Harmon will be missed at Heavenly | NevadaAppeal.com

Harmon will be missed at Heavenly

Sam Bauman column

Many of us who have worked for and enjoyed the hospitality of Dennis Harmon will miss him next ski season. The new owners of Heavenly Ski Resort, Vail Resorts Inc., have decided to replace Harmon with one of their own and he leaves next month.

It’s not an unusual move for a company buying another company, but Harmon had weathered two previous ownership changes and while the rest of the American Ski Co. was foundering, he assured that Heavenly would continue to be a cash cow.

Harmon brought many major improvements to Heavenly. He brought the Sky chair on the California side to life, offering a quick ride to the top and to the Nevada side. He added the beginner chairlift at the California base. He put in the Tamarack six-seater high-speed chair in preparation for the $20 million gondola and then he continued with the gondola itself, a gem for Lake Tahoe visitors and incidentally establishing a summer cash flow that far exceeds the income from the old tram, which was out of the tourist tracks.

Yes, he didn’t do it all alone. But it was his crew that did the job, and they did it quickly, taking into careful consideration protecting the environment.

Vail plans to put $40 million into Heavenly in the future, and with the two timeshares/hotels next to the gondola scheduled to open for the winter season, Heavenly certainly will continue to grow. But it sure would have been nice to have Dennis around.

Problem Hikers

What do you do with a visitor who is a senior, somewhat out of shape and acrophobic but who wants to hike during his visit? Not knowing he was skittish in the air I figured we’d take the Squaw Valley tram and hike up to Emigrant Mountain during the full moon Saturday night. (I did it Sunday night). No way, he said. So instead I figured the trek to Castle Rock from North Benjamin Drive off Kingsburg would be an easy one for him.

Benjamin Drive ends with three trailheads. One goes up to Mt. Genoa by a road. Another is part of the Rim Trail. And the other is the trail to Castle Rock. The Castle Rock trail is the first one sees as Benjamin dead ends. It’s on the left and is marked by a bar gate. No label on it.

The hike starts off downhill for about 300 yards before it starts wandering through a valley. A trail breaks off to the right about halfway to the Rock; I’ve never taken it so I don’t know where it ends and it isn’t marked on my map.

But it’s an easy hike, no steep grades until you reach the base of the Rock. There it gets vertical. Once at the base of the Rock, it’s clamber and grab. Nothing difficult, just big rocks and pine needles. The view from the top is spectacular but not for my friend who hunkered down just a few feet from the base of the Rock. Too bad; I’ve sat on the top in the past and sipped a bit of wine and enjoyed the spectacle of Lake Tahoe spread out before me.

Anyhow, if you have a guest who might not be up to a more demanding hike, Castle Rock can be an answer. An even easier one is Cave Rock on Highway 50. You can park on 50 (there’s a little space just before you come to the tunnel) or you can take Cave Rock Road up a few turns and park at an open area. The view isn’t bad and the rocks at the top a lot easier to climb.

Outdoor Fun

Led by lifelong Tahoe resident and forest ecologist Bob Wright, a Squaw Valley hike will Saturday take guests on a tour of the natural vegetation and evolution of the area while exploring the fields of wildflowers and rocky ridges of the upper mountain. Guests are encouraged to wear sturdy shoes and bring water.

The educational hike begins at noon and lasts roughly an hour and a half. Guests should meet on the grass lawn at High Camp (allow some extra time for the Cable Car ride to the upper mountain). Cable car tickets to High Camp are $17 for adults and $5 children 12 and under. There is no additional charge for the hike. Packages are also available for guests that would like to enjoy the High Camp Swimming Lagoon & Spa and Olympic Ice Pavilion before or after the hike. Call (530) 583-6985 or visit http://www.squaw.com.

More Hikes

Saturday, Loch Leven. Moderately easy 6-mile hike, with 1,000 foot gain, to lunch, swim and sun. Hike goes through great granite, fern and forest area west of Donner Summit. No official limit, but this area is overused, and number of participants limited. Leaders: Craig Masters (775) 786-7742), crgmsts@netscape.net, David Book (775) 673-3819), dbook@reno.rmci.net.

Saturday, Spooner to Kingsbury. A moderate hike of 12 miles round trip, 1,000 feet of elevation gain on this section of the Tahoe Rim Trail. We will set up a car shuttle for the trip. Trip limit: 14. Leader: Holly Coughlin (775) 331-7488. Co-leader: Grace Blaylock, (775) 677-9257.

Sunday, Frog Lake Overlook. Moderately easy 7.2 mile round trip, 1,400 foot gain, along Warren Lake Trail, north from Donner Summit. One of the more beautiful views in the local Sierra is from Lake Point, lunch site. Leaders: Pete Gaspers (775) 786-1246, pgaspers@pag.reno.nv.us, Marsha Rowse (775) 849-7650).

Wednesday Tahoe Rim Trail. Hike goes from Watson Lake to Tahoe City, 12.5 miles (just over moderate). Leader: Terri Sutor (775) 267-5366). Call for time and meeting place.

Thursday, longest twilight evening hike. Moderately easy 5 miles, 1,500-foot gain, off into the latest twilight of the year, to the highest peak on the ridge east of Reno. This will afford the best view of the lingering twilight. Brisk pace, some cross country. For the hardiest of conditioning hikers. Leaders: Ridge Walker (775) 853-8055, edc@unr.edu, Jackie Walker (775) 358-1952.

Sam Bauman is the Nevada Appeal Diversions Editor.