Welcome to part two of our Maiden Voyage! If you haven’t read Part One yet, you can see that here.
The drive from Orem to Tahoe went smoothly. We took turns sleeping, stopped for breakfast somewhere in Nevada and it was still morning when we reached Reno. My excitement began to grow as we were driving through Reno. Childhood memories came flooding back, growing clearer and sweeter the closer we came to Tahoe. My parents lived in Tahoe when I was born and though we moved when I was three, I remember quite a bit from that time in my early childhood and I have great memories from all the times we’ve traveled back to the area to visit. My heart was thumping eagerly as we left the city and headed into the mountains. In Reno the mountains are still scrub-topped and kind of desert-y, so I was looking forward to coming up over a mountain and seeing all the pines. I was not disappointed! Driving up into the mountains towards Tahoe was intensely satisfying. I have a pretty decent imagination and it often leads to unrealistic expectations about things, but this experience exceeded all expectations. Every worry I had that my youthful memory had saved a warped vision in my brain, my fear that those images in my mind were tinted by a child’s emotions was for nothing. This is how mountains are to supposed to look. This is what pines are supposed to smell like. The drive into Tahoe was so amazing, I could have cried. Maybe I did a bit, I can’t remember.
We arrived at my sister, Brooke’s apartment and hugged our hellos and soon headed to the beach so we could get our first taste of the lake. I’d forgotten how bright and hot the sun was when you’re up in the mountains!!! We stayed a little over an hour and marveled at how cold the water was, how scorching hot the sand was, and how gorgeous the view was. Miles had tons of fun wading into the lake and chasing what he called “flying chickens” (seagulls lol). I chilled on the beach most of the time with Brooke and Finn. Steven waded out to a large rock off the shore and soaked it all in. Overall it was a great way to experience our first taste of Tahoe.
We grabbed a bite to eat for lunch with my sister and my Aunt Beth, then we hung out at Brooke’s place until my sweet and amazing sister cooked dinner for us. We had some great moments hanging out together and got ourselves a full night of sleep (finally!).
The next day we met my Uncle Hans for a boat ride on the lake. With the exception of Miles falling and puncturing his cheek, it was just a relaxing chance to enjoy Tahoe from the water. We saw “Tahoe Tessie” (Tahoe’s rock shaped like it’s own Loch Ness type monster). Steven, Miles and I all got a chance to brave the freezing cold water. I jumped in because I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t, but I came immediately back to the boat. Miles was insistent that he wanted to get in the water, but half a second into the water he begged us to let him back into the boat. It was so cold, but so refreshing.
Back on land, we had lunch with another of my mom’s sisters, Aunt Jenny and her sons. We had burgers and laughed together. After lunch we let the boys take a nap in the car while we drove out to Squaw valley, where the 1960 winter olympics were hosted. The drive out was gorgeous, following the Truckee river and enjoying the scent of the pines with the windows down. The ski resort was gorgeously situated in the valley and offered a glimpse of more memorable vistas.
From there we drove back to the lake and followed it around to Emerald Bay. We reached the bay right before sunset, which was a pretty time of day, but it left the area in shadow from the nearby mountains. We took some time at the lookout and continued on to South Tahoe where we found a local Scottish Pub, called McDuff’s. There I had some of the best fish and chips of my life. We sat outside and I could just barely spot the lake through the buildings down the street, where the sky turned pink as the sun set. The air turned cool and we let Miles run around in the grass near our table, then headed back to the north side of the lake in the dark.
The drive to Arcata, California
After another full night of rest, we struck out from Tahoe towards our next destination. We had one last stop before leaving Tahoe, the house I lived in before my family moved to the midwest and one that holds some of my very first memories. You can see it in the final picture of the gallery above.
The first part of the trek was relaxing and full of cute little mountain towns. We stopped in Nevada City, CA for lunch where we ate at South Pine Cafe and walked a few blocks for a taste of some ice cream at Treats. I had a scoop of Coffee almond mocha fudge and found bliss. The town was so cute, surrounded by beautiful views and tucked away with tons of trees. We loved it and I’m very happy we stopped there for a bit.
The next leg of this day’s journey was probably our least favorite, scenically. Once we left the pretty mountains and entered the Sacramento river basin, it was pretty dry and flat. I know that is in large part due to the drought that’s been plaguing Califonia for awhile now. Plus our GPS took us on a very strange back road in order to get us onto the highway, so our first taste of the valley found us in a pretty remote area without much to look at. The area had its charms as we were frequently driving between large orchards of nut and plum trees on our way to Redding. It always surprises me to see how different the terrain can be such a short distance from the tree-covered mountains.
At Redding we changed course and jumped onto Hwy 299, also referred to as “Eureka Way.” This was a beautiful drive! It was very curvy and full of switchbacks that required cautious driving (especially for mid-westerners such as ourselves). Finn was very fussy on this part of the drive, probably because he was getting sick of his car seat and the height and changes in elevation were playing with the pressure in his ears. Because of this, I spent a great deal of the next few hours in the back seat, sandwiched between the car seats, trying to calm him. I couldn’t see the vistas quite as clearly in the back, but what I could see was spectacular! As we drew nearer to the coast, we stopped at a rest area for a bathroom break. We were not there long, since we were trying to beat the light, but on my walk to and from the bathroom I got a taste of the mountain forest that dominates the area. It instantly had me thinking “bigfoot” and it made me want to hike for days (and I don’t like hiking. lol) Soon after we were back on the road we had our next moment. The sun was about to set and we were driving as fast as we could while still being safe, hoping to get to Arcata before we lost too much of the daylight. All of a sudden, we pop up over a hill and once again I gasp. The sun slammed us in the face as it was was setting over the mountains. We pulled over at a very conveniently located lookout and took some photos before jumping back into the car to finish the drive.
We arrived in Arcata close to 9 and check into our hotel. We were pretty hungry at this point, but most of the restaurants were closed by then, so Yelp suggested Toni’s 24 Hour Restaurant. It had decently high reviews, but it was certainly not our favorite meal. The food was ok, but some of the fried foods were obviously cooked in old oil and I felt a little sick later that night. But I don’t regret it really, since it was all part of experiencing the local color. Which we also did by observing the other patrons who frequented the establishment… Let’s just say it was a good thing Steven has a beard. LOL. Does that even make sense?! haha
Now it’s time for the third and final part of this series, Our Maiden Voyage | Part 3 – Northern California Coast