To date, nature has come in three distinct flavors. On any given venture you might get a mix of all three, but single scoop, double scoop or Neapolitan has been a pretty good gauge so far. The first, a white-knuckled, adrenaline filled whirl of excitement. Tearing through the grandeur of the landscape with fire, purpose, and will. Next, a grit and endurance focused sufferfest. Trudging through long-standing elements to reach some elusive, but triumphant pay off. While the third, an indulgent meander through splendor and stillness. Floating through tranquil settings to soften the areas you have allowed to harden.
Why the introspection? This particular adventure fell predominantly into the third category. There was a great deal of floating and splendor-ing, so there may just be a little bit of soft mixed in with the normal helping of hard. D: Jessica? Soft? Yeah, we’ll see how long this lasts…
Since the last adventure Emily, Denita and I tackled was a disaster; AND mountain biking was something they agreed they would loathe for life; AND they were close to pitching me off a cliff and hanging up their adventuring cloaks for a bit…I proposed we tackle the trip that had started this adventure quest in the first place. It was the idea to expand our Sunday morning stand-up paddleboard jaunts into a weekend trek that got this whole ‘you have never been camping?’ nonsense started. D: This was THE trip for me from the get go, anytime water is in the plan I’m stoked (No, snow is not frozen water!) There is something sorta “perfect” about being on any body of water and something even better about sharing it with friends.
Emily suggested Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park, an isolated and unique camping spot, accessible only by water and located in the Fall River Valley. The areas that sounded the most intriguing for exploration aren’t exactly boat friendly, but the shallow draft of a SUP would do just fine. We readied the steads…one hard foam core, one inflatable, and one ratchet together canoe-esque plastic shell.
We had left for Fall River around sun-up, and even through my early morning haze, I was able to take in the beauty of our surroundings. The soft morning sun was at our backs and Mt. Shasta stood before us. We slid over the glassy water like it was butter. Everything was silent and still.
Well, at least for the first mile or so. Then our less austere sensibilities kicked in and we were throwing shade, testing our dry bags (aka splashing each other), and racing to birds that would inevitably fly away leaving no winners (but I like winning).
Instead of heading to camp right away, we turned up into the creek fed springs. The water changed color as we went. The thick forest green of the main pond turned to a translucent emerald, that made way for a soft blue, and finally patches of deep azure. And as the color changed, so did the temperature. The closer we got to the glacial run-off of Shasta the less we wanted body parts to linger in the water. The desire to not swim was further compounded by floating piles of what I imagine was some form of algae, but resembled a mix of yellow-brown snot and vomit. Luckily, it was pretty easy to avoid in the larger channels and it only smelled if it got caught in debris and had time to make a nice little bed for mold.
As we continued upstream, we reached a small bridge. End of the line for the boat, but Denita and I had different plans. We attempted to ford the seemingly mellow current, mount the bridge, and ride a paddleboard back through again. Our plan was to ride our paddleboards under the bridge. Though there was no whitewater in sight, the current and my lack of respect thereof meant I hit the water and the underlying rocks without much grace. Blood was drawn, which now meant I was wholly committed to this small feat. After some finagling and more blood from the lack of water shoes, Denita and I were on the upstream side of the bridge. Do not ask me why riding under a tiny bridge on a flat board would prove to be such a novelty or a ridiculously onerous task, but victory was ours!
As everyone knows, victors need spoils and feats of strength subsequently require periods of rest. Thus, we decided a mid-morning beer and a little bit of floating were in order. And it just so happens that a healthy helping of lazing about was on our to-do list.
We eventually headed over to the shade of our selected campsite, which was a tree grove way back from the water. WAY BACK. I guess it mitigated the mosquitos, but no sweeping water views this time.
Ridiculous amounts of karaoke and improper use of our Eno doublenest hammock passed the time. Then Brad pulled out a bow and arrow and we pretended to be Robin Hood and Katniss for a bit. Brad killed it, Denita lost an arrow and I managed to snap my arm with the string. Ouch. As the sun started to fade in the sky, we hustled back down to the dock to finish out the day with a sunset boat ride.
