Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sierra Nevada's Salmon Lake~ Travelin' Tuesday

Welcome to the Sierra Nevada Mountains!

Returning last summer to this lake in the Sierra
with my sister and her two children,
I got to tromp the path of 13 again.
And as someone reminded me,
How often do we get to go there?

When we were teens, my sister and I were introduced
to this special place east of Sacramento,
a mountain range I look back on with Magical Memory Mind.

I thought after all these years the lake would look smaller
but only the island, where a weekly barbecue for guests still takes place, had shrunk.

As we drove the gravel road into the parking area, I spotted a huge,
magnificent plume of craggy mountains I didn't recall seeing before.
I'm pretty sure they were there some 30-odd years ago.
How had I missed them?
Most likely my 13-year old nose had been buried in a comic or favorite book
in the back of the van we traveled from San Francisco in.
Much at the lake, though, is just as I remember it.
One still calls the Lodge from a phone attached to a tree
and waits at a tiny dock for barge pick up.

The beauty of the lake and its surroundings still stuns the senses
while being barged across the water with a week's worth of supplies.

An old picture of my sister's sweet baby face
looks up from the crystal water she stood
hip-high in next to the dock;
water she would no longer walk in
shortly after the photo was taken thanks to
the large crustacean that brushed her foot;

As well a picture of my own lobster face, young, frizzy, blond hair
escaping the barrettes I tried desperately
to keep it tamed with.

The Lodge too has not changed with some of the very same furniture, artwork and record albums on the shelves still sitting beneath the old record player.

A flood swept in some years ago and soaked the album covers
leaving all the records now sitting open
in bare, white sleeves.

For a week during my 13th and 14th summers, I spent many a warm, Sierra-dusty day parked on this dock.

A crush on one of the teenage boys working at the Lodge kept me in or near the Lodge itself in the hopes that he might see me.

We listened to the music he and his co-workers played over and over.
The songs that most quickly transport me back:
the Allmann Brothers "Eat a Peach" album:
'Melissa' and 'Ain't Wastin Time No More.'

For my sister, it was Led Zeppelin's 'Stairway to Heaven'.
(Be glad I didn't put that on the playlist!)

Nights here were filled with the most star-studded sky
I had ever seen in my short life
or probably ever since.
It was the beginning of my love affair with the night sky
and a (very) brief one with the aforementioned teen.

I recall smooching in a hammock on the Lodge's 2nd floor deck overlooking
the lake and stars; the closeness of his body against mine,
side by side and overlapping, swinging gently,
the hammock folding us together,
a swarming mass of co-mingling hormones.

His, most likely a normal teenage boy's
raging path toward the culmination (or at least hope) of one thing.
Mine, the more complex canyon of need
being thrown a bucket of soul-quenching coolness 
in this fatherless daughter's parched landscape.

Each soft kiss, every stroke of my arm, the bent leg over mine
was an incremental boost in self-confidence,
of which I had little.

Someone of the male persuasion,
a young man already extremely opinionated about society and the world,
thought enough of me to appreciate my sunburnt body,
attending my soul with kisses.
And I drank it in with moonless starlight.

No matter how hormone-driven his attentions may have been,
or how little he may remember one sunburned blonde
among his many summers of weekly (teenage girl) shipments,
I am certain he never guessed at the depth his amorous attention
reached within the cavern of a young girl's tender heart.

My best friend at the time also joined us one of those weeks at Salmon Lake:
A beautiful, articulate young woman named Liz
who died of cancer at the age of 26.
My mother said, after Lizzie died,
that she'd never seen her look as happy as she did at Salmon Lake.

Something about this place
 left its dusty mark
on my soul.

And how thrilled I was to return with my sister,
the one I first shared this with,
and to share this that I've loved
with her teenagers.

I return here in my mind
frequently over the years
and last summer
our very short day-visit
filled me with the resolve
to return for my own stay as an adult.

A stunning mountain lake
in a poem-inspiring range;
a summer teen crush;
and precious time with a now
long, lost friend

creates magic in the mind
from a few summer evenings
under a star-studded sky
on a lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

I'll let you know what
the next trip back to 13 brings!

For rate and accommodation information and/or history about Salmon Lake,
click here.

(All photographs copyright: Kirsten Steen)


  1. A beautiful place clearly, and what wonderful words you have written. Thank you for sharing.


  2. "There is, of course, one big piece missing from this history. Salmon Lake Lodge is partly the buildings and the people who have worked and lived here. But it is also the thousands of visitors who have come here, some only once, others for many years. There are many people and families for whom Salmon Lake is a home, and a part of their own histories. While we do not tell these stories (which belong to our friends and guests, not to us), they are indeed a big and very important part of the picture."

    Thank you for sharing your story.


  3. A lovely trip to Salmon Lake with you, Kirsten. I so appreciate you sharing this beautiful memory and I am so glad that this special summer house is still there for you to visit. You're able to experience the joy of stepping back in time...an experience, for our generation, that is becoming rarer and rarer.

    I'll have a look at the website.

    Happy weekend, Kirsten-
    Catherine xx

  4. You really have had the most wonderful adventures!! I am SO glad you took your camera along on all of them.


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