Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Our Squaw Valley Excursion

Mary chose to take us to Squaw Valley, home of the 1960 Olympics. Mike drove and became our tour guide driving us around the lake through Kings Beach and Tahoe City then on to Squaw, describing the towns and restaurants along the way.  
We decided that we would ride the gondola once we arrived, At first I wasn’t too keen on the idea, thinking that they meant one of those boats that float along the canals of Venice, Italy. I obviously haven’t been around many ski resorts for I was quickly corrected and decided that okay, I was willing.  The resort at Squaw Valley looks small at first, set in a high meadow (6800 feet) with even higher vertical  rock mountains rising on three sides behind it. 
We entered through the human made “village” a collection of stores and restaurants built like a picturesque European village.

We decided to go straight to buy our gondola tickets to ride up to high camp. The gondola, a square glass structure holds about 30 people. Mary and I  chose  seats at the front of the “car” where we would get a good view. 

The car rose steeply as we sat wide-eyed taking in the scenery. Things were going smoothly until we reached the first cable tower, thinking we were at the top. The gondola bumped and rocked. 

As one chorus, the occupants of the car gave noises of surprise while we laughed nervously.  At this point we could see just how much further we would be climbing. 
Behind us, the resort village grew smaller as our destination drew closer. 
Once we disembarked at High Camp, we were saw that the area was well named. We were at the top of a pile of boulders barely held together with tall pines and small shrubs that made up the mountain.
People quickly disbursed in all directions.  Those who had ridden with their bicycles put on their helmets and headed for the bike trail, a gut wrenching dusty ride back down the mountain. 
 Several people started walking to the paint ball area, others to the locker rooms to change into swim suits for the spa and pool and still others, like us, were tourists ready to walk around and enjoy the sights. 
Mike quickly went into a store to buy a bright yellow Squaw Valley disc and walked off in the direction of the disc golf course.
These discs have evolved a long way from the frisbees stacked in our game closet at home. They are smaller and where the lip is in the traditional frisbee, instead is a weighted rim, evidently weighted differently for various course conditions such as if there is more wind.
It was a warm day in the sun as we leaned against the railing of the ice skating rink and watched the skaters go round. Near the middle was a young couple, apparently very much in love as they joined hands and spun in circles holding each other and laughing. 
children slid into the railing or their parents’ legs, many out of control and under the spell of the ice.  Some skaters wore shorts while others were dressed for winter and though it was cool under the shade of the rink cover, the sun outside was warm shining through the thin air at 9,050 feet above sea level.  It baked our shoulders as we meandered around high camp watching the people and taking in the views. Activities at high camp were not designed just for the athletic. If you needed less moving, there was the pool or the hot tub, or you could be completely motionless and enjoy a massage at the spa. 

The air around the pools and the rest of high camp was filled with voices of tongues from around the globe, though most spoke English when needed since, unlike the rest of the world, few Americans, including our service workers, speak other languages fluently.
Far off over the hillside we could see hikers or bikers making their way back down to the valley floor.  My feet ached to see one man limp by after walking up the mountain path with his family.  He was now reduced to carrying his shoes while, in his stocking-feet he withstood each painful step toward the gondola for an easier trip back down.
Our feet felt fine, though Mary and I felt our stomachs lurch a few times while leaning over the rail, letting our imaginations run.

We enjoyed our day, had some fun and even leaned a bit of history.  The VII Winter Olympics, held in Squaw Valley, California, were the first Olympics to be televised and the first held in western United States.  While Squaw Valley is one of the largest ski resorts in the United States, it is only the second largest at lake Tahoe.  During these games, the American team beat the champion Russians at hockey, then went on to win the gold medal, beating Czechoslovakia after the Russian team captain urged the Americans to take a hit of oxygen to battle their exhaustion.  
We finished up the day with another gondola ride back to the valley floor then on to Tahoe City to enjoy a bite of pizza beside the Truckee River at the point where it leaves Lake Tahoe.

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