It smells different here. From the Juniper sublimely sneaking its scent into the car as we drove up the mountain to the incense cedar making known its presence along with the Jeffrey pine and white fir, there is a difference to what meets my nose. And it is not just the aromas. The air, itself, is different over 5,000 feet.
At 6,600 feet above sea level, Incline Village Nevada is considered low elevation for The Lake Tahoe area. Homes in the higher neighborhoods rise to about 7300 feet high on Mt Rose.
All this makes the air "thinner," crisper. and clean as far as human made pollutants go. That doesn't mean that everything is clean, though. The high altitude along with other environment factors means that dirt-holding grass doesn't grow well here naturally. The Sierra Mountains are very young, in fact the Sierras are still forming as the Pacific plate shoves against North America. Even as they are being lifted upward, the mountains are eroding downward. Without many plants to hold dirt down as it erodes, the almost continuous breeze keeps tiny dust particles aloft. For those of us with sensitive nostrils those particles bring on sneezing and runny noses.
Today, I am enjoying it all sitting in my son's back yard beside one of those giant firs while his new puppy tries to gain control of her energy and be satisfied just lying beside me.
While her eyelids grow heavy and the sun slowly bakes my skin, a small grey chipmunk has slipped under the privacy fence to explore the mulch covered yard. It searches for pine nuts and whatever food the humans may have left.