In Praise of the Firemen of Fallen Leaf Lake

On a recent road trip to the Lake Tahoe area, my daughter and I stopped in Fallen Leaf Lake in search of a highly-recommended waterfall. The only way in is a windy one lane road. It took twenty minutes to drive five miles, and I prayed the entire time that no one would come the other way. We arrived safely and parked near the general store. The folks who worked there told us we were too late in the season to see the waterfall. In no rush to make the return trip, we walked around the area and found a plaque with the legend of Fallen Leaf Lake. The legend is fascinating and included at the end of this post.

There is still an Evil One and Good Spirit at the lake. When we returned to our car, it wouldn’t start. The generous folks at the store found some jumper cables. A few firemen from Fallen Leaf Lake happened to be nearby. It took three tries, but they were successful in getting it started. I can’t say enough how thankful we were for the help and persistence of these firemen. (The thought of calling AAA was not appealing at the least.) My daughter also learned how to deal with a car emergency and decided she wants to live in a city where she can use public transportation.

It was a long hot drive to Pep Boys in Sacramento to get a new battery. A shout out to them as well. Instead of putting us on the two-hour wait list, the service manager heard our sad story and got us in right away.


Long, long ago, before the white man came to Nevada, there lived in the meadow over beyond Glenbrook a good Indian. But though he was good, he was much annoyed by the Evil Spirit, who constantly interfered with all that he tried to do. Finally, he determined that he must move away and get over into the valleys of California. But when he tried to escape, the Evil One was always there ready to trip him in some way or other.

In his trouble the Good Spirit came to his aid, giving him a leafy branch which had certain magic qualities. He was to start on his journey. If he saw the Evil One coming he was to drop a bit of the branch and water would immediately spring up. The Evil One could not cross water, and thus, being delayed by going around, would give the Indian time to escape.

The Indian made his way well along to where Tallac Hotel now is, when, looking back, he saw the Evil One off in the distance approaching with such strides that his heart was filled with great fear. In his terror he tried to pluck a leaf but it snapped off and he dropped almost his whole branch. To his delight and relief the waters began to rise and soon “Tahoe” – Big Water – lay between him and his enemy.

Free-heartedly he hurried on his way up the canyon, but when he reached the spot where the head of Fallen Leaf Lake lies, he turned to reassure himself. Away off the Evil One was advancing. A new terror filled his soul. In his hand there remained of his magic branch only one little twig with a single leaf on it.

Plucking the leaf, he threw it down and watched it fall waveringly through the air. As it touched earth the waters again began to rise and “Doolagoga” – Fallen Leaf – sprang into being and on its surface floated the little leaf, as many leaves now float in the fall of the year.

Turning, he sped up the ravine, dropping bits of his twig as fear directed him, and in his path, Lily, Grass, and Heather lakes came up to guard his way. At last he was over the crest of the mountain and found himself safe in the long-wished-for Valley of California.