When a person reaches a certain age—the thought of checking things off a “bucket list” naturally comes to mind. We all have things we’d like to accomplish before kicking the proverbial bucket. 

For me, that bucket will always be full of dreams of the deep blue waters of my childhood home. Like one-time Nevadan, Samuel Clemens said about Lake Tahoe before he began to joke a lot as Mark Twain; “As it lay there with the shadows of the mountains brilliantly photographed upon its still surface, I thought it must surely be the fairest picture the whole earth affords.”

The term walkabout comes of course, from the aboriginal journey that serves as a rite of passage for tribal young. I know traversing the Lake’s mythical routes around Emerald Bay, Bliss State Park, and Nevada’s own Hidden Beach—is a far cry from the Australian Outback. Still, our own Sierra backyard affords a veritable mountain paradise in which to discover things about nature and ourselves. I’ll walk—not just to remember, or to survive. We’ll circumvent America’s year-round blue playground in the hopes of learning how much of Tahoe’s natural environment is affected by our human presence there. 

I began the hike at Nevada Beach, which has some of the whitest and most pristine sands on Lake Tahoe. Walking toward civilization (the South Shore), we pass in front of Edgewood Tahoe’s resort and golf course. The home of the annual Celebrity Golf Tournament holds special memories for me. My great aunt, Maggie Hickey, who immigrated from Ireland in 1870, married  Edgewood’s patriarch, Wallace Park. 

I used to catch tadpoles as a boy in the same pond that celebrities like Charles Barkley now routinely shank their golf tee-shots into. Boyhood memories of the once summer grazing land of Park Cattle Company are now replaced by a five-star hotel occupied by international destination seekers. Nothing new really. Wealthy patrons have been adorning Tahoe’s tourist hotels since white settlers first started vacationing in the turquoise jewell of the Sierras in the mid-1800s.

My hiking companion, Sean Whaley is a veteran Nevada political reporter.  He notes that; “The age-old issue of public access to the Tahoe shoreline has its successes and challenges. Once in California, we were forced to leave the beach and walk for a time on Lake Tahoe Boulevard. I couldn’t help but note the irony as we walked past a banner showing the lake with the words ‘National Treasure.’ The banner promising fun and adventure was next to a fence that blocked off access to the lake. But the private-public conundrum is not always an either-or proposition. On another private beach, a sign allowed walkers to enjoy the stretch of white sand.”

Chinese philosopher Lau Tau foresaw that “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Our 72-mile Tahoe trek began with the first steps on the South Shore’s sandy beaches. 

Many steps still to take, and many tales yet to tell. Every step reveals glimpses of Lake Tahoe’s famed grandeur—and much about its decidedly fragile future.

Editor’s note: Pat Hickey is a fourth-generation Nevadan whose Irish ancestors immigrated to Lake Tahoe in the 1870s. Pat has been a Nevada Legislator, State Board of Education member and is currently a Sunday columnist for the Reno Gazette Journal.

In the Spring of 2022, Pat set out to walk around the shoreline of his boyhood home. The result (in this feature, monthly newsletter) are 13 stories of his Tahoe journey. Join Pat in discovering your own treasures around America’s most beautiful lake.

Pat is the owner of Pat Hickey Painting (www.pathickeypainting.com). You can email Pat at: tahoeboy68@gmail.com