A Break From Winter

March 10th, 2010

Vacation is Good

Well, Kim and I have just returned from our winter break from the Lake Tahoe Institute of English.  It was great to get away for a little while.  When you work where you live, it can be difficult to relax sometimes, so going completely away is what is called for.

Living at Lake Tahoe in the winter is incredibly beautiful, but when we have too many storms in a row, we can all feel the need to get away and get some sun.  So, Kim and I headed south on Highway 395 to Phoenix to visit our daughter, Eve.  We’ve only driven this route before in the spring and summer, so this was a very new experience for us.  After leaving Tahoe, the road fairly quickly begins to hug the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada.  If you are not familiar with the Sierra Nevada, it is a very rugged mountain range that runs nearly the length of California, and into Nevada a bit, too.  Incline Village, Nevada, where we live, is on the western slope of the Sierra.

On the western side of the mountains it is less rugged, with more trees and greater snowfall.  The eastern side is very barren, rocky and dramatic.  Highway 395 winds along beside these mountains through beautiful high mountain valleys, alongside lakes and through high desert landscapes.  In the spring and summer the valleys are filled with wildflowers, and the mountainsides are carpeted, from a distance anyway, with greenish-purplish foliage.  As you drive you pass by small towns and ranches; it is truly representative of the old west from the movies.

Winter Transformation

In the winter, though, it is quite a different scene.  All is covered with a light layer of snow, cold and windswept.  The sky, too, is a cold, cold blue.  Snow clings to the craggy mountains, highlighting their ruggedness.  It is a grand landscape, with great beauty in the desolation of the desert, the frozen and misty lakes, and the high, wild mountains.

It is a 12 hour drive from Incline Village to Phoenix, Arizona, and I was reminded during the long day of driving just how easy it is to travel enormous distances in the United States.  And, I was reminded of the enormous contrasts of the western United States.  In one day, we transported ourselves from the beauty of Lake Tahoe, all glistening water and snow-covered pine trees, through a desolate and dramatic mountain and desert landscape into a great desert city that takes 2 hours to drive across.  We transported ourselves from a frozen world, into eternal summer, with a day long drive.  That alone is an adventure.

Mono Lake Covered with Mist

Mono Lake Covered with Mist

Ranch on the Eastern Slope of the Sierra

Ranch on the Eastern Slope of the Sierra

Baby, it's cold outside

Baby, it's cold outside

Highway 395 - A Long, Lonesome Highway

Highway 395 – A Long, Lonesome Highway

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