Think your town is crazy? Visit Lake Tahoe and you might notice that we are at a whole other level. Our Locals might be a little attached to the area and, as a result, behave protectively when it comes to the basin lake and forest.
We're Crazy About Keeping Wildlife Wild
Is your hope while visiting Tahoe to see a bear? Don't tell the locals that. Our hope is that you don't ever see one. If you do, it should be a brief and fleeting encounter. We're crazy about keeping humans away from the wildlife.
You'll notice that there are special trash cans in public places and at rental houses. Our dumpsters have locks on them. Cans are put out the morning of trash day. No one who lives in Tahoe leaves food in their car. We don't compost in our yards and we carry out what we brought in. We definitely don't share our food with the birds on the beach. We're crazy about keeping human stuff out of bear territory and their territory is Lake Tahoe.
Be more like the crazy locals by storing your trash indoors until trash day. Seal bags tightly. Carry garbage from your activities with you until you find a proper place to dispose of it. Clean up after yourself wherever you spend time; carry out food containers, pick up dropped food, remove packaging and leave the area you were in looking as though you were never there. Teach your children to be Tahoe Stewards by educating them about being responsible for their belongings including the waste they create.
We're Crazy About Keeping Tahoe Blue
Since the 1960's water clarity has been effortfuly improved, but it's still being negatively impacted by humans. In fact, a recent study found that Lake Tahoe, known for its purity and high level of legal protection has the third highest concentration of plastic of 38 lakes tested around the world. Everything from our clothing to single use plastics could be causing this contamination.
Tahoe locals are so crazy about reducing polutants that they've voted out styrofoam, plastic straws and plastic bags. Single use plastic water bottles are on the chopping block, too. Each of these items has been found floating in the lake. The organization, Clean Up the Lake, boats, paddles and dives to gather the waste that has been tossed into Tahoe since humans began spending time here.
Want to be crazy like the locals and help to increase lake clarity? You can begin by using reuseable cloth bags, stop using straws, carry your own refillable water bottle and pick up trash wherever you find it.
We're Crazy About Protecting Our Forests
Fires are not a new thing in the Sierra Nevada. Our forests need to burn to reproduce. We chose to live in a forest and that comes with risks, including fires. While we can't control nature, we can be better at how we behave when we are out in the woods. Acting responsibly and remaining aware of the effect we may have on the forest floor, plants and trees can reduce the risk of damages and fires.
You might have noticed the signage around the basin and at the entries to many of the parks in the area that indicate the fire risk. Our friend Smokey the Bear helps to indicate the level of risk. Pay attention to these signs as well as the information listed at the trail heads. Details for how to properly prepare and behave while you're hiking or camping could save your life and people's homes.
After the Caldor fire, most Tahoe locals are crazy about fires. We don't want to talk about them, we don't want to see them and, if we see smoke, we are going to call it in. Yes, prescribed burns still take place in the basin and, if you're in a designated campground where fires are permitterd, you can toast your marshmallows with the flames.
There are so many things that can cause a fire that we don't consider. The Gondola Fire at Heavenly was caused by a cigarette thrown from one of the cars. The Angora Fire was from an illegal campfire. The King Fire was arson. The Caldor Fire was from discharged firearms. Even a pair of glasses angled just right with the sun could ignite a fire.
Want to be crazy like the locals and prevent fires from starting from human causes? Read the signage, heed the warnings and consider the items you are carrying or traveling with while in the forest.
We're Crazy About Staying On The Trail
Sometimes we get a lot of snow. While it covers the ground, you might think you can just walk anywhere. For the most part, you can without doing much damage, but consider the impact your footprints have on the beauty of the forest. When that snow begins to melt your tracks could cause damage to the environment. Following trail markers and staying on the designated path will keep you crazy like the locals.
You might decide to wander around the forest behind your rental house. The paths that spiderweb their way through the forest there are likely user-made. This means that they have been established as a result of years of use. Even though these aren't designated trails, they should still be honored. Stay on the main route, even if you notice an offshoot or side path. By remaining on the main trail you are reducing your impact upon the beauty and living things around you.
If the trail is blocked, restricted or damaged, stay off it. This means you may have to turn around and walk further than you had planned, or not be able to reach your destination. It's better to make this choice, then to create a new trail or path. Get crazy by reducing the human impact so that Lake Tahoe's forests stay beautiful and healthy.
We're Crazy About Keeping Our Beaches Clean
When you're on vacation sometimes you forget to follow the basic rules of society. You're in a new place and you might not know the common practices and expectations. We crazy locals have some unspoken rules that you should know before you visit:
1) Carry out what you carry in at every beach. Even if you're at a beach that has concessions be prepared to clean up after yourself. This has always been true, but is more so now because many of these location have fewer staff than ever before. When you collect trash on the beach and dispose of it in a can, dumpster or at home you reduce the burden on others. This includes cigarette butts!
