Emerald Bay State Park – Vikingsholm and Rubicon Trails

I had attempted to hike the Eagle Falls Trail two days ago, but deep snow stopped us just below the Upper Falls before reaching the lake. I had noticed, however, that the lower elevations on the west shore of Emerald Bay looked fairly free of snow, and a conversation the following morning with an extraordinarily helpful staff member at the USDA Forest Service’s Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit headquarters in South Lake Tahoe confirmed that the entire Vikingsholm Trail in Emerald Bay State Park and much of the Rubicon Trail in Emerald Bay State Park and D. L. Bliss State Park immediately to the north should be passable. My objectives were two-fold – hiking and botanizing. I wanted to get in at least 6 miles, and up to 10 would be even better; and I also wanted to locate and identify as many of the woody plants known from the area as possible. I probed the incredibly helpful USDA representative about the subtleties of distinguishing ponderosa pine from the ubiquitous but very similar Jeffrey’s pine, where I might see magnificently mature specimens of sugar pine and the grotesquely beautiful Sierra juniper, how to recognize the moisture loving lodgepole pine, and the slim chance of seeing western white pine due to its preference for higher altitudes. I commented about how I looked forward to seeing stately red firs and wind-swept whitebark pine when I went skiing later in the week – maybe I would be fortunate enough to find western white pine amongst them. I purchased three books: Conifers of California by Ronald Lanner, Discovering Sierra Trees by Stephen Arno, Plants of the Tahoe Basin by Michael Graf and National Geographic’s Trails Illustrated Map™ for Lake Tahoe Basin (my souvenirs for the trip), thanked the wonderfully knowledgeable USDA representative for her help, and bolted up to Emerald Bay. On an extraordinarly warm and delightful mountain day in spring, I hiked down the Vikingsholm Trail to Vikingsholm Castle, stopping frequently to sample and photograph plants, then hiked the Rubicon Trail all the way to Emerald Point at the mouth of Emerald Bay. I hopped on rocks out into the point until I could not go any further and turned around to admire a view that few people have experienced by foot. I lost the trail along the way due to snow, but I did not get lost – I could not get lost with a lake on one side of me and a mountain on the other. Going beyond Emerald Point the snow got too deep – a few steps where I sunk up to my hip confirmed that further passage without snow shoes would be impossible. I bushwhacked back until I found the trail and chose alternate paths the rest of the way. By the time I returned to my car, I had hiked 7 miles in 5½ hours (yes, I’m pokey), encountered only a handful of people (all within a quarter mile of the parking lot) and taken 110 photographs. I share seven of them with you here:

East shore (lateral glacial morraine) of Emerald Bay from Vikingsholm Trail.  Heavenly Ski Resort and the southeast shore of Lake Tahoe can be seen in the distance.

East shore (lateral glacial morraine) of Emerald Bay from Vikingsholm Trail. Heavenly Ski Resort and the southeast shore of Lake Tahoe can be seen in the distance.

Mt. Tallac (L) and Maggie's Peaks (R) from Vikingsholm Trail

Mt. Tallac (L) and Maggie's Peaks (R) from Vikingsholm Trail

Fannette Island from Vikingsholm Castle

Fannette Island from Vikingsholm Castle

Emerald Point from the west shore of Emerald Bay

Emerald Point from the west shore of Emerald Bay

Emerald Bay and Maggie's Peaks (L) from Emerald Point

Emerald Bay and Maggie's Peaks (L) from Emerald Point

West shore of Emerald Bay from Emerald Point

West shore of Emerald Bay from Emerald Point

Zoom view of Emerald Bay from Emerald Point

Zoom view of Emerald Bay from Emerald Point

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2009

Add to FacebookAdd to NewsvineAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Furl

About these ads

About Ted C. MacRae

Ted C. MacRae is a research entomologist by vocation and beetle taxonomist by avocation. Areas of expertise in the latter include worldwide jewel beetles (Buprestidae) and North American longhorned beetles (Cerambycidae). More recent work has focused on North American tiger beetles (Cicindelidae) and their distribution, ecology, and conservation.
This entry was posted in Pinaceae and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Emerald Bay State Park – Vikingsholm and Rubicon Trails

  1. You have made me totally envious of this wilderness excursion of yours Ted. What I wouldn’t give to go exploring like that. I hope you at least found some of the firs you were looking for. Skiing? Well that would make it too fast for me to see the insects so I will walk thank you!! :)

    It seems you are having a great time there. Enjoy every moment and bring us back more of these wonderful photographs please.

  2. Kirk says:

    Thanks for sharing your trip to Lake Tahoe. Did you see any damage by Western Pine bark Beetles? I’ve heard the last few years out west have been rough out there.

    • Hi Kirk. I haven’t noted any damage around the Lake Tahoe Basin so far. There are a few areas that apparently suffered from the wildfires a few years ago – one of these can be seen in the first photo as a broad, white oblique band across the left side of the big mountain in the distance. It appears white because the dead trees provide no green foliage to mask the snow that has fallen. Fortunately, there are few such areas in the basin, but there are some much more extensive burned areas on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada along Hwy 50.

      I saw two areas undergoing prescribed burns as I drove around the perimeter of the lake yesterday – hopefully the adoption of controlled burning in the area will not only prevent destructive fires in the future but also bring some balance back to the ecology of the area. Many of the plants out here have evolved in the presence of periodic burns and exhibit some degree of fire dependency.

  3. Really beautiful, wish we were there. I can see the burn areas. The Pine Beetles have really changed our BC forests, so many dead trees, so much standing fuel.

    • Hi Huckleberry – yes, so beautiful. Although I think you have no shortage of similarly magnificent landscapes in your area. We don’t have anything like this where I live – the Ozarks are beautiful in a different way, more intimate, not so grand. And we have only two native conifers (but a couple dozen oaks and hickorys), so the character is completely different.

  4. Scott says:

    Wow… amazing photos, Ted. Many of these look like they should be on a church bulletin or should be posters with inspirational quotations.

    • Thanks, Scott. It is so easy to take grand photos out here – just point and shoot. Still, they don’t come close to capturing the true awesomeness that surrounds you.

      I’ll let you use these photos if you come up with any good inspirational quotes ;-)

  5. Pingback: Hike of the week: Rubicon Trail along Emerald Bay : TahoeLoco.com

Commentaria

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s