Even though my mom is quite the “city girl” she would never dream of living any place else but San Francisco because she is a country girl at heart. Having come from the middle of Ireland where the cattle graze on green fields and the common saying about hale and hearty countrywomen is “Beef to the heels like a Mullingar heifer”, her favorite escape is Nature.
For a good number of years when we were young children, my family enjoyed Hidden Springs State Park in the coastal redwoods near Eureka until my mom got the wild idea to go somewhere else for a change. With a bit of research, my wilderness loving Dad found Lake Almanor and they were off for a new adventure. But, as it would happen, there was one year when the campgrounds at that lake were full up and the overflow was being directed to Cool Springs Campground at Butt Lake Reservoir, about ten miles away.
Yeah, the name Butt Lake still makes us laugh and we did ask ourselves “Just how good can a lake be with a name like Butt Lake?”
Butt Lake, we decided had some great advantages from the start:
- It has two ends and quite a bit of distance between the two campgrounds which makes for low density population in the water and around the camp during the day. There are a total of (I think) almost three dozen campsites.
- We found the campgrounds among the pines quite suitable for pitching tents as they were cleared and flat and without stones. The parking pads are suitable for an RV as there are full hook-ups. We were able to put two pickup trucks in one parking slot. It’s tight, but it worked okay.
- The lake is shallow near the shore and kids and people who don’t swim well can play or lounge in the warm, sun heated water.
- Since the lake is in a canyon, the winds are predictable and no more than a gentle 5-8 knots at sunrise and sunset. This makes for great canoeing, kayaking and any other water sport. Lake Almanor, in contrast has a vast number of speed boats, wave runners and other gas powered toys out on the water making noise all day long –and night.
- Boat, fish, hike, relax and BBQ under the pines with a fantastic view all day.
Some draw backs to the Lake:
- Pit toilets.
- No showers within ten miles.
- Bears. (Oh, my!)
- More than ten miles for a good espresso drink unless you come equipped with your own.
- A couple can only stay at a campground (if full or during peak season) for 25-30 hours during the week. This means you can stay for 1 day, but truth be told, we have spent a week there with no one to tell us otherwise. I”m not sure where this rule comes from, but I have never seen rangers enforce it.
- The campground is only open from mid-May through mid-September.
- Instead of 5 hours away like it once was, it is now 13.5 hours away since we moved to San Diego, CA. It’s been really difficult to get back there given our schedules since it represents two days of driving for us.
After staying at Butt Lake and enjoying the feeling of cozy canyon intimacy we opted to return here instead of the big lake, Almanor, with her sweeping vistas and spectacular sunsets. We’d found a surprising friend in Butt Lake.
My brother, Hugh brings the toys and here we are with his kayaks, enjoying a spin on the lake.
Mom loves to sit under the shade of the pines and let the breeze off the lake cool her as she reads and relaxes.
I bring up a pitch-up tent and we usually leave it all week on the shore with stakes driven into the legs to keep it anchored there when the winds come up. It’s handy for hanging beach towels to dry and getting out of the sun when it gets too hot.
Our morning ritual is to drive into Chester to the coffee-drive-through for espresso drinks and grab a mocha or Americano with cream before wandering over to one of the breakfast spots. It’ll be our second or third coffee of the day since Hugh is a barista in his own right and has a coffee roaster at home and grinds his own beans using a A/C adapter in his truck to power the grinder. We use a classic coffee press and enjoy hot coffee under the canopy of needles to the cawing of ravens, crows and blue jays.
The mobile home park in Lake Almanor near Butt Lake Reservoir has hot showers and it’s the perfect way to end the day before going to bed.
In my next post, I will share a funny episode with some local kids we know here through my brother. Oh, and here I am in a kayak!