Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Echo Summit and a Birthday Party

We took off for a couple of days to visit some of Aries' relatives near Sacramento. This trip, we took Highway 50 over the Sierras. First, we drove up out of our valley, over Spooner Summit and then down to and around the south end of Lake Tahoe.

Tahoe is said to be a Washoe Indian word, meaning Big Sky Water, and scenes like this make it easy to see why they named it that. The natural lake, more than 6,000 feet above sea level is so deep that it never freezes, and almost always reflects the color of the sky.

Once around the lake, we start to climb up out of the Tahoe Basin over Echo Summit. This narrow mountain road is one of the major routes between the Lake and California. The snow is finally starting to melt from the hillsides above, sending rivulets of water cascading down next to the road. The granite rises straight above the road on one side, and drops more than 1000 feet on the other; rooftops and trees dot the valley far below.

Dropping down the western slope, Desolation Wilderness is north of the highway. Despite the name, this wilderness area is one of the most accessible in California. It is 100 square miles of glaciated granite, dotted with many small lakes. Above the Twin Bridges trailhead, a quick glimpse of Horsetail Falls (in the middle of the photo, right below the saddle) shows quite a bit of water coming down. During the winter, the falls are sparkling white, blue and green ice; by September the water will slow to a trickle sliding down the rock face.

As the highway drops lower in altitude the snowbanks get smaller and smaller. By the time we've dropped down into the American River canyon, they're gone completely. As we continue westward, Springtime advances and by the time we reach the Apple Hill area above Placerville the trees are in full bloom; the Sierras just a snowy line on the eastern horizon.

We had a nice visit. One of Aries' cousins hosted a barbecue for her dad's 85th birthday. The brother of Aries' dad, his uncle is the only one of that generation left on either side of Aries' family. His other cousin flew in from Salt Lake City for the party, so it made for a nice reunion. While Aries and I had visited his uncle and aunt before, I'd never met these cousins. They're all great people and we had a wonderful time.

It was sooooo hot and humid down there though. After a couple of days, I'm so glad to get back to my cool and dry desert. I can wait a bit longer for summer to arrive, thank you.


Anonymous said...

You live in a beautiful part of the country!

Nancy M. said...

Gorgeous pictures! Glad y'all had a good trip!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a lot of fun, the pictures are really breathtaking, the views especially from the top. And so different than the land around here...