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Archive for Canoeing

Camping at Butt Lake and Lake Almanor, Plumas County, California

This is a photo of my mom on Butt Lake in a camping lounge chair.

My Mom on Butt Lake, Plumas County, CA

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.

This is a photo of Butt Lake Reservoir in Plumas County, CA.

Butt Lake Reservoir

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Boat, fish, hike, relax and BBQ under the pines with a fantastic view all day.

    This is a photo of Hugh checking the foot pedals inside the kayak.

    Hugh checking the foot pedals of the kayak.

Some draw backs to the Lake:

  1. Pit toilets.
  2. No showers within ten miles.
  3. Bears. (Oh, my!)
  4. More than ten miles for a good espresso drink unless you come equipped with your own.
  5. 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.
  6. The campground is only open from mid-May through mid-September.
  7. 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.

This is a photo of Hugh Peterson paddling on Butt Lake Reservoir.

Hugh paddling on Butt Lake Reservoir.

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.

This is a photo of Anand in a kayak on Butt Lake, CA.

Anand Kolatkar paddling on Butt Lake Reservoir.

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!

This is a photo of Anne Marie Peterson-Kolatkar on Butt Lake Reservior.

Annie on Butt Lake Reservoir.

Art: Historic Barn in Chester, CA (Lake Almanor)

This is a photo of an oil painting by Anne Marie Peterson-Kolatkar of the famous wooden barn in the town of Chestor, Lake Almanor CA

Chester Barn - Lake Almanor, CA

This century old barn doesn’t like intimacy. It’s distant and cordoned off with barbed wire. The tall grasses have burrs, snakes and spiders lurking and signs are posted for no trespassing. It’s tempting to cross the line and explore. If I did cross the line, I would be posting my photos here for your viewing pleasure.

There is not a single piece of metal holding this old barn together according to some of the locals in Chester, CA. Wooden nails were crafted to “pin” all pieces of this barn together. A few years before he died, 85 year old Harvey Chaput snuck his girlfriend, 75 year old Shirley Fichera, in to take pictures and tell her all about its remarkable history. A brief search on the web doesn’t reveal much about the barn and I wish I had recorded their comments.

This is a photo of Shirley Fichera from Chester, CA.

Shirley Fichera from Chester, CA

My friend Shirley did share some images with me of her time with Harvey in the barn, but they were slightly blurred and printed on copy paper and difficult to scan and Photoshop. She used to live on Melissa Avenue and looked out at the old barn every day. She often took photos of it in all kinds of weather. She declared this barn to be “super-deluxe” on any day of the week and I think she still loves it more than me.

This is a photo of Shirley Fichera from Chester, CA on her three-wheeler bike.

Shirley on her three-wheeler bike.

It’s located on Melissa Avenue near the north western edge of Lake Almanor, a man made lake created by Western Power Co. (WPC) back in the late 1920’s and today Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) uses it to create power from the north fork of the Feather River’s hydroelectric plant. Lake Almanor got its name from the Western Power Company’s president, Mr. Guy C. Earl who took letters from his three daughter’s first names: Alice, Martha and Elinor. The dam was completed in 1914 and about 20% of the lake filled in before the entire project was completed by 1926. WPC later merged with another company and became Great Western Power before being acquired by North American Company before they sold it to PG&E, the lake’s owner’s today.

The Feather River is a stone’s throw to the southwest of the barn and owls nest inside its many dusty rafters. The property is flat and stretches to the irregular shores of the lake.Wild geese and other birds use the land extensively throughout the year and it has the feeling of a wildlife preserve. Here is a link to view the barn on  Google Maps using a local address at the street level. You can use this link to get directions to the barn if you wish to visit it.

This empty barn has caused quite a bit of concern for the town in recent years. A popular motel chain was all set to tear it down and build a hefty number of units on the property until the locals set out to “Save The Barn” and drive them back. It remains the town’s one unique icon.

My family has been visiting Lake Almanor over the last thirty years and loves this little piece of mountain heaven in Northern California near Mount Lassen. When the lake’s campgrounds get full we head over to Butt Lake; yeah, I know, we find the name funny too.  Butt Lake actually is an awesome little hidden gem just south of Lake Almanor and is also owned by PG&E. It’s a spillway for the bigger lake and is shallow and calm which makes for great canoeing, kayaking, swimming and so forth. There are no showers at Butt Lake, but you can always go up to the mobile home park with a handful of quarters and grab a hot shower. Sunday is the best day to check in on either lake as people leave on the last day of the weekend, but get there early. Please see my other post on Butt Lake.

This is a photo of the historic barn in the town of Chester on Lake Almanor.

Historic Barn in Chester, CA

Love At First Sight: The Day I Met The Barn
It was 1989 and I was in my early twenties, living in Nob Hill (Nob Slope?) of San Francisco and working downtown. It was exciting to escape the daily grind and drive five hours north for a quick weekend getaway.  Since most of my holidays back then were spent sailing inland and coastal waters, I hadn’t been dirt camping in over a year. This painting can still evoke the smell and warmth of the summer mountain air when I look at this picture.

I was meeting my parents at the local Catholic church, Christ the King, on Melissa Avenue one evening and had my boyfriend at the time with me. I couldn’t wait to grab my 35mm camera and capture the late afternoon sun as it did magical things to the land, barn and dry grasses. In a flash of knowing, I knew it would be a painting*.

This was one of those paintings that just flew out of me. I used a style of painting that is my own version of Impressionism. Up close, the paint daubs decompose and look strange, at a distance, the daubs come together perfectly and form images that look highly realistic…and the rest of the painting is interwoven with realism that is smooth and even. It’s actually my favorite way to paint and wish I could always paint like this, but not every subject/painting demands it.

The color palette was simple: burnt and red sienna, yellow ochres and umbers, cadmium yellow highlights and I cooled everything down with some cobalt blue and titanium white. If I recall correctly, this canvas is about 16″ x 24″ and the perfect size for this distant barn.

With each returning visit to this town, I pay my respects to the barn and take new photos hoping for another flash that will urge me to paint another canvas of this all wood beauty.


* I don’t know the person who bought this painting, she was living in Marin County at the time –perhaps San Anselmo, and I would like to know for my records. If you have seen or own this painting, please contact me. Thank you!