There Will Be Blood (and Other Warnings) Family Travel Part 1: Lake Tahoe

Balancing responsibility and adventure with family travel.

By: Ryan Longnecker
October 24, 2016

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Nothing is in chronological order in these stories. Because nothing about traveling with children is in chronological order…

or any other kind of order.

When I was just knee high to a duck I spent nearly every summer gathering pine needles as kindling for our family vacations. My job was twofold: get kindling, and “leave your sister alone”. I’m starting to think my job at the former was to accomplish the latter. We would stay at Lake Richardson in Lake Tahoe in our camping trailer. I remember the canoeing, the smoke baptized hoodies, and this awesome inflatable trampoline that you could swim out to and jump on - that has since been removed, you know - liability laws being what they are now. Taking my family to Tahoe was fantastic in theory, and relatively fantastic in reality, but it was special to me, and we had an invitation too good to pass up.

Rad free cabin for new years, like the swanky, no-other-way-I’d-be-allowed-inside kind of cabin. Like, heated floors and saunas. It was incredible, and an easy sell to get my girls to make the trip when the forecasted high never got above 30°F. My wife’s good friend from high school was engaged to her now husband and they invited us for some combo family time.

Preparing for a 30 minute family outing is fraught with enough potential nightmare that it is exponentially more so with any kind of weather and for any extended amount of time. Without really drifting into the amount of stories I could tell I’ll just assume you might have some.

There are no lack of good trip spots up the 395 North in California (I’ll be sharing a LOT of those later). We typically stop at my parents place in Bishop and if possible drive up to lake Sabrina (a LOT more on Eastern Sierra lakes if you follow along). Once in Tahoe we always love a drive down by Emerald Bay and a hike down if weather permits, this trip didn’t. Walking down around Zephyr Cove is another favorite. With kids I’ve learned to assume a few things: the views aren’t as appreciated, and they need an activity so find something for them TO DO. My parents would have us spot animals and out of state plates, I like to have a contest for biggest pine cone... and/or in this case stand on a totally frozen lakes and have a rock throwing contest.




Everyone was cozy and lounging at the cabin I was able to meet up with @jordanherschel, who is basically the Instagram mayor of Lake Tahoe. Even during my 8 year stint as a wedding photo guy there are a few travel/landscape people through whom I vicariously practiced my travel jealousy and envy, Jordan was one of them. He’s 100% fire and a great dude and took me to check out Sand Harbor after a couple of beers.

The dry cold had caused the tips of my fingers to crack and bleed, but also go numb from the cold so I didn’t realize I was getting blood all over the shutter button, which is probably the least interesting way of getting blood on a camera. I nearly fell in the water after jumping on the massive boulders in the Harbor for a couple of shots. I went back and refereed a very bland snowball fight between the kids which ended in tears from the children, and plenty of wine for the parents.

So this one goes out to all you family men and women who balance the wanderlust and responsibility well. Cheers.






Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.