I took the day off today just because I could. Same thing with Friday, for a nice 4-day weekend that’s been productive, relaxing, and a-long-time-coming. I was determined to use one of the days to do something despite the pandemic that I could include in my Northern California blog. When I’d made my list of things I would include in that back in March, Eagle Lake was the first thing on the list outside of the Sacramento area. I went in 1989 I think for the first time and couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve been back since. It’s a reasonable hike – not too easy, not too hard; not too short, not too long – that provides incredible views of the Tahoe area.
Not having anything to do with any of that, I realized as I started downloading photos that I had a couple on my phone from my trip to Berkeley late yesterday. I left around 3:30pm to meet a friend for dinner, and we drove into the hills first just to visit while looking at stunning views. As seen above and below! Next time I’ll try a panoramic because, believe it or not, you can see all of that just standing there in the same spot. Since the point of the Northern California blog is to show what “normal” looks like in this corner of the planet, I figured these qualify.
Tahoe is about 100 miles east of Sacramento and about a 2 hour drive, depending on traffic. 30 miles of it towards the end is a 2 lane winding highway so sometimes it can be very slow. Today wasn’t bad at all and I made very good time in both directions. I left a little after 7am, and was home a little before 4pm. That’s what I call a day trip.
As soon as you get to the section of the highway that’s winding for 30 miles, you can see the American River to the right.
I’d gotten to the Eagle Falls trailhead just after 9am and the parking lot was full already. So was the one about 1000 feet up across the highway. I couldn’t believe it. I thought I’d left early enough for a Monday morning but there were people everywhere. I turned around and came back to this spot, Inspiration Point, just to regroup. I’d never stopped here before. It’s at the southwest corner of Emerald Bay.
It made for some pretty views that’s for sure. I sat for a few minutes and decided to give it another try. Some of that parking off the highway right past the Falls is very transient as people aren’t staying long if they’re just there for the view and not actual hiking. I ended up taking the first spot I saw along the freeway about 1/3 mile away from the trailhead. I didn’t notice it before because it never occurred to me that I would need to start looking for parking that early.
But it did give me a great view of Emerald Bay as I made my way to the trailhead.
On the right said of the highway from the trailhead is what I call Lower Eagle Falls. The views are dramatic as are the cliffs. My vertigo kicked in pretty bad. I found a rock to sit on just to take it in for a few minutes and watched this family climb down in front of me. You can see the mother in the shadow in the middle of the photo. I purposefully included my knee and foot in the bottom for perspective so you could see how far down she was.
Here’s a decent shot of the dramatic cliffs I mentioned earlier.
The water is coming from Eagle Lake, which we will get to eventually. There are 2 falls, this is the one on the Bay side of the highway. You can see above how clear the water is; the tunnel under the freeway in the background.
First selfie of the day, taken from the same spot as where I took the photo of the stream under the highway.
One last shot of this vantage point of Emerald Bay (you’re going to get sick of it!) with the sun glistening on the water on the right.
The trailhead is just across the highway from Lower falls.
Above and below photos are what I call Upper Eagle Falls. The photos don’t really do it justice. I’m standing on a wooden bridge which I neglected to get a photo of.
This is the 2nd big rise of the hike, of which there are several, this one just past the bridge over the falls.
These next few photos are of this fairly major plateau that occurs in the mountain where lots of people leave their mark by building Zen gardens, or rock pyramids, whatever you want to call them. See evidence on top of the big rocks above, and all over the plateau below.
Eagle Lake. It took me about an hour to get here but I’d really taken my time. There were plenty of hikers about and all of us were being extra-accommodating in staying out of each others way in passing, etc., and so that slows everyone down. I find that hikers are generally very polite about stuff like that, but you could feel the extra-awareness about keeping distance, especially since hardly anyone was wearing masks. I wondered if, in fact, that’s why this was more crowded than I expected it to be. Being outdoors is generally considered a safer activity these days than most others.
The majesty of the sun, trees and mountain is so difficult to capture on film. Didn’t keep me from trying.
I climbed on a pretty big rock to get this shot.
While I was standing on said big rock, I took a close look a the trees I’d used to help get me up and was fascinated by the bark – almost petrified, yet they were definitely still living trees.
I took this shot hoping that with people in it you’d get a sense of the steepness. This is the first big rise from the trailhead, taken obviously when I was coming back down. I remembered when I got to the bottom that my phone would have tracked the height of the whole hike, which I captured below at 42 floors!
The last time I did this hike was July of 2016. I stopped with the friends who were with me at the time at this Mexican restaurant for lunch after. I’d noted on my way in that it was still there and open today so I decided I’d hit it up on my way back as I remembered it was pretty good.
It had outdoor seating but despite the look of this photo little of it was in the shade. It was 83 degrees which isn’t super hot – and much cooler than the 103 it was in Sacramento yesterday – but I didn’t want to sit directly in it.
Guacamole and enough chips to kill a horse. No, I didn’t finish it.
A blackened Ahi salad. This was super tasty. But I didn’t finish that either, although I did of course eat all the fish!
There was a little seating in the restaurant, and then a café next door – same owners – before you got to the outside area. The restaurant was too dark and the outside too hot so I took a seat in here. That’s my table with my sunglasses on them. (And you can confirm I left most of those chips!)
And that was my day. I left a little after 2pm and got home just before 4pm. It’s much faster when it’s downhill all the way.
I will be off the 2nd week of August, just because. I haven’t decided what I’m doing but I’m guessing I will find another day trip or two to write about, so maybe I will see you then. Stay safe.