Directions: Sugar Pine Point State Park is located on the California side of Lake Tahoe. Take California Highway 89 (south from Interstate 80, north from US Highway 50). The park entrance is approximately one mile south of Tahoma. Trail maps are available at the park ranger station. The lighthouse site is located off the Edward F. Dolder Nature Trail. The trail loop is roughly one mile. The hike is considerably gentler than to Rubicon Point, but keep in mind that you are hiking at altitude.
Notes: This lighthouse was replaced by a solar-powered light on a pole.
Tower Height: 0
Description Tower: White, square, pyramidal wooden tower.
Date Established: 1921
Current Use: Unknown.
Characteristic Range: Flashing white every 5 seconds, visible for 9 miles.
Height Focal Plane: 35
National Register: No
Country: United States
Date Deactivated: ?
This adventure was a return journey to the Truckee area. My last visit was the Rubicon lighthouse in DL Bliss. I ran short of time and I did not get to Sugar Pine. As a side note, my wife’s niece Ann had just relocated to a new house and I thought this would be a good time to pay her a visit. I set out early on Saturday morning; my mood was very placated as I headed north towards the Truckee/California region. The journey on the highways was not too exciting, the roads where not too busy and the weather on the mild side. I just listened to some random music from my iPod as I drove I planned my new adventure in the high country. What excitement lay before me I was not sure, but I was certainly looking forward to it. I wondered if I would see any wild animals.
Already the high trees, and the looming mountains where making their presence felt in my spirit. I pulled into a rest spot, had some water and took a few shots of the breath taking scenery. My mind rushed forward to my arrival in Truckee, I though I should call Ann when I arrive and let her know I am in the area. Also I contemplated with the idea of staying near Kings beach, as it was near to the location thunderbird lighthouse. As the thoughts flurried around in my head, I decided it would be best to let events play out. Once out of Sacramento region, the peace, beauty and tranquility of the high mountainous woods calmed my suburban mind. Once more I found myself on the road alone, this is not a problem, but it could be best shared this someone who had like interests. I realize that people are created differently and we do not have the same perspective on life. Many distractions bring us on a different path. Anyway on to my journey, the suburbia gave way to the grandeurs of nature. Hills soon turn into mountains and bushes into giant trees. The
freeway carried me deeper into rhapsody of color and fresh air.
It was approximately 1:00 pm when I arrived in Truckee, I was pulled over by the police, my registration sticker on the license plate was on the wrong bumper, I must change it. Had a nice lunch with Ann at Kings beach, Her husband Scott and daughter Nicole where busy doing other stuff, like house chores and soccer. I was only a short distance from the Thunderbird lighthouse, so I decided it was time to seek it out before the day ended.. Before leaving Kings Beach I took a few pictures of view and a few of people celebrating a wedding on the beach. Later on in the day, I was to encounter a few more weddings on the Lake Shore. It is a pretty and beautiful place to have a romantic wedding.
Getting to Thunderbird Lodge was not easy; it’s a number 5000 on highway 28, which my GPS did not take. I knew it was somewhere between Incline Village and the Junction of Hwy 50. I drove past until I reached Hwy 50, met another wedding group, photographer warned that turnoff was a little sign post about 2 miles back. Turned around missed it again, turned in to a State Park asked a trooper who said it was a mile from the park and take my time. This time I found only to discover that you call for a reservation tour and only between Mondays to Friday. I headed for Ann’s house; guess I knew where I was spending the night.
Early next morning made my way into Truckee, had a coffee and bagel. Watched the morning stragglers come for their wake up drop. Headed on down 69 towards Sugar Pine, I Told the park ranger what I was doing, he said park on the road and take the Dolder Nature Trail. Again my advice is this is a fairly strenuous trek especially if you not acclimatized to the high altitude. I missed my turnoff and wound up in another part of the park, Ehrman mansion, where I met this wonderful docent Betty Beck, she must have been 80 yrs of age, yet she bubbling over with excitement. To look at this lady, you would taken her to be frail and ready to keel over, but as I spoke to her I knew instinctively that she was tough old bird, I say that with tongue in cheek. She excitedly told me about a movie made at Rubicon, Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald’s movie New Moon and her Parents getting engaged 1928 at Rubicon Light. Her long bony finger reached towards the sky as she directed my gaze towards Ospreys nest lodged high in the trees, I missed that old lady as I headed in path she directed me towards Sugar Pine. I also discovered I could have driven to this part of the Park.
As I made way to the Sugar Pine Navigation, the trail became so peaceful and quiet. At times the views where breath taking. Along the way were the lone hiker and once a runner came between me and my thoughts. Finally I was there, at the beacon, and that’s all it was. It is an unmanned automated beacon. A couple on the beach who had trekked for the same reason I did. Get there picture of the beacon at sugar pine. They left and I hung around for about 45 mins before making my way back to my car. I had the sense that this adventure was now at its end. Just before I left the park, I sat on a bench overlooking the Lake Tahoe and thought how crazy the world had become. How peaceful this is, sadness came upon my spirit. I also started to think about the lighthouse keepers, they had to be special people. To spend lonely hours in these desolate and often god forsaken places, tending a light or bell. Just to be a guide and warning to troubled ship. The sailor would look or listen for the distant guide and by its characteristic sound or flash; it would safely guide him to his port of entry. Today, the world needs a beacon to guide it back to normality.
Sugar Pine Point is a forested peninsula on the west side of Lake Tahoe. According to the State Park brochure, it includes a 1¾ mile of Lake Frontage accompanied by several sandy beaches and a inimitable natural surroundings where the unscathed, ancient forest of Tahoe Basin slopes down to the water's on the sunny beaches. The Washoe Indians have lived in this scenic region for thousands of years, they spent their summers hunting and fishing here. Just south of General Creek we have a 19th century log cabin, and the elegant Ehrman Mansion.
1844 February, John C. Fremont, on expedition across the Sierra Nevada and into California, first sighted Lake Tahoe.
1860 spring, frontiers-man of "General" William Phipps (1813-1891). Staked a 160 acre homestead IN Sugar Pine Point. He was the first permanent resident, and soon afterwards he built a log cabin.
1860's Comstock boom and logging
1872, Phipps built a second cabin, which can be seen today near the shore just south of General Creek.
1888, Phipps sold his property to W. W. "Billy" Lapham, who proceed to establish a Summer resort, the Bellevue.
1897, Isaias. W. Hellman pioneer west-coast banker from San Francisco began purchasing about 1,000 acres of property at Sugar Pine Point for personal use.
1927 Electricity was made available. Steam Generators produced power before that. Water was obtained from General Creek and later pumped directly from the Lake.
1935, the light was discontinued - only to be relit the following year at a cost of $590.52. Today, the point is marked by a modern optic. Post light with red and white diamond-shaped daybeacon. The navigational aid stands on the grounds of Sugar Pine Point State Park - where the park brochure describes it as "the world's highest working lighthouse." Note: this light is missing from the current U.S. Coast Guard Light List. Lake Tahoe is the only landlocked lake in the country with aids to navigation maintained by the Coast Guard. Site manager: Ed Z'berg - Sugar Pine Point State Park. ARLHS USA-916.
1965 the house and 1,975 acres of the estate were acquired by the California State Park System. Today the house is maintained as a house museum and as an example of the opulent tradition in Tahoe summer homes.
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