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Unforgettable visit to Lake Tahoe, California
This year we are visiting US during spring to spend vacations with our younger daughter and family settled in California. Surrounded by hills, parks and miles of walking trails, springtime is one of the most beautiful time of the year here.
With good rains bringing relief to the ongoing drought, hillsides have been blanketed with lush green grass and wild flowers. While driving, you can see rows of daffodils, irises and rose bushes on both sides of road making the surroundings more aesthetic. Being garden lovers, for both of us there is no better way, than to take walks in the neighbourhood admiring hydrangea and all the beautiful flowers blooming.

After a wonderful time enjoying a mild winter (relatively in contrast to weather in India), we were delighted to receive a surprise. To celebrate my 77th birthday, our daughter had planned a surprise get away for us. Caught completely off guard, perhaps I had not received such a surprise all these years. With huge smiles on everyone's faces, we drove down on east bound US route 50. We were fascinated to see the fast speed traffic on one of the best highways providing driving a sheer pleasure.

This corridor is a historic one dating back to 1895, when it was used by workforce who came to California during the gold rush. Part of the present-day route was considered as a scenic alternate and converted into a modern highway going to South Tahoe in mid of 20th century. Recently, the highway has undergone significant expansion with express lane facilities.

After crossing Stockton, we had to switch on to alternate freeways to overcome the masses of week end traffic. Parallel to city roads, our GPS had chosen a route passing through Shenandoah valley passing through meadows and fruit laden trees of cherries in the Sierra foothills. Driving on this gorgeous route, we came across number of vineyards, green meadows and ranches supporting buffalo herds.

To give a break, we pulled off into one of winery's admiring perfect rows of vines on the slope. In a impressive building, we were greeted warmly by friendly staff members in the wine tasting room. We paid small fee for tasting vivacious wines - Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvign on and enjoyed nibbling of cheese along with it. The tasting room was spacious and we got a chance to stretch and relax in the beautiful surroundings. As a gesture and to keep memory going, we bought two bottles and few gift items for our special celebrations at Tahoe.

Continuing our drive for another 70 miles through the snow clad mountains, at last we were nearing elevation of 6,000 ft above sea level to have first glimpse of the lake - the highest lake in the US. Our experience on this scenic highway was of great joy! Lake Tahoe is approximately 22 miles long and 12 miles wide. It has an average depth of nearly one thousand feet - the deepest point is 1,645 feet.

Having travelled widely and having seen amazing landscapes from Siberia to the Alps, we were pretty excited while ascending this spectacular scenic route with the loved ones. Spring time in Lake Tahoe is incredible. Our stay in a Hotel in South Tahoe was superb with plenty of shopping, casinos and host of restaurants in close vicinity. Residing mere steps away from heavenly mountain high-speed Gondola, our first night at hotel was really very thrilling for the kids.

Sunrise over the next morning was no less stunning. In our spacious suite, complete with sofa beds, living rooms and dining areas having amenities like flat-screen TVs, flip-switch fireplaces and an open balcony which turned out to be an excellent home base for spending long weekend exploring the scenic lake resort.

The following day, Tahoe gave us something that we had not expected - the morning started clear and drizzle stopped. To celebrate my birthday weekend, Champagne buffet at Harrah's was considered to be the best. It was indeed an unique experience to dine on the 18th floor with amazing views and surroundings.

The buffet was crowded with people enjoying a spread of unlimited helpings from seven food stations. During dinning, we decided that our itinerary would start with a drive north along the lake on Route 28. Keeping with our days mission, after having sumptuous brunch we took a leisurely drive - frequently back and above the shoreline of the lake having a fabulous time.

Hardly we had passed Incline village and other beautiful scenic points that our eyes noticed a pull-off point providing outstanding views of the lake. Reflections of mountains in crystal clear lake were amazing and we spent lot of time at this spot clicking photos.

On return to our Hotel, we were happy to find that within 1 mile rectangular downtown area there were casinos, bustling shops, restaurants and other recreational facilities. In the evening we preferred to take a walk just couple of blocks away from our hotel to gain real casino experience. Being a long weekend, the Casino was crowded. We found people in all age groups busy playing table games, roulette, black jack and poker - attractions that make it easy to get lost completely.

The atmosphere was tempting with dim lights and musical sounds coming from slot machines.After careful survey we selected an area clustered with slot machines. We had great fun-bursting with laughter whenever the lines matched and enjoyed free drinks. We returned to our hotel around midnight carrying unforgettable memories of the evening.

On the second day, we drove through windy roads passing through an elevation of 7000 ft to the Emerald Bay. The entire route was very scenic - waterfall cascades and the rushing water from the mountains providing a serene atmosphere. On reaching the Vista Point, 600 feet above the lake, we found ourselves to be in a heavenly beautiful location.

From this point, I ended up taking umpteen photographs of the lake on my iphone simply because it was close at hand and the view breathtaking. Emerald Bay's deep green water is the site of the only island in Lake Tahoe, known as Fannett island.

We had not been on a vacation for a long time, so Lake Tahoe was a grand and unforgettable experience for us. This trip has imprinted the spectacular beauty as everlasting memories to our most treasured milestones. While returning home, we recalled nostalgic memories of another paradise on earth - Lake Baikal in Russia that we visited in July 1991.

Lake Baikal is the oldest and largest sweet water lake on the planet. When I walk down on the memory lane, our flight from Moscow to Irkutsk (Siberia) took us in around six hours changing three time zones.

From Irkutsk we travelled by road to Listvyanka - a village close to Lake Baikal stopping on way to tie a knot on the "Wishing Tree". I recall having visited a Museum at Listvyanka where we were told that the secret of having clearest water lies due to presence of a small crayfish that ingest algae and bacteria to continually filter the water.

I have a feeling that those who share positive experiences with others are happier overall than those who do not. On Facebook people share their good feelings when something positive occurs. The truth is you don't know what is going to happen tomorrow. The purpose of our lives is to be happy. If you want to remain cheerful and upbeat, best way is to share your happiness with your well wishers.

With God's blessings I call myself very lucky to have seen some of the most breathtaking places of our magnificent world. The older I get, I realize now how beautiful it would have been if I had written memoirs of these beautiful places visited earlier.

Forgive me for inadequacies or for other shortcomings in my writing. Hoping to learn and write better on my current visit to the US. This time I am preserving memories to last a lifetime capturing creative and visually pleasing digital images on my smart phone.

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