Andy Wertheim: A Hike To Shirley Lake

Hello Friends,

There was a breeze blowing through Tahoe today that churned up the lake and brought out the red flags.  With all the fires burning in the state any wind that is more than light puts a little fear into my mind.  Other than the wind, it was a gorgeous day in Tahoe.  The sky was unblemished, the sun was bright but not hot, ground cover and bushes are turning golden had are laden with berries.  The lighting is crisp as summer moves to fall.

I could not stay inside all day.  Mid-day I headed to Squaw Valley and hiked up to Shirley Lake and beyond to the top of Solitude Chair ending at the top of the tram.  There were a few people hiking as well, but not a crowd.  It was pleasant walking along enjoying the scenery which consists of granite slabs, boulders, and cliffs along with forested areas filling with fall color.  The one disappointment was the creek which is a roaring stream in spring, but completely dry today.

After walking along the forest floor and scrambling up rocky draws one reaches a section of granite slab followed by more rocky stream beds before arriving at Shirley Lake.  There are actually forest service signs pointing the way to Shirley Lake (which you can see) and to the tram.  The trail to the tram is not as rocky, nor as steep, as the portion of the trail from the valley floor to Shirley Lake, but it still climbs uphill for a moderate distance.  The views along the way are stunning with the exception of one very depressing new granite defacing that has occurred since my last hike up this trail.  Just before reaching Shirley Lake someone has tagged a number of granite boulders with black paint scribbling something I did not even want to look at long enough to read.  This is not a structure built by man, this is nature of which we do not have enough left in this world.  Defacing the natural surroundings anywhere is a crime that should not go unpunished.  Other than this unfortunate discovery the hike was pure joy.

I guess the wind kept many people away.  There was not one in the pool at High Camp, nor on the tram riding down.  That was a blessing in itself.  I tried to see what was going on with the new Shirley Lake Express Lift, but I was unable to see that far without assistance which I left at home.

You can ride the tram down for free if you hike up to the upper station.

Enjoy your day,

Andy Wertheim

The Lost Sierra Hoedown Is Just Around The Corner

Once again, The Good Luck Thrift Store Outfit closed out Saturday night with a raging set.

The Good Luck Thrift Store Outfit will be back for a 3rd year at the Lost Sierra Hoedown

The kids will be back in school tomorrow and fall is definitely starting to creep its way into our lives. That means that the time is nearing for the third annual Lost Sierra Hoedown. This year, the event takes place from September 24th through 27th at the Johnsville Historic Ski Bowl, an hour north of Truckee. Last year, event organizers released a list of great reasons to attend the Hoedown. They could have just listed the performers, which is a very impressive list, for a festival is in its third year and operates with very little financial backing. Here’s their list:

1. An absolutely beautiful location and venue.
2. Onsite camping in a shaded forest environment
3. Nearly 30 awesome bands over 4 days for an affordable price.
4. One ticket covers admission, camping and parking for all four days…at the same price of a one day ticket at many events
5. Supporting the re-opening of a community non-profit ski area.
6. Swimming in Eureka Lake
7. Hiking to Eureka Peak
8. Sierra Nevada Brewery
9. The Brewing Lair
10. Electric Blue Elephant food truck
11. Cuccias Pizza and Sandwiches
12. A free Earth-In pint cup with your ticket.
13. Awesome tees and shirts from Yeah Yeah Pony Prince
14. Lower temperatures than the mid summer scorcher festivals.
15. Dancing your booty off under the bright stars
16. Spending 4 days with new friends, old friends, and family

17. Only one hour from Truckee, but a world away
18. No plastic cups or trash scattered around the venue
19. That unique Lost Sierra skyline at night
20. Seeing other people discover the magic of Johnsville for the first time
21. The old lodge feels like a time machine
22. The friendly vibe of the staff, performers and families in attendance
23. A lot of familiar faces from Alpine Meadows

Many of the favorite performers from the last two years will be returning again for this year, including The Good Luck Thrift Store Outfit and Miner. There’s also a couple of new headliners to keep things fresh. Personally we’re super excited to see sets from the Haunted Windchimes and Rabbit Wilde.

Here’s the complete lineup, as of today:


In order to protect the venue, ticket sales are limited to only 500 tickets, and it will not be long before they are sold out. You should definitely check out the complete details at and make your plans before it’s too late. Even though you may only attend one or two days of the festival, the ticket is still a fantastic deal, and profits go back into getting the Historic Johnsville Ski Bowl open again. We’ll see you there!


Guest Editorial: One Star Reviews of National Parks Changed My Mind

We’re delighted to repost this piece from Treas Manning over at the Granite Chief blog. We read the same piece on National  Parks and came to the same realization ourselves. Solid work Treas!

Image via Granite

Image via Granite

My nephew Ryan, posted an article from Mother Jones. The article referred to one star Yelp reviews of our national parks. Ryan warned me, “this will either infuriate you or make you laugh out loud.” It did both.

In the end the one star reviews left me speechless. But then I started re-thinking KSL’s planned gargantuan Mountain Adventure Center. Maybe a ten story Walmart sized indoor water park and mountain-like play area is not a bad idea after all.

