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Fortified by a beautiful blue sky and bloody Marys, players in the Nakoma Education Fund Golf Tournament raised more more than $11,000 for Portola Jr.-Sr. High School on Sept. 13.

Forty golfers took on each other and the Dragon golf course to have fun and raise money for Portola Jr.-Sr. High’s tech program needs. The $11,130 raised is the highest amount so far in the history of the NEF tournament, eclipsing last year’s total by more than $3,300.

“I was thrilled when I saw the NEF check in my office,” said school Principal Sara Sheridan. “Our school community is so grateful for the amazing generosity and support of Nakoma.”

Funds from the 2017 tournament will go directly toward technology at Portola Jr.-Sr. High, as the school needs more laptops and upgrades in classroom instructional technology.

Nakoma’s 2016 NEF golf tournament raised $7,784, with the proceeds going to C. Roy Carmichael Elementary School’s computer lab.

That private-sector funding is important for small, rural schools because it allows administrators to provide unique opportunities for students.

Sheridan said that in the past Portola High has used donated funds to send students on college visits, build computer labs and purchase innovative technology such as 3D printers and Mind Storm Robots.

Kate Rowden, Nakoma’s membership and group coordinator and Portola High graduate, said that addition to entry fees, Nakoma raised money through donated raffle and silent auction items. Those items were supplied by local individuals and businesses who recognize the importance of supporting education in Eastern Plumas County.

“We intend to grow the Nakoma Education Fund tournament in coming years and in so doing increase the amount we can give back to our students and their teachers.”

Nakoma Resort staff thanks all the sponsors of the 2017 NEF tournament and the participating golfers who came out to play for such a worthwhile cause. We will be announcing the September 2018 NEF tournament date as well as new fundraising initiatives early in the new year.

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It started off benignly enough. I was running some errands in Portola and saw the first fluffballs over Beckworth Peak. Hmmm, I thought to myself. Best to get the swim in early today because it looks like thunderclouds are forming.

It’s what I call “Thunder Bumper” season in the Lost Sierra. After a very hot, dry summer we’re lucky to be having late afternoon thunder showers roll through, drenching the area in much needed rain. The lightening that accompanies it can be dangerous, but so far the lightning-induced fires have been minimal and have been extinguished right away.


I rallied my die-hard swimming friends and we headed to Gold Lake to sneak a swim in before the storm clouds built up too much intensity. Definitely not one of the smarter decisions… “die-hard” was close to being an apt descriptor!

We headed up to the southern shore of the lake past the campground to a little cove we like. I had seen the thunderheads building to the southeast, but prevailing winds tend to be southwesterly so I thought we’d be okay.

The water temperature is still very pleasant so we decided to swim out to one of the small islands. As we neared the island a few hundred yards from shore, I felt something cold pelting my back. I thought one of my friends must be playing a trick, but when I looked up, I saw a huge dark cloud overhead and hail pounding the water around me. We quickly swam back to shore and hunkered in the trees as we toweled off. The air temperature had dropped significantly and we heard the low rumble of thunder as we clamored through the hail storm back to our cars. The hail pelted us all the way down Gold Lake highway, and the storm ultimately produced quite a bit of lightening and rain. Looking back at it from the Mohawk Valley, I knew we were lucky to have dodged a bullet!



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It was a cool, somewhat breezy afternoon at Nakoma when my friend asked if I wanted to go kayaking after work. She suggested Sardine Lake because it’s the most protected, so we headed up Gold Lake Highway to see if we could find relatively calm water.

We stopped to check Gold Lake because it’s on the way, but it’s usually windy there by 10am, so I couldn’t imagine it would be calm at 6pm. But it’s the largest lake in Lakes Basin and my favorite for kayaking, so it was worth a quick look.

And surprise, surprise, there was barely a riffle on the lake! The cloud cover was likely the reason for the calm air and it gave a little shade from the intensity of the sun. We quickly plopped the boats in the water and headed for the far shore.

There wasn’t another soul in sight. We paddled to the far end where there’s a little cove I like with large granite boulders, perfect for stretching out in the sun and diving from to cool off, both of which I did. Heaven.

On the way back a slight breeze developed, but it was a westerly, so it gently blew us back to the beach. Another perfect evening in the Lost Sierra.

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Approx. 5 miles round trip, moderate to strenuous. 

Mt. Elwell is the second highest peak in the area, topping out at 7,818 ft. It can be a strenuous hike but the views from the top make it so worthwhile. I usually prefer this hike in the fall when it’s cooler, but the temps in the Lost Sierra have dropped this week and I felt like flexing my muscles, so off we went to the Smith Lake trailhead just 15 minutes from Nakoma.

