They say every picture is worth a thousand words.
For years, I drove through a tunnel on the southern end of Lake Tahoe, Cave Rock, the Washoe’s De’ek Wadapush, unaware of its history and cultural significance to our native peoples. A highway was provided for us to drive through and I never gave it a second thought. The Washoe protested as holes were bored and the road was laid through the sacred cave in 1931 and again in the 1950’s.
The Lady of the Lake’s face can be clearly seen from the waters of Lake Tahoe. She gazes north, watching over the lake and the Me’tsunge, Waterbabies, who, according to Washoe legend, created the rivers, lakes, and streams in the area. De’ek Wadapush is believed to be the gathering place for the Me’tsunge who impart their power and knowledge onto shaman seeking their guidance. Summer months for the Damomliw included travel to De’ek Wadapush for ceremony and ritual. Communication with the Me’tsunge is believed to be essential for balance and medicine within the population and earth itself.
During the 1980’s, rock climbers, seeking challenging climbing routes, unknowingly defaced the cave’s granite with their climbing gear. Tribal culture and traditions were ignored. The Washoe again protested the loss of their sacred cave and demanded respect. The United States Court of Appeals sided with the Forest Service who sought cultural identity for the Washoe. Climbing of De’ek Wadapush was banned in 2007 in order to preserve this cultural site for the Washoe and bring some relief to the desecration.
This 75 feet of solid granite has been nominated for the National Register of Historic Places with a designation of “Traditonal Cultural Property”. For the Washoe, De’ek Wadapush is a sacred place for spiritual renewal with centuries of cultural tradition. After many years of battle, restoration for the Lady of the Lake is underway.
While either snowshoeing along the lake’s edge, skiing off the ridge tops, or hiking into the back country, I reflect upon the wisdom of those who walked these lands before us. Their love of nature and its wealth of resources has preserved an environment that is truly precious.
Native American tribes, the Martis, Washo, Shoshone, and Piute, have lived in the Sierras for 6,000 years. They honored the land and used only the resources they needed for survival, believing that earth and man was one. To destroy the land would bring destruction to its people. They lived in concert with the environment.
John Muir, one of my Scottish heroes, referred to the high sierra crest as “The Range of Light”. Like many of us, he was dazzled by the symphony of color and ever changing tones of the Sierras. The vistas contiually change, giving us moments of reflection on nature’s majesty and unspoiled beauty. Muir first visited Lake Tahoe in the Fall of 1873 stating Lake Tahoe was the “queen of lakes” and devoted his life to preserving the Sierras. He believed destruction of the environment would bring destruction to man’s very soul.
Like Muir, I am continually amazed at the constant change of color and quiet peacefullness the land transfers. Like our Native Americans, I believe man and the land are connected, and feel fortunate Da-ow-a-ga is home. Rugged mountain peaks rise above mirrored lakes as spectacular granite sculptures, encompassing acres upon acres of wilderness. Let’s continue preserving this place we love so much!
Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like Autumn leaves” (John Muir).
Community. What does it mean to you? A group of individuals inhabiting the same area with similar interests? Or, is it more? This past weekend, Tahoe residents gathered to celebrate the life of two separate individuals. They were both sons, husbands, brothers, grandchildren, co-workers, friends, and local Tahoe-Truckee residents. Their paths never crossed during the course of their lives but many knew them both. Our loss is heartfelt.
I am grateful for this small mountain community. The jewel of the Sierra’s, Da-ow-a-ga (Tahoe), was considered by the native tribes to have healing powers. Da-ow-a-ga was sacred and a “giver of life”. Tahoe’s magic is not only found in the land but extends to the people who live here.
Community? What does it mean to me? Everything! The true soul of the High Sierras is found in the people who love and support one another unconditionally. Da-ow-a-ga gives life to it’s people by providing enchanting beauty, a stillness, resources, and an everlasting strength. Its people are truly one with the land – magical.
The temperatures are low, the air is dry and crisp. Several feet of fresh snow creates an excitement in the mountains. Conversations focus on ski gear, favorite runs, best ski areas, backcountry stashes of snow, and epic powder days. People forget, however, that fresh snow also brings hazards. Heads Up! While ski areas do their best to control the hazards within the ski area boundary, snow slides within the boundaries are still reported annually. Areas outside ski area boundaries are left uncontrolled and slide when the snowpack reaches a state of instability. The skier is entirely on his/her own.
If you have lived in mountain areas, most likely you have taken an avalanche course, know something about the science of snow, use beacons, ski with a buddy, and avoid open slopes. For those of you who have not, there are several resources available. The Sierra Avalanche Center posts backcountry snow conditions routinely. The National Ski Areas Association has put together a great website that includes sections on avalanche awareness, deep snow and tree well safety, and helmet use.
Tahoe mourns the loss of one of its own ski patrollers. He was experienced, knew snow and how it behaves, was passionate about his profession, and a truly compassionate human being. Please, in honor of a man who spent his life trying to save lives, take it upon yourself to be aware of your surroundings, know your terrain, understand snow, and ski responsibly. The life you save could be your own.
The bear population in the Sierra Nevada continues to grow and the moment you meet one of these omnivorous animals face to face, you realize they are big and powerful and could do a lot of damage to your refridgerator if allowed to come inside. The bears living in the Tahoe and Truckee areas are generally non-agressive and casually walk away when confronted with loud noise or a concentrated effort in defending the homestead. They are looking for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, not you or your pet and if that is not easy to get, they loose interest.The Tahoe Basin has the second highest density of black bears in North America, with several bears per square mile at times. They are territorial and will travel throughout the Sierra Nevadas to avoid another bear’s territory. Some people believe the black bear hibernates over the winter season but it is only a semi-hibernation period. Often, we see bears on the ski slopes or at the end of a driveway digging through garbage. The mortality rate of young bears is at approximately 50%. When coming into contact with humans, they run into trouble by either being hit by a car or euthanzied for public safety concerns.
In an effort to co-exist with these animals, local communites have learned to use bear boxes for their garbage, keep doors and windows closed when not close by, secure pet food indoors, not leave food in the car overnight, and do everything they can to scare the bears away when they stop by for a snack. When bears become habituated with humans, they can become a problem and many people have come home to broken windows and a raided refridgerator. I had a neighbor come over one day, asking for help. He was upset by a “bloody mess” he found in his kitchen one afternoon. Red paw prints were all over his kitchen and out his back door. After some investigation, we discovered an empty jar of strawberry jam that apparently had been mixed with ketcup and olives. What a mess!We all love the bears. Let’s do everything we can to co-exist. The black bear population is growing along with the human population. A lot of their territory has been taken over by us. Personally, I like to give them as much room as they need.