While they were in Chester we embarked on an overnight camping trip to Willow Lake. Willow Lake is a little known body of water tucked away on forestry land about ten miles from town. To reach it one has to navigate a network of logging roads that gradually deteriorated until what remained was a two-lane track, strewn with good-sized rocks. The only way to proceed was either on foot, by horseback, dirt bike or a four wheel drive vehicle with ample clearance.
Jimmy, Jeff and Chuck along with my sisters, Susan, Sheri and Sally rode in the back of our Ford pickup with my Uncle Jay driving (who along with his wife Gloria also lived in Chester) and my Mother (Jay's sister) guiding. Holly and I rode horseback (using my horse Deuce and borrowing our friend's horse Roanie). Holly and I started out first as it would take us longer to reach the lake. After about a two hour ride, we arrived to find camp set up and the rest of the kids exploring the lake. By camp, I mean ground cloths had been laid out with our sleeping bags placed on top. There was no need for tents because it rarely rained in the Sierra's in the summer and the high altitude helped keep mosquitos at bay.
Uncle Jay and my Mom set up their camp cots in the remains of an old cabin about twenty feet from where we had laid our bedrolls. From their vantage point they had an excellent view of us and the lake beyond.
After unsaddling the horses, we tied them to trees with full hay nets (brought in the truck with the other provisions) and buckets of water. We then hiked down to the lake to join the other kids.
Willow Lake, in addition to being a pristine, secluded body of water, had a quaking bog.
Interesting Stuff About Quaking Bogs:
A quaking bog is a form of bog occurring in wetter parts of valley bogs and raised bogs, and sometimes around the edges of acidic lakes. The bog vegetation, mostly sphagnum moss anchored by sedges, forms a floating mat approximately a foot and a half thick, on the surface of the water or on top of very wet peat. White spruces are also common in this bog regime. Walking on the surface causes it to move – larger movements may cause visible ripples on the surface, or they may even make trees sway. In the absence of disturbance from waves, the bog mat may eventually cover entire bays, or even entire small lakes. Bogs at the edges of lakes may become detached and form floating islands. Source: Wikipedia
We spent the remainder of the afternoon walking and bouncing on the squishy surface of the bog, occasionally leaping into the cool snow melt derived lake. By the end of the day we were happy, tired, and hungry. Uncle Jay and Mom cooked us a delicious supper which we eat around a campfire. Darkness began to fall and Holly and I checked on the horses. We found them contently dozing at the end of their tethers. We refilled their hay nets, should they want a late night snack, and checked their water buckets before heading back to the campfire. Soon, one by one, we crawled into our sleeping bags.
It was a beautiful, clear evening. The inky, black sky was pin-pricked with a million stars. We joked and laughed softly for a while but soon became silent as we fell towards sleep. The air began to fill with nocturnal sounds: crickets chirping, frogs with a few scattered croaks then more as they began their nightly conversation. The horses snorted quietly and chewed their hay. Then, nearby, came a quick rustle in the brambles. The frogs ceased their discussion. "Did you hear that?" Jeff asked. "I didn't hear anything," my sister Susan replied. We all lay there listening. Nothing. The frogs began their tentative dialogue. We settled once more.
Another, more pronounced, crackle in the bushes broke the silence. "I heard it!" I said. "Me too!" said Chuck. "Maybe it's a bear or coyote," offered Susan. "I don't think so," said Holly. "The horses would be throwing a fit."
|In a close packed group, we inched toward the source of the sounds, our flashlights trained on the bush.|
While we were at the lake earlier in the day, he had rigged up a coffee can with a few rocks in it and hung it in the bush. Then, he ran some fishing line from the bush back to his camp spot and waited for night to fall and the fun to begin. He had played us like an expert fisherman, luring us to his trap with the perfectly timed rustlings. We all had a good laugh, giving Jay his due for having so cleverly fooled us, then we headed back to our sleeping bags.
We were awoken the next morning by an emphatic lowing. Where was it coming from? Had Uncle Jay pulled another fast one? We lifted our heads and looked around. We were surrounded by a hairy forest of legs. Evidently, we had placed our sleeping bags smack in the middle of a range cattle route. About a dozen cows stood around gazing at us inquisitively. After some more indignant mooing, they wandered on their way. This time it wasn't Uncle Jay's joke but he enjoyed our predicament all the same. He got another good laugh with no fishing line or coffee can required.
14x11 inches, oil on linen canvas, 2018
Prairie Sunset - auction ends on Sunday, August 12th at 9:00am PST.A dramatic sunset on beautiful Ebey’s Prairie on Whidbey island in Washington state.