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A Late-August Trip to Lake Tahoe in 2013

Towards the end of August 2013, Lake Tahoe was in the path of smoke from the Rim Fire that was burning to the south near Yosemite. There was another fire closer to the Lake Tahoe Basin to the west - the American Fire - but its smoke was blown mainly to the north. I was on a late August trip to the Lake to enjoy the famously clear waters with my family. Dense and consistent smoke filled the Tahoe Basin for most of the trip, creating a fog-like obstruction that blocked the spectacular view of the many peaks that circle the lake. This is a short memoir of this experience at one of the most spectacular Alpine lakes in the world.

Living 22 miles east of San Francisco, I am used to and appreciate the fog that envelops us, keeps us cool, and obscures our views of the area. On a recent trip to Lake Tahoe, smoke took the place of the fog and instead of drizzle, very fine specks of ash rained down on the North Shore. It was like being near a constantly burning campfire, complete with itchy eyes, a stuffy nose, and a serene red glow.

Reno schools were closed, jet ski rentals ceased, and people with certain sensitivities to airborne particulates were advised to stay inside with the air-conditioner running. To escape the smoke, some of us went to make pottery at the Northstar Village and the rest went to the Incline Bowl over in Nevada. Both places were fairly empty; only one other person was making pottery and just three other occupied lanes in Incline.

Back at the beach, the smoke created rare and spectacular conditions for photography, including red skies and orange-tinted waves. I have tried to capture in pictures how the Lake looked and felt on and around the 23rd of August 2013.

Although not related to the fire and smoke, I have also included a couple of pictures that attempt to show the drop in water level between August 2012 and August 2013. Much more beach was visible and small "ponds" were scattered around the newly exposed sand. Some of the ponds were cut off from the Lake and some were still connected. The ponds that were not connected were filled with algae and a strange rainbow colored substance that created patterns that one might expect to find on another planet (see photo below). Reflections in the ponds also made for interesting photos, some of which are shown on this page.

By Michael Morris

Smoke from the Rim Fire to the South Blankets Lake Tahoe in August 2013

Looking towards Carnelian Bay from the Tahoe Vista Boat Ramp
There is a nice rock beach here when the water is low enough.

A canyon near Colfax visible from the Amtrak California Zephyr
I took the train from Martinez to Truckee. It was a slow ride but the windows were clean and the views were good.

Tahoe Vista Beach looking towards Kings Beach.
The small towers to the right are carefully stacked rocks. Taken in front of Mourelato's, the pier in the distance is at the Franciscan.

Looking towards Carnelian Bay
The red sky was visible for most of the day, not just at sunset.

A morning view looking east from Tahoe Vista
 

The moon casts an orange reflection on the Lake

Click on any image for a larger version

Intertidal Invertebrates
An extraordinary collection of photographs

crab28x160t

Fishing Baja 2000
Fishing the Sea of Cortez off Cerralvo Island

baja160t pollard160

U.S. Civil War - 1862
Jessup Pollard, 28th Reg. Massachusetts

A Beach in Tahoe Vista looks orange and empty on a smokey morning in August 2013 [500 x 321]. Photo of two paddle boarders moving silently through the thick smoke covering Lake Tahoe in August 2013 [500 x 317]. Tahoe Vista beach with thick smoke on August 23, 2013 [980 x 653].

A smokey and almost deserted beach at Tahoe Vista
August 23, 2013

A view of Tahoe Vista enveloped in smoke as seen from Mourelato's beach [500 x 333]. Lake Tahoe's clear waters look orange due to smoke from the Rim Fire in August 2013 [400 x 267]. Image showing red skies over Lake Tahoe caused by the Rim Fire in August 2013 [500 x 333]. Clouds and smoke create an orange glow over Lake Tahoe in August 2013 [400 x 267].

Colors Around the Lake in Late August, 2013

A valley near Colfax is shown filled with smoke from the Rim Fire in August 2013 [500 x 326]. A smoke filled view of Tahoe Vista, looking towards the boat ramp facility [500 x 333]. View of Lake Tahoe as seen from Tahoe Vista showing smoke from the Rim Fire and low water level in August 2013 [500 x 333]. Lake Tahoe as seen from Tahoe Vista on a clear day in August 2013 [400 x 267]. A view of Lake Tahoe with heavy smoke from the Rim Fire as seen from Tahoe Vista [500 x 333].

The sky and the sand almost blended together in this photo

Clear Days Before Smoke Arrived

A clear day at Lake Tahoe's Carnelian Bay as seen from Tahoe Vista in August 2013 [400 x 267]. Lake Tahoe's clear waters look blue and green as a thunderstorm passes overhead in August 2013 [400 x 267]. Waves break at Carmel Beach with Pebble Beach golf course in the background. Dark clouds, smoke, and patches of sun are visible over Lake Tahoe in August 2013 [400 x 267].

Red sky over Lake Tahoe as seen from Tahoe Vista
Note the low water level as compared to one-year earlier (photo to the left).

Click on any image for a larger version

Two paddle boarders in the morning
The smoke and the Lake's surface seemed to blend into one another.

A thunderstorm is seen over Carnelian Bay, Lake Tahoe in August 2013 [400 x 267]. Lake Tahoe as seen from Tahoe Vista in August 2012 with a higher water level than 2013 [400 x 300]. NASA Satelite image of the American and Rim fires on 8/23/2013. Wunderground's Wundermap showing the Rim fire on 8/23/2013.

View from Tahoe Vista in August 2012
The picture to the right is a similar view with a much lower water level
.

Wundermap showing the fires and smoke distribution on 8/23/2013
I did not know about this map while up at Tahoe, but it is an amazing resource if you are planning any outdoor activity during California's fire season. You can find more current maps like this at www.wunderground.com/wundermap.

NASA photo of the American and Rim Fires on 8/23/2013
The American fire is the small one to the left of Lake Tahoe and the Rim fire is below the Lake. The Lake itself is barely visible at the top of the image. More NASA photos can be found at
www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/rim-fire-update-august-30-2013.

An oily-looking, rainbow colored substance on a beach in Tahoe Vista, California [400 x 267].

Rainbow colors in a dry pond on a Lake Tahoe beach
I increased the saturation in this photo.

Update for August 30, 2013 - The fire is currently over 201,00 acres with containment at 32%. More than 40,000 acres of that fire have burned within Yosemite National Park. At least 111 structures have been destroyed by the fire, which has been burning since August 17th (also from the NASA website).

According to Inciweb.org: Burnout operations continued overnight in the southeastern area of the fire. Fire crews continued construction of fire line along 3N01 Road to stop fire spread to the north.

Structure defense continues in all fire areas. Today's plans are to continue the burnout in the Yosemite National Park south of Hetch Hetchy. If conditions allow, the Duckwall Mountain north of Fahey Meadow burnout will start. Air operations will support all firefighting efforts as needed.

Firefighters are also using an unmanned drone aircraft to provide real-time imagery for fire commanders giving them a birds-eye view of the 300-square-mile blaze. The drone was requested from the California Air National Guard. The Cessna-sized remotely piloted plane began flying Wednesday morning. It continued on a 20-hour mission throughout the day, alerting crews to a spot fire and providing a more comprehensive fire map.

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