There are a couple of ways to access the peak, but today I chose to go up and back on the cooler north side which has more shade plus two ponds and a small lake near the top for my black dog to cool off.

Starting at the Smith Lake trailhead, accessed off the Gray Eagle Lodge road, the trail is in full sun for the first 1/2 mile or so. After you cross the rather oversized bridge, stay to the left toward Smith Lake and about a 1/4 mile on, go left where the sign indicates the turn for Mt. Elwell. You’ll immediately cross Smith Creek again, this time with no bridge. (If you want to see Smith Lake, go 1/4 mile past the turn to Mt. Elwell and you’ll encounter the beautiful green-blue water of Smith Lake.)

The forest of moss-covered firs you encounter shortly after crossing Smith Creek is one of my favorite places in Lakes Basin. There’s just something about that section of forest that feels enchanted to me. Every time I hike through I expect to see elves and fairies peeking out from behind the trees.

The trail gets a little steeper near the top, and even in mid-August we encountered a large patch of snow that obscured the trail. Past the patch of snow we arrived at the saddle which runs between two rocky uprisings. The one to the west is the actual peak. If you have no fear of heights and don’t mind a rocky scramble, I highly recommend ascending the peak. It provides great views down the Little Jamison Creek basin on one side and views of Long, Silver and Round lakes on the other side.

We weren’t fortunate enough to see Mt. Lassen on this particular day, but that’s another reward for ascending the peak on clear days.

We enjoyed our picnic lunch, then headed back down the way we came. The entire hike with lunch took about 4 hours. This hike is best attempted in the morning so you’re off the peak long before any afternoon thunder storms roll through.

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Easy hike, approximately 2.5 miles. 

It’s been a warmer than usual summer in the Lost Sierra so I decided to take my hike before work this morning while it was cool. With just 2 hours available, my friend Patty and I chose one of the many Long Lake loops from the Lakes Basin trailhead, which is about 20 minutes from Nakoma.

Our route was: Bear Lakes Loop, starting toward Long Lake. Take the right fork toward Long Lake, then the next right fork to the connector trail to the dam, across the dam and down to the Lakes Basin campground, through the campground, back to the trailhead.

Almost immediately we began to encounter wildflowers galore! Prime time for wildflowers is typically mid- to late-June but the entire area was still buried in snow at that time. I’d been afraid that the snow would negatively affect this year’s bloom, but it was the exact opposite. Apparently all the late moisture had a positive effect because we were dazzled by bright spots of color from the beginning to the end of the hike.

At the beginning, it was Tiger Lilies, Indian Paintbrush and Columbines in the shade along the creek. As we rose in elevation and got into more sunshine, we saw what I think is Bitter Dogbane, Mountain Spirea, Fireweed, Corn Lily, more Tiger Lilies and something in the Daisy family.

As we descended, I was feeling completely satisfied by the hike and the diversity of flowers we’d seen, but there was yet another bountiful surprise awaiting us.

When we made the cut from the campground onto the little dirt path that leads back to the trailhead road we encountered what can only be described as a magical wildflower wonderland. Lilies, Indian Paintbrush, Penstemon, Daisies, Fireweed, Checker Mallow, Columbine and so many more varieties lined the trail and extended back into the dense forest as far as we could see. It was truly an explosion of color that my photos cannot fully capture.

If you’re in the area in the next week or two and enjoy the beauty of wildflowers, be sure to add this hike to your list of “must sees.

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One of the most satisfying aspects of living in a small community is knowing that you can make a positive impact by supporting local non-profit organizations. We are lucky in the Lost Sierra that so many people give their time and energy to a multitude of non-profits which take on important missions such as preserving the area’s cultural and historical legacy, expanding recreation opportunities, providing services to the community and so much more. The fundraising events are usually creative, fun and unifying for the community.

Today I got to experience a brand new collaboration between local brewery The Brewing Lair and High Sierra Animal Rescue (HSAR), a no-kill shelter committed to saving homeless pets and advancing pet welfare.

The Brewing Lair is a home grown brewery with some outrageously good beer set in a little corner of the forest, just perfect enjoying a cold brew or round of disc golf. It’s a lovely spot for an afternoon picnic on any day, but today there were great raffle prizes to support HSAR plus delicious food from the Red Truck out of Truckee and live music from local band Prescribed Burn to add to the ambience. The Brewing Lair generously donated $2 from every beer purchased to HSAR.

What could be better than an afternoon spent hanging out with friends in a beautiful outdoor setting enjoying a delicious brew or two listening to a great local band while raising money for an extremely worthwhile cause? It doesn’t get much better than this in my book.

If you don’t know about this fine organization, High Sierra Animal Rescue is a no-kill shelter in the Lost Sierra that also offers dog boarding, so if you’re in the area and need to leave Fido for a night, now you know where to go.

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