Perched high above Lake Tahoe with amazing views in every direction, the summit of Mount Tallac is my one true place. An invigorating, thigh-burning day hike brings one to the altar at which deep blue Lake Tahoe was christened many millennia ago. It can be a hard scramble. You may be exhausted by the steep climb and will want to rest before reaching the summit. Catch your breath while you can because you’ll lose it again as you gasp in awe.
The northeast is filled with Lake Tahoe which is utterly breathtaking from this vantage. Craggy peaks and alpine lakes are abundant in every other direction. In the shadows of towering summits, lakes (Fallen Leaf, Cascade, Gilmore, Aloha, Heather, and Suzie) occupy low spots that once held enormous glaciers which carved out the rugged relief and picturesque scenery through which cascading creeks now tumble and crash.
The summit is a great place to ponder the barely imaginable forces that have formed the place. How did the rocks of Tallac that hold fossils of sea life become the stunning altar of the Tahoe Sierra? Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, glaciers, and landslides shook, pushed, and buried the landscape over and over like a blacksmith pounds and pounds hot slaggy goo to finally yield a mighty metal. Tallac was buried miles deep and baked in a furnace then quenched in glacial waters. Molded and mangled by fire and ice until the perfect peak was formed, Tallac was forged in fury and polished with a glacial glaze.
Although the hike up these steep slopes can be hard, the victory atop is well worth the struggle. You’ll see landslides where slopes lost whatever resolve they had to resist the tests of time and bold peaks that still raise defiant fists. Tallac tells a parable about impermanence and renewal. The trillions of gallons of water in Lake Tahoe with dusty dry Nevada in the background reminds me of the great disparities in life and how fortunes can and do change. For back when the glaciers were polishing these slopes, Nevada had lovely lakes and forests. Back then Tahoe and Tallac were icy barren places. Time may be the mightiest force. Ultimately all is transformed and re-created.
Tallac is the place I retreat to when I feel stuck, clinging to some notion of how things should be different. By mustering the strength to climb, I somehow purge bothersome thoughts. By resolving to simply put one foot in front of the other despite any obstacles, I regain a sense of what matters.