During one of our Tahoe's Geotourism Expo prep meetings, I was standing at the water's edge with a Washoe elder, who had not seen the lake since childhood (relocated to a reservation). He looked for a long time at the water and then shared, "The water has lost its sparkle, I guess no one is singing to it anymore". I felt a confused grief in my heart, trying to understand his loss and how singing to the Lake would return its sparkle.
The Washoe people have a special 'water blessing' for the lake along with songs, round dances and ways to show gratitude for the wonders of this watershed. One elder had shared how they talked to the bears when they need them to leave an area they are gathering in and wondered why our cultural uses such force to move them out of their habitat vs learn their language. The ancient and sacred relationship to this watershed and wildlife habitat by the original people of this land, includes gratitude for the life support the land, water and wildlife provided.
So I made an conscious effort to learn the language of the land, what I call the "LANDGUAGE" of Tahoe. In thinking about it, doesn't all language come from our relationship to the land? We may learn it as words to enable common understanding, but even the 'root words' have roots in the land that informed early sounds... And what about recent insights on mycelia and fungi, in managing the underground 'world-wide-wood-web' in connections and exchange? Yes, relationship is the 'currency' of all living systems. (ok that's another blog).
We may have forgotten a responsibility the original people of this land hold sacred. A simple way to connect that honors earths gifts. Maybe a Gratitude Song could help Tahoe recover its sparkle as we remember, recover and re-story our sacred relationship to nature, as a part of nature. I hit another layer of the 'Landguage' of Tahoe which led me to how I might activate this 'currency'.
At first I attempted to learn a few WaSheShu songs shared with me, but being in another language it was not as easy to remember. I then wondered where they found these songs (clearly not online) and then realized the muse was in the water, on the wind, pulsing in the rhythm of the land. One only needs to meander, wonder and listen. I slowed down to feel my foot connect to the terrain, noticed the wind flowing in and out of my lungs, the songs in the stream, the dancing rhythm of fire and how... I am that.
A Julie Butterfly quote confirmed my resolve, " There can be no Peace ON Earth, until there is Peace WITH Earth." Yes, this is how we do it... walk the land to understand. Notice tree limbs waving at you, streams singing and fire flames dancing in rhythm.
I saw myself reflected in nature and verses flowed:
Like Wind... I Breathe and I Blow
Like Water...I Nourish and I flow
Like Fire...I Consume and I Radiate
Like Earth...I Sustain and I Cultivate
As a Spirit in Rhythm with Creative force
I live in the Abundance... of Infinite Source
This activated a "re-membership" in Earths 'currency exchange'.
A Gratitude Song came next
Thank you Great Earth for grounding my Spirit
Thank you Great Water for the Wind and the Wave
Thank you great Sky for lifting my Spirit
Thank you Great Fire for lighting my way
(there's more verses, but you get the idea)
Even humming them as I wander increases my sense of place, connection and appreciation for waves of wonder not always heard inside the noisy 'cultural canopy'.
In order to feel the unique quality of a new place, try walking the land to understand... get curious on how this place came to be. Wander with wonder (hard from the seat of a speeding car). When you mindfully walk the land to understand, the personality of the place reveals it's face and then you can smile back, listen for its song and soon you will be singing in harmony.
May your gratitude song become a currency of your unique creative force..
living in the abundance of infinite source.
It was 6am, running barefoot up Tunnel Creek trail (behind my Tahoe home) when I noticed another set of footprints in the sand and thought , 'cool, another 'barefoot runner''! Further up the trail I stepped out on a huge boulder to take in the panorama of Lake Tahoe's exquisite east shore from 1,500 ft, when my gaze dropped to the movement 30 ft in front of me. OMG...those prints were from a Bear! I backed up and ran down the mountain.
That night I realized how my urban upbringing had not prepared me for living in a 'Wildlife Habitat'. Imagine the challenge for visitors being startled by a bear (as with all wildlife, they walk so softly :).
The next morning I ran to 'Pride Rock' (a boulder I named as the goal post for my 1-2,000 ft elevation run). I climbed up the boulder to view into the valley created by towering mountains still above me, and the Lake to my right. On high sensory alert, the morning sun set a spotlight on a large black bear, across the valley, walking down the mountain. We were both out on a morning trek. I watched him move down the trail for about 30 seconds and then ran home, still not quite comfortable realizing I was in his home.
The next morning on Pride Rock with a strong wind at my back, I noticed a leap between bushes about 300? ft below me. ok...yellow like a lab, too yellow for deer, too large for coyote and it leaped...Cougar? I quietly exit my perch, grateful being upwind covered my scent. Yes, they all live here.
