27-Dec-2000 -- On the evening of December 26, 2000 I sent
my partner in confluence hunting an e-mail stating something to the effect
that we should start thinking about n39 x w123... The following morning I
am jolted from a sound sleep by Avin's phone call... "OK, lets go today..."
I throw some clothes on and toss a few things in the cooler for
lunch and Avin rings the doorbell, his gear is in my "Zookster" ready
to go. The Ancient Geographers were about to depart for Lake county,
about eighty miles west of Yuba City, CA. We hurry to get in the
"Zookster" because that will be the last chance we have to hurry...
the little machine with it's 1.5 Liter engine clicks along at 55 mph. just fine
but no more than that. On uphill grades often much less, downhill sometimes
more. I have given us the name Ancient Geographers due to the fact that
our combined ages is a little more than 130.5 years. Our combined weight
is a secret but we do stabilize the Zookster.
The trip to Lake county takes us across miles of rice fields filled with
millions of ducks and geese this time of the year. Beyond the rice-lands
comes the Sacramento River then the cotton fields, more rice and then
vineyards of Coulsa County. Wine grapes are the new gold of Northern
California. Formerly grown only in Napa, Sonoma and Mendicino counties,
they are now grown clear to the Sierra Nevada's on the eastern side of
the Sacramento Valley.
The land changes dramatically as we approach the first vineyards.
The miles of flat valley floor suddenly become huge mounds of ancient
sea-floor mud, thrust up into huge ridges, some rounded others jagged
like the teeth of some ancient monster that might have lived there in
times long gone. These mountains are relatively young as mountains go
and changes (land-slides and erosion) often change their appearance
dramatically. Blue oaks and several species of dwarf oaks cover much
of these hills and cattle graze on many of the hillsides. Deer and elk
herds a common site in this area.
We continue west on Highway 20 past scattered cattle ranches and
closed quicksilver mines to the junction of Highway 20 and Highway 53.
Turning south on 53 we travel through the towns of Clearlake Park and
Clearlake dumbfounded by their growth until we come to Lower Lake
and Highway 29. Here we turn west again crossing to the south of Clear
Lake. Clear Lake is a rather large shallow lake noted for it's resorts, sailing
and bass fishing tournaments. There is nothing clear about it. It is incredibly
developed along the shoreline and has a huge quicksilver (mercury) mine
on it's eastern shore. Natural deposits of soda and sulfur give some of the
local hot springs a distinctive aroma. Names like Soda Bay, Sulfur Bank,
Borax Lake and Little Borax Lake give a clue to the volcanic nature of this
area. Mt Konocti is veined with natural volcanic glass (obsidian) which can
raise havoc with tires and hiking boots. The heavy growth of brush in many
areas provides cover for all sorts of wildlife including rattlesnakes, coyotes,
bobcats, bear and deer.
We continued up highway 29 to Highway 175 between Kelseyville
and Lakeport. Taking 175 west (29 had turned north) we started watching
our respective GPS receivers. We were getting close. 38°59' north by
122°58' west would be the turn-off we were looking for. I had mad up a
quickie map with Street Atlas 3 with Long/Lat. map notes beginning with
the gravel road that turned north from Highway 175. North on this fine
gravel road to the first closed gate to the left. A fire road at 39° 00' 04"
north by 123° 00' 03" west was the way-point. Parking the Zookster
we took our cameras and GPS receivers and hiked up the fire road past the
123° 00' 00" looking to see if the brush thinned out. Near the top of the
hill a sharp turn to the left doubled back to a clearing, possibly a heli-pad
for the fire crews. An old burn, the entire area was manzanita so thick
as to be impassable. Just beyond the heli-pad was a recent re-burn of the
brush. A fire from this summer and it looked like our goal was in this
semi-clear area. A few minutes of wading through the burned manzanita
gave both of us semi-permanent tiger stripes from the charcoal limbs drawing
across our clothes.
The fact that we were in a clearing near the top of a hill made getting a
fix easier than last time at n40 x 121w in snow covered second growth.
We were truly lucky. This year's spot fire had exposed our site and cut
hours of work for us. Manzanita and its associate, buckbrush can make
travel almost impossible except on game trails which never go where I
want to go.
The View of Mt. Konocti was screened by trees on a nearby ridge.
Konocti is actually a volcanic mountain composed of many peaks including:
Buckingham Peak, Clark Peak, Wright Peak, Howard Peak and South
Peak. We were able to see Clear Lake from the site although not well.
A short hike up the hill provided a much better view. One of the many
minor volcanic cones north of Konocti is visible in one of my photos and
Konocti is visible through the trees in the other. A short distance to the
west of the confluence is a Pomo Indian reservation. For those who are
into the names of small mountain ranges this confluence is located in the
Our next trip will be planned for sure. We have used up all of our luck
finding easy sites. The next one will probably be in the bottom of a snake
filled canyon or on top of some vertical formation that has never been