Sunrise Over Tahoe
I jolted awake and immediately reached for the time. 5:23 a.m. After 11 hours, my body had had enough. There was no more time for sleep. Thankfully, the pounding headache that caused me to go to bed at 6 p.m. had subsided. Well, 5:23 pacific meant 8:23 eastern, which is when I would normally wake up on a day off. Now I just needed to pass the time until a more appropriate hour on the left coast.
What time does the sun rise, I wondered. Siri told me 6:27. I was awake and alert even too early for the first real indication of a new day. Nevertheless, I began my first day in California hopeful to witness a unique sight.
Twenty degrees is a different animal at 6,285 feet. Even though 20 degrees had become the daytime norm back home, the high elevation of the Sierra Nevada Mountains gave the cold a bite. I left the room not knowing just how long it would take to get down to the beach. The ten-minute walk felt dragged because of the frigid temperatures.
I arrived at the lake and noticed the only sound was coming from the water gently tapping against the shore. Guess no one's crazy enough to come down here this early during winter, I thought.
The first ten minutes were spent taking advantage of the early morning photo-op. The water. The mountains. The silhouettes created by the intertwining light and darkness. Then, in an effort to enjoy the moment (and save my exposed hands from frostbite), I put the camera away and sat down on a bench facing the lake.
Lake Tahoe is massive from any vantage point on the ground. And yet the enormous mountain range on the other side, and the twists and turns of the shoreline that mask the sheer scale of the lake, fooled my eyes and mind into thinking it was all more easily accessible than it actually was.
As the official sunrise time drew closer, the mostly clear sky gave off an incredible hue. Purple, orange, yellow and blue bands streaked across, weaving perfectly together, yet somehow staying distinguishable at the same time. The clear lake magnified and multiplied the sky's colors.
Suddenly, the peak of the mountain across the lake lit up like a candle. The first rays of sunshine had arrived. I was surprised at just how quickly the sunlight made its way down the mountain, covering its facade in mere minutes.
For at least ten minutes, I sat and watched the sunlight blanket the land around me. I was swept away by the sight, lost in empty thought and thankful to have been able to witness this.
"Hey," a voice in the distance shouted, "did we miss the sunrise?!"
I turned and saw a young woman and what appeared to be her boyfriend hobbling on the sand, clearly still drunk from the night before.
I told her they did, but not by much. Then I tried to refocus on the landscape, but ultimately failed. The noises around me were no longer ambient.
Soon after, I finally stood up and started back for the lodge. As I walked off the beach, a couple more people were making their way onto it. The rest of the world was starting to wake up.
I smiled at my good fortune of being in the right place at the right time.