CHAPTER XIV. TAHOE TAVERN
Swinging around to the south from the course of the Truckee River on to the Lake, the railway deposits the traveler at Tahoe Tavern, preeminently the chief resort for those who demand luxurious comfort in all its varied manifestations. Yet at the outset let it be clearly understood that it is not a fashionable resort, in the sense that every one, men and women alike, must dress in fashionable garb to be welcomed and made at home. It is a place of common sense and rational freedom. If one comes in from a hunting or fishing trip at dinner time, he is expected to enter the dining room as he is. If one has taken a walk in his white flannels he is as welcome to a dance in the Casino, the dining-room, or the social-hall as if he wore the most conventional evening dress. Indeed, visitors are urged to bring their old clothes that they may indulge to the full their penchants for mountain-climbing, riding, rowing, fishing, horse-back-riding, botanizing in the woods, or any other out-of-door occupation where old clothes are the only suitable ones.
The building itself is completely embowered in pine, cedar, spruce and firs of differing ages, sizes and qualities of color. Though far enough from the Lake to allow of a large untrimmed grass-plot where innumerable swing seats, reclining chairs, "lazy rests," etc., invite to lounging and loafing, the trees have been so trimmed out as to give exquisite glimpses of the dazzling blue of the water from every hand.
The Tavern is especially appropriate to its surroundings. It is three full stories high, with many gables relieving the regularity of the roof, which is steep-pitched, to throw off the winter's snows. The whole structure is covered with shingles, stained or oiled to a dark brown, and as climbing and clinging vines have wreathed themselves about every corner, and up many posts of the veranda, and there is a wealth of cultivated wild flowers banked up in beds around it, nothing could be more pleasing and harmonious. Roads, walks and trails radiate from the Tavern in all directions, except directly across the Lake, and numerous boats and launches make this as accessible as any other direction. Near enough to be interesting is the wharf, with its daily bustle of the arrival and departure of trains, launches and steamers.
For all the indoor sports a Casino has been erected, far enough away so that the music, dancing, the sharp clangor of bowling, the singing of extemporized glee-clubs, and the enthusiasm of audiences at amateur theatricals and the like do not disturb the peaceful slumbers of those who retire early. While Tahoe Tavern itself is sui generis in that it is the most wonderful combination of primitive simplicity with twentieth century luxury, the Casino is even more remarkable. Its interior finish is the work of a nature artist. Its porches immediately overlook the Lake, and when one has wearied of dancing there is a witchery as rare and subtle as it is delightful to sit in the subdued light overlooking the ripples of the moonlit water, sipping some liquid refreshment, eating an ice or chatting with a suitable partner.
Here a fine orchestra discourses sweet music, moving pictures are regularly shown, lectures and concerts occasionally provided, besides all the conveniences for private card-parties and other pleasures that fashionable visitors expect for their entertainment.
Ruskin has somewhere brought out the idea in his finest phraseology that nowhere can man so readily worship God as in the presence of the most beautiful of His works in Nature. This is readily apparent at Tahoe, hence the summer visitors and others of religious trend will delight to learn that churches for both Catholic and Episcopal worshipers have been erected not far from the Tavern. The Catholic Church was dedicated Sept. 10, 1911. It has a seating capacity of a hundred and seventy-five. Its location was chosen with an eye to the beautiful, being on Tahoe Heights, and is less than fifteen minutes' walk from the Tavern.
The Episcopal "Church of the Transfiguration" is unique in that it is an open air building, the altar only being roofed. Towering pines stand as aisles and the vaulted ceiling is the clear blue dome of heaven. Rustic and simple, it harmonizes exquisitely with its surroundings, and strangely insensible must that worshiper be who, as he kneels in this Nature shrine, and the organ peals forth its solemn notes, with a wonderful accompaniment of hundreds of singing birds, and the ascending incense of a thousand flowers, does not feel his own soul lifted into a higher and more spiritual mental frame.
One of the chief troubles about a hotel like Tahoe Tavern is that it is too tempting, too luxurious, too seductive to the senses. The cool, delicious breezes from the Lake make the nights heavenly for sleep. With Sancho Panza we cry aloud: "Blessed be the man that invented sleep," and we add: "Blessed be the man that invented cool nights to sleep in." And I have no fault to find with the full indulgence in sleep. It is good for the weary man or woman. It is well to make up arrears, to pay oneself the accumulated debts of insomnia and tossing and restlessness with an abundance of calm, dreamless, restful sleep. Nay, not only would I have men claim their arrearage, but lay in a surplus stock against future emergencies, future drafts upon their bank account of "restorer."