A fading memory of Lake Tahoe

Christina Fossum/Staff

Few weekends ago, I took my own advice and sought out a little solace from California’s own glistening jewel of natural beauty and timeless clarity: Lake Tahoe. In preparation for my adventure, I couldn’t help rekindling old memories in my mind. My excitement for this outing quickly became clouded by my own past experiences; I remembered the crisp freshness of Tahoe’s pine-infused air, the crystal clear water mirroring back at me the insanely rugged and enchanting peaks of the Desolation Wilderness. I recalled how cleansing this place had been for me in the past, and I just couldn’t wait to return to it and selfishly benefit from its breathtaking energy once more.

You can probably imagine my disappointment, then, when I rolled up to the lake that Friday afternoon; only there was no lake at all, or at least one quite a bit smaller than what I was expecting. What was once a rocky shoreline, now gives way to a large sandy beach, jutting at least 10 feet into what was once, not long ago, completely under water. Not only this, but the majestic crown of peaks are now all but invisible, the result of a raging wildfire to the west of me. So I walked and walked and walked some more because I thought that if I kept walking, maybe the lake would eventually feel as cold as I remembered it feeling in the past. Maybe it’d stop feeling like the lukewarm, unfamiliar sludge that lapped around my shins, but that never happened.

The scariest part of nature is that we’ll never know what “should” happen. We’ll never know what “would have” happened had we not stepped in and carelessly tried to bend nature to our will, as it turns out, to no avail. We have so drastically affected and altered our environment, that what ought to naturally happen is all but relevant anymore. I think about this as I lift my body up off that pile of gravel, turning my back to the hazy lake. I wonder if my quantum of solace will ever feel the same again, if the storm will blow over, as it were, or if this place won’t be able to rebound. I wonder if we, if I, had anything to do with it. I hope not, but I know that’s not true.

Contact Christina Fossum at [email protected].