As a native of Massachusetts, I grew up with summer vacations being synonymous with Cape Cod. In my effort to recreate the idyll of my youth for my children, for the past five years I have transported my family from San Francisco back to New England to go “down the Cape” in summer.
This year was different. I was laid off from my newspaper job right before Christmas which changed the financial dynamic. There was no room in the budget for cross-country airfare for four.
But I refused to give up on a family vacation. I’d scale down a bit. Ok, a lot. We decided to camp.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m more five-star than under-the-stars. I prefer Frette linens to a Gore-Tex tent. But a friend offered us a reservation for at D.L. Bliss State Park on Lake Tahoe, so I decided to go for it.
We packed the car to the gills with borrowed gear and set out on our adventure. The kids slept in the car (praise Jah!) and three hours later, we had emerged from the Frisco fog into summer, Tahoe style.
The site was a pricey $60 per night but was located on the coveted Beach Loop just up the hill from a pristine, sandy beach. We were soon joined by friends who were experienced campers, equipped with a portable kitchen.
D.L. Bliss is a few miles north of Emerald Bay in one off the loveliest parts of Lake Tahoe.
It took me a while to get into the groove of sleeping on dirt (in a tent, but still…), my hair turning into dreads, and the general grunge, but the site had some amenities — a nearby spigot of running water, a fire pit, grill, food locker, and clean bathrooms with hot showers.
The next four days were spent basking in the sun, splashing in the chilly water, riding bikes, and lounging around the campground. Nights began with amazing sunsets, corn-on-the-cob and grilled delectables and moved onto s’mores, jiffy pop, wine, and mojitos. Bliss, indeed.
By the last night, I was embracing this grungy version of a family vacation.
Then, it happened.
Just before twilight, a whistle screeched from a nearby campsite. People began banging pots. Bear! I looked up to see to see the hulking silhouette of a black bear mere yards from our campfire.
As he lumbered away from the noise, I vowed that if we lived through the night, I would start saving tomorrow, because next year it is back to the Cape.
D.L. Bliss State Park
17 miles south of Tahoe City on Highway 89,
just north of Emerald Bay
Tel: 530-525-7277, summer
Photos by Lisa Dion of Friscomama