Hello from Lake Tahoe!
Yep – when you’re reading this, I will be in the air on my way home from California after spending a few days in Lake Tahoe with my three best friends. (But if you follow my Instagram – @beauty.beyond.bones – you already knew that!)
Every summer for the last five years, we’ve taken a girls trip! I’ve been friends with these girls since I was born, practically, and these little getaways are such a special time for us. And one of the gals is getting married next year, so it was extra meaningful to celebrate her upcoming nuptials.
But that’s not why you clicked on this article. Because I buried the lead: Lake Tahoe is in a terrible situation right now with the forest fires.
The Caldor and Tamarak Fires have been absolutely devastating South Lake Tahoe, causing apocalyptic scenes throughout the entire Lake Tahoe region.
As of publication, after a wind shift, the fire worsened this morning, and is only 14% contained, and has burned 177,260 acres. This morning, all of South Lake Tahoe was ordered to evacuate, and firefighters are doing everything they can to contain this unprecedented fire, including enlist the snow guns at the Tahoe Ski Resort to combat the flames.
Many of you wonderful friends have reached out, after seeing my Instagram stories, to check on my safety, (which I am very grateful for!) Thankfully, as you can see from the map below, the fires are in South Lake Tahoe. We were located in North Lake Tahoe, in the little town of Truckee at my friend’s family cabin. So you can see that we were thankfully out of harm’s way. And God willing, Truckee will stay that way.
But the entire region was feeling the devastating effects.
When we flew in, the pilot announced over the intercom the you could see the fires out the window, and sure enough, this huge wall of the thickest smoke was billowing into the atmosphere. It was surreal. It looked like a scene from a movie.
It was at this point that we knew we were in for quite the experience. And it was truly unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed. The air quality was dangerously bad. For comparison, New York City’s air quality is usually around 25-40. (The higher the number, the worse the air quality). The air quality in Truckee was 208. We kept the windows closed in the house the entire time. We only went outside for about 15 minutes a day — while wearing N95 masks. (We even wore N95 masks while driving!)
But the air was so smokey, you’d walk outside and you were instantly hit with a wall of intense campfire smell – as though the campfire was burning all around you, and multiplied by 1000. But it wasn’t just the smell — it burned your nostrils. It burned your eyes — like that feeling of swimming with your eyes open in the chlorine for an entire afternoon as a kid.
And not only that, but our VOICES changed! I sounded like I had been a chain smoker for the last decade! We were so raspy!
It was scary. We were light headed, there was absolutely no exercising because it was so dangerous, and it’s safe to say that all the activities we had booked (from mountain biking, to hiking, to kayaking, to a boat dinner cruise) were cancelled, full stop.
We left the house once to go to dinner in town, but as you can see from the photo below — the air was dusty brown. That’s not an artistic filter on that photo — it was the air quality.
But the wildest thing, was seeing actual Lake Tahoe itself. One afternoon, we suited up in our glasses and N95 masks, and drove to the lake to have a soda on the beach for about 15 minutes, just to see it.
Lake Tahoe is described as a beautiful, scenic vista, where the mountains meet the water. The water is usually crystal clear blue, with a beach that’s packed with tourists and locals alike.
Friends. It looked like a scene out of Armageddon. We were literally THE ONLY PEOPLE on the entire beach. For as far as the eye could see. Those boats were not filled with people, they were just moored in the harbor.
My friend Sam, whose cabin it was, was speechless….“There are supposed to be mountains there. You can usually see into Nevada!”
All we saw was a smokey, cloud of white.
We lasted about 17 minutes before we had to get back to fresh air.
And as I sit here, heading back to the safety of Manhattan, out of harms way, not only am I incredibly grateful to be heading home in one piece, but I can’t help but have a heavy, hurting heart for the Tahoe Region, as it gets pummeled by the flames. And my deepest prayers are with those who are risking their lives to fight it, and those who are physically in harm’s way.
I was watching Mass on Sunday, and Father Mike mentioned that parts on Minnesota are also battling devastating forest fires. Coupled with the terrible hurricane destruction in Louisiana and all the tragedy happening in Afghanistan — it seems like there is so much hurt going on in the world. And all I can do is pray for God’s protection over His people and His creation.
And I welcome you to join me in that prayer.
So – now for the million dollar question: should we have gone? Because according to my father, uhh…no.
But all things considered, the deep conversations we had, and the most surreal scenes we’ve ever witnessed made it one of the most memorable trips yet. We did nothing except bond and hang out together (and also do a puzzle). But it turns out, when you’re with your people, that’s all you really need.
Lord, protect those who are risking everything to protect us, and literally rain down on your creation to snuff this destructive fire. Protect those who are in harms’ way, and thank you for keeping my friends and I safe while we were there.
Thanks for reading, and I’ll talk to you on Wednesday.
PS – Apologies that this post is late, the upload didn’t work on the airplane because the WiFi was down!!
“This is what the Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Ez 37:5
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