Letter to the editor- Sharing very special place
South Lake Tahoe
I am a lover of the high and wild places. Unfortunately, although there is a multitude of the former around Tahoe, most of the latter have had trails blazed to them for many years. They are no longer true wilderness; they have suffered from too much intimacy with man.
There are still a few isolated enclaves of solitude and serenity hidden, however, if one has the inclination to search for them. I found such a place nearly 15 years ago: A high lake, backed by granite cliffs, sheltered by two ridges and fed by snowmelt lasting long into summer. From high points on either of the ridges are excellent views down a V-shaped canyon of Lake Tahoe.
It is truly a special place, far off the beaten path. The sights and sounds of civilization are far below and far away. One can sit on a sun-warmed boulder and hear nothing but the call of a Clark’s nutcracker, the distant chatter of a gray squirrel, and the nearly omnipresent soughing of the wind.
It is not quite pristine. I found evidence of a very special person on my first visit. Although one of the enveloping ridges is blanketed by pines – mainly lovely mountain hemlocks – the other is rockier, more windswept, with few trees other than some gnarled, twisted snags. At a level point on this rocky ridge was an intricate design of a hawk or eagle made of small, white quartz stones on the gray granite background of the ridgetop. The artistry was incredibly beautiful. I thought the maker must be either an admirer of Native American art or an Indian himself – probably Washoe.
Next to the eagle was sufficient level ground for a campsite, which I utilized on later visits – although my unknown Indian friend would have found no more evidence of my passing than I did of his, except for his artwork. At some point over the years, the eagle vanished. I didn’t know why, or what the significance of the disappearance was. But I was sad.
I returned to my special place the other day. And there, where the stone eagle had once soared, was a new design – I’m sure by the same craftsman. A lovely pattern in white stones, offset with some of an orange-brown color, was fashioned on a background of gray and black pebbles and ringed with gray granite. In the center was a large, white shard of quartz, like a spearpoint, pointing toward the apex of the design – and also pointing directly at the summit of one of Tahoe’s best-known peaks. The design was some 4 feet in diameter, very intricate and beautiful, and it must have taken many hours to construct.
So, my Indian friend is back. Maybe we will meet someday. In the meantime, we each share a special place far from blaring horns, snarled traffic – or the dusty, smoky, televised images of hate gone mad. Here, as the hawk circles lazily over the valley far below, the wind sighs through the prostrate branches of the juniper – exactly as it has done for thousands of years.
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