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Sierra Stories

  • Winter Survival in the West, Part I

    By Mark McLaughlin on January 12, 2017
    Search and rescue headlines usually focus on skiers and snowboarders who venture outside resort boundaries and lose their way. The recent rescue of a family of three on Dec. 25, 2016, at the Grand Canyon serves as a reminder that winter travelers in the West must also play it smart if they expect to come out alive. Food, water, gasoline, […]
  • Rex the Blizzard King: Truckee’s Canine Superhero, Part II

    By Mark McLaughlin on December 28, 2016
    By Mark McLaughlin ·  Read Part I at TheTahoeWeekly.com Many Americans are familiar with Hollywood’s version of heroic dogs — canine superstars such as Lassie and Rin Tin Tin — but few have heard of Rex, “The Blizzard King.” Rex was the real McCoy and he played an important role in critical search and rescue operations near Truckee and Donner […]
  • Rex the Blizzard King: Truckee’s canine superhero

    By Mark McLaughlin on December 14, 2016
    With its wide-open spaces, clear streams and lakes, and absence of ticks and fleas, the Tahoe-Truckee region is a dog’s paradise. By the 1860s, sled dogs were common in the mountains along with horse-drawn sleighs. In the early decades of the 20th Century, Truckee thrived as the dog-sled racing capital of the United States, attracting thousands of spectators each winter. […]
  • The Sierra’s Snowiest Winter

    By Mark McLaughlin on November 30, 2016
    Drought-busting seasons come along every so often (we could use one now), but even after 110 years, the epic winter of 1906-07 continues to reign as the snowiest on record in the Sierra Nevada. Powerful Pacific storms that year buried elevations above 8,000 feet with a snowpack that averaged 30 feet deep. California established its greatest seasonal snowfall total of […]
  • Typhoon Freda washed out World Series

    By Mark McLaughlin on November 16, 2016
    October, the month when baseball fever is at its peak, is usually one of the driest times of the year in California. This year, however, the Tahoe Sierra was pounded by moisture-laden atmospheric rivers that dumped near-record amounts of rain on the region. It was a nice dose of medicine for our drought-stricken lakes, streams and reservoirs. The Golden State […]
  • Winter media hype & weather predictions

    By Mark McLaughlin on October 19, 2016
    The 2016 water year ended on Sept. 30, which puts last winter to rest. Although snowfall totals were mostly in the average category in 2015-16, the region got a healthy dose of precipitation (rain combined with the water equivalent of snow). And, for an area in the midst of severe drought, water is what the regional environment needs most. Of […]
  • Camp Century: City under ice

    By Mark McLaughlin on October 5, 2016
    Climate change is slowly revealing a top secret United States military installation known as Camp Century that was constructed 40 feet below the surface of the Greenland Ice Cap nearly 60 years ago. Just 800 miles from the North Pole, the remote outpost was manned by American military personnel and civilian scientists. The outpost’s subterranean location beneath the ice cap […]
  • Ponies, Trains & Planes: Delivering the U.S. Mail

    By Mark McLaughlin on September 28, 2016
    Last month, the annual Reno Air Races once again thrilled thousands of aviation enthusiasts and speed freaks as six classes of aircraft hit speeds in excess of 500 mph. Billed as the “most unique air racing event and aviation experience in the world,” Reno’s Stead Field annually hosts this competition where people come to admire military and historic aircraft, as […]
  • John & Jessie Frémont: Western Power Couple, Part II

    By Mark McLaughlin on September 21, 2016
    As Lt. John C. Frémont and his men crossed the Tahoe Sierra in February 1844, they were plagued by snowstorms and bouts of snow blindness. On Feb. 6, Charles Preuss, the expedition’s cartographer, wrote in his diary: “The snow is so horribly deep, and we can cover only a few miles each day. I am walking almost barefoot. This surpasses […]
  • John & Jessie Frémont: An American Power Couple

    By Mark McLaughlin on September 14, 2016
    The men in Lt. John Charles Frémont’s command were a bit confused. They had spent the spring and summer of 1843 trekking west into Oregon Territory (Pacific Northwest), exploring and mapping as they went. Their orders seemed clear enough. Survey the Oregon Trail by carrying a line of astronomical and barometric observations through to the Columbia River (for a possible […]