Vines, Valleys and Vistas Update

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"How I Spend my summer vacations"

By Ruth Carroll
Photos by Roy A. Clifton

Kit Carson at Silver Lake
"The Treasure of The Sierra Mountains"

For the past ten years I've spent idyllic August summers at Kit Carson Lodge along the shores of Silver Lake California. Friends and viewers ask me why I return there year after year, the answer is simple; because it offers the perfect vacation from the frantic pace of urban life.

Kit Carson Lodge affords its clientele, a family friendly safe environment where one can explore and discover rewarding activities for every member of the family at their own pace.

For more information about Kit Carson Lodge, visit


"From Pioneers to Thriving Recreational Resort"


Kit Carson Lodge is located on Hwy 88 at Silver Lake, one hour east of Jackson California and just 45minutes south of Lake Tahoe. Silver Lake is a beautiful high alpine lake at 7,300 feet of altitude above sea level and is ¾ mile in width and 1.5 miles in length. The lake is home to trophy size Rainbow, German Brown and Mackinaw trout. The Silver Lake and Carson pass areas are well known for spectacular wild flowers that can be seen in various settings from the area’s easily accessible hiking trails. Because of its high altitude, the Carson Pass area has been sparsely settled since the pioneers first came over the pass in the early 1840’s. The pass soon became one of the main westward trails for the covered wagon immigration into California.

The Lodge was established in 1926 and since then has gained a well earned reputation as a wonderful family vacation destination in the high sierra, combining the rustic setting of stone and wood buildings nestled between tall pines and immense granite boulders along with an elegant restaurant and art gallery, private beach and marina, general store, all on over 12 acres of lake shore.

From a few cabins that were originally built by Captain A.O. Smith and his wife Katherine as a retirement project in 1926, the lodge slowly grew as successive family owners enlarged and remodeled it…In the old days it was a hot and dusty drive up to the lodge from Jackson and Stockton. Visitors came to fish, swim and just plain relax.

The Lodge slowly grew into its current size consisting of 30 buildings and a staff of 18 serving 110 overnight guests and several hundred day visitors.

Over 10 years plus, returning year after year…

The typical visitors to the lodge seek out the incredible beauty of its setting and the quiet relaxation that the lodge and the surrounding wilderness afford. Most guests have stayed at the resort for 10 years or more. They seek out the quiet lake for canoeing and kayaking and the many easy hiking trails see below, in the area.With neither phones nor TV’s in the accommodations, Kit Carson Lodge promotes an unplugged atmosphere for the guest who wants to unwind from the stress of an urban lifestyle.

Elephant's Back across Frog Lake

Elephant's Back across Frog Lake

Wet Meadows reservoir

Wet Meadows reservoir

The Silver Lake Gallery…where nature imitates Art…

The Silver Lake Gallery was started in 1988 and has been a focal point of the Lodge ever since. The gallery specializes in art work local to our area-finely crafted hand painted ceramics depicting local wild flowers, paintings of nearby scenes, wood sculpture, pine needle basketry, and compelling photography…all bring the artist’s interpretation of our fantastic scenery to life. The gallery’s artists put on delightful mini workshops on Sundays while a delicious champagne brunch is served on the restaurants deck. Multi-day workshops are also put on by the artists so that Lodge guests can gain an in depth knowledge of a particular craft or art form. Mini concerts are put on during the Sunday brunches, occasional evening violin recitals and of course the incomparable Kit Carson Mountain men come up in full regalia to display the craft of the mountain men- great animal skins, rifles, knives and tall tales of the west-all displayed around the camp fire near the main Lodge building…a treat for all ages.

Thunder, Thimble and Silver Lake sunset

Thunder, Thimble and Silver Lake sunset

Kit Carson and Surrounding Areas…Great Hikes, Photo ops & More…

I've hiked these mountain trails countless times over the years and each time I return I find something new that resonates about this area. I wanted to share a few of my favorites. Roy Clifton provides us with directions and helpful tips regarding these delightful hiking locations.

Carson Pass to Winnemucca Lake (and perhaps beyond) - This is probably the most used trail in the Silver Lake to Carson Pass here for trail details.

Schneider Cow Camp to Meiss Ridge (and maybe over the ridge) - This is probably the most prolific wild flower spot in the area ... click here for trail details.

Castle Point (terrific sunset view) - This is a fairly short hike where the views are nothing short of spectacular ... click here for trail details.

Round Top from the Winnemucca trail

Round Top from the Winnemucca trail

Silver Lake summer sunset

Silver Lake summer sunset


Kit Carson “Long Timers” testimonials… by Roy Clifton

photo by Janet S. Clifton

photo by Janet S. Clifton

Janet and I got our first glimpse of the Silver Lake area in 1977 at her parents’ invitation. They had started coming a few years earlier and homed in on Kit Carson Lodge’s Black Bear cabin. We have not missed a year since then. To our delight, our children, now grown and beginning careers and families of their own, still arrange to spend some time with us at the lodge each summer.

My professional career was as an engineer and manager of engineers in high technology. Janet was equally busy as a volunteer in the education community. Each year, the one time and place that we could plan on getting away was our vacation at Silver Lake. Summers at Silver Lake became a time we could avoid our normal “hustle and bustle”. No phones, no faxes, no email, no television and no cell phone coverage. It has become our special time to hit the trails to see how the flowers have changed, to find new ones we haven’t seen before or to see how areas have evolved from the year before. And on the days between hikes we enjoy taking time to read a Cussler for me or an Evanovich for Janet.

