Tag Archives: Family Nature Summits

At Family Nature Summits – Lake Tahoe Day 2

FNS hiking group

Another great hike at Family Nature Summits, this time to Donner Peak( 8,209 ft. high) and Mt. Judah (8,243 ft. high). We’re walking in the Tahoe National Forest with 18 hikers.

Dave L., our leader, shows us Donner Pass where the Donner party passed through in 1846.

If Donner sounds familiar, it was because the group of emigrants (that’s what they were called) were supposed to have eaten some of their party.

Donner Lake in the background

Today Donner Lake attracts swimmers, boaters and hikers but the history lives on of the exploits and travails of the settlers  who came to California for a better life.

Part of the hike was on the Pacific Crest Trail. It must be spring here since the trail sides are full of spring/summer flowers. Mule ears, shown at the top, were abundant.

On the way out, we walked through the railroad tunnels built by Chinese labor in the 1880s. The wall meant to hold these tunnels is referred to as the Chinese Wall.

Tunnels at Donner Pass

Now the tunnels have been abandoned by the railroads. Four-wheelers can drive through them and hikers can explore them.

In case you think that Family Nature Summits is all hiking, I want to convince you that it isn’t.

There are lots of activities for adults from easy rambles and flower walks to eco tours and even a book discussion. This year, they are discussing Wild, since we’re so close to the Pacific Crest Trail.

While I was hiking, Isa was hiking with the Bears, her Junior Naturalist group. She also did some nature studies in the creek. When I picked her up, she has a soaked sock full of “souvenir” rocks. And I didn’t even bother looking for the other sock.

Square dancing

In the evening, we had the traditional ice cream social and square dance.

FNS hires a local band and everyone dances. Square dancing is conducive to a large group, with many unattached people. Here’s Isa with her dance partner.


At Family Nature Summits – Lake Tahoe Day 1

Today I slept until 4:30 am. My jet lag is improving, as I try to get on local California time at Family Nature Summits.

Everything at Family Nature Summits seems to start at 8 am. So Isa and I have breakfast together. With daypacks and my hiking poles in hand, I walk her over to her Junior Naturalist program a few minutes early. She’s not the first one here.

At Five Lakes Trail

Then I fly down the hill to find my shuttle van to my first FNS hike – Five Lakes Trail in Tahoe National Forest.

At the trailhead, a sign tells you to watch out for unexploded military shells and explosives used for snow avalanche control. What?? Am I in a war zone?

Since the hike is partly in the Granite Chief Wilderness, the 12-hiker maximum rule applies, as it does nationally.

The trail is wide and generally smooth; after all, I’m out west. The land is open, filled with huge pine trees, with little understory. Indian paint-brush, bee balms and yarrow are some of the flowers that we recognize. But the wide open spaces and rocky landscape are stunners.

At the Treetop course

After I picked up Isa from Junior Naturalists, we both participated in a Treetop adventure. Even the easy beginner’s course wasn’t easy. It required concentration, balance and a healthy belief in the equipment.

We got suited up and we looked good. Then Isa and I hit the green course, the beginner section – green – of the Squirrel course, the beginner’s course. (The Monkey course is the advanced course.)

Both Isa and I were hesitant but we did the green course slowly. We had to do it twice to get promoted to the blue course.

I didn’t want to do the zip line, so I bailed out. Isa continued on to the blue course. With the help of the great staff, Isa finished the blue (intermediate) course.

Isa on zipline
On Treetop course

We were both exhausted and skipped the evening program.

We’re relaxing in our room and getting ready for another full day, tomorrow.

At Family Nature Summits – Lake Tahoe, Day 0

This is my eight year with Family Nature Summits.

I’ve been going to Family Nature Summits (FNS) with one granddaughter or another (or both) since 2010. This year, Isa (age 7) and I are at Lake Tahoe, California, just over the Nevada border. The three-hour time change explains why I’ve been awake since 3 am, local time.

I’ve blogged about FNS each time, but here’s a synopsis of the program.

This one-week camp is for adults, children and everyone in between who wants to visit new areas every year and have a comfortable outdoor experience. Adults come by themselves because it is an inexpensive, active, safe way to see the country.

Lodging and activities are all planned. We stay in resorts, “YMCA”, ranches. You have the option to camp in most places but few people decide to rough it.

Families come because children have their own groups led by science educators from 8 am to 3:30 pm. Adults can choose from a huge number of activities from hiking and flower studies to painting and kayaking.

This year, we’re staying at Granlibakken Resort, which Isa insists on calling Granola Bacon, a luxurious place. After a tough day yesterday with delayed flights, running from one airport gate to another, it is nice to have come in a day early.

Sugar Pine Cone

We use the day to check out the surroundings. This morning, Isa and I walk to Paige Meadows on the Tahoe Rim Trim Trail.

This hike leaves the property and reaches Paige Meadows, an open area full of Queen Anne’s lace. This hike is more challenging that she’s going to do with other seven-year olds in the Junior Naturalist Program and less challenging than I’m going to do with the adults.

This land is dry. Jeffrey pines and Ponderosa pines seem to be the most common trees here. Look at this website, which explains our surroundings. Even on this short hike from Granlibakken, I can see that I’m not in Asheville anymore but in Tahoe National Forest or the Lake Tahoe Basin.

In the afternoon, we register. Even with all the paperwork and money I’ve sent during the year, this is the last check to make sure that we know what we signed up for. The big ritual is the brightly colored scarves which shows the number of years that you’ve come to FNS. I have a blue scarf (5 to 9 years) and Isa has a green scarf (2-4 years).

We’ve organized our room. We’ve registered. We know where the Junior Naturalists gather and where the vans are to take me on my hikes. We’ve been welcomed by Pamela Morrison, the president of FNS.

Let the week begin.