Returning to the road we passed Jock Ellis’s cabin, in a similar state of ruin to that of McKinney. Ellis Peak (8945 feet) is named after him. He was a Squaw Valley stampeder. Nearby we saw the largest tamarack I have yet found in the Sierras. It was fully five feet through and fluted in an interesting and peculiar fashion.
From here we made a mile detour to visit Hank Richards Lake, a beautiful crystal jewel in an incomparable wooded setting. Then back to Phipps Creek, over a perfect jumble of granite bowlders and tree-clad slopes until we finally struck the trail and followed it to the Lake, and thence home to the Tavern.
The reader should observe that in this, as in the chapter on “Trail Trips,” only a sample is given of a score or more of similar trips. His host at any of the hotels can suggest others equally interesting.
HISTORIC TAHOE TOWNS
There have been only three towns on the immediate banks of Lake Tahoe, viz., Tahoe City, Glenbrook and Incline, though Knoxville was located on the Truckee River only six miles away.
Tahoe City. Tahoe City was founded in 1864 at the collapse of the Squaw Valley mining excitement, the story of which is fully related in another chapter. Practically all its first inhabitants were from the deserted town of Knoxville. They saw that the lumbering industry was active and its permanence fully assured so long as Virginia City, Gold Hill and other Nevada mining-camps remained profitable. The forests around the Lake seemed inexhaustible, and there was no need for them to go back to an uncertainty in the placer mines of El Dorado County, when they were pretty sure to be able to make a good living here. They, also, probably exercised a little imagination and saw the possibilities of Lake Tahoe as a health and pleasure resort. Its great beauty must have impressed them somewhat, and the exploitation of these features may have occurred to them.
Anyhow, in 1864, the Bailey Hotel was erected, and, later, a man named Hill erected the Grand Central. The Squaw Valley excitement had attracted a number from the Nevada camps, and when these men returned they took with them glowing accounts of the beauty of Lake Tahoe, and of the fishing and hunting to be enjoyed there. Thus the Lake received some of its earliest resort patronage. During lumbering days it was an active, bustling place, being the nearest town to which the loggers, drivers, tree-fellers, millmen and others could flee for their weekly recreation and periodic carouses. Yet it must not be thought that the town was wholly given over to roughness. Helen Hunt Jackson, a widely traveled and observant woman of finest susceptibilities, says of the Lake Tahoe House, which she visited in stage-coach days, that it was “one of the very best in all California.” It was the stopping-place of the elite who came to see and enjoy Tahoe, and until later and more fashionable hotels were built around the Lake enjoyed great popularity.