Mountain Medley, Tahoe National Forest, California

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 13244A, Lodge


  • Stay, eat, and relax at the Sierra Club's rustic Clair Tappaan Lodge
  • Hike the High Sierra and shores of Lake Tahoe
  • Explore the natural and emigrant history of the Donner-Tahoe area


  • All your meals while you stay at the lodge, except one on our free day
  • Your ticket to a Shakespeare performance on the shore of Lake Tahoe
  • Presentations about the area's environment and Western history


DatesAug 11–17, 2013
StaffWilliam Baurecht

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Trip Overview

The Trip

We will sample the best of the Tahoe-Donner basin, both natural and cultural. We'll hike to splendid High Sierra ridges and lakes and enjoy one another’s company; we’ll have time to take photographs, eat lunch with a view, swim, and relax. We'll learn the part the Donner Pass area played in history of the West, and sail along Tahoe's shoreline in a classic 40-foot motor launch.

We'll have two evenings out -- one for a Shakespeare play under the stars on the shores of Lake Tahoe, the other for dinner at a lakeside restaurant in Tahoe City. We’ll spend our other evenings at the lodge where we can relax by the fireplace in the living room, share observations about our hikes, learn more about history of the area, discuss conservation issues, stargaze, or soak away our cares in the hot tub.

After each day of hiking we’ll return to the lodge to enjoy hot showers, hearty home-cooked meals, and camaraderie.

Your daypack must be large enough to hold lunch, at least two liters of water, and a warm, waterproof jacket. Sturdy, broken-in hiking shoes are important. A detailed clothing and equipment list will be sent when you are approved for the trip. Be sure to bring your camera and your binoculars for observing wildlife.

For this summer's trip, we've selected an array of favorite hikes and activities enjoyed by past Mountain Medley participants.


Day 1: Check into the lodge by 3 p.m. We will assemble to get acquainted before dinner. Afterward, we'll gather over a hot beverage to view the week's itinerary.

Day 2: Clair Tappaan Lodge is at an elevation of 7,000 feet; we'll stay at this altitude for this first day and start the week with a hike to one of our favorite alpine lakes, where we'll swim or lounge in the sun surrounded by fragrant pines, the incredible Sierra granite, and birds. For those interested in wildflowers you might see elephant-heads, shooting stars, tiger lilies, and more.

Day 3: Today will be History Day. We'll hike to Cold Springs Pass at 8,000 feet, tracing the footsteps of 19th-century emigrants who traveled through the mountains. Lunch will be on top of Donner Peak or Mt Judah (8,500 feet) where we can see the original passage of the transcontinental railroad along its arduous crossing of the Sierra Nevada. In the evening, weather permitting, we will enjoy stargazing with visiting astronomers who will set up high-powered telescopes outside the lodge.

Day 4: This is a free day to explore trails around Lake Tahoe, rent a kayak, ride a raft on Truckee River whitewater, stroll and shop on streets of Wild West Virginia City or historic Truckee, visit museums or shop in Reno, or ride a horse at the Ponderosa Ranch. In the evening, we'll meet at the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival near Incline Village, Nevada, where we'll see a professional performance while overlooking the lake under the stars. Admission to the play and beach chair rental are included in the cost of the trip.

Day 5: We will hike another trail in the area, possibly to Loch Leven Lakes or Frog Lake overlook (9,000 feet) via the Warren Lake Trail. This evening, we may be visited by a guest speaker who will explain local conservation issues.

Day 6: Today we visit Emerald Bay, the jewel of Lake Tahoe. We will hike around part of the bay and end the afternoon with a chartered motor launch ride on the lake. On our way back to the lodge, we will stop for dinner at a restaurant that overlooks the lake and serves fine food (also included in the price of the trip).

Day 7: The trip will end after breakfast. You can pack a lunch to take with you as you return home or move on to another place as you continue your vacation.

While leaders will make every attempt to follow this itinerary, all hikes and programs are subject to change depending on a variety of factors including trail conditions, weather, and availability of speakers.



Getting There

The most popular and closest airport to the lodge is Reno, Nevada, only 45 minutes away; limited shuttle service and taxis are available. Other airport options are Sacramento, California (1.5 hours) and San Francisco (~3 hours). Carpooling among participants is also an option and has been done from these airports. Those arriving by air or being dropped off at the lodge should plan to rent a car or make arrangements to carpool with other trip participants.

Due to insurance regulations, all transportation to the lodge, trailheads, and work sites is the responsibility of each trip member. Sierra Club leaders are not allowed to make carpool arrangements for participants, but the leader will provide a participant list for those who wish to make carpool arrangements. Additional information regarding travel options will be provided. Do not make any transportation reservations until the leader approves your participation in the trip.

Accommodations and Food

Nestled in a pocket of mountains near Donner Summit, Sierra Club-owned Clair Tappaan Lodge is a rustic retreat known for warmth, fun, good company, and family-style meals. Professional kitchen staffers prepare hearty breakfasts and dinners, and provide a daily sandwich buffet from which you can pack a bag lunch. Guests are asked to assist with a chore, such as preparing meals, setting tables, serving, and cleaning up -- taking about 20 minutes a day. Vegetarian options are always available, and the staff can usually accommodate other dietary restrictions with advance notice.

Coffee, tea, and water are served with breakfast and dinner. Participants are invited to bring their additional beverages of choice. Each morning before breakfast we will prepare our lunches; bring a reusable plastic container to carry your sandwich.

Accommodations are in bunk beds equipped with mattresses. Guests are asked to bring their own sleeping bags and/or bedding. There are a variety of room types, ranging from large dormitories to small, private cubicles. The trip leader will make room assignments in advance. Restrooms and showers are communal (two men's and two women's restrooms), with guests providing their own towels and toiletries.

Trip Difficulty

Our hikes range in distance from 4-8 miles (round-trip) along well-traveled trails, with elevation gains of 500-1,500 feet. Our hikes will always have a "short option," so the less ambitious and those who want to take photographs need not worry. In previous years, participants' ages have varied from 15 to 72 years old; we've been able to accommodate everyone who was in good physical shape.

We'll be at 7,000-9,000 feet elevation where the air is thinner and acclimatization will take several days. You can expect a feeling of tiredness and fatigue initially and can ease your transition and enjoyment by getting into shape early. You should be able to walk one mile briskly (and three miles on flat terrain more leisurely) without getting winded and be able to carry on a conversation while walking. If you are so able, you will do fine on this trip. Being physically unprepared is unfair to yourself and other trip participants.

Equipment and Clothing

No special equipment is required; just a light/day pack and layered clothing. We recommend “seasoned” hiking boots because of uneven terrain and pebbles. Sandals are not acceptable. The leader will forward a complete list of equipment once you have been approved for the trip.



  • Howard, Thomas Frederick. Sierra Crossing: First Roads to California. 1998.
  • Konigsmark, Ted. Geologic Trips: Sierra Nevada. 2002.
  • Lankford, Scott. Tahoe Beneath the Surface: The Hidden Stories of America’s Largest Mountain Lake. 2010.
  • McGlashan, C.F. History of the Donner Part: A Tragedy of the Sierra. 1940/1975.
  • Reid, Robert Leonard. A Treasury of the Sierra Nevada. 1983.
  • Schaffer, Jeffrey P. The Tahoe Sierra: A Natural History Guide. 1975/1998.



Because of its year-round attractiveness to outdoor enthusiasts, the Lake Tahoe/Donner Pass area is one of the most heavily visited in northern California. From a conservation standpoint, this has implications that we will both witness and discuss. We will have a special presentation by an environmental professional who has many years of experience with Lake Tahoe and its ecology. We will learn and practice Leave No Trace principles that will minimize our impact whenever we choose to explore the wilderness. At the lodge, we will model recycling, conservation, and minimal use of disposable products.

Your leaders are volunteer Sierra Club members with a long-term dedication to the Sierra Club, conservation, and enjoyment of the outdoors. We hope to impart to you some of our love for the area that we're visiting and for the work of the Sierra Club. We believe that the Sierra Club's Outings program provides an excellent opportunity for members to enjoy the fruits of past conservation victories and to learn about current concerns. While on this trip, please feel free to ask your leaders about any particular conservation issues and to share environmental concerns from your area.

Since any traveling leaves a carbon footprint, check out the information that the Sierra Club offers about carbon offsets at:


Sierra Club National Outings is an equal-opportunity provider and will operate under permits from Tahoe National Forest and DL Bliss & Emerald Bay State Park.



William Baurecht has been a member of the Sierra Club for many years and has led and participated in national lodge, service, base camp, and family outings. He has camped and hiked for most of his adult life. A certified national outings leader, Bill looks forward to sharing his love of mountain hiking, knowledge of Western history and cultures, and commitment to conservation and preservation of national and state parks and monuments.

Assistant Leader:

Helen Bannan-Baurecht has accompanied her husband Bill on Sierra Club national outings in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and California, and they are excited about leading this new trip together. She has loved the outdoors since her Girl Scout days, which included a stint as a camp counselor. Beginning with a year on a Montana Indian reservation, Helen taught for more than 30 years, including many college courses on western history, particularly focusing on the lives of American Indians and women.

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