From page 1
We arrived at Rat Farm just at sunset. In the
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
the lake was
draining and lowlands were flooding. He said, "you
gonna get out there
in that thing", pointing to the rooftop canoe.
Horr pond, Ajumawi Lava Springs State Park
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
The water was
like glass with the moon reflecting to our west and
flashes of dry
lightning in the east. A very special boating
for its beauty and
solitude. I had committed the area map to memory and
so headed toward Horr pond campground, the closest.
Next 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
Not knowing exactly
where the other campgrounds were, we continued
to run aground as we
(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
I listened for
voices. I hoped for a sign. I didn't think lightning
counted as a sign.
black, silent treeline. We were startled by a
noise to our left.
Sounding like a hundred paddles hitting the water
coupled with wild
cries, we stopped and waited for it to end.
Brushy Bob. "What is that?"
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
reached the springs but then made the mistake of
to land. Due to
the broken dike, the water level had receded and
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
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
were in relation
to the shore, or anything for that matter. Just a
map copied from
exciting! I navigated through the rocks (and only
got wet), then up
the slope to the trail to see for myself. The view
was candy to my
tired mind. A fire ring, bear box and table stood
waiting for us,
surrounded by thick, rustling vegetation.
Wait just a goldarned minute! Just what sort of
lonely woods? Abigail ( a dog sort of person) kept
trying to check out these bushes.
Brushy Bob kept
leaving to unload the boats and I kept picturing a
Gentle Ben roaring
out at any second to devour me. Fire! I needed fire!
I concentrated on
this task and soon had a feeble campfire flickering.
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
enjoyed discussing this amazing feat we just
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
Maybe Camp #4 was the mountain lion buffet. X marks,
the spot, so to
With the bright
morning sun, we could see what our camp looked like.
It was a bit
different than our imagination created from last
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
beyond the lake. The meadow was filled with
of every color as
well as electric-blue dragonflies.
rustled out of the bushes to peek at his new
He looked like a
Never play poker with a squirrel;
you'll lose your shirt.
morning, the ranger drove up on the service road and
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 camp).
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
State Park. There
is an old saying that I never really understood
"Curiosity killed the cat".
First on the list
to visit was Ja-She campgrounds to the west.
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
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 outflow
side a wide
marshy, rocky cove leading to the main river.
The water was so
clear, Abby was watching the fish swim in between
beyond the bridge, the remnants of a hunting lodge
or cabin had
stood. All that remained was the stone chimney. Next
to that was 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 resurfacing
here in Fall River
We explored the
campsites next, there being only three at each
campground. Ja-She’s sites were all attractive,
trees among natural rock-wall formations. They even
had a concrete
boat ramp, although the trail from the water to the
camp was much
longer than at Crystal Springs.
Back at the "old
campstead", and after a lazy nap, Bob said, "I'd
like to check out
those rocks right over there behind the camp.
a small trail
leading that way." I watched as he climbed over a
dropped out of sight. A half-hour later, nagging
started to fill my
mind. His navigation skills just simply, well,
One time, he went
to Napa accidently, he was supposed
to be in Novato.
We now joke about it,
Two hours later,
thoughts of broken ankles, legs or snakebites
me. I wandered as
far from camp as I dared, to holler out and listen.
Emergency plan 1
was ready: Hike to ranger station past Ja-She and
get help if he has
not shown up by sunset. Not once did it occur
me that after
nightfall, it may not be open. Didn't the supervisor
I kept busy, I
went and checked the boats, and while gazing out
the lake, a new
thought struck me like a brick: Landmark, blue,
can be seen from a
great distance. This calmed me down considerably.
hours later, I was remembering the time he got lost
Mount Pearl, a
small hill near French Meadows. He somehow ended up
on the larger hill
next to it. We had let him go ahead as he was
the expedition and
wanted to capture the party (myself, Julie and
Joel) as we
ascended. He finally saw us on the meadow top,
and calling, and
rejoined us. (Julie and I had taken inventory of
supplies while calling for Brushy Bob, and
between the two of
us, we had a total of: one band-aid!)
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
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
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
it damn well
pleases. Finally, he noticed the area was getting
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
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,
granite. But that's the next story.
I hope he likes
the new leash I bought for him.
Brushy Bob tows K-79