“You got to do, what you got to do” my friend said, smiling at me as she jumped in. I, however, stood at the edge, smiling back (nervously), thinking “this is my least favorite part.” I wavered, at least for 3 solid minutes, before joining her in the ice cold water to swim back to shore.
We were at Eagle Lake, just a quick hike up from Emerald bay at Lake Tahoe, enjoying yet another swim, in yet another (very) cold lake.
The trip had been planned last minute, the result of a late night talk over a bottle (or two) of wine when we discovered that none of us had ever been to Lake Tahoe. We had all lived in California for a number of years (all transplants), but had not made the 8 hour trek up north, despite the fact that it was on each of our lists of places to go next. In order to make it happen, we set a date, made a plan, and watched the excitement build for our upcoming adventure.
The crew was composed of a Catalan, a Basque, a Connecticutian (Connector? Person from Connecticut?), and an Ohioan and our plan was to spend two days backpacking the Tahoe Rim trail and two days camping by Lake Tahoe. With our collection of cured meat and cheeses locked securely in our bear canister, we were off. Almost.
In the parking lot of the trail, I made the alarming realization that my hiking boots had been left behind, sitting lonely in the middle of my living room floor (ironically, so that I would not forget them). With an eight hour drive home to recover them out of the question, I relied on the niceness of my hiking mate, who lent me her Teva sandals. I was please to discover that the combination of socks and the sandals, while not being the most stylish choice, proved to be equal if not better to my hiking boots.
We started the hike in the opposite direction than the guide book suggested, based on weather predictions and potential for swimming spots along the way. Starting at Echo summit, we set up camp at Showers Lake, and the next day we stopped at Round Lake, passing through Big Meadow, and ending at the parking lot there, off highway 89.
The trails were moderately strenuous, but easy to navigate. We passed through pines, aspens, meadows, and despite our Basque friend’s desire to see a bear/bobcat/rattle snake/coyote (or any fierce animal, really), we were mainly alone on our journey; passing only the occasional backpackers, all heading the opposite direction.
After the backpacking portion, we headed to Lake Tahoe, and settled in at Meeks bay, where we had places to hang our hammocks and a fire pit to grill a variety of food. The sandy bottomed lake greeted us in the morning and the afternoon, and without having to carry all of our food and our backpacks, we stood up straighter, rested our legs, and cooked delicious-yet-over-priced food from the closest market.
We jumped in many lakes that trip: Showers, Round, Tahoe, and Eagle (in addition to those with names that have escaped my memory). It was a personal challenge, as each jump in was a shock to one’s system. While I like swimming, I have always had difficulty with the abrupt change from dry to wet, warm and comfortable to cold, air to water.
The energizing effect that the cold had on my body as I jumped in the lake was the same that the beauty of the nature had on my eyes. It was both shocking and unbelievable and yet calming at the same time. A meditation of being alive, of breathing fresh air, combined with an intense connection to the now–the present–that is forever ingrained in the imagery of in my mind.
At times while swimming back to the shore, I would be overcome with unexplainable laughter—feelings of pure joy reminiscent of childhood: laughing for no reason, while spinning in the water in order to take in the complete panoramic beauty of the surroundings. It was great.
It was only a four day trip (so we could each take the most minimal number of days off work), but somehow my memory extends the trip by at least a week.
The car ride home was a bit somber, each of us to our own thoughts, wondering, as one is wont to do on trips such as these, when we would be back. To me, the memories of that trip, those moments, replay in my mind and if I close my eyes, take a deep breath, I can almost feel that light breeze on my arms, and the sun beaming down on my back. In a word, it is summer; a peace that resonates with deserved relaxation in a place so far from my home and day to day worries and commitments.
Thank you Lake Tahoe, thank you summer, and Happy Labor Day!