THE WOLF CREEK GAZETTE, A JOURNAL OF GROUCHO
the Wolf Creek Gazette, home to the adventurous
She began her career
as an engraver's model for 19th-Century
magazines, such as the Woman's Home Companion and Cow
& Plow, the farming journal. Her greatest fame came as a corset model for the 1913 Sears,
Roebuck & Company catalogue. She began her adventures whilst seeking the perfect chocolate. She's yet seeking.
Or how Adventure
Girl became Miss
Adventure Carefully set down from the diaries of Miss
RAT FARM -East of Mount Shasta
on the Modoc Plateau there is an obscure place
named Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park described
as a paddlers’ paradise.
Since we happened to
be in the market for some paradise, we loaded Tippy
the Canoe and Abigail the dog and set off for high
adventure in early August. After all, who could resist
the thought of launching an expedition from a
place with the romantic-sounding name of Rat
arrived at Rat Farm just at sunset. In the dwindling light we looked
the place over with concern because, as we were driving in, an old man
in an old pickup truck informed us that the levee had broken, the lake was draining and lowlands were flooding. He said, "you ain't gonna get out there in that thing", pointing to the rooftop canoe. We were so heartened by this encouragement, we pressed on to Rat Farm and inflated the kayak that was to be our pack boat.
At dusk the boats were loaded and we shoved off into unknown territory
The water was like glass with the moon reflecting to our west and flashes of dry lightning in the east. A very special boating experience for its beauty and solitude. I had committed the area map to memory and so headed toward Horr pond campground, the closest.
thing we know, the paddles were hitting bottom and we were in very
shallow water. In the moonlight, we could see the little islands that
ring Horr Pond as well as the signs identifying park property. We
managed to get back to deeper parts and continued skirting the line of islands. Not knowing exactly where the other campgrounds were, we continued to run aground as we inched along.
Hours later (watching the moon get lower and lower was a sure sign that much time has passed), I heard running water as we paddled near a cove. The campground next to Horr Pond is Crystal Springs-could this be it? I looked for a campfire. I listened for voices. I hoped for a sign. I didn't think lightning counted as a sign.
Nothing but black, silent treeline. We were startled by a horrendous noise to our left. Sounding like a hundred paddles hitting the water coupled with wild cries, we stopped and waited for it to end.
"Yikes," said Brushy Bob. "What is that?"
"Piranha," I replied. "Don't worry about it."
After the third occurrence of this noise, we realized that it was a flock of waterfowl, who were surprised by our night-time visit.
We finally reached the springs but then made the mistake of trying to land. Due to the broken dike, the water level had receded and rocks of all sizes bumped and scraped the canoe. Awkwardly, Bob climbed out of the packed boat and over the rocks to disappear into the reeds. I waited, half asleep. "Hey, there’s a campsite here!", the excited voice echoed from the darkness. Indeed, he said, his flashlight had shone on the sign of campsite number 4 next to a path leading off into the trees. "Thank God" I thought, albeit not quite believing our good fortune and not quite believing Bob.
I mean, what were the chances? We had never been here before, had no idea of the landscape or distance between sites or where the campgrounds were in relation to the shore, or anything for that matter. Just a map copied from the internet.
This was exciting! I navigated through the rocks, then up the slope to the trail to see for myself. The viewwas candy to my tired mind. A fire ring, bear box and table stood waiting for us, surrounded by thick, rustling vegetation.
Thick? Rustling? Wait just a goldarned minute! Just what sort of critters inhabited these lonely woods? Abigail ( a dog sort of person) kept trying to check out these bushes.
My eyesight is so poor, Bob told me NOT to help him, but to stay in camp and tend the fire. Which I did all the while trying to ignore the bushes moving as I sat next to the campfire with my trusty Swiss Army knife out and ready: All 2 inches of blade. It's 2 a.m., I'm in a place I've never been before, I can't see diddly, and I think my measly knife will defend me.
Well, no wild animal attacked us, we got the tent up and the supplies unloaded, and enjoyed discussing this amazing feat we just accomplished.
The next morning the strong odor of cat urine awakened me. Did our cat, Kitt, mark on the tent in revenge somehow? What was this stink? It was everywhere, the whole campsite reeked of it. Maybe this is the exact spot where all the local mountain lions came to pee, I thought, only half-joking. Maybe Camp #4 was the mountain lion buffet. X marks, the spot, so to speak.
