A far-reaching cloud of smoke

I’ve spent very little time around Lake Tahoe, despite it being an easy drive (at least in fair weather) from where I live. This past weekend, my husband and I visited the area. It’s a beautiful place, but reminders of California’s raging fires were never very far away.

The far banks of Tahoe, veiled in smoke

As the temperatures warmed up each day, smoke dropped in, obscuring the far banks of the lake, and, several afternoons, filling the air with at least a hint of that too-familiar acrid smell.

We stopped at several state parks around the lake, and near last year’s Emerald Fire, we saw efforts to clear burned trees balanced with the need to leave some dead trees whose roots might hold up the sides of mountains sloping down the highway. A year after the fire, there’s little new growth on some of these steep slopes, a stark reminder of what is lost when the flames come.

DL Bliss State Park offers well-maintained trails and stunning views of the lake, and we were excited about visiting. The trail we hiked, the Lighthouse Trail, is a site of active prescribed burning. Fortunately for us, there was no active burning the day we were there, but signs of past fires and current firefighting efforts dotted the trail.

A network of hoses snaked up the hillside. We wondered if they went all the way down to the lake.

Every now and then, we would see bright orange water “tanks,” filled with water to keep the fires under control.

Being surrounded by the beauty of Lake Tahoe reminded me of how fragile and vulnerable some of our most stunning places can be. And how worthy of our efforts to protect these wild spaces. I’m grateful for firefighters and forestry managers who know more about safe burning than I ever will.

I’m also grateful for good news on the firefighting front across the state, especially after ten days of horrific numbers and heart-breaking stories. Firefighters are making progress and getting closer to containing the largest fires. And, best of all, there’s rain in the forecast for tomorrow. Would you please join me in praying for the rain to be plentiful and helpful, that it may ease the burden facing the firefighters?

I’ll leave you today with my favorite (so far) story from among the ashes in the Bay area. It’s about a dog named Odin and the eight goats he wouldn’t abandon. (Listen to the audio if you have time. It’s powerful.)

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