Early-morning solitude (and sun) at Lake Tahoe

We played the first seven holes raucously, goofily—ridiculing shags, racing carts, letting the late-summer sun make us giddy—but when we came upon the eighth tee at the historic Old Brockway Golf Course in Kings Beach, California, the sudden view of Lake Tahoe silenced us.

Or silenced me, rather. My companions lived just down the road and saw the lake every day, glittering against its backdrop of snow-dusted Sierra Nevada and Carson ranges. I had to wonder whether living there made them immune to the sight, the way residents of Rome forget to notice the Colosseum. That outing at Old Brockway was just another day of golf for those guys, while it became one of the most vivid afternoons of my life.

I’ve been back to Tahoe many times since that first trip in 2001, usually in winter. Wintertime Tahoe holds no shortage of its own stunning imagery and activities—for starters, there are more than fifteen ski areas, including my favorite, Squaw Valley, host of the 1960 Winter Olympics—but for natives and long-timers, summer is the secret star.

"I came for the winter, but I stayed for the summer‚" Tahoe transplants like to say. There’s waterskiing, mountain biking, hiking to alpine lakes, charter fishing, camping, sunset cruises, and, of course, golf. The average high temperature from June to September is in the seventies, there’s little precipitation, and the humidity level doesn’t even begin to approach the point at which you start feeling homicidal. The mere sight of the water is cooling.

Formed some two million years ago, Lake Tahoe lies on the border of California and Nevada. It’s known for being "clear as gin‚" although according to the US Geological Survey, its clarity is decreasing because of human activity. As one of the world’s deepest lakes, Tahoe draws scuba divers with its underwater-wall drop-offs (Sierra Diving Center,, will guide divers to the sheer-bluff Rubicon Wall on June 27). With seventy-two miles of shoreline—the lake is twenty-two miles long and twelve miles wide—there’s a lot of territory to explore. Choosing a vacation base can feel overwhelming. If I had to build a pair of perfect days there, I’d stick to Tahoe City, a laid-back little town on the northwest shore.