Tag Archives: Family Nature Summits

At Family Nature Summits – Lake Tahoe Day 5

Living room at Thunderbird Lodge

What would you do if you knew as a child that you’d never have to work a day in your life? What if you knew that you would inherit more money than you would ever need? That’s the story of George Whitell, Jr. and Thunderbird Lodge.

On Day 5 of Family Nature Summits, I went on a field trip instead a hike. It was time for a little culture.

Our group traveled by van to Thunderbird Lodge on  the shores of Lake Tahoe. The tour, led by a volunteer docent for the Thunderbird Lodge Preservation Society, concentrated on the features of the house and grounds but I was more interested in the man.

George (1881-1969), as the docent called him, was the product of a wealthy San Francisco family. As a young man, he went from one party to another, acquiring boats and automobiles. He bought the Lake Tahoe property when he was in his fifties, and a recluse. The lodge was small, because unlike Mrs. Knight of Vikingsholm, part of yesterday’s trip, he didn’t want any overnight guests.

Look at the  picture of the living room. What struck me the most was that there was no art on the walls – no Picassos, Monets, Manets – though the docent told us that the house was restored to its glory days.

Isa with her teachers

The opening above leads to his bedroom. An equivalent bedroom on the other side was for his wife of fifty years. They didn’t have any children and most of his fortune went to charity after his death.

The last evening at FNS is devoted to skits by the children – from the 3-5 year olds in Early Discovery to the silliness of the Young Adults (18 to 25).

But Isa wanted to know why adults don’t have a skit. She spoke to the president, Pamela Morrison, who said “Maybe next year?”.

The Bears skit

The last day and evening is also when we say “good bye and see you next year”. Speaking of next year, Family Nature Summits will be in Western Maine, in the While Mountains, June 30 to July 6, 2018.

I already have it on my calendar and will sign up very soon along with my two granddaughters.

Check out the website and see you in Maine.

At Family Nature Summits – Lake Tahoe Day 4

FNS group

Back on the trail at Family Nature Summits.

Day 4. Oh no! The summit is almost over.

I went on a hike around Lake Tahoe. Well, not all the way around, just from D.L. Bliss State Park to Emerald Bay State Park.

The whole trail was perfectly maintained – after all it’s a state park.

Rubicon Point Lighthouse

Our first stop was Rubicon Lighthouse, which looks like an outhouse. Everyone was saying: Lighthouse, outhouse

The lake was in view the whole time with boaters, paddle boarders, waders and just lookers. The lake is too cold for swimming. But we have a great pool at the FNS Site.

The hike was organized as a key swap. So our group started from the north end. The second group went to the south end. When we met up on the trail, the leaders exchanged keys.

That’s one of the advantages of hiking with a group. Here’s Peggy B. and Danny Mc. exchanging keys.

The highlight was definitely Vikingsholm Castle, one of the first summer home on Lake Tahoe. Lora Josephone Knight (1864-1945) built this authentic reproduction of Swedish architecture in 1929 when

“She was 65 years old and single”.

The docent kept being amazed at 65 and single. After the fifth time, I was going to bop him one.

Knight was only 18 years old when she married a man much older than herself, a colleague of her father. She wasn’t poor herself. When her husband died, he left her $10 millions.

Part of being intelligent was knowing who to marry!

She was able to grow this wealth to $45 millions by investing intelligently and weathering the Great Depression. Her backstory was what made an impression to me.

The house?? Look at it on the web. It was full of Scandinavian furnishing. Knight accommodated servants and lots of guests. She was a typical do-gooder who really did some good with her money.

When she died, the property was sold to a man who quickly donated it to the California State Park System. Thank you, Sir!

At Emerald Bay SP

We had to walk an uphill mile to the parking lot. All visitors have to go up to the parking area on their on steam.

In a state park? Wow! Here I am at the top of the hill.

When I got back to the site, I picked up Isa at 3:30pm and we went to the pool.

The evening program was a Mark Twain reenactor. He was good but not good enough to hold the interest of most children. Isa and I left after 30 minutes.

Isa runs around the outside eating area with other girls her age. I’m surprised that I was able to get a picture of the group in Isa’s gang. Some are in her group, The Bears, others she knows only from dinner and the pool. See the picture at the top.

At Family Nature Summits – Lake Tahoe Day 3

California figs – fresh!

This is Day 3 of Family Nature Summits.

If this was the workweek, it would be called Hump Day. But this is FNS at Lake Tahoe, California.

Isa wants to know why FNS is just five days of activities. Couldn’t we make it a few more days?

Sometimes plans change. I cancelled the hike that started at 7:20am to let Isa sleep a little longer. After she joined her Junior Naturalist Bears group, I found myself on my own. So I took a trail down from Gralibakken resort to downtown Tahoe City. It’s a hopping tourist town on Lake Tahoe.

Today was market day with the usual stands of fresh vegetables, cheese and olive oil. The peaches were large and colorful. The tomatoes were red and plump.

But the surprise was figs, perfect fresh green and purple figs. Of course! This is California where all our produce comes from.


In the afternoon, I managed to score a place in a workshop on Photographing Wildflowers.

Annie Cameron,a professional photographer, took us on several rural road in Tahoe National Forest. We practiced various techniques on lupines, forget-me-nots and yarrow.

I was embarrassed to be the only person with a phone camera. Everyone else had real cameras. But I got some great tips, which I hope to remember.


Isa’s highlight was her try at slacklining.

It looks like tightrope walking but the rope isn’t tight; it’s slack.

This is one of many activity that the Childcare children did after 3:30pm.

If a responsible adult isn’t available at the end of Junior Naturalist (3:30pm), the kids go to child care where the fun continues.

Two more days of fun!