Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Trip to the Castle

I've always wanted to tour Vikingsholm Castle located in Emerald Bay but didn't want to do it when my children were little and in strollers, so when our vacation plans put us in Lake Tahoe, I declared  the kids were ready to hold their own on a long hike and this would be there year we visit it!

To ensure I had my family in the right frame of mind, I offered we should get some ice cream before we drove out to Emerald Bay, so we stopped in Camp Richardson's for a yummy treat.

After our ice cream we drove out to Emerald Bay and the views getting there were spectacular!

This is Fannette Island, probably the most photographed island within America. 

When you arrive at Vikingsholm, you have to park at the top of the mountain (no cars allowed at the castle due to preservation) and hike down to it but the views are worth the reward!

  You have to pay $8 to park your car in the parking lot at the top, unless you want to park along the cliffs and it is 1 mile in and another mile out when you leave. The steep trail is easy going until you begin to realize you'll be walking back UP the mountain to go home. Perfect opportunity to walk off all those ice cream calories.  ha ha

But the reward is worth it when you descend into Emerald Bay and see the castle.

To tour the home it is $8.00 - adult and $5.00 - children and personally money well spent to see a bit of history that only became accessible in 1953 when the owner sold it to the California State Park system.

Mrs. Lora Josephine Knight, a wealthy widow, purchased the property encompassing the head of Emerald Bay and Fannette Island in 1928 for $250,000. The foundation was laid in the late summer of 1928 but due to an early snowfall, work had to be stopped until the spring of 1929 when more than 200 highly skilled workmen were bought to Emerald Bay and housed in temporary barracks on the property. She challenged the architect to use the granite found on site to build the castle but NOT any of the trees because essentially those trees would be her front and back yard area providing shade, etc. so he had trees cut down on the other side of the lake and brought over on barges where they worked diligently throughout the summer and within 5 months the house was completed - I'd like to have that kind of contractor! ha ha. During those months, the timbers were done by hand, the interior wall boards were hand planed, intricate wood carvings were executed, and metal fixtures (such as fireplace screens, hinges, and latches) were hand forged - all at the site. 

This is the inner courtyard and if you look to the left you'll see grass growing on the roof.  Yes grass!  The castle is probably the best example of Scandinavian architecture on the western hemisphere.  The roof has a copper sheeting underneath but due to a leak in the roof earlier this year, it was recently repaired and new wildflower seeds hadn't bloomed yet. 

 This is a tiny castle on Fannette Island.  Ms. Knight had it built at the same time as the castle and called it her Tea House!  A woman after my own heart!  It originally had a roof, etc and we were told it was used about 4-5 times each summer to entertain her guests for tea and remained very sparse with a chimney and a table with chairs.  Tea and guests were taken over by boat!  We asked our guide if you could walk on the island and were told YES you can but you must boat over, you are not allowed to swim to it.

If you want to read more about this fascinating, kind and philanthropist woman and the history of the castle, you can read about it HERE!

The best part is that the beach and lake area are free to swim in, so bring a towel and enjoy!  It was so much fun to swim and then turn around and see this beautiful castle behind you just a few feet away!  I couldn't help but imagine it in it's glory days of entertaining!


3 Cha Cha Bloggers left a comment:

Linda August 10, 2011 at 6:08 AM  

Oh wow! Breathtaking! Beautiful!

The Brown Recluse August 10, 2011 at 11:24 AM  

What a fun day!!!! Ole Boy and I love visiting those old homes (he more than me) and your Emerald Bay is gorgeous!

R. Quilter August 11, 2011 at 6:06 PM  

OH I love Tahoe! I have always wanted to go to the castle! It looks like you are having a great summer!