Today was one of those special times out in nature where we reflect, ponder, and appreciate. The remote Juniper Lake in Lassen Volcanic National Park was the perfect setting.
We were ready for a day off and we needed to get away from the campground where we were working this summer. Linda was ready to get away from people altogether and just relax - no hiking, no sightseeing.
She said, "Let's throw the boat in the Jeep along with the loungers and go up to Juniper Lake. We'll take something to read and I'll make us a lunch."
Juniper Lake is fourteen miles from Chester, California in a remote section of Lassen Volcanic National Park. The narrow road is paved for the first seven miles. Then it's a gravel road the rest of the way. There is one pretty rough stretch, but it doesn't require 4WD or high clearance. Once you enter the remote, southeastern access point to the park, the road improves for the last three miles to the lake.
When Juniper Lake comes into view through the trees, the blue of the water is striking. The book "Paddling Northern California" calls it a "sparkling mountain lake". It sits at almost 6,800 feet elevation and has five miles of shoreline.
At the end of the road is a parking area, a few trailheads, and a very clean pit toilet. We walked out onto the beach area past a couple of picnic tables to take a look. There was no one else there.
There was a light breeze, but the water was pretty calm and so clear. It was a great place to launch the boat.
I threw the boat-in-a-bag over my shoulder and carried it down to the shore. Linda pumped up the Sea Eagle SE330 and we were ready to paddle.
We simply paddled straight out toward Mt. Harkness (in the background above). The clear water was gorgeous.
In the shallows, it looked like we were in the Caribbean.
As we got into deeper water, it was a beautiful ocean blue.
We were mesmerized by the water, the color and the clarity. We'd paddle awhile and then stop and float. We saw two other canoes (one with a sail), and one kayak on this large lake. Apparently they had come from the tent campground on the east shore.
We didn't see any cozy little coves or interesting shore features, so we just stayed out in the middle of the lake. We were pretty far from our beach and the breeze was blowing back in that direction.
So what did we do? We slapped on some sunscreen, laid back in our little canoe, and took a nap. The rocking of the boat and the sounds of the waves lapping lightly against us made for excellent sleeping. And if we slept too long, we should end up back on the beach where we launched.
Aaaahhhh. Talk about relaxed. Eventually, the wind picked up a little and we were rocked awake. We had floated quite a ways, but we were still pretty far from the beach. By then, we were getting hungry, so we paddled on in the rest of the way.
Once back at our launch point, there were a few people and a couple of dogs on the beach, but everyone was just quietly enjoying the surroundings.
Linda got the cooler and I carried our loungers down to the water. We sat back and had our lunch with strawberries for dessert.
After that, I went for a walk with the camera while Linda reclined with her latest book.
With my water shoes on, I waded along the shoreline to the left. The cool water was so refreshing. I watched the minnows school up and scatter as I got too close. It was as if they were making sure I wasn't a big, strange-looking, awkward heron stalking them.
Eventually, I turned around and headed the other way. Linda wasn't budging as I passed back by her.
As I moved around the beach, everyone else left. We had the shallow cove completely to ourselves.
I continued to walk along the west side of the cove past four or five cottages tucked back in the woods along the lake. I assume they were grandfathered in before the lake became part of the National Park.
There were no power lines, so we guessed they were using solar or generators for electricity. One of them had a little plank dock and a couple of old wooden boats.
I continued on to a rocky point where I sat on a large volcanic boulder in the water. I dangled my feet and took in the beauty of the lake as the clear, shallow water turned into so many shades of blue as it deepened in the direction of Mt. Harkness.
I sat there a long time .... pondering as I often do. This, .... this is what we were seeking when we first thought of going on the road. Together in a lovely, natural setting far away from the hustle and bustle of "normal" life. Letting the beauty of nature nourish our souls.
In our four years on the road, we've had so many of these moments, these experiences. Yeah, we're having to "work" and stay in one place a little more than we'd like, but maybe, ... just maybe ... that makes days like this even more precious, ... more memorable.
I took one last picture before heading back to our spot on the beach.
I'm a water guy. I'm not the best swimmer in the world, but I love being around water, being in water, listening to water - whether it be a waterfall, a rushing stream, or waves, big or small, breaking onto shore.
On my walk back, I waded, ever so slowly, all the way, feeling the subtle changes in water temperature on my legs, noticing the schools of small fish and watching their synchronized movements.
I thought about the people long before us, and how in tune with nature they must have been to survive here. Through our love for nature, we feel a kinship, some sort of spiritual connection with the primitive people of the past. They may have been short on comfort and life expectancy, but they certainly lived through their hearts and souls.
Taking a shortcut through deeper water, I finally made it back to our loungers.
I joined Linda and reclined looking out over the lake. The heat of the sun was offset by the breeze. The breeze caused gentle waves and their soothing sound. The only other sounds we could hear were the echoes from woodpeckers rapping on hollow trees.
I delved into the book "The Back Of Beyond - Travels To The Wild Places Of The Earth" by David Yeadon. It was published in 1992, but it still provides great stories of twenty-two adventures through thirteen countries.
In one chapter, as the author writes about being in the jungle of Costa Rica, he eloquently writes:
"In that tiny boat I felt like an openmouthed intruder, hardly understanding anything of what I saw, irrelevant to the place, almost envious of the jungle as an unquestioning participant in the enourmous rythyms of life, responsive to a far deeper purpose. The little tribulations of our conscious lives and the apparent inability of us human beings to find a common harmony with all the myriad life systems around us seem to leave us spinning on the surface like flotsam, so tangled in our petty patterns that we fail to comprehend the larger whole of which we are a part. And while we're trying to understand what we dimly sense unconsciously, we slowly destroy ourselves and the earth too ..."
Wow! There was a time when I would have read that and said to myself "What the heck is he talking about?" But now, especially today, in our hidden paradise far away from our former "petty patterns", that passage was completely clear to me.
At the end of that chapter, he talked about camping on the beach and watching Green Turtles coming ashore and laying their eggs. By chance, he helped scare off some turtle poachers that night.
It reminded me of the day we were asked to drive to South Padre Island to help rescue sea turtles suffering from "cold-stun" back in January 2007.
Maybe our adventures haven't been nearly as exciting or far-reaching as Mr. Yeadon's, but we certainly see some parallels in how we have stumbled into some extraordinary experiences while exploring the back of beyond in the good ol' U.S.A.
I was a happy man sitting there reading. But between our nap in the middle of the lake, and her time spent reading while I was walking around, Linda felt she'd better get out of the sun.
She moved up and read in the shade. It wasn't too long before I joined her. There we sat, still with no one around, reading our books in complete peace until the hunger pangs started.
Reluctantly, we deflated the boat and put it back in its bag. We loaded up the Jeep and began the drive back.
We spent six and half hours at Juniper Lake, most of that time with no one else around. And every minute was worth it. It was just what we needed ... time to relax and reflect and appreciate. And with that, I'll leave you with this thought from Mr. Yeadon.
"That the wildest places of all are deep within and there's no end to the exploration and enjoyment of their mysteries and magic."