A step back in time: Kit Carson Lodge celebrates its 80th anniversary
SILVER LAKE – Waves lap the shoreline of Silver Lake, marking the quiet, timeless nature of an Amador County region teeming with history.
Nowhere is it more prevalent than the Kit Carson Lodge tucked behind the lake off Highway 88 on the other side of the Carson Pass. The 12-acre resort named after the trapper and scout was built 80 years ago by retired army officer Capt. A.O. Smith along the Emigrant Trail, the path of the American West wagon train and back yard of the Gold Rush of 1849.
Historian Frank Tortorich described the days that year, in which more than 25,000 people traveled in wagon trains across the western states seeking the American dream. The day would cover 15 miles tops.
“And that’s on the flat land,” he said.
It was a hard life, but not to the extent embellished in stories through the years of roaming thieves on the trail.
“When you got down into the Gold Country in the mining camps, now that’s a different story,” he said.
The anniversary of the 1926 rustic, wooden lodge at 7,200 feet was celebrated a week ago by 20-year owners Brad and Ximena Pearson and the old-time guests that offer as much in a way of history as the surrounding area.
“The people who tend to come up like the timeless part of it. We’re not trying to modernize or become the latest craze,” he said. “This place doesn’t change much, and the old-timers like it.”
The Pearsons maintain the quaint cabins, using a special wood finish on the knotty-pine walls and landscaping outside the 19 cabins and assorted rooms that dot the grounds. The cabins are named after animals and fish like Cottontail and Rainbow. The motel-like rooms have tree names such as Hemlock and Juniper. The grounds also have a day lodge with an art gallery and general store with penny candy – Red Vines limited to three per person.
Even the furniture and amenities reflect the nostalgic style of decorating. Kerosene lanterns line the shelves of the elegant dining room next to a pot-belly stove. The cabin and room housewares and cabinetry look like pre-1960 furnishings.
The resort generates its own power and maintains its own water supply.
But it’s the nature of the serene grounds that give the resort a reputation that stands the test of time.
Stand still in one spot, and all that’s heard is the swaying of the trees in the wind and distant noises from creatures and birds. Coyotes, deer, bald and golden eagles and rabbits makes the grounds their home.
Families and friends have been known for years to use the serene grounds as a vacation spot.
Since 1960, Sherri Sanguinetti of Stockton had been carrying on the tradition of her grandparents, who brought her to the resort 30 years ago. Now she plans her two-week vacations with five other families – some related and others not – who met there years ago.
“A place like this draws common interests,” her husband, Bud, said on their cabin’s deck. A handful of family members looked at wildflower books and prepared for an upcoming cocktail party at the Grizzly cabin.
Selby Marks recalled the group’s early beginnings, when Sherri Sanguinetti’s brother Kevin Soulsby became interested in Marks’ daughter, Denise Harness. Both are married to other people but remain friends.
“He chased her all day,” Marks said, adding the youngsters dated once on a ride around Lake Tahoe during a snowstorm.
Another guest, Dolores DeCarli of San Francisco, reflected on the colorful past of one of the lodge’s most prominent guests with Brad Pearson in the general store.
The late Mrs. (Evelyn) Pring came up from Marin every year for her vacation. She used ski poles to hike with and sometimes nudge fellow hikers. She hiked until the ripe age of 97 and slept on the cabin decks in a chaise lounge.
“She took pride in that,” DeCarli said.
Paul and Eleanor Cregor lingered in their Rainbow cabin, sharing plenty of memories to go around on and off the hiking path.
“We’ve probably lived in three or four of the cabins,” he said.
When the couple was younger, they always asked for the Wolf cabin near the lake so they can watching the swimming hole – a favorite spot for their four children growing up on vacation there. To this day, their children still take trips to Kit Carson Lodge with them and now bring grandchildren.
“We’re game players. We’ll play Hearts until midnight,” she said.
She took her 7-year-old grandson Jace on her regular 2-mile hike in to Winnemucca Lake on the Carson Pass. The trail can get 600 people on Saturday.
“The area abounds with so much history I can hike without coming up with my own pictures,” Eleanor Creger said.
It got to the point the Cregors were no longer just guests. He being an engineer and she being a lodge caretaker, the duo have through the years helped the Pearsons open up the grounds for the summer months. They close in mid October and reopen for winter in November.
When guests aren’t hiking, swimming, canoeing, kayaking or hanging out next to Silver Lake with a picnic lunch, the Kit Carson Lodge has a long list of programs that run the gamut from storytelling to classical music performances.
Kit Carson Lodge programs
— Storytelling around the campfire: Aug. 9
— Art demonstration of watercolor wildflowers: Aug. 13
— Book signing by Ann Harris: Aug. 15
— Violin concert by Pauline Bradshaw: Aug. 16
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