Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Utica Reservoir

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My wife and I had our first opportunity to get out for a few nights without the kids to get a little sanity time. We talked about everything from backpacking to staying at a B&B someplace, then the idea came up to get out far enough away from people like backpacking and yet take some of the comforts with us. This is made possible by traveling in a way that natives people have done for thousands of years. By canoe.



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We arrived at our destination after a short paddle of a mile or so. The canoe, loaded down with everything we'd need for two nights of camping, glided through the water with little effort and felt quite stable. So comfortable have I become paddling in this canoe, that I rarely stow away my expensive camera anymore so that I have it on hand to take shots during the journey.

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Our camp, located on the south-eastern portion of the largest island on the reservoir, was a beautiful spot to stay. We had a large opening with a fire ring and big flat cooking rock, all surrounded by a ring of tall trees. It worked out perfect that our cooking and eating areas were down-wind of where we hung our food, which was down-wind of were we pitched our tent. This is ideal in bear country that gets enough use that they have become accustomed to getting food from camps (even on an island; remember they do swim). Unfortunately we didn't see any though.

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As we had come in late in the day, we had only time left to set up camp, cook a delicious meal of chicken fajita burritos, enjoy a cold beer and some wine, and relax by the fire.

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The next morning I got up early, as usual, and had lots of time to make some coffee (Starbucks Via instant coffee is a godsend!), take a quick solo paddle on the glassy water, and explore the island a bit before Jennifer awoke.  Mornings like this make life worth living.

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After breakfast we set off and paddled the further reaches of the lake. It's such a beautiful place to paddle with all the granite rock and pine trees. The only thing missing is a high snow covered peak to give it some scale. All the same, it's hard to complain when you are slicing silently through clear waters with the sound of the birds and the breeze being your only distractions.

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We did a small hike to an unnamed lake (a pond really), but did little else except relax and enjoy the solitude.

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The winds kicked up in the middle of the day, so we spent most of our time hanging from a hammock, reading a book, and for a short while revisiting civilization over at the neighboring Union Reservoir boat launch for a quick visit to the pit toilet.

All in all, it was a fabulous day, but before we knew it we were grilling sausages for dinner, swatting mosquitoes as the sun went down, enjoying a roaring fire, then I found myself alone on a tall rock behind camp in pitch dark staring up at the milky way. Memories like this make up a well lived lifetime.

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All good things come to an end though, and with canoe laden with gear we set off on the mirror of soulful water and with each dip of the paddle drew ourselves closer to the drive home. This is not such a bad thing though, as even after only a couple of nights we grew to miss the little ones. We return home with a little more glow in our lives knowing that yet again we have experienced something special.

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If you'd like to visit Utica Reservoir, take highway 4 out of Angels Camp east into the Sierras past the town of Arnold. Before hitting Bear Valley turn right on Spicer Meadow Reservoir Road and take the paved road 6 or 7 miles until the junction to Union and Utica Reservoir. Take this dirt road a few miles, staying to the left toward Utica Reservoir at the split with the road to Union. Bring a boat, but leave your motor at home as only self propelled watercraft are allowed on this lake. Camping is allowed all over the lake, so even on the most crowded of weekends you'll likely find a great spot if you don't mind paddling for a short while to find it (most good camp sites are only a mile out with the furthest being 2 miles).

Also, if you area in the are be sure to stop by Calaveras Big Trees State Park. We stopped in on our way out and walked the North Grove trail which is a flat one mile loop with amazing trees along the way.

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As usual all photos and hyperlinked words can be clicked for a large photo view.

The full set of photos that I processed from this trip are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/januaryphotography/sets/72157624483475846/detail/

1 comment:

ramidus said...

Nice! I love that neck of the woods. I like to camp up above Utica on Union Reservoir. Your blog brought me back to an area I have been camping at for 25 years. I miss it. beautiful mountain country.