You see I kept thinking, I live at one of the most beautiful ski areas in the world, Squaw Valley. The entrance to Squaw Valley sits along the Truckee River and Lake Tahoe is just a short drive away and can actually be viewed from the top of the ski area. Shirley Canyon and Granite Chief Wilderness rim the ski area boundary. Squaw is surrounded by alpine lakes, waterfalls, bright green meadows filled with wildflowers and massive slabs of granite. Why do we need an indoor water park and mountain adventure playground?

The one star reviews of Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon really opened my eyes. I remember long ago on a warm summer day, a group of friends and I were playing among on the massive boulders on Lake Tahoe. Clowning around, I stumbled and scrapped up my knee. Thank goodness I didn’t tumble into the aqua blue water and get all wet, that would have been a disaster. It dawned on me, my little accident wouldn’t have happened at the Mountain Adventure Center. I would have been protected by guardrails and ranger like employees advising me to slow down and watch my step. It wouldn’t be possible to accidentally fall into the water as I would have to wait my turn with hundreds of others to climb the stairs to the top of the slide and purposely enter the water.

Not only that, but no worries of sunburn, and mosquitos. If I grow bored of the chlorinated cement rivers I could venture over to the indoor climbing wall or try my hand at the game arcade. I wouldn’t have to pack a bag lunch, I could have a burger served to me as I sunbathed under the florescent lights on a perfectly manicured artificial lawn for only twenty bucks or so.

Frankly this water park/mountain center idea might be a great one. In fact, we might want to consider building a few more around the lake. Emerald Bay might be a sweet spot. We could actually build a water slide straight from the parking lot that empties right out into the lake, or a zip line to Fannette Island. Let’s gut Volkingsholm and build a climbing wall, restaurant/bar, and movie theater. Why not turn one of the wings into a daycare center, it’s nice to get away from the kids on a family vacation.

Yep, I know I am going to make a lot of locals mad, but I have changed my mind. I am a newborn water park enthusiast. To hell with nature, what’s it done for us, no snow then too much snow. Wildflowers that grow like weeds, tree pollen, and damn it I have a family of grouse living right in my yard. I am over this natural beauty thing. I owe a big thanks to KSL for opening my eyes to the possibilities of a non-natural, safer experience.

Oh, but I do have one request, I’m going to need a little cable car built from my house to the Mountain Adventure Center, I hate walking down that hill.

Andy Wertheim: Hike To Ellis Peak

Hello Friends,

Fires in the valley sent smoke into the Tahoe Area over the weekend.  I walked up to Ellis Peak on Sunday morning starting from Barker Pass.   The haze, or smoke, minimized views in all directions on the way up to the Peak.  The air seemed to clear on the way down.

I clicked off a few pictures that you will find attached.  This is a classic Tahoe hike lasting approximately 6 miles to the peak.  If you visit both the peak and Ellis Lake, add a mile to the round trip.  It is not a hard hike, but there are a number of steep sections beginning with the first step as you leave Barker Pass (where your car should be parked).  Barker Pass is located approximately 7 miles from the entrance to Blackwood Canyon at Hwy. 89 on the west shore of Tahoe .

You will have excellent views in all directions of the sierra.  You will also pass some steep chutes along way that are known as the 4th of July Chutes.  They got their name from skiers who trek to them in the spring (4th of July obviously).  The round trip took me a total of 3 hours.

I did not visit the lake and did not spend much time on the peak.  My hiking pace was also not on fire, but steady.  The round trip can be done in less time, but standing, or sitting on top is a treat.  Take lunch and spend some time admiring the views.

Enjoy your day.

Andy Wertheim

OpenSnow: Part 2 Of The El Niño Series Is Encouraging

El Niño is certainly the talk of the town lately and there’s been a couple of developments this week to report on. Joel Gratz of posted the second in his series on El Niño events today. The latest piece studies the actual effect on US rain & snowfall from past events. In general terms, the warmer the water gets during an El Niño, the more hope there is that the year will be wetter than average. The two closest analog years to the upcoming season are indeed 82-83 and 97-98, which were years that were quite wet for the Sierra. Surprising to me is that Gratz also shows that contrary to what we generally think, that temps may actually end up cooler than average in the southern portion of the country…not to say that we won’t see some rain events. We’re not trying to steal Gratz’s thunder, you absolutely should follow the link to read the entire post.

Looking at all events over history, we still end up with a very good chance of a better than average season.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

As has been said here often, even a “normal” season would be amazing compared to what we have endured over the last three years.

Over at the, Paul Grady mentions that the most recent Kelvin wave in the Pacific has pushed even more warm water into the El Niño 3.4 region, which could result in this being the strongest El Niño event on record. We also are looking forward to Daniel Swain’s next post at, where he is planning to take a look at how The Blob may actually enhance the effects of El Niño. That could get very interesting…

NOAA: 90% Chance Of El Niño…But We’re Not Sure What That Means For Tahoe

Earlier this week, we posted our thoughts about the possibilities for an El Niño year in the Sierra. As it turns out, we weren’t the only ones that are just a bit reserved in trying to guess what will happen during the upcoming ski season. In general, it is just a bit early to see how things are going to play out.

As an example, it was easy to jump on the El Niño bandwagon in July, when we saw a lot of monsoonal moisture into Tahoe. But it’s been a while since we’ve seen any rain and it’s been a long, hot and dry August. Does that mean they same thing could happen this season? Absolutely maybe is the best we could say. We’re all going to have to be patient and wait for the signals to become a bit more clear. The Reno office of NOAA released this video explaining their thoughts: