A dog is your copilot—on the chairlift.
Suspect No. 1: Casey, a stubborn, arthritic terrier with her eye on an innocent woodland squirrel. Suspect No. 2: her lieutenant, Franklin, a stout corgi occasionally mistaken for some sort of miniature circus bear. Both dogs were last seen boarding a ski lift at Northstar-at-Tahoe, and while they would prefer to be regarded as fanged and dangerous, they threaten no one other than themselves. Approach with treats.
So began a day in the woods with my two favorite canine pioneers. There's so much to love about Lake Tahoe in the summer; no wonder it's a paradise for four-legged friends as well. My own mutts, I believe, dream all winter long of warm days when they'll return to the mountains as terrors of the timberland.
Unlike California's state parks, where dogs are often barred from hiking trails, Northstar and many other ski resorts welcome pets on designated paths in summer. It's not cheap—at Northstar, summer lift tickets run $15 per adult and $10 per dog—but the mountaintop views can be astounding. And beyond these civilized confines are 220 miles of trails through the glorious Lake Tahoe Basin. Dogs are permitted here, too, and many of the paths are level and relatively free of mountain bikes—ideal for pampered lapdogs. Among the most scenic trails: Meiss Meadows, Echo Lakes, Angora Lakes, and Lily Lake.
Wherever you hike, it's wise to keep your dog on a leash or under verbal control. (Check with the resorts as regulations can vary from place to place.) Bring plenty of water; the high temperatures approach 80 degrees in July and August, which makes for thirsty pets. Do scoop any poop, to help protect the Tahoe watershed from pet-borne pollution. And don't allow your dogs, as tempted as they may be, to chase or otherwise harass the wildlife.
At Northstar, Casey and Franklin were whisked up the mountain in a plastic kennel strapped to a chairlift—probably not how White Fang would travel. But the indignity didn't dim their enthusiasm for the outdoors, and soon after leaving the lift, we were romping among pines. As Casey studied a menacing field mouse, Franklin made for a blue alpine lake, eager for a swim. Around there, it really is a dog's life.
Need a dog-free afternoon? The folks at Truckee Tails Pet Sitting are happy to take your dog on a hike for you: (530) 582-6964, www.truckeetails.com.
Photography by Lori Eanes
This article was first published in May 2004. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.