I had been gleefully running alone up this mountain between 5 and 6am for a year oblivious to the activity in the wildlife activity happening beyond my focused awareness. Shifting awareness, I noticed so much more, including...when I stop moving, wildlife moves.
Over the decades living here, it is still a bit startling when I see a bear, especially on the trail, but always inspiring. What surprises me is how graciously bears have adopted our presence and encroachment into their ancient habitat. We moved into their home, brought pizza, built homes along their corridors (creeks) and left food in our cars..then wondered?
Black Bears are doing their best to accommodate humans. As an 'Indicator Species' for a healthy forest, their survival is critical to the survival of the forest. i think about what we learned when wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone, as habitat and ecological balance was restored. We were willing to pivot toward a greater understanding for how we might live in balance with nature and all the other species that contribute to this web of wonder.
if we continue to chip away at the collective life support systems that compromise all other species in the process, we can't be surprised by all these new problems (pandemics to extreme weather disastrous) that come back at us. Actions do have consequences. Is it time to change this story?
Maybe we could start with expanding our love of taking photos vs taking a life and help stop the NV Bear Hunt
Bless you for caring
Fossil Fuels continue to undermine our planetary life support accelerating extreme weather and wildfires circling our Earth. It's painful watching people, wildlife and forests lose life, home and habitat.
While I am encouraged by the rise in cycling, walking, ride-share and transit use, each mile of burned gas emits on average about 404 grams of CO2. If your car gets 22mpg, and you drive around 11,000 miles a year, that's a personal contribution of 4.6 metric tons of Co2 a year!
Tic Tic tic....
Yet with few news stories continuing to connect our demand for fossil fuels to our ability to survive their impact... It's easy to believe there is no real problem here, even as we struggle to mitigate longer, hotter and then colder and more extreme seasons.
and You know how we got here...
1-The automobile industry did such an outstanding PR job connecting 'Freedom to Driving', we built our urban habitats around the automobile, making it very difficult to not drive.
2- Fossil fuel industry has a powerful lobby ensuring subsidies to keep our dependency on oil-powered cars, planes, jets and boats strong, easy and attractive, especially if you live or work in 'transit deserts' that also lack safe pedestrian routes, or easy ride-share options...so CO2 emissions keep rising.
Yet, the longer we allow coal, oil, and gas companies to dig and burn, more and worse impacts of our self-induced climate crisis will continue. With every fraction of a degree of warming, we’ll suffer more extreme heat, droughts, floods, wildfires, and hurricanes.
Tic, tic, tic..
That leaves our individual/collective/cultural choices at the forefront of accelerating extreme weather events, as the fossil fuel industry continues digging and burning with minimal accountability and maximum profit.
While the urgency requires huge cultural pivots, each of us can step up:
1) Vote with your $$! on what you purchase and how you transport and use energy, including a lifestyle assessment to determine more ways to reduce your fossil fuel use (every step helps)
2) Tell the Truth! extreme weather is not a "crisis" that just happens to us - it's a crime, and our dependence on fossil fuels supported by federal subsidies is ground 0.
3) Speak up! share what you do to reduce your consumption. Media includes everyone with a social media voice to inspire/influence healthy choices and keep this urgency top of mind.
Together we can make it Cool to Care and stop the countdown
'The people have spoken and we are listening!'
After attending the first four Destination Stewardship Public Workshops, it seems the #1 stewardship desire for Tahoe's residents is...Lake preservation! (a 'shared vision'?)
It's nice to see some Geotourism (destination stewardship) adoption on Tahoe's Visitor sites, and the support of micro transit with TOT funds. However, if we are to seriously address the long-standing challenges of fully promoting a Visitor Menu of activities conducive to protecting the Lake we will need to hold the mirror a little closer. And the increase in Short Term Rental lodging without an onsite host (like a hotel without a manager) compounds the pressures of how the mix of public and private interests surrounding the lake and controlling access and activities to this National Treasure have different goals,
Yet, our watershed has this Wealth of Local Stewards and Stewardship Guidelines:
Why aren't they leading this effort??
Along with training a "Boots-on-the-Ground" Stewardship Team to learn from our Experts as they (the generation inheriting our 20-year Roadmap) co-create this 'Destination Stewardship Tahoe Plan' they then implement?
Once trained, ensure these new "Lake Rangers" are supported and paid, (especially since our Experts will be leaving at the end of their contract). The same Federal, State and private funding sources used for these consultants (and the clean-up required from not shifting visitor expectations and behaviors) could support an ongoing stewardship implementation program (with housing) that follows mandates for a National Treasure.
