My friend Erik, who also graciously hosts this site at, is an avid skier and as such, visits the Sierras often. One of his friends, Bill Avery III, makes his home in the Donner Tract, a mixed group of fulltime and seasonal residences fronting beautiful Donner Lake. One week in mid-July, Erik invited me for a four-day mini-holiday to the High Sierras. I had never been to the mountains, nor seen Lake Tahoe, so I was eager to accept Erik's spur-of-the-moment invitation.

Top of "Introduction"


section 1Rainbow Bridge - Donner Pass

Leaving on a Wednesday morning gave us the advantage of a nearly traffic-free journey and we make it to Donner Pass in the glorious mid-afternoon sunshine. I-80 is the most direct route out of California for San Franciscans. It crosses San Francisco Bay and leads north-easterly through the state capital of Sacramento and eventually into the Sierras. At Soda Springs, we depart I-80 for the slightly more scenic "old road" -- old Highway 40, or the Donner Pass Road. Donner Pass Road led us to the Rainbow Bridge, a narrow, twisting ribbon of concrete that passes through the Sierra Nevada range. Scrambling up among the rocks and trees at the scenic overlook takes a little effort but it's well worth it for the spectacular views of Donner Lake.

This scenic overlook is a popular location for tourists and vacationers, but on this midweek journey, Erik and I are virtually the only ones stopping to admire the breathtaking panoramic views. While Erik stretches his legs and takes in the view, I scramble beneath the bridge itself for a few pictures.

Top of "Rainbow Bridge"


section 2Scenic Overlook - Nevada State Route 431

Along Nevada State Route 431 is another scenic overlook, this one maintained by the local Rotary International service organization. This one was busier than the one at Donner Pass, but still fairly quiet under clear blue skies. Taking note of the posted warnings, we climbed "at our own risk" down below the edge of the lookout point, where I snapped this picture of Erik dangling his feet over the edge.

From this vantage point I was able to take enough pictures to create a panorama view of both Lake Tahoe and of the surrounding landscape including the town of Incline Village, NV. Each of these panoramas were created with three pictures, overlapped by eye without the benefit of a tripod.

Top of "Scenic Overlook"


section 3Avery House - Donner Tract

Erik's friend Bill Avery III had kindly allowed us to use his house during our mini-vacation. Built by his grandfather and great-grandfather, there's a real history to it. Of course, since Bill's a bit of an übergeek, there is an internet connection and the whole cabin is wired with ethernet jacks by virtually every bed. Thanks again Bill, for your hospitality!

The two-storey cabin sits at the end of a private road through a private forest, where Bill is the head of the local resident's association. The spacious front deck features sweeping views and a hot-tub. The steep roof sheds snow in the winter and Bill's many household improvements have made Avery House a cozy base of operations all year round.

Top of "Avery House"


section 4Recreation Area - Sand Harbor

Sand Harbor Recreation Area, on the Nevada shores of Lake Tahoe, offered a variety of photo opportunities. While Erik rested in the shade, I scouted around for good vantage points. The docks used to launch personal watercraft proved to be a good place to view the lakefront on either side of me.

The rocks along the shore can be enjoyed by both adventuresome kids as well as those seeking quieter reflection. Everywhere you look, plant life abounds, thriving even down on the rocks where little topsoil remains. Looking up at the Sierras from the lakefront makes me realize just how awesome they are. Equally dazzling was the sun's reflection on the surface of the water.

Top of "Recreation Area"


section 5Sand Harbor Beach

Regrettably, I spent most of Thursday feeling unwell with an upset stomach, so I didn't get to take many pictures. Erik spent most of the day ferrying me around to different places around the shores of Lake Tahoe in an effort to cheer me up, but it was to no avail. I was better by Friday, though, and we spent the day at the beach.

The start of the weekend brought many families out to the beach and the lifeguards had a full day's work keeping the beach safe for all. Being a glacial lake, the waters of Lake Tahoe are crystal-clear, and in the shallows, remarkably warm. I was pleasantly amused to see a flock of Canadian geese sharing the beach with us, congregating around a fallen tree worn as smooth as driftwood by the elements of nature.

Top of "Sand Harbor Beach"


section 6Town of Truckee - Truckee, CA

These pictures were taken both on Thursday, when I was feeling kind of lousy, and on Friday, after our day at the beach. Truckee, California is the closest town to Donner Lake and still retains a lot of its frontier-town heritage. The last eastbound train stop in California before crossing into Nevada, Truckee sees two Amtrak trains a day -- one in each direction.

Right in front of the historic train station is a dramatic veteran's memorial, fronting Truckee's main street. Home to quaint small-town shops like the Sierra Shirt Company and the Ponderosa Deli, the main street also boasts this slyly-named barber shop. Right around the corner is the town post office and the historic Truckee Hotel.

There are modern touches too, though, such as this decidedly in-your-face pizza parlor (actually outside of Truckee proper); and of course the local outpost of telecom, Pacific Bell's C.O. for Truckee. Finally, to end on a surreal note, I spotted this strange bit of graffitti on our way to a fine dinner at the Pianeta Cucina. Oh well. Time to head home!

Top of "Town of Truckee"

Thanks to Erik for inviting me on this much-needed vacation to get away from it all, and to Bill for so graciously letting us stay at Avery House.