With the bright morning sun, we could see what our camp looked like. It was a bit different than our imagination created from last night's rock-tripping, reed-slashing, mud-sliding adventure. The camp was ringed by large cedar trees next to a small meadow extending to the water and ending with marsh reeds. We had a clear view of snow-capped Mount Lassen beyond the lake. The meadow was filled with butterflies of every color as well as electric-blue dragonflies.
A squirrel rustled out of the bushes to peek at his new neighbors. He looked like a mean one.
Later that morning, the ranger drove up on the service road and greeted us.
We had a nice chat, all the while hoping he would not notice Abby
(California state parks tend to have arcane rules regarding dogs who
I inquired about paying our fees, and he said, "I'm the supervisor and not set up to take money so if the ranger stops by here he'll take care of it. We are very short-handed right now, so if you don't see him, it's on us." And off he went. Well, this place was getting better and better: No hassles, no payment, no problem. "Yeah, this could be our new residence" Bob stated with a wishful grin.
Emboldened by our near-impossible success so far, we, the intrepid explorers, set out to uncover the remaining mysteries of Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park.
First on the list to visit was Ja-She campgrounds to the west. Following the dirt service road for a mile, we heard the sound of a waterfall. After passing many lava rock piles, including one with a large bear-sized cave, we arrived at a wooden bridge over a rapid.
On the eastern side of the rapid was a tranquil pond surrounded by trees and the outflowside a wide marshy, rocky cove leading to the main river.
The water was so clear, Abby was watching the fish swim in between the rocks. Just beyond the bridge, the remnants of a hunting lodge chimney stood next
to a state park interpretive sign. The
sign, or rather billboard, explained the theory of why these springs
exist. It's unproven, but geologists believe this water flows
underground through porous basalt (lava) rock from Tule Lake, near the
Oregon border, before resurfacinghere in Fall River Valley.
We explored the campsites next, there being only three at each campground. Ja-She’s sites were all attractive, nestled under trees among natural rock-wall formations. They evenhad a concrete boat ramp, although the trail from the water to thecamp was much longer than at Crystal Springs.
Back at the "old campstead", and after a lazy nap, Bob said, "I'dlike to check out those rocks right over there behind the camp. There'sa small trail leading that way." I watched as he climbed over a large boulder and dropped out of sight. A half-hour later, nagging memoriesstarted to fill my mind. His navigation skills just simply, well, don't exist. One time, he went to Napa accidentally, he was supposedto be in Novato. We now joke about it,
But still ...
Two hours later, thoughts of broken ankles, legs or snakebites occupiedme. I wandered as far from camp as I dared, to holler out and listen. Emergency Plan Onewas ready: Hike to ranger station past Ja-She andget help if he has not shown up by sunset. Not once did it occur tome that after nightfall, it may not be open. Didn't the supervisor mention being "short-staffed?"
I kept busy, I went and checked the boats, and while gazing out overthe lake, a new thought struck me like a brick: Landmark, blue, large,can be seen from a great distance. This calmed me down considerably.
The big, blue lake is useless if Bob is hurt and can't walk to it.
Then I hear footsteps on the road and there he is, looking very tiredand sheepish. Since he wasn't dead, I decided to kill him!
I grabbed the bottle of French snakebite tonic instead and took a swig, then another.
"I thought I had turned back toward camp but after a mile I realized I was headed straight to the Oregon border," Bob said.
I took yet another swallow, a good one. "Did you look for the lake and blue water at any time?" I asked.
"No, the terrain was too rugged, but I did see a great blue heron that I talked to, but at that time I didn’t know I was lost, so didn't notice in what direction he flew."
He had a sign and didn't even realize it! (Herons are waterfowl.) Bob said he tried to follow the old wisdom that "moss grows on the north side" and that didn't seem to work. I guess moss grows anywhereit damn well pleases.
Finally, he noticed the area was getting drier and
realized he was hiking away from water. he added, "I saw zero signs of
any human intrusion-ever. It was amazing, no old roads, no camps, no
logging, not even deer trails, anywhere. Not until I found a hill high
enough that I saw the Modoc Plateau did I realize I was headed north and
Out of this experience was born a camping pact:
At no time will I let him wander off without me, period! This pact will
soon be tested on our next trip in September. Hell Hole reservoir is created out of a granite gorge. Rocks, lots of them and Bob just loves rocks, especially granite. But that's the next story. I hope he likes the new leash I bought for him.
*Story taken from the archives of the Wolf Creek Gazette.