|Surprise! Our fire was contained, or at least mostly so, therefore I'm heading home early. When a decision is made to depart early, things really busy -even more busy than normal. Reports have to be finalized (not as if I would ever...ahem..let them get behind), travel arrangements have to be made, checkout process has to be completed, and at some point I have to pack. All that plus a 12 hour drive has taken place in the past 24 hours.
12 hours might leave you wondering-but then,you know me. If there is time for a more scenic route, I probably won't resist the temptation. I couldn't take much of a detour on my way TO the fire but when I found out I would have an overnight stay in Reno tonight (before my 6am flight tomorrow) I decided I should see Lake Tahoe on my way home. When I mentioned that to my supervisor he suggested a back way through the mountains. Ironically enough his route took me through territory that felt somewhat familiar because last summer I did smoke forecasting for some of the towns along this route. Little did I know how gorgeous it was!
But let me back up. Way up. I saw Lake Tahoe for the first time when I was 18, and thought it was the most beautiful place I had ever seen. It was one of those places you hope to come back to "someday" but even with all the travel I've done, I had never made it back there. I wondered whether I would still find it as beautiful. The short answer is no. I did still find it beautiful but hey, it is no Crater Lake. I suppose it was unreasonable to hold such high expectations. But the good news is that I'm really glad I went because OH MY GOSH did I find a new gorgeous place along the way.
I turned off the main route after a couple hours and thought that might be a nice time to munch on an apple I'd been saving. I was wrong. Within minutes I was navigating a white-knuckle, both-hands-on-the-wheel ascent. I don't normally get nervous driving uphill but there was no shoulder and the drop off on my side of the road was very steep. When I finally reached a place to pull over I quickly got rid of the apple. I continued a few more moments around horseshoe turns and suddenly the road opened into an alpine meadow. The view was breathtaking- a straight road ahead as far as I could see, with snow capped peaks in the distance. Stunningly beautiful. There was another pull off so I stopped for a photo or two. Birds were singing and the air was cool, which would be expected because I was around 8000- 9000 feet altitude. When I stopped I saw the sign for the Carson Iceberg Wilderness which was the site of my "familiar" fire from last summer. I had handled the forecasting for that fire part of the time I was at Yosemite because there was no ARA to cover the other fire. What a sweet surprise to get to see the territory today! I have more to write but need to sleep before my early flight so for now will just post pictures. They cannot begin to capture the beauty but I trust they will give you a hint. Goodnight!