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Over the River and Through the Woods to Tahoe Thanksgiving We Went!

Updated: Nov 24, 2021

November is Family Story Month. In America that is a perfect match with Thanksgiving, often a family holiday, as the winter holiday season kicks


Every Thanksgiving my heart goes back to Tahoe. Incline Village specifically. In 1978,

my paternal grandparents became the property managers for the rental homes at Incline Village. For six glorious years we spent summer and winter visiting the bucolic world of majestic mountains, fresh coldwater creeks, tall pines, spacious golf course, and of course Lake Tahoe itself.

Though summers were fun. Thanksgiving was the piece de resistance. Living a few hours south in the Bay Area, we looked forward with eager anticipation to the four-day break from school and work, to mingle with nature, spend time with family, and get away. Yet, there were added bonuses to the Thanksgiving trip. The main one being snow. Not just a dusting.

As we wound the miles toward Tahoe, we had mapped out our landmarks and goals. Crossing the Benicia Bridge. Counting how many ships remained in the Ghost Ship Fleet.

Stopping to fill the car, and getting spiced cider at the self-serve beverage counter. Our final landmark was always the Donner Party statue in the town of Truckee.

By the time we reached the Donner Party statue we were on the lookout for snow. In 1978, you didn't have phone apps or the internet to check for the forecast. You could read it in your local paper or hear it on the news. But as everyone knows, weather can change at the drop of a hat. The depression was real for us kids, if we reached the statue without snow in sight or flakes falling down. Our young hearts were sure we wouldn't have snow. Yet, every year, somehow it miraculously arrived. One year it didn't arrive until Thanksgiving night. After dark and dinner. We barely slept that night waiting for dawns early light so we could get out and play.

And play we did. The inner circle of the houses was a huge tree filled sloping lawn. We often used it for snow ball fights, snow man making, and general tunneling. However, all around the homes was an elite, expansive golf course. From there were hills and mountain trails for miles. Off we went sleds, inner tubes, and taboggans in hand. We played from dawn till dusk. When we got hungry, we ran inside for Thanksgiving left over sandwiches, made from Grandma's homemade bread, with a slice of homemade pie on the side. Then it was outside again until dark.

Every night, Grandpa would stoke the woodburning stove, which was a novel contraption to us. We had never had a fireplace. Let alone a woodburning stove. The sounds and smells of the crackeling logs, a second helping of Thanksgiving overs, before we knew it, we were all asleep.

This beautiful tradition was ours for six years. The memories stick with me like it was yesterday, not thirty-nine years ago. When I hear the words or song, "Over the river and through the woods, to grandmothers house we go." I am instantly transported to Incline Village and the magic of childhood Thanksgivings.

Do you have happy family Thanksgiving stories you love to revisit?

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