you'd like it better than the original.

Rider coming in to second lap in front of Montbleu casino
Group of America's Most Beautiful Bike Riders
coming in to the finish line behind the Horizon.
Over 3500 people participated in America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride.  The bike race went 144 miles around Lake Tahoe twice, and the bikes got pretty much scattered around the lake. 

Since I hadn't planned at all, the strech of lake shore I wound up in had almost no bicycles on it at all!  I got some great footage of two parasailers on Lake Tahoe at the same time and had a fun time down on the beach with my dog biting the water, but I didn't see many bikes.

So I headed back towards Stateline to the finish line of the race at Horizon casino resort, in the hope I'd find more bicycles there.   

On the way, I ran into the 61st Annual Highway 50 Wagon Train around Ski Run Blvd.  This leg of the wagon train began that morning at Zephyr Cove and were wagon training to the Lake Tahoe Airport on the south end of town that afternoon to camp out for the night before heading down Highway 50, ultimately to Camino, CA. 
Sea to Shining Sea bicyclists celebrate crossing the state line

Another unexpected find out that day was the Sea To Shining Sea Bike Riders who were having their state line crossing ceremony that day. This group of bicycle riders has been riding across America to honor wounded veterans and have visited 13 states so far (now including Nevada.)
Fan cheering the bicycles arriving in Stateline