How to Hide from Horrendous Heat?
The Sequel - Head for the Hills
Some memories stay with you for a lifetime. Some memories fade fast under an oppressive heat of the moment. When it is 105 degrees it is hard to recall the comfort of a cool breeze, or a misty early morning. When it is 70 degrees at 7 AM, and 80 degrees at 8 AM, and over 90 degrees at 9 AM, it is time to head for the hills. To be more precise, I headed to Vermilion Campground on Edison Lake in the Sierra National Forest.
Vermillion Campground is an excellent base for exploring the Ansel Adams or John Muir Wilderness Areas. It is located on the northwest shore of Edison Lake, in a shady stand of Ponderosa pine and lodgepole trees.
The campground is located on the lake, and it is ideal for tents, small RVs and trailers like Eggburt. Visitors can enjoy mountain views of the surrounding John Muir and Ansel Adams Wilderness areas. Canoeing and kayaking near the shoreline are popular activities. Anglers can fish for rainbow, brown or brook trout. Sandy beaches within the campground provide lake access for swimming.
Campsites include a picnic table, campfire ring and a bear-proof food storage locker -which was too small for our ice chest. Some sites are sloped and not suitable for tent camping but there are a couple of absolutely beautiful tent sites overlooking the lake. Vault toilets and water spigots are on-site, but boiling the water is recommended. I drank the water and I didn't get sick.
Edison Lake is more to me than just a beautiful place to escape the heat. In 1991, I made a career change from working on the Sequoia National Forest to being the Wilderness and Recreation Officer for the Pineridge Ranger District of the Sierra National Forest. I remember my first drive over Kaiser Pass Road. The District Ranger and I went for a ride in a green Forest Service blazer up to see the “High Sierra.” We drove, and drove, and drove forever through the wilderness! I was quite convinced that we were driving up and through the John Muir Wilderness and we would soon run over the crest and into the Owens Valley. We could see Banner Peak and Ritter Peak on the horizon in Yosemite National Park and we could identify the backside of Mammoth Mountain.
All that wonderful wild forest stretched on forever.
I promoted past the Wilderness Officer job and came to represent the people of the United States of America in the process to determine how Southern California Edison’s (SCE) would manage their Big Creek Hydroelectric project. Edison Lake is really a hydroelectric reservoir, and SCE brags that the Big Creek Project is “The hardest working water in the world.” Maybe so, because it was a personal and professional challenge to represent the public interest in the project negotiations. I learned a lot, and it was a high point in my 33-year career with the Forest Service. I loved working on that project.
Memory has a strange relationship with reality. I remember my first trip up to the High Sierra. I remember meeting Katy and Toby Horst, owners of Vermillion Valley Resort and I was very afraid of their long lectures on what the Forest Service needed to do for them. I remember the stories about the famous pies of the resort. I recall when they retired, and Butch Wiggs bought the resort and he added a workshop and wanted to put up commercial beer advertising signs that would be visible from the road. And I recall numerous work related trips over the slow, bumpy, pot hole filled, narrow, windy, single lane road over Kaiser Pass. Looking back at my experice with the area, I thought, "It was only a few years ago that I attended the Celebration of Life Services for the two previous owners of the Vermillion Valley Resort."
But was I surprised when I learned that those memories - although clear - were not five years past, but nearly twenty years ago!
Now I get to create new memories, sitting in Vermilion campground, reading my book, drinking a beer, and listening to the wind softly roar through the tops of the trees. The temperatures were comfortably in the 70’s and I could relax and listen to the white-breasted nuthatches gurgle “whit-whit-whit-whit” and watch them hang upside-down looking for bugs to eat on the Ponderosa pine tree trunks.
I have faith that the work I did on that project will keep the campground running for years to come. One day the campground toilets will be replaced with newer designed facilities that should smell better and be easier to keep clean.
Trails in the area will be engineered, not pioneered, and they will gently meander through the forest into the John Muir and Ansel Adams Wildernesses.
And families will come to the lakes and streams and find water flowing through healthy ecosystems with birds, fish, and flourishing fauna.
Fifty years from now, the documents that bear my name will be digitally archived in some corner of a remote server, but the megawatts of electricity generated in these hills won’t suck the land dry. There will be wonderful campgrounds, trails, and a sustainable ecosystem at Edison Lake.
I wonder, "Maybe Whelan on Walkabout will not endure. Maybe it will become short lived and out dated." Vermillion Valley Resort had a blog. The first entry is dated March 2013 but the last entry was only May 10, 2014. http://www.edisonlake.com/blog1 . We will come and go. Our memories will come and go, but the forest will continue. I may have changed, but Vermilion and Edison Lake hasn’t changed a bit.
Some memories will burn out and be lost, some will last forever.
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