Finding a crowd-free Tahoe
Special to the Tribune
I recently hosted two friends visiting the Tahoe area for the weekend. I asked them what they wanted to do while they were here, and their answer was simple: “We want to camp out, have a fire, hike and do some rock climbing.”
My guests were thinking about Lover’s Leap in nearby Strawberry, but I pointed out that it would be unlikely for them to claim a campsite there on a Friday night. They asked if I had any suggestions. I had just had a conversation with South Lake local Ryan Curry about a little-visited, but beautifully situated collection of cliffs known as “Elephant’s Graveyard.”
Curry pointed out that the area produced an outstanding wildflower bloom that alone made it worth the drive. However, the climbing added an element of adventure to a gorgeous location. To top it all off, this area was often overlooked. This sounded too good to pass up.
Twenty-two-and-a-half miles from the “Y” in South Lake Tahoe lies Red Lake. Just before the lake, our party made a left turn off State Route 88 onto Red Vista Road. We took an immediate left off this road onto Forest Service Road 013.
Driving south for one-and-a-half miles down FSR 013 took us past a fork inthe road on the left, over Forestdale Creek and eventually to a large pullout.
We knew we had found what we were looking for when we pulled into a flat area overlooking the creek with a well-built fire ring and plenty of dry wood in the vicinity. (Note: A free Forest Service fire permit is required).
In short order, the bedding was laid down, dinner was on the stove and a fire was crackling beneath a canopy of stars. This is what Tahoe is all about.
The next morning we made our way to Elephant’s Graveyard, which is another mile south on FSR 013. This section of the road becomes a bit rutted, but our loaded-down Subaru had no problems. As we climbed out of the forest, the cliffs became visible on our right. We parked on the left side of the road across from a group of large trees surrounding a blocked-off parking area.
An unmaintained, but obvious trail leads west out of the parking area. This use trail accesses one of the most picturesque sections of the Carson Range. The wildflower bloom is remarkable. I thought that I had seen and identified my share of flowers, but this sprawling bouquet incorporated every color in nature’s palette. Mariposa Lilies, Columbine, Lupine and Pretty Face are the names of just a few of the flowers that were present in abundance. All this color was incorporated within a lush green meadow with gurgling streams flowing throughout.
We spent the day enjoying the scenery and seclusion. We actually did some climbing as well. Accordingly, we all went home satisfied on Sunday after another night around the fire.
– Nicholas L. Miley is a South Lake Tahoe resident.
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