Contact UsStanford Sierra Conference Center
P.O. Box 10618
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96158 Physical Address:
130 Fallen Leaf Road
Fallen Leaf, CA 96150
I have never considered myself a morning person, and yet one of the great mysteries of Fallen Leaf Lake is its ability to transform you. I now wake with the first light through the window – no alarm necessary.
The morning of September 12th was still and cool—the light over the Sierra Nevada a deep indigo pink. At 6:30 I was out on the water for my first boat dock shift, bundled up and ready to watch the sun rise. The first group to arrive at Stanford Sierra Camp for our fall season was sponsored by Patagonia. I found the group to be altogether an adventurous bunch; so I was not surprised to see a few of them heading to the lake with the first light. The water was so still it was a perfect map of the sky and the mountains.
Kayaking through water that glassy is dizzying—it is difficult to distinguish up from down when your paddle skims the ridge of Cathedral Peak as it parts through the water. Although I envied their early morning journeys, I was perfectly content to sit on the dock and observe.
I heard one of the guests say that it was her first time in a kayak. In the little time I’ve spent here, I’ve decided that this haven on Fallen Leaf Lake is a place for firsts. Among my fellow fall staff members I have seen New Englanders who never hiked before head out in the early morning hours to new destinations, often several miles away.
I never mountain biked before, and after my early morning boat dock shift a coworker lent me his bike. Together, we rode to Lily Lake, not far from camp, but with the altitude your lungs and esophagus burn as you exert yourself in the thin air. As I pedaled up the hill, the air still cool and tender, I felt the temperature of my chest rise as I struggled to find enough oxygen. Jake, a competitive mountain biker, was patient with me, and only poked a little fun.
Not only is this a place for firsts, it is also a place where people welcome opportunities to teach. Already, Jonathan, who works on camp maintenance, is helping me build a desk for my cabin. The staff here have an infinite amount of patience and a genuine, palpable desire to help us improve and grow.
Here at Fallen Leaf, I don’t go a day without learning something new or seeking out more information. Morgan, head of housekeeping, is an expert when it comes to astronomy. He took a group of us for an astro-cruise on one of the clearest nights I have ever seen.
As we floated out on the pontoon boat, I swear I could see the curve of the earth. I felt the fishbowl effect of the world. The Big Dipper was lying on its back on Cathedral Mountain. Morgan took out his laser pointer and showed us everything from Polaris to the Summer Triangle, with a regular parade of shooting stars as the backdrop. Morgan’s passion for astronomy is not only tangible—he shares his excitement with every new staffer who wants to learn more about astronomy.
I am excited for this season of firsts—for sunrises over the lake, the nightly mountain chill that rides into camp as the sun sets, and morning hikes when the air is still so cold and fresh it burns a little as you breathe.