To use the word “vacation” when traveling with small children is a bit of a stretch. As a good friend once shared, the word “trip” is a better adjective to describe a getaway with little ones in tow. Long gone are the days of a suitcase full of books, hours of solitude in the sun, leisurely dinners, endless cocktails with no concern for what may follow in the morning; another day of laziness awaits. As I type the words I even sigh and daydream of a time that once was. A certain mindset is needed when you enter into a trip with a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old; deep breaths are involved. Parenting challenges can become all the more challenging when you alter their routines. While exciting adventures and beautiful spots may await, sometimes young kids could care less. Last week, to celebrate my daughter’s second birthday, my family and I spent seven days in a rustic cabin on the hillside above Fallen Leaf Lake, just west of Lake Tahoe’s southern shores. I coined the phrase “ten minute moment” a couple of days in, as I shared with my husband my approach to finding relaxation and joy in days that still required the patience I often struggle with at home. I was determined to grab as many of them as I could. It’s advice that I think can hold true to anyone, anytime, anywhere.
We are lucky enough to have a cabin available to us that sits on Fallen Leaf Lake. Fallen Leaf Lake is a beautiful alpine lake that sits just one mile from the southern shores of Lake Tahoe. Largely undeveloped, the eastern shore of the lake is accessible by a single lane road which is only open from April-November. It runs from Fallen Leaf Lake Campground on the northern tip down to the small marina and general store, as well as the Stanford Sierra Camp, on the southern side. Many of the homes along the lake have been in families for several generations; such as the one we called home for seven days. It’s the type of cabin with weathered board games, creaky wicker chairs, and soft worn sheets. Adorned with old family photos and wrapped by a huge deck with views of the lake; we know we are blessed to have a place such as this to enjoy.
Walks along Fallen Leaf Lake Road, evenings with the family of ducks and the new fire boat down at the marina, and a day spent collecting rocks at the beach by the campground were ways we enjoyed the area. At the end of Fallen Leaf Lake Road you can access Glen Alpine Desolation Wilderness; I was lucky enough to fit in a morning hike from the Glen Alpine Trailhead, located just past the Glen Alpine waterfall. The historic site of Glen Alpine Springs Resort is located a mile in. The site is full of history as the first resort in the Lake Tahoe Basin, complete with structures designed and built by renowned Bay Area architect Bernard Maybeck.
Many of our days were spent keeping the kids busy on the shores of Lake Tahoe. Blessed with stunning weather and 80+ degree days, we visited the beaches of Meeks Bay, Emerald Bay, and Pope Beach in Camp Richardson. My son’s desire to ride on a boat led us to book a cruise on an old vintage yacht called the Safari Rose. The hour and a half Happy Hour Cruise proved to be the perfect length of time for two young kids, and gave my husband and I each a “ten minute moment” in the sun on the top deck, half-priced gin and tonic in hand.
So as the days went by and a new routine was formed, dust settled and relaxation kicked in. Just as a new normal was at hand, it was time to go home. We spent our last evening saying good-bye to the fire boat and grabbing a hiker to take the elusive family photo that, while far from perfect, I am so happy to have. My top “ten minute moments” of standup paddle boarding, coffee in the hammock, and that ice cold gin and tonic in the sun are keeping me going this week as the foggy Bay Area weather causes my tan to fade. I know that my children are young and that they may not remember the trip, but our hope is that we can make it an annual family tradition. Maybe one day there will be smiles on all four faces, and favorite memories will involve more than just that darn fire boat…but for now, I will take it :o)