In Lake Tahoe, you'll find cozy rental cabins nestled in piney woods on quaint streets carpeted with pine needles. Amidst the pine needles are scattered pine cones larger than your forearm, mostly ignored by locals but considered treasures to tourists like us. The landscape is so unique - from the middle of the lake outward: dark green water turns to emerald to turquoise to clear. At the shoreline, sandy beaches are dotted with patches of snow into which trees have been stuck like candles on a birthday cake. Pine-covered hills merge into snow-capped mountains, and then into the bluest sky. Is this the same California where I've wiggled my toes in warm sand on the edge of the Pacific, watched surfers ride the waves at Manhattan Beach? Or have we mistakenly landed in Canada, Switzerland, or France?
Our week there with Steven's family (his mom, dad, sister, and her husband) was everything a relaxing vacation should be: enjoying the lake, eating incredible home-cooked food, taking naps and hot baths in our jacuzzi tub, playing games like Monopoly and dominoes, and gazing out the window at Heavenly Mountain's deserted slopes - not really staring at anything in particular, just soaking in the scenery.
The first full day in Tahoe, we rented a speedboat and zipped freely around the lake - it was a Monday afternoon, ski season had just ended, and it seemed like the lake was completely ours...
Around lunch time, we puttered carefully into Emerald Bay's shallow waters and turned off the boat engine. Emerald Bay is the second most photographed location in the U.S., second to the Grand Canyon. I can see why...it's absolutely sparkling. In the middle of the bay sits the only island in Lake Tahoe - Fannette Island - which houses an enchanting castle at the very top that the owner used for tea parties. It was so quiet there, so clear. We sat in the boat in the sunshine and ate a delicious lunch of homemade chicken salad and Korean kimbap - mmm.
With our stomachs full, we began cruising again until we came upon stunning Camp Richardson. Again, we were literally the only ones there...
Windblown but utterly happy, we returned to our hotel - Marriott's Timber Lodge - and had an amazing dinner to celebrate Steven's dad's 60th birthday. This table is where we ate 17 consecutive home-cooked meals together over 7 days' time. There is something special about sharing meals made together with your own hands, effort and love.
The next two days, it was suddenly snowing and in the 30s, and the fierce winds kept us inside happily playing games and eating snacks of Spicy Thai Kettle Chips, smoothies from the Vitamix, and Monster cookies.
When the snow subsided, the sky was strikingly clear again and we set off on a drive to explore the lake from a different perspective. This time, we saw Emerald Bay from above, looking out over the calm waters where we'd enjoyed our picnic lunch in the boat a few days earlier.
When we weren't on outdoor adventures, Steven and I caught up on Food Network. We soon discovered that, yes, Giada is still annoying when she says "spageeeeti," and Barefoot Contessa is still adorable when she adds another pinch of sugar and asks with her mischievous grin, "How bad could THAT be?" Steven read the first two books in the Hunger Games series, and I finished Donald Miller's newest book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years and Elisabeth Elliot's These Strange Ashes. We barely ever checked the time.
I'm so thankful we were able to spend time with family and savor these rare moments. One day I'll tell our little girl about how we saw this beautiful world together when she was still happily nestled in my tummy, how it felt to breathe that fresh mountain air as I hiked to a vista and the clouds gently floated over the pines.