Two years ago, on my way to celebrate my 30th birthday next to the sea, I paused to visit a sister saline Lake in Northwestern Nevada. Pyramid Lake, with its tufas, birds, and bright blue waters, was the perfect place to contemplate the connections across time and space and place and myself within it all. Read my original 2012 post here.
This year, I had an opportunity to see Pyramid again. This brief photo essay captures some of that experience – though it won’t do justice to the incredibly rich scent of the blooming sage after rain, or the sharp Autumn chill in the breeze, or the sound of the waves and the birds chattering along the shore. If you ever head West on I-80, take an hour to catch a glimpse of Pyramid, or two to see the tufas at its north end. It is well worth the trip.
We passed through waves of rain as we drove past the dwindling Lake and flooding Salt Flats toward the Pacific. Here, a view from the Salt Flats rest stop looking east, and then west. In spite of the sporadic downpours, we decided to brave the early fall Great Basin storms to catch a glimpse of Great Salt Lake’s sparkling sister.
The scent of this beautiful yellow sage is made even more powerful by the rain. As soon as I left the car, I was overcome with nostalgia: it took me back to my childhood in the mountains of the Great Basin, where rain and the sage-infused fragrance that accompanied it serenaded me to sleep on numerous late summer and early fall nights.
On my hike down to Pyramid’s shoreline, I came upon an old friend: salt grass! I tasted a blade and smiled at the salty tang on my tongue, thinking back to my years sharing this well-adapted plant with hundreds of school children who were fascinated by the little grass with crystals of salt on it.
I also got a close up look at this gnarly plant, which lines the sides of I-80 across the entire state of Nevada. It changes color with the change of seasons, so the road was lined in shades of yellow, orange, and vibrant red. Here, it reminds me of coral.
Finally, I reached the water. Braving the chill in the wind, I took off my shoes and stepped in. The water was warmer than the air, and I stood there thinking of its journey from the peaks of the Sierra Nevada, to Lake Tahoe, down the Truckee River, and finally to here. Much like Great Salt Lake, Pyramid was low this year – demands for water from growing populations are a threat to both places. Here, rare and threatened species of fish are at stake if the water gets too low and, thus, too saline. Luckily, advocates here have already celebrated recoveries.
“This sister Lake is so much simpler than my own Great Salt Lake. It is whole, undivided by dikes, causeways, and railroads. The Paiute Indians who live on its shores have preserved it, and celebrate it for its recreational values, and with that, its natural values. Pyramid High School has even called their mascot the Lakers. It is a refreshing change to see a place valued for what it is.” – Migration: Life Love and the Pursuit of Salt, September 22, 2012, Summer of Salt.