The Nature Conservancy’s preserve at Independence Lake is serenity embodied north from Tahoe. No outside watercraft means a peaceful, unpolluted lake, and this has become a successful haven for the threatened Lahontan trout (population up 10x since TNC began its work 6 years ago) as well as a testing ground for proactive forest management. This means thinning the small trees, clearing out “fuel”, returning that wood into the groun for nutrients, and ideally over time developing a model that can derive and create value from the small diameter wood. The hope is that this proof of concept with those methods and managed burns can be scaled and used in forests around the country to combat what have become all too frequent catastrophic forest fires . The cost of fighting one of those ($187mm for the rim fire) easily pays for the proactive management of many forests. Right now the bulk of the forest service budget is being sucked up to fight fires rather than investing in avoiding them altogether.
The public can access Independence Lake during the day to kayak, fish, and swim. We were spoiled as part of the California Leadership Council to spend the night there too. After hiking and kayaking we dug into a delicious grilled meal followed by smores. The temperature quickly dropped toward 30 by which point I had scrambled into my tent and bundled up in pajamas, hat, gloves, socks and the sleeping bag. And a fuzzy blanket! Quiet, quiet, quiet. I missed the moonlight paddle, but did manage to sleep well in our tiny tent. We woke to Bebe’s happy (Will would say loud) chatter and a gorgeous sunshiney day. After hiking the other side of the lake, we boated down to the trout spawning grounds. Very fragile and very productive now. Amazing how nature can rebound when given that opportunity. At home I have to make time to meditate. On a pristine Sierra lake it feels like the mere act of looking out and breathing is a meditation. Easy to lose yourself in the sparkling water, blue sky, snow capped peaks with nothin but the wind lapping on the water and bursts of birdsong.