The powerful paddlewheel churned out a mass of frothy bubbles, cutting a swath of foaming white across the shimmering expanse of water, on the surface of the vivid blues and soft greens swirling with every gentle breeze. I stood, grasping the railing of the cruise ship, Tahoe Queen, staring down into the startlingly clear depths of Lake Tahoe. Tearing my gaze from the mesmerizing pattern of shifting colors, I took a step back and surveyed the panorama that lay before me.
â–º Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
What a magnificent sight! The lake stretched beyond as far as the eye could see, encircled by imposing mountains lightly dusted with snow. Little sailboats and kayaks crammed with gawking tourists made their way around the perimeter of the lake, bobbing along the rocky shores. Following in their wake, the Tahoe Queen majestically glided closer to a sandy bank, entering Emerald Bay. Suddenly plunged into a whole new world, the dozens of passengers assembled on board could only gape in wonder at Vikingsholm, a fortress nestled in the woods, reminiscent of the lost grandeur of centuries past, and at the miniscule Fannette Island in the center of the bay, which boasted the dilapidated remains of a charming tea house. I absorbed this delightful contrast, marveling over how the space of several minutes had transported us from the heavenly, carefree waters to a haunting alcove – this mystery gnawed at me enough for me to adamantly persuade my family to take a tour of Vikingsholm.
We had to take a steep mile-long trail, clambering down forested granite slopes to reach the 38-room Scandinavian-style residence. Treading softly, we walked through the silent corridors and empty chambers, not wanting to disturb the inexplicable tranquility of this residence and enjoying the simple serenity evoked there, particularly by the tantalizing glimpse of the blue jewel afforded by the castle turret overlooking the lake.
And a jewel Lake Tahoe was, indeed. To cap off our excursion, we took a gondola headed for the Heavenly ski resort, popular for its year-round scenic route up to the mountaintops. Though we had intended to hike up the snowless ski slopes to the peak and traverse the piney forests, we ended up glorying in the view from this unusual method of transportation as much as the excursion itself! The wraparound windows of the cabin provided us with an unparalleled view of the breathtaking lake, whether when the sun was at full force, dazzling the cerulean water below, when it was setting, casting deep velvet shadows of crimson and gold over the lake, or when night fell, the little lights from the villages and the stars twinkling, reflected in the fathomless depths.
The invigorating adventures my family and I embarked on that week – the hiking, kayaking, horseback riding, and biking, coupled with the awe-inspiring, exhilarating sights, made for the most incredible vacation ever, the experience of a lifetime. The experience and memories gained were invaluable. They taught me to slow down and savor the moment, to never take everything for granted. Prior to my Lake Tahoe family trip, I had previously wondered how such a precious jewel could be tucked away in the midst of the Western wilderness. Even though millions have visited Lake Tahoe beforehand, I now fully recognize its magnificence and significance, and its accessibility goes to show us that we do not need to search too far to find beauty and joy wherever we go. Without a doubt, such an unforgettable experience should be supplemented with yet another visit – and another treasure trove of memories, and so I have promised myself to return some other day.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.