Wednesday, May 6, 2009

May 6, 2009 - Vikingsholm Castle, Emerald Bay State Park, California

If I had $50 million, I'd like to think that I might find some creative ways to spend at least some of it. I'd like to think that I could come up with something like the woman who built Vikingsholm on the sandy shore of Lake Tahoe.

It may be cliche, as I've heard the story before - travel to Europe, find an architectural piece you like, bring it home and make it stand out in relatively young America. That's what Mrs. Wright did, finding a Scandinavian castle and making it her own. And it's just such a cool thing to see.

The walk down to Vikingsholm looks intimidating, but is quite simple. The signs even say that people with "medical conditions" - whatever the hell that means - should think twice about taking the walk. The mountains loom up steeply in the background, peering menacingly over one's shoulder as he strides ever downward toward the lake. Melting snow runs off the slopes, trickling through the brush, rushing more heavily down well-worn causeways, sometimes just spilling over a rockface enough to give it a glossy, shimmering, moving surface.

The size of the trees here is just amazing to an easterner. They're so big around, of such tremendous girth, that they make me think in centuries, rather than in decades, when mentally aging them. But I don't know. They may just be quick growers.

The castle, as it's called, is a Viking stronghold in miniature, a beautiful mix of stone and wood. There are two rooftops that hold sod lawns, complete with watering systems. The chimneys have extra brickwork, artistically designed with crosses at their tops. There's stained glass. There's a peak at which two carved dragons cross each other's paths.

What Vikingsholm did for me today was reinforce the amazing breadth and depth of the United States. Since all history is local, no matter how much we study, how far we roam, no American will ever know all of American history. That's what Chris, Daddio and I talked about every time we stopped to catch out breath on the way back up that 1000 foot climb to get home to our less than $50 million lives.

Time: 68 minutes.

New species: (Birds) Bullock's oriole, spotted towhee (191, lifebirds); (Mammals) black bear (cinnamon morph) (19).

Stranger hellos: 12 (233).

What else is going on: more work on Captains Guide; still on vacation with the family; read both the Batman: Year One and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns graphic novels by Frank Miller.

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