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  • Writer's pictureMichael Kennedy

Not Easy Being An Atheist in Tahoe

Updated: Feb 2

Bearing Witness


Thanks for throwing on your hiking boots and joining me on this quick trip around Lake Tahoe to discover what all the fuss is about. My name's Michael Kennedy, your host for the next few minutes as we zoom lightning fast from one stunning vista to the next with no real consideration for the sequence in time.

For the next few minutes I want to pull you into my world, to experience some of the big magic around here we call Big Blue.

Before we begin, there's a story I want to share about two guys that were sitting together at the Cantina in Olympic Valley.

One of the guys was religious, the other an atheist, and they were debating about the existence of God with that special confidence that comes after about the third PBR and shot of Jameson.

And the atheist said, “Look, it’s not like I don’t have reasons for not believing in God. I've been to church, I celebrate Christmas, and I've dabbled with the whole God-and-prayer thing.

"Just last month, I got caught up on Red Dog in that terrible blizzard, I couldn’t see a thing, it was a total whiteout and I had vertigo, so I tried it: I fell to my knees in the snow and screamed through the howling wind, ‘God, if you do exist, I’m lost in this blizzard and I’m gonna freeze to death if you don’t help me now!’”

And as the two men sat there on the stools of the Cantina, the religious guy looked at the atheist all perplexed: “Well then, you obviously believe in God now,” he said. “After all, here you sit, alive.”

The atheist rolled his eyes, shook his head, and looked at the religious guy with contempt: “No, dude, all that happened was that a couple Ski Patrollers came by with their avalanche rescue dogs and they got me safely down the hill.”


It's not easy being an atheist in Tahoe.

You're in for a treat. Some people say visiting Lake Tahoe is like a religious experience, others say it's just damn pretty. One thing is certain, every day there's something enchanting to see and feel around here, something different, something lovely.

Our journey starts in Olympic Valley, where my wife, Nicola, and I live. It's also known as Palisades Tahoe, home of the 1960 Olympic Winter Games. The history, drama, and magic of this place is like Kevlar woven into the fabric of our scenic little community. It appeals, as Joseph Conrad says, "to that part of our being... which is a gift and not an acquisition."

We'll circle back here shortly, but for now we're going to Tahoe City to a place called Rocky Ridge, about 7 miles away. From here we get stunning views of Big Blue.

The Splendor of Big Blue

When you see Lake Tahoe for the first time you're simply blown away. You feel exactly what Mark Twain, John Muir, John Steinbeck, and Bertrand Russell felt when their eyes first fell on the Lake. You're absorbed.

High above the Lake in Tahoe City, we get a front row seat to witness the blue supermoon on August 31st, 2023, the biggest and brightest moon of the year. The last blue supermoon was in December 2009, and the next one won't be until January 2037, according to NASA.

Below Rocky Ridge is the Tahoe City Marina. It's a place for experiencing ethereal sunrises and sunsets. Located in downtown Tahoe City, this marina is among the largest and oldest marinas on Big Blue.

In his book, Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence, Andrew Juniper defines wabi sabi as "an intuitive appreciation of ephemeral beauty in the physical world that reflects the irreversible flow of life in the spiritual world.” I'd say that sums up the feeling you get at the piers of Lake Tahoe.

Moving farther down US Route 89 to Tahoe Pines, we catch another glimpse of the sun rising east over Glenbrook.

Monet would have been inspired by this view. He loved painting fleeting moments in nature. Here, the buoys floating on the water's surface are like his waterlilies "in full flower assert[ing] themselves..."

"For me, a landscape does not exist in its own right, since its appearance changes at every moment; but the surrounding atmosphere brings it to life - the light and the air which vary continually. For me, it is only the surrounding atmosphere which gives subjects their true value." ~ Claude Monet

Legendary author, James Baldwin, wrote as if he had stood where we are now, looking out across Big Blue:

"The earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea doesn't cease to grind down rock. Generations don't cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have. ~ James Baldwin

Lake Tahoe has infinite personalities. One minute she's calm as a mirror reflecting the sky above. The next minute, she's a Shakespearean tempest.

Can You Taste It?

It's daybreak and alive with vibrant colors. We're at Emerald Bay where honey is melting on the rocks to the west and cotton candy pastels splash over Fannette Island to the east. Be careful, you could get whiplash looking back and forth. And possibly a cavity or two.

On the steep granite cliffs of Emerald Bay you may hear an inner voice ask, "Have you ever been so close to nature? Has she ever come so close to you?"

As we zip around Big Blue we arrive at Cave Rock during the golden hour on the east shore. For the Washoe Tribe, Lake Tahoe’s original natives, Cave Rock isn't just a special and sacred site, but it is the center of the Washoe world. The Washoe name for Cave Rock is De-ek Wadapush which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a Traditional Cultural Property. 

OK, we've circled the Lake and we're back in Olympic Valley as promised. Olympic Valley is a place where we will bear witness to things rarely seen, way beyond the touristy stuff that draws people to this world famous ski destination.

It's Wednesday, March 1st, 2023, and there's something unusual in the sky.

There are two lights that look like a snow cat grooming the mountain, or an oncoming car. But these lights are high above Tram Face. What are they?

We're witnessing something known as the "Christmas Star," or "Star of Bethlehem.” But it's mostly known as the "great conjunction" where planets Jupiter and Venus appear very close together.

According to an article in, in the 50 years between 1990 and 2040, encounters between Venus and Jupiter will only be this tight a total of 15 times. "Skywatchers will have to wait a while until the two planets are so-close again. Venus and Jupiter [won't] 'kiss' [again] until February 7th, 2032."

Not as rare, but definitely unusual, is the Pineapple Express in Lake Tahoe during ski season. The Pineapple Express is an atmospheric river of unseasonably warm temperatures starting over Hawaii bringing heavy rain and flooding to the Pacific Northwest. This is what the Pineapple Express brought to Olympic Valley the morning of March 10th, 2023.

On a brighter note, Olympic Valley has some of the most majestic trees in the world. My favorite are the Mighty Juniper Trees. They remind me of giant sentries standing guard on the mountains keeping an eye on the valley below.

If you don't think they've got eyes, just take a closer look.

Our home in Olympic Valley has four windows all of which face east past the post office, across the meadow, and Washeshu Creek. Unlike the natural beauty before us, this post office was not designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It's a white brick... sitting on a large slab of asphalt... as if architects were in a battle for most uninspired design. But the stuff that goes on around it!

Our journey around the Lake comes to an end here on our balcony in Olympic Valley. (Thanks for sticking around!) As if the spectacular sunrises and sunsets aren't enough, a "Cosmic Chalice" decides to dance into our lives on December 13th, 2023. Its radiance touches us with its enchantment, its beauty impossible to describe with words alone... unless, of course, we're sitting at the Cantina having a couple drinks.


I’m Michael Kennedy, Olympic Valley, CA resident, married to Nicola Kennedy (in photo above). I’m a premium ghostwriter and photographer. I just want to say thanks for your attention - I appreciate it in such a noisy world. If you enjoyed it, please share with others.

It means a lot to me and it helps others see the story.

If you're interested in owning any photos in this post or in my gallery: click here, call or text me at 530.608.9150. Let me know what size you want, and I'll send a quote. My email: 

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