I originally planned to spend a lazy morning at my hotel and then drive to Mount Rose Ski Tahoe for their Friday afternoon special, then check in to a Reno casino-hotel with comps (even though I didn’t need to stay over) in order to freshen up before dinner and my redeye flight home. Since the snow was not great, AND since I read dreadful reviews of the hotel online, I changed my plan entirely, cancelled the hotel, and mapped out an alternative itinerary.
I decided instead to take hike along one of the many challenging trails in the Tahoe area. After checking out of Harrah’s Tahoe, I drove 15 minutes, over to Kingsbury North trailhead, to hike the Castle Rock Loop Trail. This seemed to be a good choice, because the parking lot was near a quiet residential area, and I felt safe leaving my luggage and skis locked in the car. As I pulled into the parking lot, I met a woman who was chatting with a friend. She asked me if I was planning to hike the loop, and offered some directions to me. I was glad she did, because trail markings weren’t totally clear to me. I did not carry a backpack but instead had my water bottle in my jacket pocket, and I clipped my whistle to my trekking pole straps. At the trailhead information sign, there was a warning about bears and mountain lions living in the area. Yikes. But I pressed on, undeterred.
The beginning section seemed to have the most elevation gain, and involved some boulder scrambling, which I really enjoy.
Beautiful pine forest led to a peek of Lake Tahoe at the top of the loop.
As I made my way through the trail, at one point I lost sight of the blazes and found myself walking in circles, so I decided to retrace my steps. Perhaps I went off the trail? Luckily for me, the lady I met in the parking lot, named Adel, was approaching my location, and asked if I was lost. Why, YES, I was, so she kindly offered to hike together, as she was familiar with this trail. We chatted most of the way, and I learned that Adel and her family live in Northern California and came to Tahoe for a long weekend. I had been hearing noises earlier in the hike that perhaps was just wind in the trees, but I imagined it as growling mountain lion, so I was relieved to have a knowledgeable and talkative hiking partner in those woods!
After we said our goodbyes, I freshened up in the car, packed away my hat, gloves, trekking poles, hiking boots, and hardshell, and opened up a midday snack to eat in the car on the way to my next destination: Carson Hot Springs. A beautiful drive around a portion of the lake to the highway took me to what appeared to be an office/industrial park in Carson City, NV. At the literal end of the road was the hot springs and cafe. My intent was to simply pay a little extra for a private soaking tub, which in this case meant $25 for a 2-hour soak. I brought a small backpack with clean underwear, clothes for my flight home (I was still in sweaty clothes from hiking) and a few toiletries (deodorant, a comb, lip balm.) I also brought my water bottle – very necessary to take breaks from the 140-degree water now and then and hydrate with some water.
It is not a fancy facility, but clean and efficient. I did find the private spa room to be quite elegant, tiled in blue mosaic, with granite steps leading to the water, plus a high ceiling that formed a pyramid shape as it went up to the vent fan. The rooms each have a a bench, hooks for clothing, and a speaker; on the day I was there, they piped in soft rock hits of the 70’s and 80’s which was fine by me. After a week of physical activity plus some physical challenges with my foot, soaking in the hot mineral water was the respite I needed.
After a languid 2 hours, I made my way to the shower room to fix my hair before heading to dinner in Reno. I would definitely go back for a private soak at the Hot Springs – the price was reasonable and it afforded me a place to shower and freshen up after hiking. If you ever go, from what I’ve read, it can get jammed on weekends and they are strict (for good reason) about what guests can bring into the pools. No bathing – as in no soap, shampoo, lotions, etc – and no “luggage.” I was one of a number of people who had a small backpack, so I’m assuming that was kosher. Also, they do not provide towels, but some are available to rent. I brought a towel since I planned to go to either a facility-based or “natural” hot spring somewhere during this trip. You should also bring a swimsuit in case you opt to swim in the outdoor communal pool.
I hadn’t chosen a dining spot in Reno, mostly because put my game plan together right before I left the hotel. Thankfully, I had good cell service in the parking lot at the Hot Springs, so I decided to look for an Italian restaurant (usually a safe bet for vegetarian options as it was a Friday in Lent.) I hoped to be somewhere near the airport, and not in downtown Reno, so that parking a car filled with luggage would be safe and easy. I had plenty of well-regarded local joints to choose from but I opted for Zozo’s and was pleased that I did. I was also glad I arrived early enough to beat the dinner rush, as it got quite busy, and most other diners arriving has reservations. It was a cute “red checked tablecloth” place in a nice, neighborhood shopping center. I was quite hungry, so I chose a vegetable lasagna, house salad, and a glass of Sangiovese wine that arrived in a comically large glass. Everything tasted homemade and delicious. I am usually a sucker for Italian desserts but they were out of cannoli, and, I thought, it gave me an excuse to hunt around elsewhere for some gelato, as I still had hours to kill before my flight.
I drove around the neighborhood a bit and considered going to a movie at the nearby cineplex but there was nothing of interest showing. So…I headed to Peppermill Casino. The valet in Tahoe told me that the only casino properties he recommends to guests heading to Reno are The Atlantis and Peppermill. I had been to Peppermill in 2010, my first trip to Reno. That trip was solely a gambling junket, with some time set aside to explore the city and the Reno Museum of Art. I had visited every property downtown, and to mix thing up, took a city bus (I didn’t rent a car on that trip, plus I like experiencing transit when it’s available.) At the time, the gaming floor was all 80’s-style neon lighting-based decor. It was…weird. Since then the property has expanded and been updated tremendously. It’s a gleaming, glamorous casino resort complex, with bustling restaurants, shops, and apparently a busy hotel. It *was* a Friday night, so I wasn’t surprised at how busy it was, but I was pleasantly surprised at the decor, and the variety of dining and gaming options. I found a few games that were new to me, so I played a bit, and more or less broke even for the night. The worst aspect of Nevada casinos is the smoking. Ugh, the smoking!! In some of the gaming areas, the smoke smell was mitigated thanks to very high ceilings and aggressive air-handling systems. But in other sections, games (and players) were sandwiched so close together, it affected what I chose to play as I didn’t want to be near a smoker. I took a break from game play to browse some very nice shops for unique gift items, clothing, and shoes. Had my luggage not been so tightly-packed, I suspect I might have splurged on a few items.
After leaving the shops, I spied a cafe/gelateria! Yeah!!! I enjoyed my scoops at a table and relaxed while checking my email, flight updates, etc.
I then headed back to rental car return which is SO easy at RNO. Then checked my bags, and upstairs to my gate to wait while trying not to nod off. I would never *choose* a redeye, but it was the only nonstop flight available to Chicago at that time of year, unfortunately.
Now that I’ve been home for weeks during the COVID-19 crisis, all I can think about it getting back to Reno/Tahoe for another visit. Soon, I hope!