The mosquitoes were in full force. I learned from our last bug-infested night that I am not a fan of creepy crawlers and layered on the natural and chemical remedies. Emily decided to join the boys in the world of hammocks, as she is a lover of hanging beds. E: It’s true! I sleep like a baby in hammocks! Two people in a four-person tent, atop a bed of oak leaves, after a day of sunshine, paddling and rum is pretty darn comfy. Best night of sleep so far!!! About seven hours, which is at least close to what normal people sleep.
Come the morning, our tent had treated us well but the bugs had attacked the hammock goers. Emily had bites pretty much in all the places, including the middle of her upper lip, which gave her a strange Angelina Jolie-mated-with-a-bird like appearance. E: This is pretty typical though. I am always the first to be feasted upon by mosquitos.
The next morning Dan was ready to explore. He plotted two courses to Eastman Lake. One for the SUPs/girls over a shallow pond and one for the boat/boys taking the long way down and around. So off we went over a boggy berm and into a swamp. The shallow pond, was really, really shallow and the water was a bloom of thick algae. We knew the water would barely cover our knees at times, but the fear of getting entangled in the algae bloom, however irrational, was still there. After AWHILE, we made it through the swamp and to clearer water. We headed into the tiny current and headed towards the lake, or were we on it? Anywho, off we went. I was enjoying the scenery when I realized I was all by myself. Not again. The girls had stopped paddling. D: We had been paddling forever! With no end in sight! I turned around and we snuggled our boards together and chatted for a bit as we drifted back down the river/lake.
Eventually the boys came back down our direction. We hitched a ride back to our swamp and headed back towards camp. We were in a much different position than where we began, which led to some confusion. Emily was convinced we should head to the far right, while Denita and I were equally convinced it was the left. We ended up somewhere in the middle of our respective opinions. When we got to the berm, we were a slight distance apart, but it wasn’t bad. When we crossed through the reeds I went left, and Denita went right to orient. I found the dock and yelled back. We waited, staring down the reeds at where Emily should have come through… No Emily.
We lost Emily! How do you lose a person…a whole person…wearing bright pink…on a body of water?
D: I am the worrier…..I take that title with pride, I do not enjoy losing a P (player), even if it’s for a hot minute. We go together, we conquer together we experience this together….If there are not 3, I am not ok (sorry E no quiet, tranquil time for you)….With each minute that passed I thought park ranger…ok paramedic…perhaps the coast guard boats…OK CALL IN THE HELICOPTER! Dramatic? Yeah, maybe. Do I care? NOPE! Instant tranquility took over when we rounded the bend and her chill little face was paddling along like nothing was wrong.
E: Meanwhile, I was off on my own stubborn way, but not exactly lost. I had been sick of how slow those two were paddling and forged ahead, thinking about how annoying it was going to be for them when they came across the dead-end I was sure they were heading towards. Following a bank of reeds, I was enjoying the wildlife and peace and quiet… but after about 30 minutes of paddling, it was becoming apparent that the pass-through I was looking for, that would pop me back into our campsite’s lagoon, was not appearing. I finally looked up to reorient myself and noticed that Mount Shasta was at least one cardinal direction off from where she should be. Well, shit.
Paddling slow? Yes, but technically, we were gaining on camp, while she was rapidly traveling away from it.
Luckily, the boys made it back soon after and they searched the perimeter while Mark and I searched the reed banks and swamp on SUPs. It was at least 45 minutes, maybe an hour, before our reunion. Just enough time for some more hammock snuggles before we had to pack up and head back to reality.
With the exception of losing Emily for a short stint, (D: Plenty long!) this trip was a relaxing and pretty lazy way to spend a weekend. It was a serene respite with nature plus some levity and silliness thrown in for good measure. I love being on the water whatever the sport, but there is something incredibly calming about the smooth stroke of the paddle. While I have enjoyed all flavors of adventure in their own right, this particular brand is a great way to recharge and soften. ALSO, I just made camping my bitch! Seven hours of sleep. WINNING!!! D: And there goes the soft...
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