Monday, September 30, 2013

A Wrinkle in Time(or just Wrinkled by Time?)....Camping At Blue Creek

 So for the past 3 or 4 years the Gardners, Skidmores and Grovers have been having FHE dinners on Monday nights...and each week they all write a little story from their lives and read it to each now they have MANY!(and know each other REALLY well).... I joined them the last few weeks (since Skidmores are gone) and have started writing a few little memories...this was my first one...if any of you (kids) have suggestions of topics for me, let me know...they will be pretty random!

Camping at Blue Creek
  Dean family vacations usually consisted of going fishing on the Klamath River for two weeks every August, when the Steelhead were "running." Grandpa Roger grew up fishing for trout, having spent a lot of summers camping and fishing in Yosemite.

But all that changed when he married into Grandma Janiece's family. Grampa Lou and Grandma Della were avid salmon/steelhead fishermen, serious "food gatherers" as they had survived the Depression...and my father was "hooked" after landing his first 30 lb. salmon.

So every August we prepared to head into the wilds of the Klamath River, sometimes with both sets of grandparents. Mom's main job as we gathered all our camping and fishing equipment seemed to be making cookies.  Purchasing cookies was never considered, probably out of economy, and since making cookies on a camp stove wasn't possible, she baked batches of our favorites which she stored in 1 gallon glass jars. Of course it never occurred to us to go WITHOUT cookies for two weeks! So in the warm days of August our counters were filled with chocolate chip, snowflake and apricot filled cookies as the jars filled up. Gramdpa Roger would usually have to do most of the packing as mom pretty much exhausted herself getting the cookies made.

Finally departure day arrived. Valerie, and I (and eventually Jesse) piled into the cozy bed made in the back of the station wagon (no seat belts in those days) with piles of comic books to keep ourselves entertained for the 8 hour trip. We drove up the Redwood Highway which wasn't a freeway in those days. Geyserville, Cloverdale, Ukiah, then past the entrance to the Drive Thru Tree...we never stopped of course...Grandpa Roger would never waste money on a "tourist trap"! On to Garberville, past the Benbow Inn, north to Scotia and Fortuna.  Somewhere along there was the little town of Pepperwood where we would stop at a roadside fruit stand and buy a case of tomatoes and corn.  Midafternoon we'd go through foggy Eureka where we might get to stop at the Woolworth's and I'd get some stamped pillow cases to embroider....and also a few more comic books. finally we went through a tiny wide spot in the road called Orick and knew we would soon see the Klamath Bears guarding the bridge over the Klamath River.
But we weren't there yet! four miles up the river Grandma and Grandpa Eck would be waiting for us at Klamath Glen where we launched our boat. We loaded all our gear into our boat(including our cookies), probably  a 16 foot with a 25-30 hp outboard engine and started the 15 mile trip up river.  Often water from the Klamath had been lowered for agricultural needs over the summer and there were many areas that had barely enough water to allow the boat's passage...these were called "riffles". If the prop of Dad's engine hit a rock, the "pin" holding the prop on would break or "shear" off, and Dad would have to stop in the rocky shallows, get out of the boat, slosh to the back, raise the engine up out of the water and replace the pin. Sometimes it seemed this happened 10 or 12 times before we finally got up to the deep water part of the Klamath.

Finally we made it. Our favorite up river camping spot was where Blue Creek flowed into the Klamath.  There was a high rocky bank alongside this small stream of melting snow where we pitched our tents and set up camp.  Both my grandmothers were excellent campers and soon we were set, the "bathroom" area established, the tents erected, and the fire pit filled with wood for our first campfire.

     Then followed days of lazy delight...pancakes and bacon for breakfast, days spent swimming in the cold waters of Blue Creek, diving off the rocky mountain wall it hugged.  Afternoons munching peanut butter and tuna sandwithed and reading comics in our sun warmed tent.  Or maybe we'd dig "mudsuckers" out of the shallow pools along the river edge. In 1958 Jesse was a year old and learned to walk on the rocky banks...when we got home to flat floors he really took off!

Back along the bluffs of the river were acres of wild blackberries. Grandpa Lou would cut paths into them with his machete and we would gear up with long sleeved shirts, hats and garden gloves with the finger tips cut out to facilitate our berry picking.  We filled 5 gallon buckets with the delicious fruit.  Grandma Janiece and Grandma Della would then make and can dozens of jars of blackberry jelly on the camp stove.

Grampa Roger and my grandparents spent most days fishing and would return home with dinner! Much of their catch was taken down to the Glen where it was smoked and canned or frozen in milk cartons and taken home to stock our larders.  At dinner time we feasted on fresh fish, tomatoes and corn, biscuits and blackberry cobbler around the campfire.  As we sat contentedly eating, Grandpa Roger would usually say, "I wonder how the poor people are living"!

(Photos: me...about 10 with a fairly good sized fish...I cleaned it myself; Grandpa Earle...he was pretty proud of his fish; me and Grandpa Lou, Grandma Della holding Val in front of their airstream trailer; me sitting in the boat...that car was eventually given to mom and dad and I drove it to high school; a tug boat pulling a raft of logs down the Klamath; Grampa Roger with some nice fish in his boat...Dean's Delight)

Postscript: Here's another picture I found of the bridge over the Klamath River after the floods(1955)...notice the logs caught in the cross braces...water filled the valley and came over the top of the bridge!

1 comment:

  1. Awesome mom... It'd be fun to go back there and camp & fish some time!