A Tahoe Reminder

IMG_4015No signal. I love when it says that. In fact, seeking that elusive status was one of my reasons for going up to Tahoe in the first place. To spend two days in the white opulence of this year’s record snowfall on the branches of ponderosa pines that will carry three centuries of memory while they grow on slopes that slough off the passing of millennia. Puts these plastic pocket addictions into perspective.


The absence of cell signal is getting harder to find. The previous day a millennial had told me his wild travel story “When I was in Morocco, I just, like, didn’t buy a sim-card for my phone? I just didn’t get one! I was there for three weeks, without a phone!” I waited to hear how this setup contributed to an adventure before realizing that being disconnected is itself an experience worth relating now.

Emerald Bay

Now up in the Sierras, the temptation of the phone tickled me. “I suppose I could post an instagram of this…” I thought, guilty maintenance of my sadly inactive account. But there it was: no signal. I smiled in the clear air and put the phone away.


Dead fish in Spooner Lake

The dark stuff that looks like seaweed is the living bumping below the dead

A buddy and I snowshoed around Spooner Lake that first afternoon, trying out the clompy plastic flippers we’d rented. Walked a while before we realized the big snowy meadow WAS the lake, no indication of its watery underlayer except a small pool where winter-frozen fish floated belly-up in their silvery thousand, distracting from the darker wiggles of their still-living kin below.

“Maybe they’re just…hibernating.” One of us offered. “You know, that winter stasis thing.”

We watched the sluggish stirs of the living among the immobile remainders of their kin, inert and inverted. “No, probably not.” Snap a picture out of curiosity, then go check out those aspens…


The next day Fallen Leaf Lake was waiting for us, politely holding onto a layer of ice until we stood gaping at its side, then letting it dissolve in the crackled collisions of cold succumbing to an unseasonably warm sun.

Fallen Leaf Lake

Fallen Leaf Lake as the last of the ice melted

Somebody benevolent left a canoe on the shore, so now we were paddling, jiggling in the wavelets kicked up by a wind that came to greet us when we left the stony shore behind.

Canoe on Fallen Leaf Lake

It even came with most of an oar

Hot tubs were invented for cold nights beside snow embankments while stars monitor your relaxation below. Granted the electric lights killed them away years ago, but I could put them solidly in my mind’s moonroof anyway.


Four lakes in two days has a certain symmetry, so we trudged out to Eagle Lake before joining the Sunday return. Snowballs rolling down the slopes to the snowmelt creek that earned its fame in the waterfall of name, and paid homage to the local lunatics who laid the sinuous tracks down sheer slopes when no one was there to see. What that must feel like, I can only envy.

Ski tracks above Eagle Lake

Hard to see the tracks down the lefthand slope, which is steeper than it looks

Travel has driven home that America’s greatest treasure is its wild spaces. (Sorry Hollywood.) So it was nice to get out there and light a memory votive on the altar of one of California’s great ones. You can always count on a mountain to show things in perspective, and the signal was coming in loud and clear.