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  • Peggy Simonsen

Mountains and Forest

“The tree is where everything in the cosmos comes into, and the cosmos reveals itself to me through a tree. Therefore, a tree, to me, is a cathedral, and I can take refuge in the tree.” — Thích Nhất Hạnh

One of my favorite places to be, in the forest with mountains and beautiful water, is Lake Tahoe, California. My son has a lovely mountain house here that he calls the Shusshaus, where we stay when skiing Squaw Valley. But it is equally pleasant in the summer, with intense sun in mid-day and cool breezes for sleeping at night (and no mosquitos!) I don’t get out here as often as I would like, and especially during the pandemic my travel was greatly curtailed. But here I am in June 2021 with Mike hiking the Alpine Meadows trail-a winding path up the mountainside with a few lodgepole pines for shade. We had lunch in Tahoe City in a restaurant on the shore of Lake Tahoe, then walked along the shore and waded a bit on the rocky edge. The next day we hiked around Donner Lake and in the state park in the dense forest of Jeffrey and Lodgepole pines. I wish I had more time here to rent a kayak and go paddling on this calm little lake.

In 2020 the northern California forest fires burned within 30 miles of Truckee, so all residents of this area are required to clear out any trees or shrubs within 10 feet of their houses. That means some healthy young trees have to be cut down and all the pine needles on the ground have to be raked away. So to beautify the bare ground around the house, we decided to plant a native plant garden. I know most of the native plants in the Midwest, and in fact have more than 200 species in my yard, and I know some of the iconic natives of the mountain west. But we went to a local nursery and got help from the proprietor to select appropriate plants for Mike’s yard. He asked us why native, and I gave my usual reasons- they have evolved with this climate and so do well here without much fuss, they support the local pollinators and belong in this soil. Then we set about planting mountain columbine, thimble berry bushes, sulphur-flower buckwheat and sand phlox in the rocky, dry soil, being careful to work around the western penstemon that has volunteered in the space. Mike set up a sprinkler system to help them get established when he is not here to water in this extreme drought. Hiking in the forest and planting native plants, two of my favorite things to do!

Come back to read my next post about the Russian River in Sonoma where we are going next.

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