2) Be prepared for wind. Zephyr Cove isn't called so because it's a calm place. Most afternoons in South Tahoe are windy. A breeze as light as 8 mph can lift your umbrella and send it dancing across the sand. The wrapping from your new inflatable or your kid's inner tube could be sent from the North to the South in seconds. Tether your belongings and stash away trash immediately.
3) Don't leave food for the wildlife, especially the birds. While you're enjoying your barbeque or picnic, no critters are going to bug you. After you've finished and decided to take a rest on your towel or float in the lake, that's when they strike. Before you allow that food coma to set in clean up your space. Put away the snacks, pack away your containers and dispose of your trash. Even a sealed garbage bag left unattended will be busted open and littered across the sand if left unattended even for a moment. Years of obeving human behavior have allowed our birds and critters to become used to waiting and taking advantage of our laziness.
4) Dogs belong on the dog beach. Did you know that there are designated dog beaches in the South Tahoe area? For those of us that want to share the sand and water with our pups, these spots offer us the chance to mingle and our furry friends to play. When you don't want to risk sand being tossed on your towel, your belongings being peed on or potentially stepping in dog waste, it's nice to know there are non-doggy locations to enjoy. If you're traveling with a pet be sure to do the work to find out where dogs are welcome. Doing so will make your travels more fun and the people you engage with more friendly. And pick up your dog's poop no matter where you are.
Be more like the crazy locals by following these unspoken rules and share them with others. The more you do so, the less Tahoe will begin to feel like Tahome for you.
We're Crazy About Traveling Responsibly
The roads in Tahoe were not meant to handle the traffic that uses them. If you look at the photos in the book The Saga of Lake Tahoe, you can see that the roads were built for those traveling to Tahoe in the Summer. They wind and weave following the former Carson Trail. As much work has been done to improve them, they are still in need of repairs and updates.
Today, thousands of travelers arrive in Tahoe via the passes and highways that wrap around the lake. Vehicles have to share the road with cyclists, scooters and pedestrians. If you're not paying attention, a small mistake could turn into a big problem.
We're crazy about improving our roads to be useful for all. A bike lane is lacking in many areas and there are some places where you may get frustrated as you drive because bicycles or pedestrians are in the road. The highways from the Carson Valley has sped up traffic entering the basin to unsafe speeds. We have to improve our signage so it's easier for visitors to find their way and we have to find a way to slow everyone down.
If you want to be like a crazy local you can begin by remembering that you're not the only one on the road. In some areas, like the Casino Corridor, there is no shoulder for bicycles to ride in, so they will use the right lane. Move to the left so you can pass safely. Where there is a shoulder, be sure to give cyclists at least 3 feet of space from your mirror. This is especially important if you're towing something. Don't move over until you are well past them.
Be crazy, like the locals, by driving slowly and honoring the speed limit. Just because we have crosswalks doesn't mean that people walk to them to cross. We are a dog and kid friendly town which means that sometimes one or both get loose. And let's not forget about the party animals who imbibe a bit too much and might not be fully aware of their surroundings. If you're traveling slowly, you are more likely to be able to slow down, stop, or provide help in gathering them.
If you're riding, walking or scooting around town remain aware of everything around you. Stop at lights and always look for pedestrians. Stay to the right so others can pass. Like the crazy locals, get out of the way if you're not sure where you're going or need to stop for any reason. Just keep thinking, "Tahoe locals are crazy about traveling responsibly ," and try to be the same.
We're Crazy About Supporting Local Business
Small businesses are the pulse of the community. Lake Tahoe has hundreds of small, locally owned businesses that are run by residents. When you support them you are supporting the entire community. Remember, 15 million people visit Lake Tahoe each year and only around 25,000 live, full time, on Tahoe's South Shore.
You'll know you're in a crazy local spot because everyone will know eachother, the menu/product/services, and they'll recommmend other local spots and tell you what to order/buy/request. When you visit a small business it's likely that the owner is there and maybe their kids, or friends. In this small community don't be surprised if your hostess has her baby on her chest, your bartender's son is serving your food and your server this afternoon was your cocktail waitress last night.
Those who have chosen to run a small business that is surviving may make it look easy. However, resiliency is one of the job requirements. We have to always be prepared for whatever may come including smoke, evacuations, pandemics, blizzards, extreme heat, over-tourism, you name it. We can pivot, shift, adjust and change as necessary in response to whatever comes our way.
Go crazy supporting local businesses. Buy gifts for everyone while you're visiting. Eat at all the local spots. Ask the crazy locals for recommendations to their favorite spots for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, cocktails, dancing, karaoke and live music. Eat, drink and party responsibly, though, keeping in mind that Tahoe Locals are also crazy about getting enough sleep so we can be our best at our businesses.
Come get crazy with us Tahoe locals and do your part to be a Tahoe steward and keep Tahoe blue and beautiful! You can learn more by visiting Take Care Tahoe and The League to Save Lake Tahoe, Tahoe Wildlife Care, as well as Visit Lake Tahoe.
If you want to engage in experiences that help you to connect with nature and your self join us for a scheduled class, workshop or event, or request an on-demand retreat at blisstahoe.com.
Jenay Aiksnoras, Experience Curator