A homecoming of sorts
When I was asked to step in and act as Editor for the Sierra Sun on a temporary assignment, I knew it would be a sort of homecoming for me. I proudly consider myself a native son as I was born in Tahoe Forest Hospital, although in my formative years I was under the misguided impression that I had actually been born in the Truckee River.
My aquatic origins notwithstanding, I grew up on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe. Despite growing up with a Tahoe address, I have always been partial to the Truckee of rugged mountain folk; those that descended from the 601 vigilante squads of the 1800s and were derived from the pioneer, lumberjack and railroad stock that helped build the town. I have several personal ties to the folks who helped build Truckee, being a direct descendent of a Wagon Master who went over the pass and settled in Sacramento. Other ancestors of mine owned a railroad hotel in Boca. When I close my eyes and think of “Truckee,” I think of snagging branches with the end of my fly line on the banks of the river. I remember numb hands while ice fishing on the frozen surface of Stampede Reservoir and watching in awe through younger eyes as massive diesel engines hauled gigantic trains right through downtown. The Truckee of my youth was accented by rusty pickups, the steam rising from Glenshire mill, and warm breakfasts on cold mornings in the Wagon Wheel Cafe.
There is of course another side of Truckee, the refined folk who stroll through the quaint downtown, shopping in exclusive boutiques and dining on California cuisine. There are enough of the Euro-chic apres ski trappings to put Truckee on the map of ski towns with the requisite good Sushi, pedestrian shopping and idyllic surroundings. There is even a traffic roundabout on the west end of town that will make anyone who has been to Vail Village feel right at home. I remember watching this side of Truckee emerge – driving from a cabin my family once owned in Euer Valley, I remember marveling at the great stone and timber houses of Tahoe Donner. I must admit that I felt no great sense of loss when particle board and linoleum condos gave way to single-family seasonal residential dwellings in Truckee’s growing subdivisions and neighborhoods.
Modern Truckee is a paradox, a combination of its flannel clad, salt-of-the-earth genesis and the suede and fur haberdashery and millinery of the upper crust that can increasingly be found in resort towns across the west. As the traditional railroad and lumber jobs disappeared, the economy of the region became more dependent on a resort economy. A tourist-based economic system creates a dichotomy in a town’s psyche, and I think most residents in the region can relate to thoughts of “thanks for gracing us with your visit, now go home and let us have our town back!”
This town is now at a crossroads and has a unique opportunity to create an identity that it will take into this new century. There are a number of development projects on the drawing board that will transform Truckee from a charming whistle-stop to one of the biggest metropolitan areas in the High Sierra.
Exclusive golf courses will meander through meadows, bordered by gated communities of estates. I remember when golfing in Truckee meant mischievously trying to time a perfect tee shot to send it skittering under the oil pan of an approaching automobile at one of the many intersections of golf course and public thoroughfare.
The ski areas are embarking on an era of transformation from Spartan day lodges to multi-million dollar villages that will rival the base areas of Colorado and the Austrian Alps. When was the last time you actually heard a ski area refer to itself as such anyway? They are now all “snowsports resorts.”
Truckee has always proven to be more than a sum of its parts – edifices and landscaping do not a town make – and this town has always been defined by the unique character of its citizenry. Progress has always been a catalyst for this city, whether it was the rapid linear progress of the transcontinental railroad or the growth of the ski industry in the wake of the 1960 Winter Games. I am confident that the next three decades will bring as much change as the past three that have passed since I was born here. The town will not look the same, but somehow that unique feeling that can be evoked in a single word – “Truckee” – will never change.
Mark Maynard is the Managing Editor of Tahoe.com and Reno.com and is participating in the Sierra Sun’s “Editor-in-Residence” program until the arrival of the new full-time Sierra Sun editor. All favorable correspondence can be sent to the Sierra Sun to the attention of Mark. All unfavorable letters can be sent directly to “Editor” to be read whenever he or she arrives.
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Olympic House was empty but for some maintenance workers and all those ghosts.