The Tahoe City Trailer Park was home to a number of world-class athletes, including a future Olympic alpine ski racer named Marco Sullivan, courtesy photo

Memories from a Modest Mountain Paradise

Cheap rent and an idyllic location made the Tahoe City Trailer Park a Shangri-La for elite Tahoe athletes


In the 1970s and ’80s, many of Tahoe’s top athletes, including some of the world’s fastest speed skiers and most influential rock climbers, lived in a harmonious community on the banks of the Truckee River. Their waterfront dwellings were modest. But given the location, surrounded by river, forest, ski areas and a beautiful alpine lake, the residents likened their community to a sort of mountain paradise. And perhaps best of all, rent was cheap.

They called it Little India, or Camp Five in homage to Yosemite’s climber haven: Camp Four. But most knew it simply as the Tahoe City Trailer Park.

Speed skier Paul Buschmann was among the many athletes who lived in the Tahoe City Trailer Park, courtesy photo

“It was such inexpensive rent. It was right on the Truckee River, and my wife Gena had her horse there,” says Paul Buschmann, who, along with friends and fellow Tahoe City Trailer Park residents Steve McKinney, Craig Calonica and Tom Simons, was among the fastest speed skiers on the planet. (Buschmann was featured in a Sports Illustrated article after skiing 127 miles per hour, briefly becoming the world record holder.)

Buschmann moved into a trailer at the edge of the Tahoe City Trailer Park in 1976 and lived there for about 10 years. He remembers it as a place where ski racers like him and his friends hung out, living a simple and fun life when not traveling the world competing or embarking on adventures.

Buschmann and his wife Gena, a 1979 North Tahoe High School graduate, paid $55 a month. Their digs included a large organic garden, while the couple put in their own water line and received power from an extension cord through the window. Buschmann also built a corral for his wife’s horse, and they had five dogs. They showered in a public bathroom on the property.


Land of Change

Construction will conclude this year on a new bridge across the Truckee River where the Tahoe City Trailer Park once stood. The land is now part of the 64 Acres Park, which is operated and maintained by the Tahoe City Public Utility District and includes a bustling parking lot used by summer river rafters.

A young Marco Sullivan, decked out in San Francisco 49ers gear, gets in on a game of catch in the Tahoe City Trailer Park, courtesy photo

The 64 Acres property has a long history, starting with the local Washoe Tribe who used the land for hunting and fishing. In the early 1900s it served as the turnaround point for trains traveling from Truckee to the Tahoe Tavern pier, where tourists boarded steamers that provided transportation to the rest of the lake. The Tahoe Tavern was a grand hotel that was the center of Tahoe City before it burned down in the early 1960s and was replaced by condos.

Up until the mid 1980s, much of the land that is now 64 Acres was leased to a variety of businesses, including Tahoe Tree Company and the Tahoe City Trailer Park. The affable Pete Peterson ran the park from 1958 until the mid 1980s, when the Forest Service moved the residents off the property.

“At first it was all traveling people living there, then the trailers got bigger and it was people who lived there full-time,” says Peterson, who’s now in his 90s and still lives near Tahoe City. “A lot of people in town complained like hell when they made us move out. A lot of nice people lived there.”


River Life

The Tahoe City Trailer Park was no ordinary neighborhood. In addition to its noted affordability, the community was known for its friendly atmosphere, which allowed residents to live pretty much how they wanted.

It was the perfect place for the band of athletes who resided there, including climber Peter Mayfield, who spent the winter of 1980 at the trailer park as an 18-year-old.

“The amazing thing was that it was where all these world-class athletes were living,” says Mayfield, who had been climbing for six months in Yosemite before moving into the Tahoe City Trailer Park. There, he found legendary climber Jim Bridwell, with whom he would later conquer many challenging climbing routes.

Tahoe City Trailer Park residents could access the river from their backyards, courtesy photo

Mayfield lived in a school bus that had been converted into living space by someone living in San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury. His bus was right next to Buschmann’s place in what was known as the “back 40” of the park, where the rent was cheaper, but without all the amenities. 

Climber Dave Diegelman, who shared a trailer with Calonica, recalls there being a good-natured competition between the climbers and skiers who lived in the park.

“[Steve] McKinney and I rode unicycles together. We got the trail all the way down to River Ranch wired,” says Diegelman. “It was good training for both of us. It was all about how far two friends could push each other.”

The athletes who resided in the Tahoe City Trailer Park also knew how to unwind and have a good time. McKinney, who held the world speed record on numerous occasions before dying tragically in 1990, was a mentor to the young Mayfield and challenged him to see the possibilities beyond that carefree corner of Tahoe City.

