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Column: Ladybugs and not much else on nude beach

Merrie Leininger

Picture this, two young women, spending a perfect summer day soaking up the rays on the beach as the clear Alpine lake laps gently against the shore…

That’s how I pictured a trip to a Lake Tahoe beach with my friend, Kate.

In the weeks before, I had visited the same beach with a friend who had once been a forest ranger. She told me the beaches were used by nudists, but because it was still nippy, there were very few people baring all that day.

So Kate and I drove up to the east side of the Lake and began the hike into the string of beaches. This time, cars lined the highway and we met many people on the trail. Also, this time I was wearing sandals, a big mistake on the sandy trails. Little grains of sand weaseled their way between my foot and the sandal and stayed there, rubbing against the bottom of my foot. By the time we got to the beach, I had blisters on the bottom of each foot.

We got to the beach I had envisioned us relaxing on all day – and every inch of sand was filled with naked people. Kate immediately began to giggle like a girl with a crush. I decided to continue on to a beach I remembered as just a little further down the trail. A couple miles and a couple of scrapes and scratches later, we came to the second beach and decided that’s where we were going to stay, naked people or not.

On our way in, a (clothed) man was walking out and said, “There’re ladybugs everywhere.”

Ladybugs? How are a few ladybugs going to harm our day on the beach? If anything, it enhanced the picture in my mind with the cute little spotted guys flying around.

Swarm is the word that comes to mind. The water washed hundreds of them up closer to us with every wave and they blanketed trees near us. As soon as we put down our towels, they began traveling towards us. At first, I tried to lightly pick them up and place them gently down on the ground, but after about a half hour of fighting them off, I just began to flick. I sent ladybugs hurling through the air for the rest of the afternoon.

State emtemologist with the deparmtnet of agriculture, Jeff Knight, said he wasn’t sure why there were so many ladybugs, but his best guess was they were coming en mass out of hibernation from the rocky outcroppings high on the mountains that they so love.

“They were actually just landing in the water and getting washed ashore. It could be just a good year for ladybird beetles and the wind conditions were right and they just got piled up there. Most of the time going to hibernate on rocky outcroppings on peaks and fly down into the valleys, most likely. Or is could be something near there is infested with aphids and they were laying their eggs there,” Knight said.

Either way, a lovely image that just about ruined my bug-free vision.

In addition to that, the heavy winds had kicked up the water, causing the biggest waves I had ever seen on Lake Tahoe. The waves pushed around someone’s three-legged dog that was tied to a tree at the Lake’s edge.

The rest of the view was flesh. As far as the eye could see – mounds of it, no pun intended. We were targeted as the only Clothed Ones on the beach. One man insisted on walking back and forth in front of Kate and me for the rest of the day. It was not a pretty sight. It’s not like I was staring, but wherever my line of sight was, there he was . . .

For a while I thought about joining in. If you can’t beat them, join them, right? But I couldn’t take the sound of Kate giggling at me.