I had an unbelievably blessed and special childhood. Yesterday, a simple day trip to my mother’s mountain cabin reminded me of this. This is Echo Lake. It’s located 2 miles off Highway 50 atop Echo Summit, just before you head down into Lake Tahoe. Isn’t it spectacular?
The pictures don’t even do it justice. It’s breathtakingly beautiful. A glacier lake, there are huge structures of granite one one side and acres of pine trees on the other.
It’s only a short drive – 45 minutes – from my mother’s home. But we hadn’t been up there for a couple of years, I’m sorry to say. I was amazed at the depth of emotion that welled up inside of me, walking around the area where I spent my childhood summers.
Want to take a little tour with me?
As soon as we got out of the car, I grabbed my camera, anxious to capture images for my eyes that had been held in my mind for over 40 years. I’m sure my mother had many memories too as she gazed upon the lake.
A few steps of from the water’s edge is the Chalet. My father owned this from the 1950’s ‘til 1974. It was a magical place to spend my childhood summers with a general store, soda fountain, and boat taxis & rentals.
Our customers were a blend of tourists & cabinowners. There are approximately 150 cabins surrounding the two lakes. The cabins are accessible only by boat, with no electricity.
When I was growing up, families spent the entire summers here. At least Mom & the kids. Dads would come up Friday nights & leave Sunday nights. An era that has passed.
Inside of the Chalet is the Lobby, Store & Soda Fountain. This area was our soda fountain. When we owned it, there were bar stools lined up at the counter with cabin owners & tourists alike awaiting treats – nickel candy, hamburgers off the grill, hand-scooped milkshakes, or even a simple ice cream cone.
This shows part of the store. In our day, it was full of shelves with canned goods, paper products, and any necessity the cabinowners might need. It might not have the abundant groceries we stocked, but I see they still have a good selection of wine (one the left side of pic, behind blue tshirt).
I believe I was about 6 when I sat behind the cash register, ringing up purchases. (with supervision, of course) At age 16, I helped Mom price all the groceries and figure out where they’d be displayed on the shelves.
This is the Lobby of the Chalet. It’s much bigger than it looks in this picture. Mom & Dad always had it open to visitors – to get out of an unexpected rain, or just a place to visit a while. Except at mealtimes.
We fed our crew of 30 breakfast, lunch & dinner in this room. A few sawhorses & some plywood on top created makeshift banquet tables, and an old fashioned triangle called everyone for meals. It was a raucous group, full of laughter & shenanigans. I learned how to count in this room. We had two carpenters, Slim & Bat, who would play Black Jack with me. After they kept winning every hand, I quickly figured out the number combinations that totaled 21!
Most of the college-age workers boarded with us. There’s a second story to the Chalet, which served as dorm rooms. There are lots of stories about that but, uh, I’ll save that for a later time.
This outbuilding is in between the lake & the Chalet. It used to house 2 reddish-orange gas pumps. It was my job one year to pump gas for all the cabin owners. I had to learn how to add the oil in the right mix for their boat motors. There is now a gas pump that does this automatically.
That was a particularly fun summer, hanging out around the docks – which meant hanging out around Boat Boys. Quite a treat for a preteen girl.
The boat dock. This dock is the Chalet’s. The boats you see lined up are water taxis. They carry people across the two lakes into Desolation Wilderness – saving a 1-1/2 mile hike. Or just a sight-seeing cruise around the lakes.
The two lakes are connected by a small channel. We didn’t go up the lake yesterday, so I don’t have pictures of the channel or Upper Lake.
The Boat Launch. Each summer cabin owners needed their boat launched so they could get to their cabins. We had a little jeep the boatboys used to launch boats. There were a number of times the jeep itself got launched. My dad seriously had the patience of Job, having a crew of college kids.
Those bright green bushes are a divide between the road coming in and the Chalet. Back in the ‘50’s, Dad also ran ski slopes. The bushes would be flattened under the weight of the snow and there were ropetows taking skiiers to the top. Anyone old enough to remember ropetows?
And there she is, holding Sadie. Just sitting there for a few minutes and a crowd gathered to visit with her. While we have our own memories, Mom & Dad provided the arena for many generations to create their own.
This is the 3 story ‘cabin’ Dad built in the late ‘50’s, I believe. It was constructed for year-round use, since he also had the ski tows running. I had forgotten how huge it was. When Dad sold the Chalet in 1974, he included the cabin with the sale.
Now it’s a quiet haven for Mom to enjoy, a mile away from the bustling activity down at the lake.
This little ‘plaque’ still hangs next to the front door. It’s made it thru every winter since 1970. A few of us painted oil barrel garbage cans and they gave awards out. No one can say I’m not an “award-winning artist”!
With all the spectacular scenery, you’re probably thinking I’ve painted tons of pictures. But no, just one. I painted this wall hanging for Dad a few years before he passed away. It’s still hanging on the wall in the cabin.
I was so blessed to have experienced these years. One summer babysitting. One – pumping gas. Another in the Post Office. It was fun, challenging, and crazy a lot of the time. A very special childhood. Thanks, Mom & Dad!