Sunday, September 15, 2013

Unlikely Likely, CA, and Blue Lake Camprgound

It is perfectly still. Not a whisper of wind, 75 degrees, dry cool air. A heron screams, a chipmunk makes a 40 yard dash across my field of vision. I'm reading at 6000 feet in California's Modoc National Forest at Blue Lake campground.
With a senior pass, peel off a total of $14 for two nights--half price, though we’d be happy to pay several times that to stay. here  We decided pretty quickly we’ll settle in for two nights, with a full luxurious day to enjoy making campfires and walking.
Like many journeys in a six-week camping excursion, this one didn’t unfold smoothly. In haste before leaving Washoe State Park in Nevada, we’d checked the road ahead for potential campsites. Not many to be found on the desolate sretch of 395 we’d be driving. But Blue Lake, just east of tiny Likely, CA, seemed like a possibility. I quickly jotted down the directions off the national forest website. Right turn on Jess Valley Road, go 3.2 miles and take a right, then drive 8.2 miles.

Washoe State Park, NV
The drive out of Washoe to Blue Lake began on a clear cool day. We gassed up in Reno, Nancy and Frank’s beloved destination just east of Lake Tahoe. The Shell station attendant was a sweetheart, the bathrooms were clean, and we plucked some junky food off the shelves like naughty children. There was even a tiny lizard on our wheel riser saying goodbye as we left Washoe.

And the drive through the high desert was eye-opening in its starkness. We crossed back into far-eastern California, regularly passing through towns whose signs indicate fewer than 200 occupants.

Miles from nowhere, guess I'll take my time
oh, yeah, to reach there
Cat Stevens

Coming into the miniscule burg of Likely, the high desert didn’t seem hospitable to a campground with a blue lake. Clearly marked, we made the right-hand turn and noted the number on the odometer. A while later I asked Art how far we’d gone. The twisty roads following a twisty stream made it hard to tell.

Him: 5 miles
Me:  Honey, that’s too far. We must have missed it. Shouldn’t we turn back?
Him: But there was no sign and this seems like the national forest we want.

Pause here, while faithful readers nod in recognition of this most classic relationship challenge.

Several miles later, me: aren't you letting your ego get in the way—we have gone too far.
Him: are you sure we turned the right way off 395?
Me: starting to doubt my transcribing of the directions hours ago….

Finally, we turn around, backtracking about 10 miles to Likely, a town of 99 souls, three of them sitting on the porch of the general store (though only hat man shown here).

We park across the street. In the Ford, the mood is testy. Some of us wanted to already be where we were going. Comforted by the fact that there was only one way we could turn on Jess road, I climb out and approach the trio. They don’t exactly look friendly. I have my little notebook with directions I’m looking at. The guy in the hat sees it and says: whatever you’re selling we don’t want any of it here (did he think I was a Jehova’s Witness?). I scrape and bow a little and say I think we’re lost, telling them we were looking for Blue Lake Campground.

Oh, that, says the woman. See that road there (the very one we’d just returned on)? You go 13 miles and the road splits. Bear right for another 5 and you’ll find it. The suspicious guy warms up and smiles at me. I’m deeply regretting not bringing my camera to this encounter, because the photo would have been priceless, but Art nabbed this one of me returning.

We head out on the same road and, just as she said, it’s all there: the turn-off (three miles more and we would have had it!, Art says, still defending his position to drive on) and the camp.

Perfectly still, in the tall pines, with just a handful of campers and copious amounts of firewood—actually split and stacked at each site (sadly, due to a forest fire).

We're overdue for real food and here's the fastest meal in camp: canned salmon salad with herbs, olives, pickle relish, and sour cream over organic greens from a plastic box. Plus bloodies, and we needed those bloodies.

Flip is a search and rescue guy from Washington State, here for a week’s reprieve: kayak fishing and time alone. His wife prefers to stay behind but he hopes once he buys an RV she'll join him. Flip’s another generous friendly camper. He’s been coming here for 10 years, he says, because it never rains and the fishing’s good. He heads into town for ice and Art asks him to get us a bag please. When he delivers it, he won’t take a cent. Campers are generally beautiful people.

Signs of beaver activity on our walk around the lake.

During the night, I heard an owl hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-ing. Saturday was 75 degrees and sunny. 

The trees speak quietly.


  1. Heidi,
    Did you notice the General Store guys checking out the city girl?

  2. Likely is my favorite place so far! I wouldn't venture there on my own, so am happy to live vicariously through you!!