OK, ok, haven't had time at all to catch up with some ppl and post about my lovely but exhausting weekend up at Lake Sonoma.. so here goes... this will probably be VERY long, but just to keep some of the details in my own memory.. =)
Friday after work, we rushed to load our cars and meet up. By the time we finally left the city, it was a lot later than planned (so much for arriving at Lake Sonoma before dark). We caravanned up in 2 cars and arrived around Lake Sonoma probably at.. 9:20 or so? Somewhere around there. Had a hard time searching for the right parking lot (Skaggs Vista Point) on the dark curvy roads. Had to call the sheriff to ask for directions and which trail to take after parking. Wasn't on the call myself, but heard that the sheriff thought we were a bunch of dumbasses for attempting to get to a hike-in/boat-in only site in the dark, and told us to dial 911 if needed. Also heard there are cases of vandalism in that isolated parking lot, so since I was leaving my kayak and a few other things in my car (not hiking 80+ bulky lbs 2 miles in) and both cars we took were..well.. European, we ended up taking my car back down to the park ranger station to park, then the other car back up to the Vista. Finally, we were ready to hike! With.. umm.. a lot ..of gear.. each of us pretty much had a backpack or duffle bag that was really heavy. Then there was food, drinks, small grill, firewood, coal, tent, lanterns, etc.. we already minimalized to what we thought was absolutely necessary.
The hike in to Island View group campsite right next to the lake was 2 miles long through rough terrain. Up and down hill. In the dark. We had the stereo going the first .2 miles or so as we started the trek, but as it was hitting 10pm, we turned it off in case there were others near us as we hiked, although there was no way to tell. It was pitch black. Nooo idea what was around us. So we hiked, hiked, rested, hiked.. my pulled quads was not happy. We had to take constant breaks. During longer breaks, we'd pop open a heineken or two to share, or sip from one of our bottles of alky (the alize in particular) so the load did get a bit lighter haha. Thank goodness Kitty and I bought those LED headlamps this time, they were very useful with arms too busy carrying things. Holding a flashlight would've been a problem.
We reached a creek and suddenly the trail wasn't as easy to find as the ranger had claimed it would be. We took a wrong turn without knowing it, tree branches and rocks were getting in the way. After going awhile and huffing and puffing away, we realized the trail seemed to end.. another "trail" that branched off didn't seem to go anywhere either. Where did we lose the correct trail? Why don't they put signs?! At this point it was 11 something already, and after some scouting and running around while a couple of us watched the gear, we realized we had 2 choices. 1, we hike all the way back to the car. 2, we camp at some random spot until morning. Going off on any of the "maybe this is the trail" areas would not be smart.. no cell reception and we'd just get more lost. At that point we at least knew how to get back to our cars still.
We chose 2. What a good choice. We were lucky enough that where we realized we were lost happened to have some huge level areas that were perfect for pitching my gigantic 8 person Coleman tent. The spot we chose had giant fallen logs to sit on, was right by the creek, and was just.. somehow.. perfect. So there we pitched our tent, and started using my tiny little cheap grill to cook some steaks and ravioli. We started drinking alcohol, listening to music, it was blissful! The sound of the stream flowing by was peaceful. The stars shone in multitude above us. We mixed kool-aid powder for chasers and mixers for my vodka. The steak turned out exceptionally delicious (thanks to our very own Chef Kitty, who we are always indebted to in the outdoors.. the best cook you can have with you while camping haha). We were all pretty sore and tired from the hike and just relaxed and drank.. someone ahem and I don't mean me ended up very drunk that night. Good times. We had 5 people total but camping is nice regardless of how many people go.
