Invasion Of The Leafpeepers
***The following is a satirical view of the Fall visitors that come to Lake Tahoe for the changing of the seasons. If you're offended, then maybe you should try Sanka.***
As the Sierra Nevada seasons transition from Summer to Winter, there’s a small window in between called Fall. Usually Fall is our “local’s Summer”. That’s because, as locals, we’ve been working long hours through the Summer or been blocked out of our favorite spots by the influx of tourists. So, Fall is one of those times when we get to enjoy the riches surrounding Lake Tahoe with a bit of quiet reflection. But, that quiet doesn’t last long. Because, just as things start to wind down, along come the Leafpeepers.
Some of you may not be familiar with “leafpeeping”. That’s the local’s slang for the Fall visitors that come from far and wide to catch the leaves changing color. This is a race with time to be present before the leaves fall to the ground for Winter. The foliage colors are actually pretty impressive. But, timing Mother Nature can be pretty interesting. That’s another aspect that adds to the leafpeeping excitement.
There are quite a few different theories as to when is the best time to spot the change. Some people think that the first snow is when the leaves really pop. Others worry that the winds from Fall storms wreak havoc on the delicate balance and strip the trees of their colorful leaves. One thing is for certain, cars will stop anywhere and everywhere they please for the perfect shot capturing the colors of Fall. And, things rarely move at a consistent or predictable pace.
I like to think of it this way. Imagine pumpkin spice as a person. Yes, we all love a little pumpkin spice to add some flavor to the doldrums of Fall. It’s a good change of pace. Not too spicy, but not too bland. It’s just enough to keep you on your toes with the crisp, breath of cool, fresh air. Now, imagine that pumpkin spice is driving in front of you on your way to work, grocery shopping, or on your way out for an adventure. Pumpkin spice meanders along, then suddenly decides it’s time for a break and stops right in front of you. The leafpeepers are in essence pumpkin spice. They add a little bit to the economy, which is beneficial. But, after awhile pumpkin spice can be quite overwhelming.
There are lots of great areas for leafpeeping around Lake Tahoe. But, one area in particular seems to draw the biggest crowds. Hope Valley is notorious for their Fall visitors. Sorenson’s Resort (https://www.sorensensresort.com/) draws some of their biggest crowds during the Fall. The large plots of aspens, as well as the evergreens, give a nice mix of colors that are boldly accented by the surrounding peaks. Plus, Sorenson’s has these quaint cabins that go so well with those LL Bean catalog-esque adventures. Flannel, wool, and maybe even a good set of binoculars are accent pieces for a classic, leafpeeping adventure. And, who knows, there may even be a thermos of pumpkin spice lattes.
Some of my favorite Fall mountain bike trails skirt the edges overlooking Hope Valley. Thankfully, most leafpeepers don’t venture too far off the trail or out of the valley. Otherwise, there could be some real multi-use trail conflicts. And, if things do get a bit too overwhelming, the Hope Valley Cafe (aka Pie Shop - https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g528907-d3509011-Reviews-Hope_Valley_Cafe_Market-Hope_Valley_California.html) has a great selection of sweets, coffee drinks, or a nice, cold, beer to help keep it cool. You can also visit them on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Restaurant/Hope-Valley-Cafe-128935550464142?utm_source=tripadvisor&utm_medium=referral), but that won't be nearly as satisfying.
Leafpeeping is a popular Fall pastime all across this great nation. And, we should all take a moment to admire Mother Nature’s brilliant new wardrobe before she's blanketed in snow. All I ask is that people remember to bring a bit of common sense and some patience as they venture out to admire the foliage. It may only be for a short time. But, there’s no need to make any hasty decisions just to catch the perfect shot of Fall's brilliant colors. I wouldn’t want to swerve and spill my pumpkin spice latte on my way to the trail.