At our August meeting, the Siskiyou Writers’ Club chose Alan Eddy’s story
Camping in the MARBLE MOUNTANS
A good portion of my childhood was spent camping in the Marble Mountain Primitive Area with my dad, Harold R. Eddy and then later with friends and my own family. My dad had little education but had somehow learned a great deal about forest biology. Recognizing the forests he knew were rapidly disappearing as they were being opened to logging, he made a concerted effort to show me what nature was like in its natural state.
We rode, him leading on his buckskin horse Tucky with me following on coal black Patsy to many locations both in pristine forests and areas that had been freshly logged. Our trips lasted anywhere from an afternoon to a weekend, or sometimes even a week. On the longer trips we would bring Abe, a huge packhorse with an affinity for hitting trees with his pack. The pack boxes my dad made for our longer trips were the best I’ve ever seen. They even folded out to make a table when we were in camp.
A typical weekend trip to the “Marbles” would start with loading our pack boxes with food on Thursday evening and then me hauling out the saddles and tack Friday morning. We would try to get my dad’s truck loaded and take off shortly after lunch and then proceed to the Fort Jones Drugstore for a mandatory chocolate milkshake before driving to John Heide’s ranch in Quartz Valley where we kept our horses.
It was a 14 mile ride from the Heide ranch up Shackelford Creek to Summit Lake, which was our usual destination as the fishing there was excellent. There had been a huge landslide in 1954 that extended into the upper end of the lake and about 20 feet of a very large Red Fir tree protruded out into the lake itself making for a perfect place to fish. Quite often one of us would grab a fishing pole and catch enough fish for a late supper while the other set up camp and tended to the horses. These were salubrious times and I remember them with great fondness.
Sometimes dad and I would go alone and other times he would invite guests to come with us. These included George Curtis a feature writer for the Siskiyou Daily News, Sheriff Al Cotter, and Morris Friedman part owner of the American Laundry in Yreka.
On two occasions my dad even hosted the Yreka High School Future Farmers boys and their teacher Jim Elsea. We camped at Bull Meadows located within an easy walk to Campbell, Cliff, and Summit lakes where they could go fishing. The first trip went very well but the second was pretty much a disaster. It began on a wonderful hot and cloudless summer afternoon that lasted until we got set up in camp. Then the sky opened into a downpour that lasted all night and well into the next morning. My dad and I had our tarps from the packhorses which kept us mostly dry, but the boys had neither raincoats, nor a dry place to sleep so they stayed up all night heaping wood on a big campfire standing around facing the fire while their backs got soaking wet. Then they would turn around and dry off their backs in a never-ending cycle trying to stay a bit warm. The final insult happened that morning when the boys, most of whom had young, spirited horses, tried to saddle up and mount their unwilling steeds. We had a rodeo!
My best friend, Bob Wilcox and I both realized that after the summer of 1957 we would have to work so we made plans to spend a whole month in the Marbles. We talked to my dad, who enthusiastically agreed to help by taking our supplies by packhorse up to Big Elk Lake and then resupplying us at Bull Meadows two weeks later. We had a wonderful time exploring about half of the entire Marble Mountain Primitive Area; hiking, fishing, setting up camp, and generally learning for the first time, to be on our own..
One experience I will always remember, however, could have ended in tragedy. Bob and I decided the week after Christmas 1961 to hike about half way up Shackelford Creek to Log Lake, leave our packs in the big meadow adjacent to the lake and then hike up to and see if Campbell, Cliff and Summit Lakes were frozen. It was cold, but we could make the circuit around all three lakes with enough time to set up camp, build a fire and even cut a hole in the ice to fish before cooking supper and turning in for the night.
Log Lake was frozen solid and snow free. There was however, about eight inches of snow on the ground but we had no problem walking through the long meadow and then up the steep trail to Campbell Lake. We didn’t have snowshoes but it was a beautiful cloudless winter day and pleasant hiking so long as we didn’t have to stop. With the foolish bravery of youth, I didn’t bring a coat and instead relied only on my Pendleton wool shirt for warmth.
Campbell Lake was not completely frozen, so we only walked a short distance on the ice at the lower end before continuing uphill to Cliff Lake. Higher in elevation, it was frozen completely over with thick, hard ice. The lake was safe to walk on but a long way from our camp, so we trooped back downhill to Bull Meadow and then up the small ridge separating it from Summit Lake. Up until this time we had not encountered much snow. Coming down to this lake was different. Summit Lake was completely frozen and covered by two feet of snow. We couldn’t see the ice and had no way to test its thickness. The trail that skirted the lake’s edge and would take us back to our camp at Log Lake was covered in over three feet of snow and impossible to walk through. By this time, we were tired and after attempting to wade through the deep snow, we decided to walk across the lake even though we couldn’t see the ice. We knew it was dangerous as snow is an insulator and the ice might not be as thick as the ice on Cliff Lake but decided to take a chance with me walking 20 feet behind Bob so there would be less weight on the ice. We made it!
As the saying goes, “God looks out for fools and children.”
Log Lake is not much bigger than a frog pond and unbeknown to us, the outlet had thawed letting water escape so there was a gap between the water which normally supported the ice and the ice itself. Bob and I walked to the middle of the lake where we thought it would be the best fishing and I took a big swing with my camp axe to chop a hole. The ice shattered! Cracks began radiating out in all directions! I yelled at Bob to run, and we got ashore without getting wet, but it definitely ended our ice fishing. That night I witnessed one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. The surface snow on the large meadow and the ridge above had turned into ice crystals and with the full moon shining, it looked as if our whole world was covered with diamonds.
Alan R. Eddy August 30, 2023
The Siskiyou Writers’ Club is a local group of folks with a passion for creative writing of all genres. At its August meeting, Alan Eddy’s story, Camping in the Marble Mountains, was the club’s top choice.
The club generally meets the last Thursday of the month in various locations throughout Siskiyou County. For more information, contact Mike Grifantini, 530-710-4882, email [email protected]
or Bob Kaster, 530-598-5204, email [email protected].
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