Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Old Postcard Wednesday--Pyramid Lake, Nevada

Description on back:
Pyramid Lake is the largest fresh-water desert lake in the United States, and has a spectacular, unexcelled beauty to be found in no other spot in the world. Located in the center of the soft pastel diffusion of color found only in the desert, this beautiful blue body of water adds its own soft reflection of color to the ever changing panorama of impressions, and presents a view which no traveler will ever forget.

Located 40 miles northeast of Reno, Pyramid Lake is more a part of my childhood than Lake Tahoe, the waters from which flow into the Truckee River and eventually empty into Pyramid Lake. What a delicately-balanced environment it all is. Where Tahoe became the center of recreation in my teen years, so many days in the sun were spent at Pyramid with my family when I was a kid. We'd pack the car and leave early, stay all day with Sea and Ski suntan lotion smeared on our skin (I'd love to smell that lotion again), and drive home long past sunset after a BBQ prepared over a fire in the travel stove using what my stepfather called a "spit," a rather old term for
a slender pointed rod for holding meat over a fire.

Occasionally we'd be paid a visit by the only law enforcement in the area when a marshal from the Paiute Indian Reservation, would come along and perform a sight scan of the long beach and,
using binoculars, a deeper scan of the lake's boaters. His uniform was a khaki or dark green shirt and blue jeans or green pants. He wore a large star pin that read "U.S. Indian." He was always very weathered, very serious, very proud. Men of few words those Pyramid Lake marshals were and they had my respect and even a bit of my fear.

Pyramid Lake is on the Paiute Indian Reservation the Paiutes control the lake. Therefore, it looks about the same as it did in this old postcard. No resorts, hotels, chains of any kind. And, knock wood, no casinos. This is a wild and spectacular place that I hope is preserved forever. (It is preserved on film in the 1965 movie The Greatest Story Ever Told that used Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation in scenes depicting the Sea of Galilee and the ancient town of Capernaum.) The quote that follows, plus much more interesting and historical information, can be found at the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe website:
The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribes' Reservation is located thirty five miles northeast of Reno, Nevada in a remote desert area located in the counties of Washoe, Lyon, and Storey. The area of the reservation contains 475,000 acres or 742.2 square miles. Out of this acreage approximately 112,000 acres cover the surface of a terminal desert lake, Pyramid Lake. Pyramid Lake is one of the most valuable assets of the Tribe and is entirely enclosed within the boundaries of the Reservation. Pyramid Lake is approximately 15 miles long and 11 miles wide. Pyramid Lake measures 350 feet at it's deepest point.

Below is a glorious video that is dated January 21, 2007, and the You Tube caption says: Pyramid Lake Stone Mother story, but a simple version. There is a more detailed story, but this one is a simple one concerning the story of Stone Mother which is a well known Paiute story. Cui-tickutta Paiutes.

This mythic and mystical spot on Earth, with its deep blue water and salty-tasting tufa formations, is a mere remnant of the prehistoric Lake Lahontan that reached a maximum depth of 500 feet and covered over 8610 square miles during Nevada's late ice age between 25,000 and 11,000 years ago. It boggles my mind to read here that Lake Lahontan had a 75,000 year history. According to this online Nevada encyclopedia article:
The end of the Pleistocene era occurred with a warming and drying trend. Lake Lahontan separated into smaller and smaller basins, which were isolated by intervening mountain ranges. The last lake remnants can be seen in Walker and Pyramid lakes. Throughout its former basin, however, miles of ancient lake terraces tell of its former extent, and deep-water silts and clays lie beneath dusty playas. Curious tufa formations and fossil mollusk shells provide further evidence of the once mighty lake. Perhaps the best known living relic of Nevada's ice age is Pyramid Lake's unique cui-ui fish.

What a lengthy post! - but Pyramid Lake is so amazing that if you ever get a chance to see it you'll understand why I love it so, and writing about it is like a mini vacation of the mind for me. I'll let Gary Snyder have the final word, though.

Smokey the Bear Sutra
, Snyder's 1969 long poem, written in the form of a Buddhist sutra, mentions Pyramid Lake early on. Snyder freed the poem so that it "may be reproduced free forever," but I'm printing only the beginning (go here for the full text). I'm highlighting the words Pyramid Lake in blue, like its sacred water...

Smokey the Bear Sutra
by Gary Snyder

Once in the Jurassic about 150 million years ago,
the Great Sun Buddha in this corner of the Infinite
Void gave a Discourse to all the assembled elements
and energies: to the standing beings, the walking beings,
the flying beings, and the sitting beings -- even grasses,
to the number of thirteen billion, each one born from a
seed, assembled there: a Discourse concerning
Enlightenment on the planet Earth.

"In some future time, there will be a continent called
America. It will have great centers of power called
such as Pyramid Lake, Walden Pond, Mt. Rainier, Big Sur,
Everglades, and so forth; and powerful nerves and channels
such as Columbia River, Mississippi River, and Grand Canyon
The human race in that era will get into troubles all over
its head, and practically wreck everything in spite of
its own strong intelligent Buddha-nature."


francessa said...

How interesting and beautiful! After all your information, I went there immediately via Google Earth to have a look at how the lake is embedded into the landscape. Those tufa formations are amazing! Marvelous!

Wayfaring Wanderer said...

Oh, I am so day! Later, I would like to check it out on google earth like Francessa did.

I read that Pyramid Lake was the only location where cui-ui fish are found....that's fascinating!

While I was looking up photos of Pyramid Lake, I found something you might like......I know how you are about your Reno blogs :o)
Check out:
The Adventures of Yukon Sully

Blimey, I just realized he stopped blogging last year sometime....hmmm

Lydia said...

Glad you see it as beautiful and interesting as I do, and I'll see if my earlier version of Google Earth shows it. I have a necklace with a piece of tufa that is about the size of a walnut. It still tastes salty!

You'd love it there. Yes, the cui-ui are there and there alone. When I was a kid the rumor was that they were man-eating, but it never kept us out of the lake.

That blog you found is SO good, and I even left him a comment6 asking if he's on sabbatical. It's one of the better Reno blogs I've seen, actually. :) I hope he returns!



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