Archives: Founders' first trip to a coastal lake

by Gabriel Howe
for the Siskiyou Hiker

It was 2010 and Jill and I had $100 between us. Fed the silver Ford Taurus some gas, bought some hot dogs, and headed for the Redwood Highway 199. Got to the coast, went north, and then up a wild-flowing coastal river.

Stayed up late and left before the sun came up.

Drove up and up and up that cursed road and the ditches grew to trenches that wound from left to right, straight down the middle, on and off. I finessed the front wheels, contouring the channels, the crunch of the gravel chewing on the Taurus's street tires. The shocks hit and the bottom rattled. I got out to look for fluid leaks and it all seemed fine. Inching along, we made it to the trailhead.

Hiked up this perfectly-little red rock trail that zig zagged up and around an orange-hued slope. I remember the Bolander lilly and the azaleas, the Port Orford cedar, the irises. A deluge of life that made its home here in the geologic madness of the Josephine ultramafic sheet. As we reached a ridge saddle, a wild and wondrous world opened up all around.

We were enveloped by a sanctuary of mountains on every horizon, and the surf of the Pacific was far to the west, and right underneath us, there it was.

The lake. And, no, it wasn't 2010. It was 2009. We'd marry a few months later. Been there maybe a dozen times since, now with kids in tow and when we get to the lake we all become kids and splash and play for a couple days straight.

The lake rests at about 4,000 feet, and at some point I understand a glacier carved out this northeast-facing cirque. A peak looms over it and you can hike to the top.

In 2017, the four of us watched a sunset from up there. A tsunami of gratitude came over me as the sun sank into the Pacific. We had everything that really matters right there. So summiting that peak with your family and watching the sunset is something I would highly recommend.

But back to the summer of 2009 and about that first voyage to the lake. We swam for hours, drove back at dusk with the kiss of the sun on us. We got to the beach, roasted those hotdogs on sticks of driftwood, slept in the open and in the morning the tide came up on us. On the way back home, the needle got close to empty as we approached Medford but we were full of love, adventure, and it felt like we had stumbled upon a treasure.

Truly the best $100 I've ever spent, and it never felt so good to be broke. ###

Want to learn more about this wild place? Join our stewardship coordinator Alex Relph Thursday, June 6 from 630pm - 730pm at 33 3rd Street, Ashland, OR for our program, Explore the Kalmiopsis.

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