The next stop on our journey brought us to Washoe Lake State Park about 8 miles north of Carson City, Nevada. Nestled in the sagebrush on the southeast side of the lake is a very nice campground with 49 first come, first serve sites. Each site is paved with water, electric, fire ring and covered picnic table. We arrived around 1:00 PM with hopes of finding an open site. We had a back-up plan just in case at a nearby casino. But we didn’t need it . Luck was with us, as we got one of the last three available sites.
When we came into the park, the first thing we saw was a small herd of wild horses grazing near the lake. They were feeding on tall grasses as their shiny coats shimmered in the sunlight. A strong afternoon breeze tossed their long manes around their necks. An iconic symbol of the wild west, these majestic animals roam freely in the open high desert. We loved seeing them. It was a magnificent image of freedom and independence.
Our first full day in the area was just a chill-out day. I guess we needed time to recuperate from visiting Yosemite. We finally had good cell service. Something we’ve missed the past few weeks. We lazed around the camper catching up on e-mails. We did a little reading. We sat outside in the sun to warm ourselves after last nights cold temperatures. We did some cleaning and reorganizing. We took a walk around the campground. We went for a short drive through the park exploring the amenities. I bought a couple of bundles of firewood for an evening fire but the wind picked up to the point that I thought better of the idea. We watched a movie before going to bed. It was a much needed day of rest.
Feeling recharged and energetic, the next morning we went to explore Carson City, the capital of Nevada. We found free parking near the capital building. From there we took a 2½ mile stroll along the self-guided Kit Carson Trail. It’s a walking tour through the historic district featuring Victorian-style homes, museums, churches, the governors mansion and the capital complex. A blue line painted on the sidewalk would normally show the path however the line was recently removed. It was still easy to follow where the line once was. We used information from http://www.visitcarsoncity.com to help guide our tour.
Also strolling the sidewalks of the downtown historic district was a deer, it was such an odd sight to see.
After completing the tour, we left Carson City and drove toward Virginia City. Provoking memories of one of my favorite childhood television shows, Virginia City was just a two hour ride by horseback from the Ponderosa. Every Sunday evening I would sit with my family in front of our black and white TV to watch Bonanza. The exploits of Ben, Adam, Hoss and Little Joe were real to me and I dreamed of one day visiting them at the Ponderosa.
When we first drove through town, I saw right away that it didn’t look like the town I remember where sheriff Roy Coffee kept the peace. I know now those memories came from scenes on a back lot at Paramount Studios. The real Virginia City emerged after the discovery of the Comstock Lode, a major deposit of silver.
Virginia City was built on the side of a hill and instead of stagecoaches and horse-drawn wagons, cars now travel the street. Instead of horses tied to a hitching post, there’s a toy mechanical horse that children can ride for two bits. Lined with board sidewalks in front of historic buildings, shops and swinging doors to numerous old saloons, the city did have that authentic western vibe and was abuzz with many people moving about.
We walked across those wooden sidewalks exploring the shops and saloons. I threw open the doors of one of the saloons and stepped inside. Although I was tempted to belly-up to the bar and order a bottle of whiskey, I took the more inconspicuous approach and sat at a table in a dark corner, lowered the brim of my hat and ordered a water and veggie burger. As an older cowboy, I have to watch what I eat. Having forever altered my childhood perception of Virginia City, with the sun low on the horizon we drove out of town.
We were out early the next morning to meet up with Mike and Tish. We met them at Yosemite Lakes RV Resort . You can read about that in our previous post, Yosemite National Park—Part 2, where we shared how we met them and how we were hoping to meet again for an exciting adventure. It was about a forty minute drive to Zephyr Cove Marina on beautiful Lake Tahoe. We had a little bit of time to spare so we stopped at a couple of pull-outs overlooking the lake. It was gorgeous and I couldn’t wait to get to the water.
We found Mike and Tish at the marina and proceeded to rent a boat for the day. Well…actually a half-day. A full four hours on the lake. After completing the paperwork and paying their exorbitant fee which was made more palatable by splitting the cost with another couple, we pushed away from the dock at 10:15 a.m.
It was a gorgeous cloudless day and the cool morning temperatures were yielding to the bright warm sun. The blue-green water laid smooth ahead. Feeling comfortable in the 24 foot triple pontoon boat with a 200hp outboard, Mike idled away from the dock before easing in to the throttle. The warmth from the sun vanished as a cold headwind came over the bow. We all reached for our jackets in unison.
We set a course for Emerald Bay, a stunning and probably the most photographed location on Lake Tahoe. Emerald Bay is an extremely popular California State Park which includes the bay, its surrounding land, Lake Tahoe’s only island, a sandy beach and a historic home.
We slowly eased into the bay. People were climbing up the rocks to see the famous old tea house sitting atop like an angel on a Christmas tree. There were a lot of people enjoying the water activities in the bay—boating, kayaking, swimming…yes they were swimming in that cold water. There were people on shore as well, presumably picnicking or touring the historic house.
After circling Fannette Island, we idled out of the bay and set a slow cruising speed northward along the California shoreline eyeing the many mansions as we passed. A beautifully restored classic wood Chris-Craft passed our port side. There were boats towing skiers making circles on the lake and jet skis speeding to jump their wakes. We stopped offshore the Fleur du Lac estate that was featured in the Godfather II movie. We slowly drifted as we ate our lunch. It was an eerie feeling though, knowing that somewhere in the depths below lies Fredo Corleone.
We idled into a busy marina on the California side because we were curious to see the restaurant and we needed a quick bathroom break. There was one open spot at the dock. I was a bit nervous as we approached but Mike slid that boat right into the spot with all the skill of a twenty year navy veteran. The restaurant was very nice with outside seating on a stepped terrace. Dapper gentlemen and lovely ladies wearing big sun hats sipped tea while overlooking the lake. It appeared a little too swanky for me.
We circled all of Lake Tahoe that day. The Nevada shoreline much less developed than California exhibited a natural beauty. Such a wonderful setting it was! Such a pretty lake! It was a fabulous feeling to cruise across the water while surrounded by all that beauty. It was an adventure we will remember always.
Those four hours flew by. “Time flies when you having fun” as they say. Grammi and I enjoy getting on the water and we were glad to have met Mike and Tish who likewise enjoys the water. It was an experience that I’m sure wouldn’t have happened if we had not meet them.
Back at the marina we said our good-byes, promising to stay in touch. It’s hard saying good-bye. Meeting people during our travels is part of what makes it fun and exciting. Maybe it’s the times we are living in, but we are finding it’s not that easy. So this day was special. Thank you Mike and Tish. We hope one day soon we’ll meet again.
So until next time…happy days and safe travels.
2 thoughts on “Lake Tahoe to Virginia City—A Bonanza of Fun”
I always wanted to see that part of the country. The first color TV that I ever saw was Ben Cartwright lamp that sat on his desk. Before that the only color TV was a plastic film that we stuck on the picture tube. Blue on top and green on the bottom. I remember that like it was yesterday. The only way I get to see places like Virginia City is Google map. Thanks for the update, I was beginning to think you got lost.
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There’s a bumper sticker I thought about getting that says “I’m not lost, I’m RVing”. Truth is the cell service has been very poor where we’ve been. I’ve tried uploading this post a couple of different times without success.