Entries from July 2009 ↓

Huntington Lake

One of my sister Kathy’s best friends, Diana first camped at Huntington Lake three years ago and it seems to be growing into an annual event. My first trip was last year and I so enjoyed it I wanted to show my wife  Amy what all the fuss was about. This year it was just Kathy, Diana, Paul, Amy and me. A small but enthusiastic group. Huntington Lake is just below 7000 feet in the High Sierra’s about 65 miles Northeast of Fresno. It takes about 5 hours from Santa Cruz but not a bad drive as you avoid any large cities and enjoy the towns and farms of the central valley along the way. I love watching the change of terrain from flat grazing land to the rolling oak studded hills and then up into the foothills when you start seeing some granite show itself and then upwards to the Sierras and all its glory. Here is a good link with a great interactive map if interested, http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/sierra/recreation/lakes/huntingtonlake/index.shtml It has links to the Eastwood Center where you check in and all the other camp sites around the lake. I also found a nice article on the history of the lake, http://www.sierrapacktrip.com/bigcreek.htm

We’ve decided we like Lower Billy Creek the best as you are towards the far end of the lake and the sites are right next to the lake, some of the sites actually have shoreline. If you have ever seen a sunrise or a sunset or the stars come out from the shore of a Sierra lake you understand the attraction to lakeside camping. We have actually stayed in Upper Billy Creek the last two years which is right up the hill from Lower Billy but at most a two minute walk to the Lake. The wonderful thing is there is a walking path along the lake in front of the camp sites and some public areas with lake access so you never feel like you are intruding on the fortunate Lower Billy-ites. So once you’ve set up camp you usually get a quick visit from the camp host, Thom and his dog, Spike-the-best-dog-in-the-world. That’s his dogs official name. Thom and Spike-the-best-dog-in-the-world ride around in a golf cart and keep things in order. Thom is a wonderful host but will enforce the rules if needed, like this trip when he had to reprimand the folks two sites over for using a BB gun for target practice by setting up tin cans on the opposite side of the road from their site. The road that cars, bikes and children traverse.  Thom has the required temperment for the job, congenial but firm. I wouldn’t last a night.

Anyway, we managed to get down to the lake the first night to marvel at the evening light on the water, the dance of the bats, swooping and flitting by the shoreline and then the incredible night sky. I forgot. I think we all forget what a joy to see that many stars and the fullness of the Milky Way. And of course Paul was there to identify and explain the orbiting satelites that we could see rotating West to East across the sky. Paul is an essential component to why a camping trip becomes a treasured experience. Paul relishes knowledge and is like a walking version of the book “How things work”. Paul is a perfect complement to Diana who also loves to understand all she encounters. As for me, I have always drifted along believing I don’t need to understand to enjoy, but with the knowledge to enhance the experience, the stars and lakes and dams and wildflowers are all magnified to the viewer. Now my sister Kathy need no more than an hourly plunge in this lake to achieve bliss. I don’t think I have ever seen anyone who could find such nirvana (from the dictionary, nirvana, a place or state characterized by freedom from or oblivion to pain, worry, and the external world.) from cold moutain water. I honestly believe she thinks we could achieve peace in the Middle East if we could get them a camp site in Lower Billy…(In her defense, I have yet to have an encounter with anyone other than cheerful in my two visits to this lake.) As the night overtook the lake we made our way back to our site, passing fresh fires and snuggling kids, still giggling from their days adventures. We quickly made our fire and dinner by lantern light and found ourselves giggling like all the other children. Older but no less giddy. I assume it’s the altitude. The evenings tend to end quickly in camp. By nature, the sounds, fires and folks seem to quiet by ten, so Thom doesn’t really have a lot of enforcing to do.

Mornings seems quick when you start hearing fisherman rising in the dark. You assume your day must be soon but the light is diffused by the tall pines and you wait in the tent for another sign that your sleep is over. ZIIIIIIIIIIIIIIPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP Ziiippppp ZIIIIIIIIIPPPPP Damn it. Someone is getting out of their tent. This really is the beauty of the event. You don’t know what time it is. You’ve parked your watch on the way in and won’t be tempted to use it again on the trip. You peer out the tent window and don’t see any obvious signs of sunlight through the trees but enough light to know morning has arrived. ZZZZiiiiiiiiiiiipppppppp, zzzzziiiiiiiPPPPPPP. You duck under the rim of the tent, find your slippers and stumble out to rummage through last nights remnants and find your way to make the first pot of coffee. As a member of a tribe, making the first pot of coffee will always leave you in high standing. While you try to be as quite as you can you soon notice little whispering voices all around. It reminded me of the Wizard of Oz when all the Munchkins started coming out of background…All around the lake the day is starting. And just as quickly the birds, squirrels and chipmunks start to speak, then the sun starts to sneak through the pines and backlights the morning campfire smoke. Who could sleep when this world is so alive. ZZZZZiiiiiiiiippppppp ZIIIIIIppppPPPP. Good, everyone’s awake. We can start our adventure.

Adventures at Huntington Lake are simple and pure. Hike up the backside of the camp along Bill Creek and discover a beautiful meadow in full bloom with dozens of wildflowers. Or rent a boat from the local marina and cruise the lake and explore the little islands in the lake or hike around the end of the lake, exploring the 3 dams holding in all the water. It is amazing to be standing 6 feet above the water line and look over the backside of the dam and see a thousand foot drop. This is also the side of the lake that provides homes for Ospreys and Eagles, (both of which we saw).  This lake is also known for sailing, as it gets great wind across the valley every afternoon. There we stood on a granite bluff, directly below a huge Osprey’s nest, watching and waiting for the parents to return and far below was a regatta upon the lake. What a sight to see hundreds of sailboats dotting a Prussian field with thousands of dark green  sentries ringing the shore while the Ospreys circled  above us…

All in all a very memorable trip. I’ve included a few pictures to try and illustrate…..