So my buddy Clay (who is actually from Edgewood, Kentucky, but we didn't meet til Tahoe) is a pilot! I've been trying for a year to get a ride with him, and it finally worked out for a lovely sunset trip a few weeks ago.
Now, I was a little nervous about flying in such a small plane for 2 reasons: 1. If we went down over the lake, I'd be a dead body perfectly preserved floating at a certain depth with all the mafia members and immigrant Chinese workers who were thrown overboard back in the day. (You can read up on this information further if you wish, but apparently Lake Tahoe is so cold that at about 1,000 feet below the surface things just circulate in flawless condition...freaky). And 2. all of my other friends who have flown with Clay have puked into a convenient plastic bag shoved in the side of the plane (oh, but one of my friends didn't make the plastic bag...gross).
But I manned up and decided this adventure is just too good to pass up.
Now, Clay is a pretty funny laid back kinda guy, but he took his piloting seriously, which was reassuring. The take off was smooth sailing and we were soon en route to flying over the Lake. He took us over the East Shore and over a lake that is just above it. It was strange seeing so many places I had hiked to from a bird's eye view, but it was equally beautiful. We then continued on to South Lake Tahoe where we could actually see the difference in elevations between the Carson Valley, the Sierra Nevadas and then the lake...pretty cool. Carson Valley is actually below Lake level. Then we continued onto Desolation Wilderness, which is an empty area filled with plenty of lakes, granite rock and no one within miles of you. Then Clay wove through a little canyon where we popped out onto Emerald Bay, the only inlet on the Lake. (Please enjoy the video posted below.)
By this point, I was starting to gain some confidence so Clay let me fly the plane...ahhh! He said the plane does most of the work, but I had a hard time keeping it level. After about 30 seconds Clay took the wheel again. He flew low over the lake and then took us over Squaw Valley, where we waved to all our friends. We even did a Flyby of the Resort at Squaw Creek, which is where I work over the summer.
Then Clay asked how we were all feeling, to which I said, "Great! Why?" Then he explained this thrill called "Zero Gravity" and I nervously said, "Lets try it." So he flew the plane straight up in the air to the point where I thought we were going to do a back flip and then did a nose dive like a hill on a roller coaster. I guess I didn't trust Clay that much because I was a little freaked out that we were "Going Down!" Instead, my camera case that was once placed in my lap was now floating up in my face until Clay leveled out the plane. It was such a scary thrill!! He did it one more time and then we came in for the landing.
So it was a successful flight with no puking and lots of laughs. It was incredible to get such a new look at beautiful Lake Tahoe and its surrounding areas. Thank you Clay!!