Somewhere past Sacramento and Placerville, but before reaching the Lake Tahoe valley we witnessed a blackened forest surrounding new homes during construction and post wildfire ash covered terrain.

Neither one of our 5-year or 8-year olds liked the hike very much – climbing the mile trail to get there.


An excerpt from Book Five in “The Knowledge Path Series” dedicated to helping you find the place of your dreams in the Sierra Mountain resorts.

We had a schedule to meet.

Which led to the wrong choice.

Bad Decision

Forgoing the scenic route, more on that a little later.

No, instead we piled everyone and our outdoor gear into our SUV in Orange County and drove for 10 hours straight on the most boring route you can take – Interstate 5.

Vacation-Bound SUV

I cursed at traffic that never ended through Los Angeles.

It wasn’t so bad once we put that behind us, but this was August and it was hot.

Tourists on the freeway for the first time seemed clueless until we drove near the Angeles National Forest.

Fewer cars, trucks and SUVs, but then we entered the longest section of our trip — the Central Valley.

Central Valley Flat Lands



Miles turned into hours.

The road signs told us how many miles separated us from hotspots like Modesto and Stockton and finally Sacramento.

The good folks at AAA routed us over I-80 just like the way most of the Bay Area vacationers prefer.

But being enough of a contrarian they didn’t convince me with their recommended route that took us north towards Truckee first.

All Routes Lead to Lake Tahoe

Then south on CA 89 to the western shore of the Lake.

We opted for the more direct US 50 east to South Lake Tahoe.

Somewhere past Sacramento and Placerville, but before reaching the Lake Tahoe valley we witnessed a blackened forest surrounding new homes during construction and post wildfire ash covered terrain.

We couldn’t help wonder after homeowners sink a ton of money into the homes and vacation homes how long it would take to return to a healthy, green wilderness that attracted the owners in the first place.


Vacation Home At Risk

Probably not?

More likely years, right?

We, however, needed to move on so we still had enough daylight left for pitching our tent and setting up our campsite.

We found the entrance to Sugar Pine Point State Park in the southwest corner of the Lake (by the 7 or 8 on the Washoe clock) between Meeks Bay and Tahoma.

Sometime after 2003 Sugar Pine name changed to Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park.

Nothing else changed.

It still occupies nearly two miles of the Lake Tahoe’s western shore and a total of 2,500 acres of forested mountains in El Dorado County.

The name change honored …

 Edwin L. Z’berg, a California state assemblyman who specialized in environmental legislation and worked to develop state parks and other natural areas.

Campsite for First Night

Luckily, our friends arrived just in time from Cambria to unload their tent and pitch it while it was still dusk.

That was the good news.

The bad news came when we checked in with the ranger station and inquired about extending our camping a few more days than what we had been able to reserve.

Friends had told us that our original campsites butted right up against the road.

For that reason we switched our reservation at the last-minute to Sugar Pine.

But we’d have to leave mid-week.

Change in Reservations

The ranger’s advice was to check back for last-minute cancellations.

We settled for one of the two overflow campsites vacant through Sunday.

What we wanted.

But, that meant we’d have to break camp and move the very next day.

Did we explore and do everything the park had to offer?


But, we tried after we learned a little more about it.

We found out that General Creek runs from the Desolation Wilderness into Lake Tahoe.

Along the stream you see lakes, mountain meadows with wildflowers.

And two large moraines (debris leftover from Tahoe’s glacier period).

El Dorado National Forest

The trail leaves the park and enters Eldorado National Forest

The trapper William “General” Phipps was the first white settler on the land, having been seasonally inhabited by the Washoe before him.

The cabin he built in 1860 still stands.

Roughly 40 years later, ok, 43 years later the wealthy discovered and began building along Lake Tahoe’s shores.

Wikipedia fills in some of the details …

In 1903 the wealthy San Francisco banker Isaias W. Hellman obtained land and built the Pine Lodge, now also known as the Hellman-Ehrman Mansion. 

Hellman-Ehrman Mansion

The house was designed by Walter Danforth Bliss and featured electric lighting, indoor plumbing, and water directly from the lake. 

The estate included a tennis court, two boathouses, and cabins for the 27 resident staff. Hellman’s family spent summers on the estate for decades, and sold it to the state in 1965 when the park was established. The family still provides funds for the upkeep of the mansion and property.

Fun fact.

Again, thanks to Wikipedia …

This is the only California state park in the Sierra Nevada that operates recreational facilities during the winter.

1960 Winter Olympics

There are 11 miles of skiing and snowshoeing trails for public use, some of which were sites of the Olympic events in 1960. 

Some snow paths are machine groomed. Park rangers lead occasional snowshoeing tours of the park. Winter camping is available, with many more sites opening for the summer.

We were there for the summer recreation – swimming and other beach activities, fishing, and hiking.

With having to set up and take down and set up camp again, nobody felt settled until the following evening.

What Camping’s All About

But, we felt more like we were on vacation when on Wednesday.

We drove down to Meeks Bay to lay on the beach.

Biking Along the Truckee River

On Thursday we rode bikes along the 5-mile Truckee River trail.

Next up we toured the lake driving clockwise in one of our SUVs stopping at Incline Village on the Nevada side.

Gambling Side of the Lake

We marveled at the beautiful homes in the North Lake area.

And, noticed how the gambling casinos on both the north and south Nevada borders welcomed tourists, and more importantly for them, their money.

Instead, we kept our money and drove on to check out Camp Richardson’s Resort back on the South Lake side  near our campsite.

Exploring South Lake Tahoe

Each night after long days enjoying ourselves, we’d eat dinner in the dark, settle down in our lawn chairs and recall the highlights of the adventures around our campfire.

Hiking to Eagle Point Falls

On Friday we hiked into Eagle Point Falls and Lake.

The forest is not pristine.

Having been subjected to heavy logging in the late 1800s, as we already know.

Neither one of our 5-year or 8-year olds liked the hike very much – climbing the mile trail to get there.

But they loved the destination.

Because I took so many photos and video shots along the way and had the lunch we packed they had to wait for me to catch up.

Awesome View of Emerald Bay

A little food and they were good to go.

That was the last time they entrusted me to carry it.

Especially on Saturday.


(32) Plan extended seasonal vacations during summer and winter months. Group destination locations together in regional trips to explore what several bucket list towns have to offer in the general vicinity – with only a week or two vacation time to spend, we recommend organizing your itinerary by travel regions.

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