The ground was pretty hard and it was considerably chilly that evening. So sleep did not go superbly well, but oh well! We woke up in the morning at who know's what time... time was irrelevant at that point.. (and it's great how everyone gets up early when camping and it doesn't FEEL like you're getting up mega early it's all natural). Upon exiting my mega tent, we finally could see around us in daylight. It was beautiful... the creek.. the logs crisscrossing it.. whoa. Nice! Time for breakfast!!! We had this camping egg mix which wasn't exactly that yummy but it worked. Mixed in mushrooms and corn. Had some more snacks too. With some more scouting, we realized there was a trail ACROSS the stream bed that looked more traversed, but it was at 180 degree angle to the one we had come in on. And of course the rangers don't put any signs. But it should be our trail, so we packed up and off we went. Right away we saw a body of water.. small... that seemed to be getting wider and wider into the distance. With renewed hope, we trekked our way up and down the hills, with some of the uphill extremely steep for carrying all the gear. We were definitely getting closer.
At one point we decided to leave half of our gear behind us (who would take it anyway?) and a few people can come back for a 2nd trip, since that would probably be faster. I decided to keep another bag with me (the one with essential lanterns, first aid kit, etc) rather than go with just the heavy backpack. With the sun, the water closeby, and what was possibly a runner's high (not from running but from extreme hiking and fatigue), I suddenly had a huge amount of energy and even jogged parts of what was left of our trek. Then we saw it, "Island View Camp". The trail became barely a trail.. just a slim line of slightly shorter brush through thicker brush. Then we were there, with a huge, emerald green & blue lake, reflecting rays of sunshine at us. The campsite was huge.. secluded.. beautiful. Several picnic tables were strewn throughout, with lantern posts, a few fire grill pits, and a giant fire pit in the center. 2 portapotties were off to the side, which normally would illicit ewws, but at this point, were very much welcome (since we only had the convenience of nature itself the past nite and earlier morning).
A few of us went back for the 2nd batch of gear while the rest of us started attempting to purify lake water with my MSR Sweetwater Purifier system, which had worked wonderfully at the pristine clear stream from the nite before. But the water right at the shoreline was way too murky, especially from the wakes from boats. We had to wait until we could swim our or take a boat out to use clear enough water for purification. Next, we pitched our tent again, this time it looked like a palace, since it wasn't all floppy and we even put poles in the rain tarp so we had an awning at both doors. Too bad I didn't bring the outside floor mats and room dividers?
In the meantime, we realized we needed to go retreive our 2nd nite's food from our cars, as well as get a little more gear. Our original plan was that we'd hike to the campsite Friday night and make a trip back on Saturday.. perhaps assemble my kayak at the Lake Sonoma marina and paddle some gear over. At this point, that was pretty out of the question since we had just arrived. A couple ppl flagged down a stranger's awesome speedboat (many boats going by throughout, some with wakeboarders and waterskiers in tow.. lots of jetskis and other boats too). They hitchhiked on the boat to the marina. We had all agreed we should rent the cheapest fishing boat available at $195 per 24 hours to bring in some gear and so that we didn't have to hike back Sunday. They went.. and disappeared.. for a good few hours. When they came back, they had the boat alright, a dinghy metal fishing boat with a motor. Top speed was about 20mph for that boat, which wasn't bad at all for such a little simple thing. Turned out they had to get to the marina, pay someone $5 to drive them to the car at the vista, go get the other car at the ranger station, drive back to the marina, load some stuff in the boat they rented, then head back.
When the boat got back, one person jumped out of the boat, and myself and Mabel jumped into the boat, and Eric took us back to the marina so we could buy some things at the minimart and I could load my kayak bags, oars, and gear into the boat. At 20mph in that little thing, it doesn't feel that slow. When going over wakes, the boat slams down hard. It's pretty fun. Plus, SOME people have fun when driving, turning the boat sharply so that it rocked back and forth haha. We brought back the kayak and stuff and it was already late afternoon. Of course, Chef Kitty was already making dinner! Chicken drumsticks and zuchini!!! And pasta! Mmmmmm. Yummy yum yum again. As usual eating was a continous affair with food slowly cooking to perfection, so after a few drumsticks and a visit from Jen's friends who kayaked over from the marina for a bit, I started assembling my folbot 2-person kayak. It was very frustrating the first time since the directions sucked @$$ and the parts all needed to be broken in. But boy oh boy was she a beautiful 17' long boat after assembly!
