Friday, September 2, 2011

A Hike to Vikingsholm

Before leaving the Reno (NV) area, we took a drive along the western shore of Lake Tahoe.

Along this drive (on the California side of the lake), we passed more lakeside developments than we had noticed on the eastern (Nevada) side of the lake. Our destination was Emerald Bay on the southern end of Lake Tahoe.

We found a parking space in Emerald Bay State Park. A short distance from the parking lot was an overlook that provided a view of Eagle Falls (photos above and below).

A few yards from the view of Eagle Falls was this view (above) of Emerald Bay. It was easy to understand why this magnificent view is one of Lake Tahoe's most photographed and popular locations. I don't think I've ever seen a lake that appeared as deep blue as Tahoe.

In 1969, Emerald Bay was recognized as a National Natural Landmark by the federal Department of the Interior.

In 1994, California State Parks included the surrounding water of the bay as a part of the park, making Emerald Bay one of the first underwater parks of its type in the state, protecting the various wrecks and other items on the bay's bottom.

One of the stories that we heard regarding the lake's
"possessions," was that Jacques Cousteau's son had filmed a dive to the Lake's bottom, but when asked what he had documented, he would not say anything.

Also, at this same parking area was the trailhead for the trail to Vikingsholm, a 38-room mansion that is one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture in the United States. The one-mile trail is wide and is an easy walk to the mansion--the trail descends 500 feet down the hillside to the lake's shore.

In 1863 Ben Holladay, stagecoach magnet and early day transportation king pre-empted land in Emerald Bay and built a summer home. In 1884 a Dr. Kirby bought 500 acres in the Bay and built a resort. A portion of the Kirby land was sold to the William Henry Armstrong family in 1895. Mrs. Knight purchased the land from the Armstrongs in 1928. Mrs. Knight's land included the only island (Fanette Island) in Lake Tahoe and the only waterfall (Eagle Falls) flowing directly into the Lake. Magnificent cedars and pines set off by shear granite cliffs make this one of the most scenic areas in the entire United States. Mrs. Knight wanted to build a summer home that would compliment the magnificent natural surroundings. Emerald Bay reminded her of many of the fjords she had seen on numerous travels to Scandinavia. (This is the view [below] of the lake from the front yard.) She commissioned her nephew by marriage, Lennart Palme, a Swedish architect, to design the plans.

In the summer of 1928 Mrs. Knight and the Palmes traveled to Scandinavia to gather the ideas they wanted to incorporate in Vikingsholm. The ideas for the construction came from buildings dating as far back as the 11th century. Vikingsholm was completed in the fall of 1929 and occupied by Mrs. Knight, her staff of 15 and many guests in June of 1930. One of the interesting architec-tural designs is the sod roof which covers both the north and south wings of the complex.

Mrs. Knight enjoyed 15 summers at Vikingsholm. She always had a home full of guests to share this magnificent summer home with her. Mrs. Knight passed away at the age of 82 in 1945. After her death, the home was sold to Lawrence Holland, a rancher from Nevada. He subsequently sold it to Harvey West, a lumberman from Placerville, California. In the early 1950s, Mr. West, a noted philanthro-pist, negotiated with the State of California and said he would donate one-half of the appraised value of the land, as well as the Vikingsholm itself outright, if the State would pay him the other half. This arrangement was agreed upon, and in 1953 the house and property were acquired by the State. It is now a part of the Harvey West Unit of the Emerald Bay State Park" (

On the return hike uphill, I took opportunities to rest, taking photographs of smaller scenes, such as this stream of water running a course down the mountainside.

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