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Working your way to the top, or becoming a Tahoe local

After college, you are expected to immediately find a career but everyone always says, “You have to work your way to the top.” I agree, but I did not believe this would be literally so.

I had just begun my internship with the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority the previous week, and by begun, I mean I had sat in on one meeting. I was asked if I wanted to join a photo shoot the following week to the top of Tallac. Of course I wanted to miss work to climb a mountain! The following Monday afternoon, as I found myself climbing to the top of Mt. Tallac, I realized the 10 mile, 3,500 elevation gain hike to the top of 9,735 feet, was just the beginning of “working my way to the top” becoming my real life experience in the workforce.

As I began my ascent, I realized I had not done this hike since first moving to South Lake Tahoe after college; I had not hiked this mountain in seven years! I was embarrassed to consider myself a local as I climbed “the locals trail” - a tougher, steeper incline, granite-scramble-switch-back-of-a-climb version of the main trail. The memories from seven years prior gradually returned as I remembered it had been spring the last time I climbed Tallac; the wildflowers were blooming and there were still a few patches of snow. Memories of that first year in South Lake Tahoe made me smile while I repeatedly stopped to catch my breath – the altitude reminding me now as it did then, that I am from Los Angeles.

At the summit, the views took my breath away… the views and the dropping temperatures! Yes, it is gorgeous at the peak but mostly I was freezing! Don’t misunderstand me, the views of Lake Tahoe and Desolation Wilderness are unmatched, but did I mention I was hiking with a photo crew for a summer shoot on one of the coldest and windiest autumn days? Wool socks: check. Gloves: check.  Pants: of course. Long sleeve shirt: check. Burton snowboarding jacket: yup, that was on over my Patagonia down vest. Why was I still so cold? I had moved here for the snow for cryin’ out loud – I teach snowboarding in the winter!  The odds of anyone believing I was a local began to stack against me when I realized I had never been at the top of Tallac for sunset. All I could do was try to focus on the experience and hopefully in retrospect a funny, “remember-that-time” sort of story would come from it.

Local up Tallac Looking over Fallen Leaf Lake from the summit of Mt Tallac. 

Desolation Wilderness Sunset
Desolation Wilderness at sunset.

All in all it was a blast, the crew was supportive and fun as is the Tahoe style. In a seven hour round trip hike, I had reminisced about my years in South Lake Tahoe and where I would be seven years from now. Knowing I was living in one of the most beautiful places in the world, I knew I would continue my personal climb. The cliché is correct and I was nothing short of a fine example: Whatever your mountain top may be, it is hard work to the top; all you can do is enjoy the scenery ‘till you get there. If these are the views I expect to see at the peak, I will continue to climb to the top of mountains as I work my way up to the top!

Locals atop Tallac
Don’t let the smiles fool you; it was really cold at the summit! Photo credit: Rachid Dahnoun

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Genevieve Rojas

Genevieve interned with the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority before moving on to her real job at Smith + Jones. Hailing from Los Angeles with a degree in communications from Cal State Fullerton, Genevieve brings high energy and experience from previous stints with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Heavenly Mountain Resort. She still considers LA home and is cold during the Tahoe winters, but after 8 years in South Lake Tahoe she is starting to feel like a local.


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