I remember when we were growing up and how the family would always go camping. Our favorite place for a very long time had been Lake Cachuma and I believe our favorite campsite was A54. This campsite designation could be wrong but it is the letter/number designation that came to mind first when I just now thought of Lake Cachuma. I remember how we would always go for long walks, hikes through the campground area and it seemed that we would always find something new. We would see similar people from time to time, and we would wave a friendly hello, and sometimes even stop to chat a bit. Especially if the family also had children of around the same age as us and I must have been around 8ish, I think. Lake Cachuma was a water reservoir, which I never really understood as a kid, but all I knew was that the water was always kind of smelly, and very green, and mossy, which I did not like at all. The good part of the lake being a water reservoir was that there were no fast boats on the water. This also meant that boat activity on the water was relatively quiet, especially since it was a lake that you typically visited and used for fishing sport. Dogs were not allowed at the lakeshore, or in the lake at all…it was after all a water reservoir, which meant there was no swimming in the lake either. I wouldn’t have gone swimming in that lake anyway as the murky green moss and unknown depths always gave me major heebee-jeebees.
Some of the mossy areas of the lake looked outright gross, but dad said those were the good areas to go fishing because there was a lot of oxygen and other ‘things’ for the fish to eat in those areas. During our walks, we would travel the shore of the lake, and sometimes stop to throw rocks into the water. Gib and I loved throwing rocks into the water and sometimes the bigger, the better. We were always careful during our walks along the water to watch our footing as much of the area was very chunky with calcite-type rocks. Rarely were there any really cool rocks near the water, but that didn’t mean there weren’t any because we’d find them sometimes.
The air temperature at Lake Cachuma always seemed to be very hot. It was either quite warm, or hot. I don’t think it was every really cool during the day, although I believe it did cool down at night, which was nice.
I remember how during our walks there were sometimes high banks that separated the lake itself from the dry land and campsites. This gave most every campsite a beautiful view of the water, and the view of the water was indeed beautiful. At least it was for us, when we were kids. I think all large bodies of water look quite spectacular.
Sometimes the banks were covered with different sizes of the calcite rocks, some large and some small. If there weren’t rocks, there was dirt. Very dry, and hard dirt. Seemed like the only plant life that grew around the lake and surrounding areas were oak trees, and they were large. The oak tree leaves were always prickly and dry themselves. Seemed like there were the same amount of dry/dead leaves on the ground as there were on the tree itself.
During our walk on this one particular day, there were five of us. Dad, Kath, cousin Laurie, Gib, and me. Mom stayed back at the campsite I believe to be with King, since we couldn’t leave him alone, and we didn’t know where we would be walking. We were headed to the left direction of the campsite, so that if you were standing with your back facing the water, looking at our campsite, we were headed to the left. During this trek, our path led us on a narrow, but safe enough walking trail, where you could still clearly see the lake, as we were probably only 30 or 40 feet or so from the shore. But this area was a bit different in that there was a relatively small bank around the water of calcite rock, about 20 feet wide, then the rock hard earth rose about 5-6 feet that would essentially form a larger reservoir to expand the lake’s water capacity with more precipitation. Beyond that rise, was our narrow walking path, and beyond our narrow walking path still further away from the water was a rather steep incline that led to a higher elevation on which there were more campsites. I remember on the steep incline there were oak trees around, but not in this specific area where it looked as if other people had at one time hiked up to get to the next raised, and possibly flat area at the top. The hill looked very intriguing, as most adventure-filled possibilities look, and of course we wanted to climb to the top, or at least see how far we could go. ‘How far we could go’…not sure what that really meant, as I don’t think none of us had envisioned, or clearly thought-out any sort of conclusion to this venture. From what I remember, Kath and Laurie were playing it rather safe, staying close to the ground surface, and not going too far up to get into trouble. Gib and I on the other hand were, at least from my perspective, more adventurous and as a result we hiked higher on the hill. Dad, stayed on the narrow path and was probably worried to death as he kept telling us to be careful.
Never once did I think of an end result that wouldn’t be good, so I kept going, fearlessly. We hiked up sideways so that we could get the most traction with two feet while shimmying up the hill. I believe at this point, Kath and Laurie were lower on the hill than I was, but Gib was higher, and I wanted to catch up to his level. Never being on an incline of this degree before, I wasn’t fully privy to the overall basic forces of General Relativity, and how gravity, combined with speed plays out with increasing momentum while traveling down a decline.
So I decided to turn at one point of my hike. Turn, as in pivot my body 180 degrees so that my left foot was no longer the one lower on the hillside, but rather my right foot. At least that was my intention but this was not a smart decision on my part. No longer crouched down and using my hands to maintain balance while on the incline I slowly rose to a standing position and began my pivot counter-clockwise to change my orientation on the hill. My orientation changed alright because my weight distribution had shifted and I the upper part of my body was going to ‘fall’ forward. Only in this case, forward meant down the hill because that is the only direction that gravity will take a mass of weight in a ‘dropping’ circumstance.
To counter my inevitable ‘fall’, I took a step forward, which was a step in the downward spiral. One step led to another step and quickly momentum took over. I no longer had control of myself or the situation and I ran, very fast, down the hill in terror.
I now know that my personal terror was nothing in comparison to the terror that dad was experiencing as he saw his son careening fast down a hill that would lead to a 5-6 foot drop-off onto a rubble of hard and often sharp-edged calcite rocks. As in all adrenaline filled situations, there was no time to do anything that required contemplation. I just ran uncontrollably down the hill. In front of the terrain drop, dad positioned himself in my direct path, ready to ‘catch’ me. Although there was no ‘catching’ involved, dad served as my hard hitting point of contact as I plowed into him in one blow. Upon impact, dad went flying to the terrain below. Fortunately he did not hit his head or sustain any bad injuries, but his 1960’s wide black-framed glasses with one horizontally inlaid diamond shape in the two upper corners of the lenses flew off and broke. I’m sure they were badly scratched as well but mom fixed them with epoxy glue from what I can remember. Not sure if she had that in her Mary Poppins bag, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she did. Dad saved me from serious injury no doubt. He risked his own life really to save me, his son. It was certainly a scary moment, but most definitely a heartwarming memory.