For our family there’s another wonderful benefit of our summers at Kit Carson Lodge. Beyond getting away, it’s about getting together. It is a time we know we will be together as a family and often as an extended family when one or more of Janet’s siblings and families come to the mountains. During our many years coming to Silver Lake, we have developed friendships with other families and eagerly look forward to seeing them again.

Our vacations at Kit Carson became a natural place to talk with others about flora and fauna and photographing this great area. Now each year I present an evening slide show followed by questions and answers at the Kit Carson Lodge. I also host one or two Sunday brunch sessions to talk about tools, techniques and my favorite hikes and photo spots. We have tried to organize a photo workshop in the fall for those who want to spend a few days with other photographers working hard at improving their craft in a great environment. We just haven’t been able to generate enough interest.

Due to the variety of autumn foliage and unpredictable weather, Janet and I have started staying at the lodge a second time each year in the early fall. Last year we experienced the bright colors and snow at the same time. What a photographic treat! My photographs are on display at the Kit Carson Lodge Gallery and online at

Silver Lake panorama

Silver Lake panorama

“A Few of their Favorite Things” by Jennifer Cassani & family

"My boys characterize Kit Carson as “heaven on earth” . Our times together spent at Silver Lake have become some of our most treasured family memories: Brandon’s first hike at 18 months of age into Frog Lake; a kayaker coming to Mark, Brandon, and my Dad’s rescue after they overturned a canoe while trying to land a fish; raccoons visiting the deck of Cinnamon Bear cabin; the store with all of its interesting contents, including Jesse’s favorite stuffed animals he calls “Sneaky,” the panoramic view from the summit of Thunder Peak; seeing a beaver in its native habitat along the Lake Margaret trail; lazily reading the afternoon away from a beach chair while the boys get dirty and wet as they please; hunting for mysterious treasures while on Treasure Island; playing board games after dinner; drinking a steaming cup of fresh coffee on a crisp mountain morning…and the list goes on…

Thank you for all that you both do throughout the year for these kinds of experiences for us and countless other guests. Kit Carson Lodge is truly a unique place and a gem of the Sierra. We feel so fortunate to have discovered it almost 20years ago now, ( a tiny mention in a 1989 Sunset magazine spurred us to check it out!) and greatly appreciate the stewardship that you devote to the resort so that it retains its rustic charm and family-oriented appeal.

Kit Carson Lodge Supports Their Local Artists


Roy A. Clifton, photographer, does portraiture, wedding and sports photography, but prefers photographing the great outdoors in the Sierras. During the past thirty-two years, he and his wife, Janet, have worked extensively in the Silver Lake to Carson Pass area.

Additional information about Roy Clifton, visit:


Robert Reynolds, is a California artist whose paintings celebrate the natural beauty found in the land and waters that surround him on the Central California Coast and during his time spent in the High Sierras. His work defines and reaffirms our important relationship with the world of nature that eternally provides us with so many visual gifts. Reynolds has conducted intensive, summer painting workshops in the High Sierra for the past 30 years.


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Linda Erfle, watercolorist, produces work of representational art through the mediums of transparent watercolor and/or gouache. Linda finds inspiration for her paintings everywhere, nature close-up, deteriorating store fronts, people and her favorite, Sierra Nevada Mountains. Additional information about Linda Erfle - click here


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Katherine Venturelli, printmaker, Northern California artist, who creates unique and limited edition artist books from her etchings and monotypes. She has lectured and facilitated monotype workshops for amateur and professional artists, and develops art outreach programs for children for over 30 years.

Additional information about Katherine Venturelli - click here.


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Dale Laitinen, watercolorist, is best known for his water color paintings of the mountains and deserts of the Western United States. He is drawn to the topography of exposed rock which manifests itself as light catching ranges of mountains, deep canyons and broad expanse.


P. Diane Mobley...Artist
"Art has always been a part of my life" Arts & Crafts were prevalent while raising a family of three children. During this time, I pursued classes in tole and decorative painting, drawing, oil painting and watercolor.

"Since living in the Placerville area, I have enjoyed creating beads, pine needles and gourds.

I get excited when I combine these various art forms. Art is an adventure and there is always something to learn"

For additional information about P. Diane Mobley visit:

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Naida West, historian, author "EYE OF THE BEAR" and "RIVER OF RED GOLD" (Novels about early California people prior to and during the Gold Rush era). Her latest book, "Murder on the Middle Fork", is based on an actual historic
murder. Her new book "Rest for the Wicked" - the third novel in her California Trilogy will be released early 2008.

For additional information about Naida West - click here.

To see Naida’s books, visit


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Jason Dunn, an emerging California Illustrator, brings his animals to life through sketching in pen, ink and colored pencils.

To see Jason Dunn's artworks, visit


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Herb Boxhorn, guitarist and vocalist. He is noted for his vocal styles of jazz, blue, and an electric mix.

Pauline Bradshaw, violinist, is a professional musician from Red Bank, New Jersey. She is a regular member of The New Philharmonic of Morristown, New Jersey. She performs as a duo with organist, Camille E. Thompson.

Castle Point sunset

Castle Point sunset


"End of the Perfect Day"