As Sue Daniels in the Kings Beach workshop said, " The Lake does not owe us a living." However, living in a destination, we owe The Lake mitigation for our foothold and a shared responsibility to help guide travelers that we encounter to adopt our Tahoe culture of caring; a culture that we can sustain as we lead by example.
Let the games begin and this time let’s ensure the Lake Wins!
“The future will look back at this time and depending on the world they inherit, they will either ask,
”What were you thinking?
How did you find the courage and moral authority to stand up and work together to do the right thing?
If we succeed in protecting Lake Tahoe, part of the answer will be that people across all lines became part of a movement to make political will a renewable resource!" -- Al Gore, Tahoe Executive Summit 2013
On July 26, 1997 Bill Clinton issued an executive order to protect natural, recreational and ecological resources of Lake Tahoe (Executive Order 13057). Organizations were formed to regain and sustain the 100ft of water clarity the Lake had for a millennia. Currently the lake's visibility hovers around 60 ft. Many groups have provided relentless management actions, costing billions of dollars to protect our National Treasure. In addition, consultants from outside the watershed are hired through Federal and State issued Request For Proposals (RFP) to guide stakeholders (local business, government, nonprofits and the public) in creating visions and plans for ecologically sustainable prosperity through tourism, transit, infrastructure, housing and recreation. While much has been accomplished from the insight of the stakeholders and consultants, our fragile ecosystem is still straining under the weight of unsustainable tourism demand.
To address these concerns the generous people at TRPA (Tahoe Regional Planning Agency), the Tahoe Fund, Tahoe Visitor Authority, Chamber of Commerce and USFS (United States Forest Service) partnered to fund a new 2021 Tourism Initiative RFP "Lake Tahoe Future of Tourism and Shared Vision Stewardship Roadmap". Eight Consulting teams have responded ready to guide stakeholders to adopt sustainability principles that would encourage more responsible travel.
Concurrently, the University Nevada Reno (UNR) and Sierra Nevada University (SNU) located in Incline Village at Lake Tahoe, are merging. The SNU location or UNR 'Tahoe Campus', will offer environmental programs to compliment UC Davis, epicenter for Tahoe's world class Limnology research and programs, also located on SNU campus. There are other colleges in the Tahoe watershed that would also be ideal contenders, as the long term objective would be to connect this curriculum to all local educational facilities at some capacity.
These two events provide a unique opportunity to respond to Al Gore's call.
Sustainable Tahoe is proposing the creation of a Sustainable Tourism PILOT PROGRAM to leverage the expertise of the publicly funded Sustainable Travel Consultant Team to guide Tahoe-based sustainability students. For example, the RFP tasks become student assignments, such as; analyzing visitor data , travel challenges, visitor hosting protocol and then determine activities most conducive to sustaining Lake Tahoe. In this way the Shared Vision Roadmap is co-created by the generation inheriting the long term results. The trained, dedicated and active team of local students can help to sort out policy and implement a public/private partnership to affect positive change.
The Sustainable Travel Pilot Program then can evolve into a Sustainable Tourism Certification or Masters Degree. Student teams will co-design, deliver and implement a Responsible Travel Roadmap. Students will learn by doing through course work that provides field experience, a resume, a degree and new careers to ensure the roadmap to a sustainable future becomes a reality. Potential job positions might be 'Chamber of Stewardship' leader, 'Biodiversity Officer', 'Responsible Travel Manager'.
We have a classroom sitting in a fragile watershed, overwhelmed by tourists still responding to a marketing and hosting strategy ripe for transformation. Our climate emergency requires innovation, and the time to act is now.
Applied Learning or Community Based Learning courses are now being offered at Evergreen State College, in Washington and Barstow Community College in California. UC Davis classes already utilize Lake Tahoe as a laboratory for learning that could potentially support a Sustainable Tourism Major. SNU presently, offers Resort Management and Business Management majors, but it's hard to imagine a Tahoe economy without an "eco”-onomy first.
Sustainable Tourism is a growing major offered in universities around the world, while redefining new sustainability career paths. In the future other colleges located in Tahoe Truckee watershed within all the gateways, counties, 2 states and communities could be connected, working together to learn, APPLY and evolve sustainable strategies of Tahoe's Shared Vision Roadmap.
Fresh student minds ready to learn can make it "cool to care" and will not hesitate to leverage the wealth of insight gained from decades of consultant driven public engagement to support Sustainable Tourism... making 'political collaboration a renewable resource'.
Our world class destination, schools and business all have a responsibility to lead-by-example for the lake, wildlife and visitors. The world is watching to see if Tahoe will indeed embrace and implement responsible travel as a mission...even after the consultants leave.