“He pulled me aside one day and said, “This is all fun, but you are too bright to lose yourself in this world,’” Mayfield recalls. “It sorta really hit home.” He left Tahoe and moved to Yosemite, becoming a climbing guide in the valley. Mayfield now runs the Gateway Mountain Center in Truckee, which helps youth in part by teaching them how to climb.


Loose Rules and a Lovable Landlord

“We were all living the dream,” Mayfield says of his time at the Tahoe City Trailer Park. “The trailer park owner was this amazing, big-hearted guy.”

“He cut everybody slack,” Buschmann says of Peterson. “He was like a dad. He only got on my case once when I brought home a truck load of debris to use on my place.”

By debris, Buschmann means usable refuse that residents of the development would bring home from construction sites. In the Tahoe City Trailer Park, it was pretty much free game as far as what people did with their places.

“The way that people built these awesome additions to their trailers was hilarious,” says Mayfield.

Some of the remodels were quite extensive, turning a trailer into a little Shangri-La, all with leftover lumber and their own hard work. Many of the athletes needed jobs to support their world travels, and there were plenty of construction jobs in the booming 1970s in Tahoe.

“It fit our lifestyle,” says Calonica, who now lives in Chamonix, France, and runs a heli-skiing operation in the Himalayas. “It was cheap, and sometimes Pete didn’t care if we paid. We were traveling all winter long, and then in the summer I went to Chile for more racing or Yosemite to climb.”


Local Community

While the trailer park was where an amazing group of athletes congregated, it was also home to a wide range of folks who were every bit as much a part of the community.

For many of the park’s residents, fishing was a major part of their lifestyle, as well as an economical supplement to their diet. Peterson speaks with fond memories of the fishing hole located where the new bridge is going in, and how a friend caught a 10-pound brown trout from that hole.

Winter fun in the trailer park, courtesy photo

Susie Bellomy remembers driving over the rickety one-lane bridge that accessed the trailer park to visit her in-laws, who lived in a prime fishing spot right next to the river.

“Marie would go fishing right out the side yard of her house,” Bellomy recalls of her mother-in-law. “Most of the people who lived there were service people who worked in the community. It was sad when they took it down. It was affordable housing.”

While people are working to solve current issues facing Tahoe City, including affordable housing, one has to wonder if abandoned pieces of the area’s history might be just what are needed today.

The grand old Tahoe Tavern was a luxury hotel that could have continued to serve as a great cornerstone of the community. A train from Truckee to Tahoe City would certainly alleviate traffic. And while locals are now desperate for places to live, in the 1980s there was a popular and affordable place right along the Truckee River in Tahoe City—a place that somehow magically became ground zero for the world’s best skiers and climbers, who lived the good life in a no-frills mountain paradise.

Tim Hauserman grew up in Tahoe City and fondly remembers driving across the one-lane bridge to the Tahoe City Trailer Park in his youth. These days he writes frequently about a wide range of topics and teaches cross-country skiing at Tahoe XC.

  • Mindy Belding
    Posted at 01:09h, 26 February Reply

    Thanks Tim for memories.My sister Sharon and Tom Ragan were there for time with their family I used to come visit with my kiddos in our little orange pinto They had a yard with all their Tonkas and riding toys And bicycles as they got older.I remember also when I was a kiddo zipping in and out with friends visiting friends .And of course tubed and the river.I knew several families and friends who lived there at one time or another So friendly .
    Thanks Tim, Mindy Bechdolt Belding

  • Livia Simmons
    Posted at 15:05h, 26 February Reply

    My parents, Norm and Liz Simmons, brought me home from Tahoe Forest Hospital to our trailer in the trailer park. We lived there until 1980. My first friends were the Ragan and Sullivan kids. My dad was good friends with all the climbers and skiers and adventurers, and my mom remembers loving the closeness of the community. Yay for trailer park memories! Thanks, Tim! Great idea for a story.

  • David Likes
    Posted at 15:46h, 22 March Reply

    that’s where my mom and dad started out Janet and Larry Likes everybody lived their Ron Greg ,Don Greg, Bill and Jerry Frederick’s we became personal friends with Pete and Betty Peterson I still see him once a week to check on him and make sure he’s okay he’s 92 now still going strong if he’s not fishing with Mickey Daniels or Costco in Carson City is generally home he’s a great guy his wife Betty and my mom were best friends she used to take us to South Shore in her 65 Buick Riviera and give us a lemon drop candies on the right down I bought that car from Pete in the early 90s and still have that car today I am going to take Pete this summer for a ride!

