A few years ago, my husband and I took a trip out west. He grew up there, so it wasn’t too exciting for him, but I had never before ventured past the Mississippi River. To me, the idea of California was exotic and hip – compared to the slow and sticky south where I had always lived. Our first stop was Sacramento, the capital of the state. To my surprise, it wasn’t too different from Nashville, Tennessee, where I had grown up. It was way less humid, and some of the stores had different names (Hardees vs. Carl’s Jr.), but mostly it felt pretty much the same.
But just two hours east of Sacramento, right on the border of California and Nevada, I discovered a place that was NOT like my native land of middle Tennessee. It hit me that I was somewhere very different once we crossed the Carson Range and I got a glimpse of Lake Tahoe. Here are some facts: Lake Tahoe is the second deepest lake in the US and the 10th deepest in the world. The water in the lake comes mostly from melted snow, which makes for a chilly swim, even in the summer months. Lake Tahoe has a North Shore and a South Shore – the south is home to some of Nevada’s casinos and is a common skiing destination in the winter.
To clarify, the lake itself wasn’t what was so different. After all, we have lakes here in Tennessee, too. What is so beautiful about Lake Tahoe is that surrounding all sides of this lake are mountains. The Carson Range is on the east and the Sierra Nevada is on the west. The water on the lake is pretty clear, too. The average clarity is around 70ft. deep. The blue sky above makes the water look like glass, and the reflection of the mountain range adds to the picturesque quality of this unique place. If you don’t believe me, just type Lake Tahoe in to your search bar and look at some photos.
There is a spot at Tahoe that adds to the dreamlike quality of the landscape called Emerald Bay. Doesn’t that just sound like something from The Wizard of Oz? Well, back in 1929, Mrs. Lora Josephine Knight had a summer home built on the edge of this bay – in the style of a Viking lodge. The house is called Vikingsholm and was built with old-fashioned construction methods – and very few nails or spikes. Standing in front of Vikingsholm looking towards the bay, you see an island right in front of you out in the middle of the bay – called Fannette Island – on which Mrs. Knight constructed a Tea House. The story is that she would take her guests by boat over to the island each day for afternoon tea. This is all now part of Emerald Bay state Park, and you can tour Vikingsholm or visit the Tea House still today.
So what’s all this talk about Tahoe got to do with anything? Well first, I recommend that you go see this place for yourself. And if you are from somewhere near Lake Tahoe, then you should come to Tennessee and check out the Smoky Mountains. Our country is vast, and the landscapes are diverse. There is more here to enjoy than any of us will have time to actually go and see. Second, I remind you that in many ways, California and Tennessee aren’t too different. We all have stereotypes of how the other side lives, but at the end of the day, we all laugh, cry, do laundry, and go to work just the same. The great thing about our country is that we thrive on both our diversity and our similarities. So take some time and visit somewhere that’s different – yet strangely the same, too.