FYI: Metaphor on how we need to pick up the pace
Education Innovation for our Climate Emergency
Core to our Geotourism mission is highlighting Tahoe people, places and businesses that lead by example. This means they adopt the 12 geotourism principles that define sustainable tourism. Craig Olson's transformation of Tunnel Creek Station is an example of Geotourism excellence. And, since I live a mile away, watching the series of unforeseen events that evolved this emergence, makes it even more rewarding.
A 1950 TV show Bonanza, set in a fictional town called Ponderosa lead to the creation of a western town set turned theme park at Tunnel Creek. Lorne Greene's son Chuck, who used to live here, donated Bonanza memorabilia to the Incline Village Tahoe Historical Society during the 1980 and 90's, which Craig played a significant part supporting.
1983, local climber and cyclist Max Jones discovers and begins clearing structure debris leftover from a 1850's water flume that once moved lumber along the edge of the mountain, from Spooner to Tunnel Creek. In early 2000's, buzz about this new epic Flume Trail ride, created a need for a bike hosting hub. Sand Harbor Parks agreed to rent space in Spooner Park near the trailhead. Max then built the business that could rent, repair bikes and shuttle riders back to the park after their ride, which ended at Tunnel Creek. As ridership grew (exponentially), the Park tripled his rent, and Max was replaced by a corporation ready to cash in.
In 2006 Craig Olson purchased the front 5 acres of the Ponderosa Ranch site which included the old Tunnel Creek Station building (which had sat vacant for decades, sometimes used for storage) at Hwy 28 right where the Flume Trail ride ended at Tunnel Creek Trail trailhead.
Craig, who was good friends with Max, a supporter of Flume Bikes and had been following the events closely, offered to remodel the Tunnel Creek Station into a cafe to serve Flume cyclists at the end of their ride before they shuttled back to Spooner. As riders realized Max had relocated, they started parking at Tunnel Creek, then take the shuttle to Spooner and finish the ride at the Cafe where their car was now parked. This re-routing opened up even more opportunities to serve riders, as shuttles could drop them at Spooner or Mt Rose and they finish at Tunnel Creek. So Craig allocated space for Flume Bikes rental and shuttle service next to the Cafe. In 2015, construction of the the East Shore Trail began. So in anticipation for the eventual (2019) trail opening, Craig spent three years on an even greater expansion of the Cafe to accommodate the new and growing wave of visitors now seeking to access even more hike and bike opportunities.
Craig's attention to aesthetics, landscaping and engineering went above and beyond Tahoe standards. Between intense excavation to create catchments to ensure Lake protections, to accenting native landscaping with items from the Bonanza era, highlighting the western heritage theme of the site.
A transit stop was added to make it easy to access Tahoe's most scenic mountain bike and hiking trailheads. The Cafe serves delicious food with ideal dining accommodations and is locally run.
Geotourism is tourism that sustains or enhances the unique; aesthetic, environmental, heritage, cultural and local well being of a place. How a business or site hosts travelers is key to encouraging a behavior that will sustain Tahoe for generations. The collective demonstration of stewardship at Tunnel Creek Station encourages people to Walk Softly, Respect Wildlife and Share Gratitude.
Incline Village was designed in 1960 as an 'exclusive community' next to a National Treasure with special amenities and lake access. As Tahoe travelers 'discovered' the serenity of the northeast shore (accelerated by Flume and East Shore Trails), the demand for lodging pushed Short Term Rentals into new territory. The increased traffic brought new local vs. visitor problems, mostly caused by lack of enforceable hosting protocols.
Vacation rentals have been part of Tahoe's lodging landscape for 40+years. The increase of visitors to the North Shore, coupled with only 4 commercial lodging options (in Incline/Crystal Bay), make Short Term Rentals attractive for visitors and property owners seeking higher returns. However, not all visitors are respectful, and those lacking in stewardship behavior end up costing the neighborhoods, wildlife and lake with additional; trash, noise, bear problems and parking. This has lead to a local outcry, lawsuits, hostilities, pressure on govt services and polarizing meetings with two sides: 'shut it down' vs. 'let the money keep rolling in'.
There is a Middle Way... CHANGE the HOSTING, ie; the Visitor Menu and lodging protocols aligned with what best serves the Lake. Example: Tahoe Stewardship Hosting Standard (a solution). It's hosting protocal puts the Lake first. When we make decisions based on what is best for Lake Tahoe, our National Treasure (that unfortunately didn't become a park, so it is up to locals to lead by example)...everyone wins.