Carson Valley Correspondence – October 2019

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Soaring, Ballooning and Skydiving in the Carson Valley Skies

Photo credit: Balloon_NV (CC BY 2.0) by Reno Tahoe Territory

Fall in the Carson Valley is an outdoorsman’s paradise.  With the chill of the mountain air streaming into the valley each night and the warming of the sun in the afternoon, playing outdoors leads to great weather for hiking, biking, horseback riding, golfing, or riding your motorbikes in the Pinenuts. But maybe one of the best parts of the fall season in the Carson Valley is the activity that starts to take place in the skies above.

The Carson Valley is known by the aviation world as a place with great lift and wind structures to allow small manned aircraft to soar high in the Nevada skies year round. This is why glider pilots from around the world come to the Carson Valley to experience new highs in glider flying.  But it is not just gliders that get our attention in the Carson Valley. Each fall the skies seem to get a little more colorful as the hot air balloons take to the skies on a regular schedule, as well as small single engine gliders that buzz around in packs in the Carson Valley skies.

One of Soring Nevada’s gliders over Carson Valley, with the Pinenut Mountains beyond

As a local in the area, I love seeing the recreational use of the Carson Valley sky. We are treated year round to some of the best sunsets and sunrises you will see in the world, but the adventurous side of me loves watching from the ground as they explore the horizons above. Hot air balloons can be seen and photographed from many locations in the Valley but heading out Johnson Lane region north of the Airport seems to the best place to catch them most mornings. Of course, you can also go to Lake Tahoe and see their giant yellow balloon hovering over the water and landing on their water platform as well.  For gliders and other sky adventures maybe the best place to enjoy is actually out at the Airport while enjoying a drink or meal at a locals’ favorite, the Taildragger Café , sitting right next to the runway. Grab a quick tour from the groups at Soaring Nevada or talk with the group at Skydive Lake Tahoe to get a little more insight into the local sky.

Guests to the Carson Valley can find multiple options to enjoy the skies as well.  Glider rides that take you above the valley and provide epic views of Lake Tahoe, Hot Air Balloon Rides lifting you Thousands of feet into the Carson Valley sky, and for you adrenaline junkies sky diving in the Carson Valley is also available to maximize your Carson Valley experience.

  • Soaring Nevada provides world famous Glider experiences around the Carson Valley and over Lake Tahoe They recently published a blog post of the Five best views of Lake Tahoe that is definitely worth checking out.
  • Balloon Nevada is the only Hot Air balloon company for the Carson Valley and Lake Tahoe. Whit Landvater, the owner and pilot at Balloon Nevada, has over 30 years of ballooning experience and has flown thousands of passengers throughout the entire United States, as well as in Belgium, Canada, Holland, and Switzerland. For more information call 775-790-7572.

“The Carson Valley, like many other mountain valleys, is an ideal location for hot air ballooning, not only because of the natural beauty, but due to the favorable atmospheric conditions which produce multiple layers of air flowing in different directions at different altitudes. Since hot air balloons cannot be steered mechanically, balloonists rely on these various wind layers to maneuver around the valley.”

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  • Seeking a little more adrenaline? Then look to the skydivelaketahoe.com and get ready to jump out of an airplane at 12,000 feet and soar over the Valley at nearly 120 mph, as you experience the full wonder of the Carson Valley and Lake Tahoe with the wind in your face. Tandem Jumps are scheduled daily in the Carson Valley and Lake Tahoe.

Of course, it is not just recreational use that we have come accustomed to in the Carson Valley. Fall has also become known for the Aviation RoundUp season, as we are treated to high flying Aerial show at the Airport in October.  Unfortunately, this event is typically held every two years and 2019 is an off year. But in 2020, we will once again welcome the USAF Thunderbirds back to the valley.

North Kingsbury Trailhead Receives $500,000 Makeover and Is Ready For Fall/ Winter Recreation

Fall hiking in the Carson Valley is always a fantastic idea. With the six main valley trails and perfect fall weather for hiking or riding, many locals will spend fall outdoors exploring the region, riding their horses or bikes.

Mountain bikers eagerly awaiting the opening of the new trailheadOne of the trails seldom discussed in the county, however, is The North Kingsbury trailhead (formally or locally known as Brautovich trail). The trail recently received a $500,000 upgrade to parking and facilities, thanks to to a Nevada State Recreational grant, and was part of a 6-year planning and development process between the county and several local and regional agencies.

The Upgrade added expanded paved parking, heated restrooms and added security cameras for the parking areas.

The North Kingsbury Trail is a four season trail located at the top of Daggett Summit (Kingsbury grade) Route 207 towards South Lake Tahoe. Located back behind local development, the trailhead gives access for hikers, bikers, OHV, horseback riders, cross country skiers, and  snowshoeing, with great access points to Castle Rock, The Tahoe Rim Trail, Genoa Peaks Road, and fantastic views of Lake Tahoe.

All Season trailhead

With multiple uses and all season access, the North Kingsbury trailhead currently averages about 100 visitors a day and is a pet friendly area for hiking with your dogs. There are several loops off the trailhead that help this site be a locals’ favorite for taking visitors on a short hike with great views.

The Castle Rock loop features great vistas of South Lake Tahoe, as well as access to the Tahoe Rim Trail heading towards Spooner Summit. This short 3-mile loop will take you west out of the parking area with a slight climb to your first view of the Lake and South Shore region; it will then circle north til it meets up with the Tahoe Rim trail, where you will head south on the trail for a short distance until the trail branches off back to the West and back uphill towards Castle Rock. Castle Rock is home to a pair of nesting Peregrine Falcons and is occasionally closed during nesting season, but the views from around the rock and the top, if you are daring enough to climb, are spectacular. Hiking back, you have the option of a return route or completing a loop back to the parking lot.

View of Lake Tahoe and Mount Talac from the North Kingsbury Trail

Of course, mountain bikers access North Kingsbury Trailhead for multiple other routes, including hooking up with the Rim Trail and then the Genoa Trail System as they scream down the mountain towards Genoa. Some consider this one of the most scenic mountain bike rides in the entire region.

Once winter hits the mountain range, snowshoeing and cross country skiing are popular from this trail, as the snow stays deep and the large trees provide a great forest location to escape to. Occasionally, you will also find families sledding in the valley above the parking area, once the snow is deep enough. This year, with the added heated bathrooms, expect that this area’s winter usage might increase and become a local favorite for winter recreation.

Directions:

If you are visiting the Carson Valley and looking for an easy way to get great views of Lake Tahoe and also get a nice hike or bike ride in the mountains, head west on Kingsbury Grade (Route 207); about a quarter mile past the summit turn North on N. Benjamin Drive (signs to Brautovich trail); Benjamin Drive will change into Andria Drive about halfway back; follow Andria Drive to the end and to the new parking area.

— Charlie Pankey
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