During our recent vacation to Lake Tahoe, hubby and I took a DUKW tour of the Lake…both on land and in water. You see, “duck” vehicles are the refurbished amphibious vehicles used on D-Day now used as tourist transport on major waterways.
Interestingly, the acronym isn’t any military jargon at all. “D” indicates a vehicle designed in 1942. “U” means utility, “K” indicates all-wheel drive, and “W” stands for two powered rear axles. Since we’ve already taken road/water rides around Boston and into the Charles River, and throughout the hills of San Francisco with a drive straight into the bay, we couldn’t wait.
Well, Lake Tahoe fascinates just about everybody, from Ponderosa fans to skiers, hikers, boaters, photographers, residents and tourists of all ages. It’s one of my favorite places on earth. But the first folks to love this place were the Washoe Indians.
The tribe lent its term “tahlah-act” meaning “great mountain” to the tallest peak at the lake, today’s Mt. Tallac at 9,735 feet. Some say the pronunciation is “tayak.”
The Washoe considered the mountain to be sacred, and their legends live on today. Particularly about the cross.
The cross on Mt. Tallac’s northeastern face is visible when the snow begins to melt in the spring. Well, it was a warm summer day when we saw it, but the mountains were still clumped with snow. Folks skied at the surrounding resorts on the Fourth of July. That’s because the winter just past was Tahoe’s fourth-snowiest on record.
The minute I saw the cross on August 9, I knew I needed to post here about it. But the subject mirrors the topic of my filly sister Winnie Griggs’s post of August 22. I didn’t want her to think I was “biting off her” (This was a term my kids always used when one of them copied the other LOL). Should I wait and post my cross blog later on? Then I realized: it’s sacred, marvelous, symbolic, magnificent to know that there are two such hallowed crosses in the West. I decided not to postpone this post.
So. When you check out the cross, it’s actually a “couloir” or series of deep gorges just to the left of the summit.
Many legends abound about the cross. One Washoe belief held that if all the snow melted away, the world would end. Others forecast a season of drought. Still another said the cross disappearing meant the lake would dry up. The tale our DUCK guide shared was if the cross melted, Tahoe would experience a record winter of snow. And was he ever right! After the “cross” melted last year, the winter of 2010-2011 saw 643 inches of snow. Annual expectation is 300-500. The deepest June snowpack on record was this year’s 71.25 inches on the 13th.
As a tribute to Mt. Tallac and the cross, the opening sequence of the seventh through eleventh and final season of the classic Western TV show Bonanza was filmed from the north section of Nevada Beach (across the lake on the east shore) so that Mount Tallac and its snow cross appeared prominently in the background. As the Ponderosa map burned, you could see the Cartwright men riding up to the cameras with the mountain and cross in the back ground.
This beautiful site draws you in no matter where you are in the area. The next day after the DUCK tour, we rode the Heavenly Valley ski gondola and saw Tallac’s breathtaking beauty from the observation deck at an elevation of 9,123. The 360 degree views, of the Lake, the mountains, Desolation Wilderness and Carson Valley are beyond breathtaking.
Has anybody else seen Mt. Tallac and the snow cross?