Friday, July 29, 2016


The lakes are something which you are unprepared for; they lie up so high, exposed to the light, and the forest is diminished to a fine fringe on their edges, with here and there a blue mountain, like amethyst jewels set around some jewel of the first water, - so anterior, so superior, to all the changes that are to take place on their shores, even now civil and refined, and fair as they can ever be. -- Henry David Thoreau 

A smokey haze floated over the water and mountains at Lake Valley Reservoir. A forest fire was raging down in the hills and the smoke was blowing our way. So much so, I even questioned my decision to paddle here. The smoke fogged our view of the Sierra, burned out eyes and throat a common occurrence during California's fire season. Setting off across the lake, I just hoped the wind would change and the smoke would clear.

Lake Valley Reservoir is at about 5,000 feet in the Sierra Nevada Mountains located just off Interstate 80, south of the Yuba Gap. About 2 miles long the Pacific Gas & Electric lake offers a variety of shoreline from rocky to tree-lined banks, perfect for a day of exploring. The Sierra lakes and reservoirs have water in them this season, and Lake Valley Reservoir is no exception. The water lapped against the glacier-polished granite along the southern shoreline offering an inviting spot for a summer swim.

My wife Debbie and I had other ideas as we paddled to the peninsula at the far end of the lake. There a small island juts out into the lake and raised wall looks over the lake. It provided us with a perfect spot to picnic, swim and watch two courting eagles hang in the sky. The smoke had cleared and the day was neared perfect. We paddled back lazily along the sunken tree-line in what seemed like an ancient world.

"Simplicity in all things is the secret of the wilderness and one of its most valuable lessons." wrote paddling guru Sigrud Olson,  "It is what we leave behind that is important. I think the matter of simplicity goes further than just food, equipment, and unnecessary gadgets; it goes into the matter of thoughts and objectives as well. When in the wilds, we must not carry our problems with us or the joy is lost."

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