Perhaps it was because we had been drifting that we were chosen for the mission on the Sierra Buttes. When we first arrived at Lake of the Woods in the Tahoe National Forest and pushed off in our raft, we paddled across and around the small body of water. But after a while we tucked away the paddles and drifted. Lake of the Woods is the perfect place to believe that you don’t have a care in the world. Most of the time it is as slick as cobalt glass. Above us eagles soared. One folded its wings and dove for a duckling but a Wood Duck with a plucky red crown beat the eagle with its wings until the bird-of-prey retreated into a spruce, where it waited and watched and later settled for the solemn capture of a small pink trout.
One day after we dove from the raft and swam and toweled off, I suggested to my husband that we should see at least one new landmark during our stay in the Tahoe National Forest. I recommended the Sierra Buttes for its elevation and proximity to the Lake. I thought we might make the trip on his birthday. We kept the option open when we drove into Truckee Monday to purchase supplies and enjoy a celebratory lunch of Ahi burgers from Burger Me.
It was too hot to drive to the shadeless Buttes so instead we ferried dust clouds along the unpopulated miles from 450 to 650, past Bear Valley Campground toward Sierraville. We decided to explore Dark Canyon because it sounded shady but the slanting sun scorched rotund hills, crisping golden grasses. Boulders erupted through an inclined road, slowing us to a crawl, depriving of us even the artificial breeze we had gained from our earlier speed. Irritated by the heat, we stopped to pull a couple of waters from the refrigerator, just as two juvenile coyotes reticently strode from the shade of a solitary tree. When they loped toward the sun, I felt guilty for disturbing them. We were headed away from base camp so we reversed and caught 540 outside Sierraville, then caught 15 for the bumpy ride to 12 and back to the Lake.
The next morning, I suggested that we start making our way to the Sierra Buttes. In truth, I felt there was no alternative to the plan. A gentle urging like a tide seemed to buoy me toward the Buttes. We packed everything we would need for an overnight in case the Land Rover broke down. Later Jeff would tell me that he considered off-loading the final 5-gallon water jug to lighten our load but decided against it. (more…)