A couple of weeks ago Steve and I embarked on yet another camping adventure – but with a twist! We dusted off Steve’s classic Ski Nautique, dumped all our gear into water-proof totes, and hit the road for a boat camping weekend on Lake Tahoe.
A few things to know about boat camping:
- All the stuff that used to fit in the back of your truck now needs to fit in your boat.
- All the stuff in your boat needs to stay dry (easier said than done).
- Your boat still needs to FLOAT once loaded down with all your stuff.
- People who aren’t used to seeing tiny boats loaded 4′ high with ice chests and fire pits are going to stare at you. Wave and smile, wave and smile…
- Once you get to your campground, you need to unload your stuff and get it to your campsite. Enter wheelbarrows and very bumpy dirt trails.
- After you unload your stuff, you have to moor your boat.
- After you moor your boat, you need to get back to shore. Oops, this is where an inflatable kayak would have come in handy…
When condensed like that, boat camping can sound like a drag! But it really is a lot of fun. Especially at Emerald Bay, which is hands down one of the prettiest places in all of Lake Tahoe.
Camping at Emerald Bay gave me a good excuse to get up at dawn for sunrise photography. Actually, I had zero excuse NOT to get up, as the bay was right at my feet every morning, beautiful and serene, beckoning me with bright colors or placid waters. I had so much fun documenting its many different looks and moods in the few short days that I was there.
Sunsets, by the way, weren’t too shabby either! Although the sun sets behind the mountains that encircle Emerald Bay, afternoon storm clouds sometimes reflect the colors of a glorious sunset, giving us a window into something that we cannot see.
Boat camping at Emerald Bay is quite remote, as there are no markets or restaurants within walking distance. You can’t just casually jump in your car to head to the store to pick up some ice, or go for a tour around town. What you CAN do is jump in your boat and head to the nearest marina for food, supplies, and good ol’ lakefront entertainment.
The Beacon is known for its tropical cocktail, the Rum Runner. Perhaps señor had a few too many?
While we sipped libations in the Sand Pit and listened to live music from local bands, a rumble of thunder echoed in the distance. I checked the weather forecast on my phone and saw a storm warning for the lake for the next hour or two. A quick pitstop quickly turned into a dinner break as we waited out the weather.
I ordered the fish and chips. Yum yum yum. And waited. Midway through my third filet, I looked outside and saw light breaking on the water. My heart skipped a beat as I registered what sunlight combined with retreating storm clouds means. Steve’s heart skipped a beat too. Except what he was looking at was our boat, which had broken free of its mooring. We both ran out to the shore and got to work.
While heading out on the boat to explore the lake is fun, it’s also nice to explore Lake Tahoe from land. Good thing there are plenty of opportunities for that right from our campground. One day we hiked the Rubicon Trail, another day we walked around the south end of the bay, and one afternoon we toured the famed Vikingsholm Castle. Sometimes we just chilled on the beach and read a book while the waves lapped at our feet.
We even got treated to a 30 minute show by one of the resident osprey of the Emerald Bay. These birds build their nests in the tops of the tallest trees, close to the shore, so that they can scan the water for fish with their insanely sharp eyes. Then they swoop down and it’s like, sayonara fishie. Such is the harsh reality of life in the wild.
Those who camp with us know that, well, we don’t really “camp”, it’s kind of more like “glamp.” As in, dehydrated veggies and meals-in-a-pouch don’t even come close to our meal kit. Here’s an especially tasty 2014 Tolosa Central Coast Viognier that we paired with, I am not ashamed to say, bacon mac ‘n cheese. Chowzah!
Would I boat camp again? Absolutely. Would I do it immediately? Probably not. It’s definitely a more expensive way to travel, if you don’t already have a boat docked on the water, and you certainly aren’t as mobile as you are on land or foot. Some of the peace and quiet of the outdoors is, understandably, shattered when you combine outboard motors with alcohol-fueled party boats. But on the positive side it gets you out on the water to enjoy a new perspective, and isn’t collecting new perspectives the main reason why we travel?
Until next time…here are a few more images of water fun to whet your appetite for a lake adventure.