It All Began… so Very Long Ago

Sixty plus years ago there was an inkling, a start of what was to come. First a log raft, circa… well… in the 1950’s. It was a taste. Freedom from the shore. Possibilities were kindled that sunny day.

After the log raft came a 12foot aluminum cartop boat with a 5 horspower Clinton engine. No reverse, just forward. Once it coughed to life it moved forward. To go backward it needed to be swiveled 180 degrees around so it pointed backwards and took the boat that way. Neat. Elegantly simple. It was the family boat, but I was the only one who really used it. I built a sort of 4 wheel A frame go-cart with a front rotating axle. It had a loop of sisal rope tied on either end of the axel so I could drag it down to Steilacoom lake and fool around. Fooling around consisted of fishing, exploring, pirating and just plain hanging out. Those were the mission impossibles made possible by that first real boat. I’d go with my brother and sister every once in a while, but they had other things to do besides hang out with me on a boring old boat. I’d take out friends, but usually it was mostly me. Solo, conquering my little world within Steilacoom Lake. I was probably 11 years old and for 23 cents a day I could cruise around and dream. It was what, the early 1960’s. Elvis was king and I didn’t know who he was. The Beatles were still a few years away. Those were tender years…

My second craft was a 10 foot fold-able kayak I built in wood shop in the 7th grade when I was… hmmm… 12 years old. It was amazingly seaworthy and I had it and used it for years. The last time I used it was a trip I took to a little lake, Bald Hill Lake, that I’d camped at as a Scout. I had memories about that place… Getting up at O’ dark 30 and building a camp fire to get warm after freezing all night long in a canvas tent, with no floor, with nothing but a ground cloth under a mostly cotton sleeping bag with pictures of ducks on the inside fabric. Building the fire was challenging because being a good scout I’d prepped the kindling the night before, but it was coated with ice by morning. A light rain had fallen during the night and then frozen. Of course I got the fire going! And got warm. And reveled in it…

10 years later as I approached Bald Hill Lake, I was saying goodbye to the Pacific Northwest. Les and I had gotten married and were moving to Southern California so she could finish her interrupted Interior Designer degree. I had just graduated with a Pharmacy degree from the University of Washington and it was time. Time for change. Time to move on.

There was clear-cut logging alongside the approach to the lake. As I drove in the gravel access road, parked the car and started putting my folding kayak together I could hear heavy grunting of diesel engines nearby. I paddled out onto the lake. Bald Hill Lake was not a large lake and lillypads had started to encroach on much of what used to be open water, but it was pristine and alive with all of the creatures that inhabit shallow foothill mountain lakes surrounded by deep forest. I paddled out to the middle following the open channels, lilly pad villages tugging at my craft and trying to ensnare my paddle. I stopped. The engines were closer and I could see red alder trees on the close by Southern shore being savaged and torn down by monster D-18 cats paving the way for other machinery to get to the stands of fir and hemlock that had not been touched for 100 years.

The water next to my craft was vibrating. Tiny wavelets emanated from the hull and moved away in all directions. The power of the machines was that great, and their disturbance that final. I stayed for a bit, enveloped in a profound sadness as if the sky was crying as the trees were dying. They were probably screaming out, but I couldn’t hear them. Humans move too fast to listen to such things.

I left the lake, and packed up my boat. It was the last time I ever used it. I left the Pacific Northwest, and was gone for 45 years.

Now I’m back…

I googled the lake… and 45 years later… it is still there. Waiting to say hello. Maybe a drive up to Eatonville is in order… Maybe this time I’ll be able to listen…

3 thoughts on “It All Began… so Very Long Ago

  1. I remember Bald Hill Lake. I think I camped there while with the Scouts and also during college. Really cold with the Scouts because of the crappy gear we had.

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