According to the definition from Wikipedia, Lake Tahoe is a large, freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of the United States. At a surface elevation of 6,225 ft (1,897 m), it is located along the border between California and Nevada, west of Carson City, Nevada. Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America. Its depth is 1,645 feet making it America’s second-deepest (the deepest is Crater Lake in Oregon, being 300 ft deeper, at 1,945 feet deep). When I read this definition, it sounds a bit dry and completely different from how I would describe it. To me, it is not just “a large freshwater lake”; it is one of the most precious gifts that the Nature has given to the humankind.
Being born and raised in Kremenchuk, a medium-size Ukrainian city located on the bank of a beautiful Dniper River and surrounded by numerous forests, I consider myself to be very lucky, because I had an opportunity during my childhood years to spend a lot of time outdoors. My parents love being outdoors. So during summer time, we would spend a great amount of time going camping in the woods, which is somewhat different than camping at a typical campground with convenient facilities, park rangers, etc. While camping, we would spend most of the time fishing, gathering mushrooms and wild berries, barbequing, swimming in the river, relaxing, and having bonfires. During winter times, the river would freeze, so my parents and I would often go out ice skating. Our other winter activities included making a snowman, cross-country skiing, and my favorite one, ridding the dog sleds, which were pulled by our family dog Greta, a 140-pound Black Russian Terrier. These are some of the most memorable times of my life. Looking back now, it is really hard for me to decide which activities I like more, winter or summer ones. However, I am certain about one thing, I love being outdoors.
After moving to the Bay Area in 2007, I noticed that the weather here is somewhat monotonous in contrast to the weather in the Ukraine. Here are no freezing winters or extremely hot summers. The weather in the Bay Area stays pretty mild throughout the whole year, so I became a little upset, because this was very different from what I was so used to. Then one day, my friend told me about an alpine lake, which is located about 200 miles away, called Lake Tahoe. I asked a few of my friends about this lake, and those who had visited Lake Tahoe before, highly recommended it. So, in mid-August, my friend and I went on the road trip to visit this ”highly-recommended place.”
To tell you the truth, the first two hours of our drive were somewhat boring, from the scenery perspective. It was mostly farm fields and small towns, not too exciting. However, that completely changed when we reached the foot of the Sierras and started ascending into the mountains. Next hour and half of our drive were full of breathtaking views of gorgeous pinewoods and stunning mountain tops, some still covered with ice. As we were driving, I rolled down my window, and was amazed of how fresh and clean the air felt. It reminded me of the times when I went camping with my parents. This feeling of the fresh air with a little hint of pine mixed together with the stunning views, was making me feel happy and peaceful. And that is when we drove into the Lake Tahoe area on the South Shore.
The view of this magnificent lake almost blew my mind. It was right there – so blue, so massive, and at the same time, so calm. We pulled over and walked to the shore. This was one of the most beautiful creations I’ve ever seen. I just stood there and gazed at the lake and its surrounding tree-covered mountains and snow-covered peaks. The view was making me feel dreamy and euphoric. At that moment, I felt like I could spend the rest of our trip just staying there. In fact, we did spend a majority of our three-day excursion on the lake or nearby. Most of the time, we spent hiking around the lake. It was magnificent and inspiring – the stunning views, the super-fresh air, the singing of the birds – it was beyond words. I felt truly rejuvenated being there, far away from the busy Bay Area life. Unfortunately, our three days went by quickly and it was time to go home.
Having seen the beautiful Lake Tahoe in the summer, I couldn’t wait to go see what it’s like during the winter. When December came, I went back there, and was stunned once again. All of the trees were covered with snow. Mountains were also covered with snow, yet the lake was right there, in the middle of these massive, white mountains; still, so marvelous and so calm. This time, I spent most of my time skiing at the Heavenly resort, while enjoying astonishing views of the lake and a crisp, fresh Tahoe air.
In the past three years, I have visited Lake Tahoe numerous times during both, winter and summer months. And, to be honest, I can’t decide during which time of the year I like it more. One thing is certain though, discovering this truly magnificent lake, made me realize how powerful our nature really is. Every time I go there, it never fails to demonstrate its extraordinary power to take me back to my cheerful and playful childhood years, years of innocent fun and joy and to bring back the memories of those days when I went playing outdoors with my parents back in the Ukraine. I personally consider Lake Tahoe an “eighth wonder of the World”, a true gift from the Mother-Nature to its people, and sincerely hope that we will do our part to keep it clean and pristine for many, many years to come.