The first time I visited Echo Lake, I was impressed. When one lives on spectacular Lake Tahoe, it is hard to imagine that there are many alpine lakes way higher, albeit much smaller. Echo Lake is one of these. Some local friends who had been born and raised in the region were always talking about Echo Lake and the surrounding Desolation Wilderness. It was mid-August, and we were visiting some of those native-born Nevadans down in Reno. It was already god-awful hot, even at ten in the morning. Someone suggested that we pile into the car and zip up to Echo Lake to cool off. Reno is at 4,500 feet above sea level while Tahoe, at 6,200 feet, is at lake level. And, believe me, the altitude change is remarkable. Add another 1,200 feet, and the cooling effect is even more pronounced.
I loved the crystal clear lake immediately. It was August, and the leaves of the aspen trees were already showing their bright yellow and golden colors. We rented the last available rowboat, and spent several hours just enjoying life.
A month later, in early September, some friends from San Francisco were visiting. They had been to Tahoe many times, so I suggested a boat trip to Echo Lake, and then an evening at South Shore Lake Tahoe, as the visitors wanted to gamble a bit at the casinos. Great idea! All the way up the narrow road to the small lake, I was going on and on about how wonderful it is to go out on the lake. We even thought to buy a bottle of wine and some plastic cups! I don't know if that was legal, but we were discrete. We didn't figure that you could get into much trouble in a row boat. We arrived at the little lodge and headed down to the marina. We arrived at the boat rental place in anticipation. The boats were all chained up and padlocked. The sign read: Closed for the Season.
"What!" we all exclaimed disappointedly. "You've got to be kidding!" So, despondently, we retraced our steps to the car, and drove back down to South Shore. In the end we had a good time, and even had a nice buffet dinner and saw a show. But I made a mental note: Make sure to get there early from now on!
May 1st rolled around the following Spring, and Tahoe was beautiful. Some friends from Virginia City had heard me natter on and on about the virtues of Echo Lake; so they suggested that we all meet up in Carson City, take one car, and go up to the Lake. I had made a point of the need to get there early, as there were only so many boat rentals and we didn't want to get left out.
The weather in Carson was already hot, and we were appropriately dressed – I in my Birkenstocks and the others in shorts and flip-flops. We were really prepared this time with a cooler, some cold beer, and sandwiches for a fun day on the lake. As we turned onto the small narrow road leading up to the lake from the road around the lake, we noticed that there was still some snow piled up on the sides of the road. As the road continued to narrow, the snow banks on both sides got higher and higher. Finally, we ran out of road, so we got out of the car and went ahead on foot until we caught sight of the lake. It was still frozen solid!
I never lived that one down. "Tom!" they all teased, "...well, at least we did get here early! Like a month early!"