Memorial Day Weekend (not the Eel)


A River with Water

5/22/15 Indian Creek Lodge 11pm

John M. and I got rolling toward Weaverville from my Castro Valley home a little after our noon plan, but at quarter past one the traffic was light on this Friday of the Memorial Day weekend. We were ahead of commuters, and of most weekend vacationers, but not all. As 680 neared 80 by Suisun, the distance between bumpers shrunk, and the odometer showed no speed. When we finally crawled onto 80, we were ready to exit.

John typed in “Winters” and selected “non-highway” for route.

“Take Exit 43.” announced the phone.

It was just ahead and we turned onto it. Immediately we shifted from stopped to speeding. Until a red traffic light appeared. It wasn’t the last, but there were welcome gaps in between as we rolled between Fairfield suburbs and woods just north of 80. We were happy. The views were good and motion constant. Sometimes these things aren’t about getting there faster, just about being sane and happy upon arrival.

Then our road turned away from town and we saw signs for Lake Solano, ten miles distant. Now there was no traffic and we often topped 50. Plus we were in the country, passing farms, fields and vineyards we’d never seen before. If we’d had champagne, we would’ve toasted Google.

Crossing Putah Creek we saw boats and discussed returning with ours and our grandkids. They’d put up with a two hour drive.

We stopped briefly in Winters, then drove without traffic to Redding and on to Weaverville where we entered Marino’s Italian restaurant well before their 8 o’clock closing.

5/23/15 about 8pm, a grassy strip about 10 miles downriver from Lewiston

For the 17 of us to be on this remote stretch of scenic river with our nine boats, ten gallons of home water and food and lodging for two days and nights is a miracle that deserves very honorable mention. Eric and Amy doing their first trip have done a fabulous job putting together this biggest trip of the year. They credit Don for making the vital change from the Eel, flowing at about 200cfs, to this Trinity beside us which is moving ten times that much water. We put-in at 1:45, took out by 4:30. Our average speed was 5.5 mph, and our highest rate over 9, according to Don’s GPS. And Don came up a week ago to scout and found this fine site. Thank You, Don!

Part of the logistics was the shuttle. Six of the seven vehicles we needed to get all our bodies and boats to the put-in were driven down to Junction City via a new to us road to Highway 3 and then through Weaverville and parked as usual high up on the take-out beach across from the county park. Getting out of his red VW Dave uttered several expletives. He had just secured his car with one of the family steering wheel locks. One his key didn’t fit. His beautiful car could now not be driven by thieves, or him.

In Don’s packed Toyota lively discussion ensued. Dave called home and laid out the dilemma and the possible solution of wife Debbie or son Eric making the 10 hour round trip to bring the right key. Both were sympathetic, but neither volunteered to spend their holiday in that way. These locks, several of us knew, could be quickly cut with a grinder, at least one connected to an outlet. But the campground was some hundreds of feet away.

In Weaverville we detoured to the True Value hardware store where a likely and reasonable option was presented. For under a hundred dollars Dave could buy a battery-powered Sawsall and 3 carbide blades that would cut the hardened steel, according to the hardwareman. It was not certain the tool would make the cut in the 15 minutes its one battery, which the store would charge before Dave picked it up on Monday, provided. So Dave might need to get more than one shuttle between beach and store, for recharging. We decided to check with the local locksmith, too.

His shop/antiques store was on our way back and required a very brief visit. On its closed door were its Monday-Friday hours. None on weekends. And probably not on holiday Mondays. we assumed.   Well, we had a workable plan, but things at the take-out might get complicated.

Here at our first campground spirits are high. Ruthie and Arvid laugh as they fight playfully. The 2000 cfs lap loudly among the shoreline rocks and willows. Campfire conversation carries like a warble. The general generosity even extends to the few drought-stricken mosquitoes, Some suggest we just let them enjoy their small meals. Most continue to slap.

5/24/15 Steel Bar Campsite

All of us around the campfire have just learned a new paddling acronym. We now know there was an OBE today during our paddle past Indian Creek and Douglas City. Those familiar with this stretch from our Fall Trinity trips recognized the scenery today, though the landscape was greener and dotted with wildflowers, but the river was new – with trains of huge waves where there’d before been ripples. Several times we stopped to return hundreds of pounds of water to the river – from each boat.

With one exception there were no OBE’s. “It was almost pleasant.” Lena says, with laughter in her eyes and voice.

“There was this big boulder that we went close to and then tipped over. It was very gentle. I was afraid of hitting a rock, like with my head, but I remembered to keep my feet first. I also kept hold of my paddle and the boat, which I stayed behind.”

Neil added a little more of the set-up, as he saw it from the stern. “There were a lot of rocks and we tried to cross through them toward river left. We hit that boulder with our nose and spun around so we were going backwards, then went up on it and flipped.”

With Neil and Lena’s spill revisited, we moved on to the adventure awaiting Dave at the take-out with someone announcing, “You know, I’m not sure those carbide blades will cut that hardened steel, and those sawzalls go through batteries awfully fast.” So we don’t know if or how fast the cutting will go, but Jan has agreed that she and Ruthie will shuttle Dave up to Weaverville to get the tool and blades. At least once.

There’s one more development that I think I can get down before sleep, as it may adversely affect that sleep.

While I lay in the shade of willows near the kitchen before dinner, about to nap, I heard a strange for this area sound. It was the thump, thump, thump of a helicopter’s rotor. It was there again on awaking. Excited paddlers were watching it dip its bucket into the river just downstream, then flying off toward 299, the area where there have been recent big fires.

This continued until about sunset.

“They can only fly with visual guidance.” said Don, a safety expert.

So it wasn’t a surprise that the chopper, followed by another, soon headed off toward Redding. But it was a worry. We all had hoped they’d leave when the job was done, not just because of the rules. Common sense, and firey imaginations, suggest that flames may now be racing up nearby canyons, soon to engulf our remote, cell signalless camp.

Not exactly the peaceful refuge we expected.

5/25/15 Dunnigan Rest Area

When I looked out of my tent in the middle of the night I saw no red glow, nor smelled any smoke.

Don asked that we be on the river this morning by 10. Yesterday we broke camp at 10:30. John looked at his watch as the last boat left Steel Bar. “9:15.”

The paddle to the take out was calm and lovely. There was no excitement until people walked up to their cars and found their gas caps on the roofs, their doors unlocked, and some windows broken. We’ve parked in this place every Fall for many, many years without incident. We likely won’t park here again.

Some lost cash, a tablet and other prized possessions. We later learned that the thieves broke into cars along a long stretch of the river. It was an unhappy conclusion to a very fun trip. Much was said on the beach and via e-mail as we worked through our pain.

On the positive side, the carbide Sawzall blade zipped right through the ears of Dave’s Club, and since the thieves didn’t want his diesel, he, too, soon joined the homeward drive.

Eric R.

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