Monday, August 29, 2011

Lake Tahoe

I wonder if it's possible to appreciate beauty in a vacuum, without reference to other things one has seen or read or heard. I imagine that it is, in large part because of scenery like that around Lake Tahoe. It seems to me that the splendors of Lake Tahoe would be perceived as gorgeous by everyone, no matter his or her frame of reference, experience or aesthetic preferences.

Huge (192 square miles), deep (at 1,645 feet deep, the second deepest lake in North America), high (surface elev. 6,229 feet), with cobalt blue water of extraordinary clarity (it's said that a white dinner plate at a depth of 75 feet would be clearly visible; I don't know if that's true since we didn't toss one in to find out, but glacial lakes are always astonishingly pure) and surrounded by snow-capped mountains, Lake Tahoe is quite an eyeful. Glacially carved Alpine scenery is my favorite: its pristine magnitude is all at once majestic, serene, spectacular, evocative, and profound. There is no better example than Alaska, and the Lake Tahoe area is reminiscent of our 49th state, although on a far smaller scale (and with a lot more sunshine).

In fact, our first impressions of Lake Tahoe were somewhat spoiled by our memories of Alaska. It was rather like seeing the Mona Lisa for the first time: the small, dark painting tucked away in a corner of the Louvre was underwhelming until we got ourselves intellectually revved up over it and examined it more carefully. Similarly, Lake Tahoe struck us primarily as not-Alaska until we adjusted our brains and used our eyes to take in what it was, rather than what it wasn't.

Don't miss the moon in this last picture. (Click on the pic to make it bigger.) These photos are all from the area around Emerald Bay. For some reason, I didn't take pictures of the craggy mountains surrounding the lake this time; if you'd like to see some of those in a different glacially created setting, click here.

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