Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Leaving the Crowds Behind for a Magical World Along the Lake

Saturday morning is cloudy and cool, the smell of rain in the air - lovely. Needing to access email, and check in with family, we opt for breakfast at the general store. The staff and locals are friendly, and my homemade spinach and feta croissant is delicious. Something about hanging your purse on the gumball machine, and sitting in front of the soda cooler that gives everything a "tiny town" taste :-)

We head to Convict Lake where we hear the fish are biting. Apparently this information has been broadcast widely as the place is crazy-crowded. Not only are there dozens of people fishing along the shoreline, but several fishing boats dot the small lake. 

A peek of Convict Lake 
In addition to all the fishermen, tourists taking photos of the fall color fill the walkways, parking lot, and benches. The combination of bearded, camo-wearing sportsmen and non-English-speaking women in heels and skirts (really!) is bizarre. We belatedly realize it's Saturday, and although it is a beautiful spot, we have no desire to hang around with a couple hundred other folks.

A short distance from the lake we find a dirt road to a creek in the trees. The growth is too thick to access the water, but it's so wonderfully peaceful, we hang out a bit just to enjoy the quiet beauty.

Color along the creek

Just look up
Natural still-life
When we return to Hwy 395 dark clouds sit on the mountains surrounding us, but we're not ready to stop exploring. The skies above us are blue with pretty puffy clouds.

Bill has an "idea" so we head south of Crowley Lake and turn east at Tom's Place. After a couple miles through log cabins we take a wide dirt road that runs alongside a deep gorge in another valley that seems to go forever. Eventually we cross the dam that created Crowley Lake decades ago.

Another dirt road taking us to interesting locations
Crossing the dam with no signage, dirt road to dirt road
On Friday, Pam had sent us a link for access to the Crowley Columns that bypasses the climb down (and back up) the steeper route they had taken a few days before. Bill connected the dirt road we were on to Benton Crossing that would take us to those directions.

The very narrow dirt road is a kick to drive except for the jolting bumps that are a bit rough with the trikes on the back of the Jeep. 15 minutes after we leave the pavement, we land on the north beach of Crowley Lake. 

The Columns are absolutely amazing and completely isolated. Another Jeep Cherokee arrives ahead of us, but there are no other vehicles or people anywhere nearby. After a short hike across the white sand beach with brown scrub brush to our left, the landscape makes an extreme change.

Large, round rock covers the beach and steep cliffs replace the brush. In the distance, strange caves and columns come into view.

We knew what we were looking for, but seeing this unique landscape still takes us by surprise. The skies are overcast, and rain is threatening, but we continue until we find another sandy beach with columns of white ropes along the cliffs. It is absolutely magical here.

Finding our way through the rocks on the way back to the Jeep, a few rain drops remind us that we are surrounded by storms. 

Back on pavement we find the clouds have dumped a good amount of much needed water. Excellent.

A celebration of water
Overnight the rain at our elevation turns to snow on the mountains, and we awake to white mountains all around us.

Sunday morning delight
With less than thirty miles to our next stop, we sleep in and watch the first quarter of the Steelers game before heading south.


  1. Stunning scenery! I wonder if the columns will still be visible after El Nino does her thing this winter????

    1. I don't think so. Glad we could see them while they're above the water line :-)

  2. Aren't we having a grand time with our explorations!! Those paper weight rocks are so cool. Wish we had thought about stacking them. So glad you could get there:)

    Love that rainbow!!

    1. We would never have known about them, and are so glad we got to see them while they're exposed - there were a couple "stacks" on that first section of beach. It was amazing how well they "fit" together :-)

  3. Convict Lake, there must be a story there. Been there – “Oh, it’s crowded because it’s Saturday”. But isn’t that wonderful, not to know what day it is? Gorgeous pictures! Love the colors on the creek and look up. Your pictures of the columns are just amazing. What a fantastic place to be. You turned a Saturday into a wonderday. Good for you two. Glad to hear the rains are falling.

    1. I seem to remember escaped convicts were either gunned down, or recaptured there. A nearby mountain is named for the sheriff who was killed by one of them.....the area has a violet history during its mining heydays! Couldn't believe the crowds for October - even on a Saturday :-(

  4. Those are some pretty neat places you're discovering! I've never heard of the columns before so thanks for sharing.
    We had some rain here on Saturday night as well. As we drove past a previously bone dry creek bed, it was a delight to see a small amount of water remained after the storm had passed.

    1. I had never heard of the columns either, they aren't visible when the lake is at normal level so are one bright side to the drought up here. So glad you got some rain too!

  5. What an amazing landscape indeed. I love the columns.

    1. We are so blessed to spend our time exploring these wonders :-)

  6. Those rock columns are amazing. Kind of looks like tufa.

  7. What a beautiful and magical landscape -- so cool that you made the trip out there! Great photos of the columns, and it gives a good sense of perspective seeing you guys amongst them.