Thursday, February 12, 2009

Where I live

One of my favorite blogs recently asked her readers to talk about where they live. The comments were so interesting. She has tons of readers, so she received tons of interesting comments. People responded from all over the world. So today I thought I would talk about what Lake Tahoe means to me. It is a special place and for those of you who have never been here, I hope that someday you are able to see what I love so much.

I grew up in Reno, Nevada, just a short 25 miles from Lake Tahoe. If you lived on one side of town, people went to Pyramid Lake for recreation. That lake is not clear, a bit salty (as it is what is left of Lake Lahotan, which was actually an ancient sea.) and does not have any trees. It also has it's own monster and other trivia I will save for another time. That lake was about 30 miles from Reno and had some great parties during high school where the tribal police (it is mostly on an Indian reservation) would just take every ones keys until morning. But if you lived on the other side of town you went to Lake Tahoe, which was about 25 miles up the Mt. Rose highway. You climb to around 8,000 ft above sea level, and then drop down into the Lake Tahoe Basin at around 6,200 ft. This lake was absolutely clear. When I was a child you could see 100 ft down. It is clear now to only about 25 feet. Unfortunate, to say the least. So even though I grew up on the Pyramid Lake side of town, I caught a ride to Lake Tahoe every chance I had growing up. I loved it.

When my husband and myself were raising our children, we lived on the Mt. Rose highway, and therefore was closer to Tahoe than Pyramid. We lived in a home without air conditioning, for most of our 16 years there. But in Reno, because it is considered high mountain desert, in contrast to desert like the Mohave, cools off as soon as the sun goes down. Reno is a mile high - same as Denver - above sea level. Air conditioning is nice, really nice, during the day, but most evenings are pleasant. So I would pack up my babies, make sandwiches, ice the capri-suns, pack the chips, toys, towels, etc. and head for the lake during the day. Now that I look back, minus your basic "motherhood exhaustion", they were magical days, and well worth the effort. 

After hauling all our chairs, plus all the above, we would get to the beach early, in order to get a good place right next to the water, and spend the morning looking out on one of the most beautiful views in the world. The sand was cold from the night before, few others on the beach, the girls with their terry robes still intact, staying close. It would have been around 10:00 a.m., the sun behind us, the beach shaded. Cool before the heat and sun of the day. The water is cold and lapping lightly on the clean sand. (When you come home from a day at Tahoe, you don't really need to immediately shower - the water is clean and so is the sand.) The mountains encircle the lake with a forest, old and lush. Tall ponderosa pines fight for space with granite, pure grey granite. (Which is why the sand is so clean.)

As the morning progressed, the beach would fill up. People from all over the world would visit our little beach. Foreign languages mixing with mothers, fathers, grandparents, children, babies, all soaking in the sun high in the mountains. Soon the sun would be overhead, time to re-do noses and shoulders with sunscreen, a time for the "hat fight". 
Most mothers remember the hat fights. You put it on, they take it off, you remind them to put it back on, they misplace it.. 
At this altitude the air is thin, sunburn can be had in a very short period of time. Bad, bad sunburns. (I remember blisters growing up -  during pre sunscreen days.) I was insistent and annoying with the sunscreen.

Late mid-day the little cove would fill up with people playing in the icy-cold lake. The surface water warms up a few degrees in the hot sun, making the water tolerable, just barely. But it is heaven, once you make that first unpleasant plunge, and get used to the water, to swim in perfectly clean water. You open your eyes and you can see while you swim, and the water does not sting, or obliterate the view. You can see crawdads between the rocks, and tiny schools of fish, but never have to worry about sharks. (A biggie for me.) You swim from boulder to boulder, each one determining how far out of the water you could stand, with it's size. Some days you could stay in the water most of the day, some cooler days, only a few swims. Lunch was usually consumed hungrily, after all the swimming and play. Drinks are very important at high altitude. I always had plenty of drinks, with one to save for the ride home. Dehydration is not good.

Late afternoon, and the sun is in front of you. If you wait until sunset, it is stunning. But with small children it was time to pack up. Break up fights. Insist the youngest carry something, keeping your eye on them while you pack the taurus station wagon - to the hilt - I might add. Really, why, does going to the beach require so much stuff??
Get everyone in the car, pass out the drinks, head down the mountain. By now it is probably around 4:30 p.m., Dad will be home soon, dinner to start. It is a stunning view of the valley floor that I never get tired of, no matter how many times I drive it. When people are impatient with other drivers that are going too slow down the winding, two lane highway, I always think they should just look up. Look up and see, really see, where they are! Can't they see how beautiful their surroundings are? Why are they in such a hurry? Where do they have to be that is better than this?

Home is hot, even with the house closed all day. Need to just get through it until the sun goes down. I head up to the shower with a cold beer. I deserve that beer! Let's see, what are we grilling tonight?

Next time I will tell the story about how we ended up living up here. But, please, leave me your stories, too. I would love to hear something about where you live, and how you feel about it. Even those of you that I know. Do we ever really think about the small, wonderful things about where we live? Or do we just not see it anymore?


Faithful said...

i love the Lake of the Pryamid, its gorgeous turquiose and green expanse is a stunning sight and is strikingly beautiful to many! i and my children grew up playing and boating in its tepid water.. (still do).. which is still fed by the Truckee River which traverses the steep Sierras and drains from the headwaters of the clear Lake Tahoe. Pyramid Lake has alot to offer such as the Anaho Island santuary for the large colony of Ameriacn White Pelicans and many others birds. Also, it's home to the endangered and threatened species such as the Cui-ui Cutthroat troat...and many trophy fish! You should go back and visit some time.

meggie said...

Very interesting enjoyable post. I loved the children's routines... been there, done that.The hat fights, the suntan lotion...
It is a little known fact that being in the water, is very dehydrating!!

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