Changing of the seasons at Tahoe |

Changing of the seasons at Tahoe

Jeremy Evans

Jonah M. Kessel / Tahoe Daily Tribune

It doesn’t matter if you’ve driven to Kirkwood 1,000 times or just once, everybody should know “The Cabin.” Along the west side of Highway 88, it’s situated in a meadow surrounded by aspens at the base of Red Lake Peak. Behind the cabin rests a more modern cabin with dual-pane windows and a solid roof, but most people’s eyes gravitate back to the older cabin.

In the winter, snowdrifts pile high, and a sagging roof becomes the most distinguishable feature. In the spring, melting snow turns the meadow soggy. In the summer, a creek flows through the property. But it’s in the fall when the cabin comes alive.

Backdropped by the brick hue of Red Lake Peak’s rubble, the brown cabin and golden glow of the aspens create an autumn rainbow that has a distinct Sierra Nevada flavor. When this perfect blend of man and nature occurs each October, there is little doubt that Hope Valley becomes Lake Tahoe’s most scenic venue for fall colors.

According to the Alpine County assessor’s office, the cabin sits on a 38-acre plot that is owned by the Bergevin Family Trust. The older cabin was built in 1947 and is 757 square feet in size. The newer cabin was built in 1993 and is 1,568 square feet.

Not only does the cabin take people back to a simpler era, but it also has tentacles that reach back to beginning of Sierra Nevada travel.

On July 3, 1848, a group of 45 men, one woman, 17 wagons, some oxen and 300 head of livestock departed the settlement of Pleasant Valley in the Sierra Nevada foothills. The members ” with the Donner Party tragedy of 1847 still fresh on their minds, not to mention the tricky river crossings on the Truckee River to the north ” the group sought a different over the Sierra on its way toward Utah.

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It made it over the Sierra Nevada crest, then dropped into a wide valley that later was named “Hope Valley” because it renewed the group’s spirits. The group reached the Salt Lake Valley about four months later, successfully creating a new spur of the Mormon Trail that later would go by a variety of names ” Mormon Emigrant Trail, Carson Emigrant Trail and the Carson River Route.

After the initial group’s expedition, the first east-west route for wagons into Northern California was established, and thousands of settlers seeking a new alternative to reach California began using it. By the 1850s, the route was extended to present-day Placerville and Sutter’s Fort. Nearly 100 years later, “The Cabin” was built.

To reach Hope Valley and see the picturesque cabin, take Highway 50 west from South Lake Tahoe and turn left on Highway 89. Drive to Picketts Junction and turn right onto Highway 88. A few miles after the turnoff for Blue Lakes, the highway begins to gradually climb, and the property will be on your right.

Leaf-seekers, though, don’t necessarily have to travel to Hope Valley to see the awesome display of color. The Baldwin Beach and Taylor Creek areas have loads of aspens.

After a leisurely drive through the Sierra Foothills via scenic highways 50, 89, 49 or 20, the forest around the lake offers an array of colors, events and activities. The summer crowds have dwindled, leaving the waters calmer and the trails peaceful with breathtaking vistas resplendent with radiant aspen.

Ideal trails for viewing fall color include Page Meadows outside Tahoe City; Meeks Bay Trail just north of Emerald Bay on the West Shore; Five Lakes Trail in Alpine Meadows; Ellis Peak Trail in the West Shore’s Blackwood Canyon; and the Dolder and General Creek trails in Sugar Pine Point State Park, also on the West Shore. The paved bike path along the Truckee River from Olympic Valley to Tahoe City also is awe-inspiring.

Editor’s note: Parts of this story were extracted from a 2006 article about fall foliage that appeared in the Tribune.

Upload your favorite fall colors photo to our Web site for a chance to win a prize and be published in the Tribune’s annual Fall Colors Photography section. for more details on the contest and to submit your photos.