While I talk a lot about the recreation and glorious scenery here, there’s admittedly more to Lake Tahoe than just playing hard and soaking up the views. Think the history surrounding the lake, its early settlers, and of course, the wealthy folks who built grand homes along the shores at the turn of the century.
My first encounter with the latter was a little over a year ago when I attended a talk at Vikingsholm that was organized by the Sierra State Parks Foundation. I was fascinated by the stories, and ended up volunteering for another event put on at neighboring Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park, Living History Day.
Like Vikingsholm, Sugar Pine Point State Park was an estate that belonged to the Erhmans, a wealthy San Francisco family who summered at Lake Tahoe (technically it was built by Isaias Hellman, but later used by his daughter, Florence Hellman Erhman, proving that hyphenated names were around long before today’s challenges). Their estate, all 2,000 acres of it (with 2 miles of shoreline…a developer’s dream) was sold to California State Parks in 1965. While a number of the historic buildings are open for guided tours during the year, on Living History Day many more of them are open to the public. Think boat houses, the cabin of the first homesteader, General Phipps, and the separate house that the children had, aptly named the Children’s House. Volunteers in period dress offer tours and anecdotes about the Hellman Erhmans, and there are a slew of offerings ranging from tours to live music to vintage car displays to kids’ activities. And of course there’s the lake, serving as a dramatic backdrop to all this living history. The best part about this event is that it’s free, barring a parking fee.
I had been to the park a few times for volunteer meetings, but I’d not fully explored it, so N and I headed up west shore a few Saturdays ago to see how the other half lived. It was impressive. One of my favorite parts of the day was lying on the grass (foreign to me, seeing how we’ve not yet replaced our dead sod in the back yard) under the shade of the enormous sugar pines looking out on the lake as people in period dress strolled by. We also toured Pine Lodge, the grand old Erhman mansion, checked out the north boat house that housed the Cherokee along with a groovy vintage video that detailed the glory days of boat racing on Lake Tahoe, and wandered the many trails that head north from Pine Lodge up along the shore. But perhaps the best part of the day was after the event was over, enjoying wine and nibbles with other volunteers on the grand old front porch of Pine Lodge.
While it might be a bit early out to plan, the next Living History Day will be held on July 27, 2013. I’ll be there – will you?