  • Laura Ballantine Resendez
    Posted at 20:57h, 02 October Reply

    We grew up in the TC trailer park and it was the best place ever to raise kids! We ran wild, built forts in the woods, rode our bikes on endless backwoods trails, played in the monkey trees, swam in the river with the beavers and otters, caught trout with out hands. We had a built in community of kids that were within steps of home, and everyone knew everyone. So many people lost their homes when they closed, most either very young or elderly. It was sad to see it go.

  • Gary Kaufman
    Posted at 09:29h, 03 October Reply

    Replaced with a transit center for large empty buses polluting 24/7….

  • John Sproehnle
    Posted at 11:15h, 06 October Reply

    Hi Tim, Great article! Couple of “facts” (sorta). I remember a couple of squatters who lived between Needle Park & Granlibaaken. One was named Gus, I think. Also in those days, there was a English couple, Archie & Maryanne, who were caretakers of a Truckee River property, and who frequently walked to TC pulling their red wagon behind them. They went to the PO and the back doors of grocery stores, restaurants, etc. gathering food for their animals (and selves, perhaps). Rumor was that Archie had been an RAF fighter pilot in WWII. Also there were a couple of well known Austrian residents of Needle Park, Hans Muhlgraber & Jorge Deutsche (sp?) both ski instructors at Alpine Meadows and great patrons of The Hearthstone.

  • Liz Gifford
    Posted at 22:31h, 08 October Reply

    We used to take yoga classes with Kay, who taught out of her trailer. Had various friends who lived there, thanks for this sweet article Tim.

  • Rod Stollery
    Posted at 07:34h, 10 October Reply

    My folks, Stub and Bobbie Stollery (founders of the Tahoe City World) lived there in 1960 and 1961 in a 17 ft. Terry trailer next to Loren Holmwood, who had an art gallery by Fanny Bridge. Dale Gillaspie bought a 50 ft. trailer on the river just east of Fanny Bridge for a mere $500. His brother, Denny, and I lived with him for several years, and rent was just $50 a month. We had our own pier and 3 boats at the mouth of the Truckee River, and really enjoyed the annual New Year’s party at Darryl Dewalt’s (the gatekeeper) cabin which is now the museum.

  • trisha aitken
    Posted at 09:41h, 22 October Reply

    This made me cry! I lived there with tall Jay and our two kids, Bo and Amber. We bought our first trailer there around 1980, it was painted blue and called ‘The Whale’….we quick painted it brown.
    I worked at the Tahoe World newspaper, kids attended Tahoe Elementary.
    I got so tired of picking up all the dog poop that one day I piled all the poo up and placed a big sign on it that said “And we don’t even own a dog”….Old man Terry who lived across the street came over and shook my hand and said that was the best he had ever seen ! We were fast friends after that.
    The kids rode their bikes all over the park and we never had a worry about them.
    An unusually safe place where money did not rule the day and friends were there to stay.
    Trisha (Scull) Aitken

  • Peggy Partridge
    Posted at 09:59h, 02 November Reply

    My family (Bill & Jerry Frederick, Sister Gloria & Stan Trew & their 3 boys) & I have many wonderful memories of the Trailer Park. We lived there for a year in 1964, I remember playing pool in Pete’s shop & hooky bobbing behind his Willy’s Jeep in the winter. We moved back in 1968 and I went to Truckee High School. Moved out for a few years, then moved back in 1977 & raised my daughter Tracy Harder there and moved out in 1983. My Grandparents from Morro Bay used to spend summers there in their travel Trailer. Pete & Betty Peterson we’re among some of my Mom & Dad’s best friends. Pete was always so patient with all of us as kids, and with our kids. These were the best days in Tahoe City with the small town atmosphere where we all knew each other! Thanks Tim! Peggy Partridge

  • Thom Orsi
    Posted at 13:12h, 25 February Reply

    Lived there for a couple of months until we scored a place at “Tortilla Flats” on Granlibakken Rd.

  • Debbie Pomerantz
    Posted at 21:40h, 26 February Reply

    Great article Tim, thank you for bring up fond memories..

  • Wes Schimmelpfennig
    Posted at 09:14h, 18 March Reply

    Thanks, Tim, great article about the TCTP. I lived there my 2nd winter on ski patrol, It was one fo the few places we could afford to live with the wages Squaw paid. $250.oo a month working 6 days a week.

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