Annoying drunk guys in a speed boat kept haggling us later on from the lake. When they first shouted out to us, our friend (a guy) was trying to respond and see what they wanted, and they drunkenly yelled, you guys are HOT.. oh wait.. no not you.. just the girls. Later that night, we heard them come by in the dark (the stereo systems on those speedboats are AMAZING.. we have to rent one of those sometime.. they're LOUD you hear them from so far). And Mabel heard them say let's find where those girls are at.. which made us tense up a good bit, so we turned off all our lights and kept some big branches and Eric's baton closeby for a bit.
What else did we do that night?.. eat.. eat.. drink..eat.. eat.. take tequila shots.. eat eat.. play King's.. eat.. eat.. some other things.. oh yes, SMORES! We had smores and roasted marshmallows. And just enjoyed lounging outside as usual. I was so exhausted it was probably midnight or so when I had to pass out. Regret not trekking out to look at the stars away from the campfire, but was too tired. And cold when not by the fire.
I woke up around .. early morning I would guess 5:30am or so, before the sun was up but right about when the sky wasn't totally black anymore. It was still fairly cold, but I couldn't fall back asleep, so I exited the tent and started sauntering around doing not much in particular. Maybe an hour or so later, the sun peeked out behind the hills and I went down by the water, next to my kayak, and basked in the sun. It was one of the best moments yet. I watched the sun come up higher and higher, glowing with warmth. After Jen woke up and came out of the tent too, we took my boat out for the first time ever. It was great. I had no energy to paddle for long, so we would stop at times just to enjoy being out on the water so close to the waterline. We paddled our way into a little cove area and ended up collecting some firewood, since we had no wood and no coal for breakfast/lunch. We strapped the wood to the kayak and paddled back, just in time since everyone was up and Kitty was starting to cook with the tiny bit of wood she could find.
Eric had gone out with the fishing boat again to try and catch some fish, since Lake Sonoma offers some of the best fishing in California, but he had no luck whatsoever on this trip. No fishies for us to eat haha.
After eating, a few people took a swim in the water. The weather was beautiful and warm. Warmer than the previous day. Mabel and I went out on the kayak again, this time following a few other kayakers down an area where all these old tree branches were sticking out of the water (Lake Sonoma was made by the damming of the Russian River). Lots of shiny blue dragonflies were twirling around each other in the reeds. After we returned, Mabel and Eric took the kayak out for a bit, then it was time to disassemble the boat and try to pack up and make it back for Mother's Day dinner. Disassembly took a long time, but once again, we learned tricks to make it faster and easier next time. So nice to have a boat... =)
Eric and Kitty took the fishing boat back to the marina with the first load of gear (it cannot carry more than 3 people at one time and a little gear.. supposedly haha). The rest of us finished bringing gear down to the shoreline and waited. The wait grew longer and longer.. something was up. Finally, I noticed a boat heading our way.. not our fishing boat, but a bigger, nicer boat that was basically just a big deck with some soft white pleather chairs. Turns out the fishing boat died on the way back from the first trip, and was towed back to the marina. Now we had a big boat with the marina guy driving it which could fit all the rest of the gear AND all of the rest of us at one time... a big powerful boat that was fast and loud and comfortable...
Hair billowing in the wind, the loud noise of the motor in our ears, we wooshed back across the lake in comfort. I could have sat on there for hours. Finally, we reached the marina and it was time to rush home, barely making it for Mother's Day dinner. Mind and soul felt like they were somehow left behind at Island View campsite in Lake Sonoma, not wanting to come back and return to the usual daily grind. But all good things must come to an end, and we look forward to the next adventure.
2 mile hike and camping at some random secluded spot? Sooo worth it. That, my friends, is REAL camping... would love to do that again, and hike rugged terrain again, but with less weight on my back and in my arms.
What a weekend... can't wait to get out there again... and must start using my kayak often. It's great exercise as well, after all!
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