Lake Tahoe 2005

“I have found a dream of beauty at which one might look all one’s life and sigh. Not lovable, like the Sandwich Islands, but beautiful in its own way! A strictly North American beauty–snow-splotched mountains, huge pines, red-woods, sugar pines, silver spruce; a crystalline atmosphere, waves of the richest color; and a pine-hung lake which mirrors all beauty on its surface. Lake Tahoe is before me…”

Isabella Bird, September 2, 1873
A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains

Once again I am up before dawn and creep downstairs in my jammies and curl up in a ball on the couch to keep warm. As the sun comes up I observe one of the housecats outside the window strike a stalking pose. When I follow his gaze I see he is after a large deer browsing in the garden. The deer raises his head and looks disapprovingly at the cat who, thus found out, leaps up in fright and runs off in the opposite direction.

I’ve enjoyed watching the animals, both wild and domesticated, here. On our drive to Loyalton yesterday we had to stop the car as a mother duck led her ducklings across the road. Then, last night when we were in the hot springs, we watched a large spider, backlit by moonlight, elegantly thread her way down the doorway, settling herself on the ground, beginning to scuttle away just as a small frog made two quick leaps and devoured her. As we walked back to the lodge, talking about the intense darkness here (compared with the city), a horrendous screech made us both jump. After the second screech I spotted the owl in the pine. We stood watching it watch us; then it screeched again and flew off with a magnificent beating of wings. We were thankful not to be mice.

We say goodbye to MGN and Carol and buy milk in Sierraville to tide us over until we get to Truckee for breakfast. I am pleasantly surprised by the straightforward and friendly attitude of the natives. There is a bald frankness in their speech and an alertness that must come from the mountain air. It’s so completely different than our languid southern speech. JQS says he’s surprised that we can travel over a thousand miles from home and still be somewhere where they speak English. Even so, we feel like foreigners; this is a feeling we bring with us, not one that we are labelled with. I think it would be nice living among these people, if only it didn’t snow nine months of the year. We have pancakes at the other diner in Truckee. Once again the food is home-made and excellent. The walls are filled with photos of the train being iced in.

By 11:AM we are on the road to Lake Tahoe. The drive is much shorter than I remember, but the first sight of the lake as we descend from Brockway Pass is just as startling. As we drove past Incline Village on our way to Sand Harbor, I was surprised that the signs to the Ponderosa Ranch were gone. Has it closed?

photo: Lake Tahoe
JQS is impressed with the heavy snow still on the mountains in June.

I regret not bringing any insect repellant (in my memory, dry California is free of biting insects compared with humid Texas) because plague warnings are posted.

Chipmunks, ground squirrels, or other wild rodents in this area may be infected with plague. Plague can be transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected flea or by handling an infected animal.

This warning is followed by a list of symptoms to look out for and the cheerful reminder that plague is curable when diagnosed early.

photo: Lake Tahoe
The combination of extraordinarily clear water and large round boulders plays with your sense of perspective. The little small dot above the white rock in the middle of this photo is a man in a kayak. This is a very large cove.

After walking around a bit, we settle on the beach. Neither of us wants to sit in the sun, but we are chilled in the shade. Overall Sand Harbor is less crowded and more tranquil than when I was here with AJM and SAM. We lie around for a couple of hours reading and then head back to Loyalton to help Betsy & Co. pack.