Friday, August 12, 2016

THE STORY OF LOON LAKE: A CAMPFIRE TALE


 “The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places. But still there is much that is fair. And though in all lands, love is now mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater.” –J.R.R. Tolkien

The fire was burning to its last. Everyone else was asleep after the day's paddling on the Western Sierra's Loon Lake. It was just me and the grizzled old storyteller who had shared tales all evening with the folks around the fire. But, he saved his best story for me.

"It sure is pretty up here." I told him, "But, I can't figure out why they call it Loon Lake. They're aren't any loons  in California anywhere I've seen."

Now loons are large water birds with rounded heads and dagger-like bills. Their eerie calls echo across clear lakes of the northern wilderness. Less suited to land, loons are powerful, agile divers that catch small fish in fast underwater chases.

"Back in Minnesota on night like this, " I said with a bit homesickness in my voice,  "I could hear the loons calling across the lake. I've come to miss them since moving to California and sure can't figure out why they call this place Loon Lake. They're is not a loon within 2,000 miles of here."

"It wasn't always called Loon Lake you know." grumbled the Storyteller,  "At one time, the Washoe called it the Valley of the Medican."

"The Medican?" I asked.

"Bigfoot,  Sasquatch, the Abominable Snow Monster, if you believe in that kind of stuff," he said. A hush came over the trees and the embers again ignited with a pop. I could see his eyes in the glow of the flames.

A long paused followed. He straighten his Fedora. Then took a flask from his jacket's pocket.  Opening it, he then and took a swallow and then looked at me from across the fire and said, "You do don't you?"

Now all though Northern California there are tales of Yetties and Bigfoot sighting.  The mythological ape-like creature is said to inhabit its forested regions. Folklore has usually described Bigfoot as large, hairy, bipedal humanoid, yet scientists discount its existence.

"California had loons a long time ago." he said as he leaned over stir the fire with stick,  "Thousands of them. But, the Medican ate every one of them. That's why they're none here today. For their survival, overtime they changed their migrating routes to avoid the monster. Otherwise there might not any loons at all. Legend had it that the Medican would swallow them whole. But that not the worst of it. With the loons gone. The monster needed another source of food. So it turned to the local native children."

"Terror swept through the nearby village, when they learned this. They knew they had to devise a plan to kill the monster. But how? The creature was so big and so powerful,  that spears and arrows would never work."

"But, that night, a medicine man had a vision of the monsters weakness. He saw that the fierce and terrible Medican could not swim and would sink like a stone if lured into the deepest part of the lake."

"But wasn't this lake built back in the 60s?" I questioned?

"It was a long time ago,  kid." said the Storyteller,  "Legend says,  that the lake then was even deeper than Tahoe.  But, let's get back to my story. "

"How can we get the Medican into our canoes to bring him to the center of the lake they asked the medicine man. And what shall we use for bait? There seemed to be no answers."

"Then Two Paddles spoke up.  He said, he could go to the land of the sky blue waters and bring back a loon to the valley. He told them, when he returned it would be winter and they could lure the Medican on to the ice of the lake. Hopefully it would then break through and sink to the bottom."


"Now Two Paddles was the bravest of all the braves. He had paddled area lakes and rivers and had traveled to the far north to learn how to paddle like the Eskimos. He left the next day down the Truckee River, portaging the Great Basin to the Missouri River and then up to Mississippi to its source and the home to many loons. Using lumps of sugar, because everyone knows that loons love sugar,  he caught the bird that would be used as bait."

"He hurried back along the same route, returning to the valley on snowshoes with the loon in basket.  It was now the dead of winter with the lake encased with a sheet of ice. The villagers told him that so far no children had been eaten but the monster was very, very hungry.  Just then they heard a terrible howling echoing through the mountains. It was the Medican.  They had little time to waste.

"The next day, Two Paddles trudged out to the center of the lake leaving behind him a trail of sugar lumps and staging a large pile of sugar at the center of the lake. Under his feet he could feel the ice weaken. His trap was almost set. He returned to the shore and released the loon. The loon scooted along the ice eating up the sugar along the way until it reached the center of the lake where Two Paddles had poured the largest pile of sugar.  The loon consumed the sugar quickly by gulping it down till it could barley move."

"The scent of loon, by now had filled the mountain air. A roar came out the trees. It was the Medican. Fierce and hungry it raced toward the hapless loon on the weakening ice. It grabbed the loon and howled with delight,  Then opening its mouth, the monster tossed it in swallowing the loon whole."

"At first there was nothing,  as the entire valley held its breath.  But, then there was large thunderous CRACK, followed by another and another. It was the sound of ice breaking under the monster.  Two Paddles looked on to see his trap had work. The sheer weight of the sugar stuffed loon caused the loon stuffed Medican to break through the ice. He heard the monster shriek and wail as it sunk into the frozen water fighting to cling to the ice. And then there was no more as it plunged into the depths of the lake." 

"So to this day," smiled the Storyteller, "They call it Loon Lake in honor the bird that saved all the villager's children that still sing, a loon full of sugar helps the Medican go down."

Current Adventures Kay School and Trips provides  an overnight camping trip to Loon Lake for the meteor show across the heavens. The lake renders the perfect backdrop for the annual Perseid Meteor Shower during its peak in the month of August. The Crystal Basin Recreation Area's lake on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains just west of Lake Tahoe, offers scenic beauty, limited crowds and no light pollution. Tucked away and only a short drive from Sacramento, California, Current Adventures Kayak School and Trips has been hosting kayaking campers  for the meteor shower for nearly a dozen of years. With meals, camping equipment and kayaks provided, paddlers and first time campers enjoy a cozy "roughing it" in-style camp-out.

If you want to go
Current Adventures Kayak School and Trips 
PHONE: 530-333-9115 or Toll-Free: 888-452-9254
FAX: 530-333-1291
USPS:Current Adventures, P.O. Box 828, Lotus, CA 95651
info@currentadventures.com
owner Dan Crandall dan@kayaking.com