When I was in my 20’s, my parents rented a cabin or two every summer for a week and invited their adult kids up to spend whatever time they could. There were spouses and significant others and eventually grandkids that joined in the fun. For a number of years, the annual retreat was at Silver Lake, located in the Sierra Nevadas about 45-60 minutes south of Lake Tahoe. It’s difficult to overstate my memories of times spent there.
I remember my first trip. It was during the hardest time in my relationship with my parents. The details aren’t necessary here, but even though I had disappointed them mightily, I was still invited up. That first summer I did hardly anything as I just lounged around for a few days. That’s the beauty of Silver Lake. You can hike, kayak, play games with family, read, drink, or just do nothing at all. I chose the latter option that first time. Sunset magazine has, by the way, featured Silver Lake regularly in the last few years as a hidden gem of the Western United States. If you have any desire to go, look up the Kit Carson Lodge. There are also plenty of campgrounds that surround the lake. But, the great thing and the reason why it is a hidden gem is that it is not over-run by people. It is not crowded.
My next memory of Silver Lake was of going up right after I took the bar exam. Again, all I wanted to do was relax. In the years in between and the next few years, there were plenty of hikes and kayaking around the lake. Trips to other lakes in the area, many meals at The Kirkwood Inn, and plenty of game playing and beer drinking until late into the night. When the grandkids came along, including my contribution of two, the trips got that much more interesting and fun for all of us. I remember going on a hike when my oldest was 4 and 1/2. It was a hike of more than four miles — to Frog Lake and Winnemuca Lake and back to Woods Lake, or something like that. And he was such a little trooper. I learned something about his persistence that day.
There are plenty of other memories, but sadly my kids didn’t have any. It has been so long since we’ve been back to Silver Lake that neither of them remembered it.
So, this Labor Day, we went back. Not the whole family, just the four of us.
This is Thunder Mountain, on the northeast corner of the lake. It’s a thing of beauty just about any time of the day. I took this picture when we got there about 6:00 on Friday. A little more patience and I would have had a picture in which the mountain would have glowed orange from the setting sun.
This is the view in the other direction taken at the same time …
There was one thing I wanted to do for the couple of days we were there. Go kayaking first thing Saturday morning when the lake is usually still and quiet. I rented the kayak and got a lake rolling with waves caused by early morning wind. It wasn’t quite what I had in mind, but still that morning, as I stood waiting for my kayak I felt more at peace than I have in a long time. Friday night had been good. A nice dinner with the family. An interesting conversation with the lodge’s owner (more on that later). And a beautiful Saturday morning looking out over Silver Lake, alive with my memories of the place and amazed at how beautiful it all still was. Virtually nothing has changed about the place in the past 30 years.
The boys played frisbee and threw a football around. They rented a fishing boat both days and each caught a fish. We even got together for a serious picture…
My boys even made their old man proud. On the west side of the lake there is an area called Sandy Cove. It’s a little bit of a beach area where a lot of people go to sit and sun and enjoy the water. While we were there a duck sat on a rock and somebody told us they had noticed that the duck had a fish hook stuck in its bill, with a long piece of fish line attached to it. My boys took on the challenge.
My oldest is rowing, my youngest was charged with the capture and rescue. My youngest wants to be a vet when he grows up and immediately jumped at the opportunity to do this. Like an expert …
Turns out that the fish line was wrapped around the duck’s body and feet. They cut the line back as far as they could, but the hook was too far down the duck’s neck to get out. Still, they did a lot to help the duck and when they released it, the duck was able to swim away and even found a friend a few minutes later. There’s something about what they did that just amazes me. That I raised kids who would do this. Like the park ranger who was there who they took the duck to said, a lot of teenagers would harass the duck and make its situation worse. I’m proud of my kids that they looked at it as an opportunity to do a good thing. The right thing.
So, back to the conversation with the owner. For years, the owners used college students from all over to do the work around the lodge. The last few years, however, they have hired more and more “seasoned” adults — the semi-retired baby boomers who don’t necessarily need a job, but have skills to contribute, and an interest in spending a few summer months in a beautiful spot. I’m five years away from retirement. I have a plan. 😉
The weekend was not perfect. I made the mistake of telling my oldest that the lodge had wi-fi (I think the one and only change since the last time I was there). But it was a nice trip down memory lane and a reminder of the kind of life I want to live. The things that matter. The things that don’t. Silver Lake is one place where there is nothing more than what matters.