Lynne Champlin

Lynne Champlin

Our fall fishing trip to Eagle Lake, near Susanville, for a Thanksgiving trout was a fishing success but it almost became a disaster. We are thankful to have survived.

Between the Northern California fires we had caravanned with Larry and Linda Wolfe in our motor homes for an easy drive up to Lassen County. The men had loaded our inflatable Zodiac boat on top of our tow Jeep named “Pull Me” with the outboard motor riding on the game rack. We looked like a parade as we headed to our favorite camp ground on Eagle Lake.

If you like the quiet, being right on a huge lake, want to catch large Eagle Lake trout, and be surrounded by tall pine trees, it is the perfect place. The only issue is that in the fall, campsites are on a first come basis. Luckily when we arrived many sites were open. The RV sites have full hookups and each one has a barbecue ring for a nightly fire, a picnic table, water and there is a camp host who has a wood for sale.

About two miles away is a small marina, which is run by the Lassen Community College Foundation. A married couple, both retired Marines, run the launching area and the mini-market with food, fishing supplies and advice. Locals and campers use this small boat ramp.

At night, most campers leave their boats in shallow water or pull them up on the beach. We all use ropes and anchors to keep them in place. It is convenient, safe and a short walk from your camp site. You can even see your boat between the trees. There is a parking lot by this beach for your vehicle if you need to haul equipment.

Our husbands fished every day and loved every minute of it. They started at sun-up and came home in the early afternoon for naps. Poor dears. Linda and I spent our time sitting around the campground reading, visiting with other campers, planning our meals and walking the dogs. Susanville is only about 30 miles away, so visits to town are an easy trip. Relaxation, eating freshly caught trout, and resting our minds were our goals and nothing more.

The boys showed their fishing talents as they were very successful. Larry Wolfe caught the biggest trout at 5 lbs. He and Philip caught their limits and provided us with an abundance of fish for dinner and some to take home to serve family at Thanksgiving. We were happy we brought lots of lemons and tarter sauce. We enjoyed Napa wine at our picnic table while watching Larry cook our fish dinners.

After a relaxing several days, we packed up to head to Grass Valley. Early in the morning we pulled out onto Eagle Lake Road to head south to I-80 West. The sun was just coming up over the lake and the road had shadows from the tall pines. We were in the lead. Philip was driving and I was sitting in the passenger seat. Our old motor home together with the tow Jeep are more than 50 feet long. After a couple of miles of flat roadway, the road started to climb and Philip began to accelerate. We were probably going about 40 mph when disaster almost struck.

Suddenly, I saw a large pine tree laying across both lanes in front of us. I immediately screamed, “TREE!, STOP!” Fortunately, Philip believed me and reacted quickly. He later told me he thought the dark area was a shadow in the road. He instantly put both feet on the brakes and almost came to an immediate stop. We stopped about a foot from hitting the large, fallen tree. We stopped so fast that everything inside our motor home that wasn’t attached came flying forward and landed on the floor. Larry was far enough behind us that he had time to stop and didn’t hit us from behind.

It really took our breath way and we sat there for a moment with our hearts pounding. We all got out of our motor homes and tried to move the tree while Philip called 911. We were kicking and dragging the tree limbs and branches that broke off and covered the road.

Within minutes, we heard the roar of diesel truck engines decelerating. We looked up and saw two huge oversize trucks with a pilot car in front approaching us from around the bend and coming down the hill. They were hauling massive tractors. We frantically waved our arms signaling them to stop.

Big burley and bearded lumbermen jumped out of their trucks and started helping us clear the road. They were smiling, laughing and friendly like this was no big deal. They didn’t seem surprised and took it all in stride. I guess fallen trees across the roads are pretty common in this area. We didn’t act like a bunch of city slickers, we worked right along side of them. It must have fallen just as we left the camp ground. And even more strange, we had passed northbound cars on the road as we headed south.

This scary event was all we could talk about as we drove down to Grass Valley. What would have happened if I hadn’t seen the tree and shouted or Philip hadn’t been able to stop in time? We imagined ourselves flying out through the windshield. Even if we hadn’t been killed or seriously injured, the front of the motor home might have been destroyed.

Thanks to Philip’s long driving experiences as a bus driver, fire truck driver and our RV trips across the USA, he was able to react quickly. It’s a good thing I can still see and yell. And a very good thing that Philip can still hear and hit the brakes with both feet. We were thankful that our relaxing camping and fishing trip didn’t end a disaster.

We were feeling much better when we arrived in Grass Valley. Linda and Larry wanted to attend the Draft Horse Classic Show at the Nevada County Fairgrounds. We camped right on the fairgrounds land out by a pond, and they provided golf carts to carry guests back and forth to the main areas.

Before the show started we had time to tour the fair grounds and enjoyed cheeseburgers and string onion rings at the Lion’s Club booth. We visited the stalls and got to pet and photograph some of the draft horses who were going to be in the show that evening. They included: Clydesdales, Percherons and Shire horses.

We wandered through the grounds that were lovely with lots of grass, shade trees and picnic tables. We visited a large building filled with cowboy art and the tents with their homemade and professional goods for sale. The fairgrounds had a small town feeling with well planned area choices. It did make us wonder if our Town and Country fairgrounds could have been as appealing if only Dorothy Salmon was still in charge.

Our good friends had reserved front row seats in the small grandstand. The Wolfes wanted us to have a clear view of these giant horses and drivers in their show dress. Beautiful harnesses of gold and silver were on the horses and buggies. The owners or drivers sat very erect in their buggies or wagons, directing their horses to follow their signals and directions. Many had towed their horses from other states but some were local too. We enjoyed our visit, the fairgrounds and the show. And we were happy they suggested stopping there overnight

We left early the next morning for the short drive back to Napa. Not wanting our vacation to end, we invited the Wolfes over for dinner that night. We had some trout left over. I am planning to serve my family smoked trout and venison for Thanksgiving dinner this year, along with turkey on the side.

I read somewhere that the first Thanksgiving dinner included seafood and venison from the Native Americans. I think turkeys came later. But it wouldn’t be a real Thanksgiving without a full turkey dinner with my mother’s dressing.

So no matter what you are serving for Thanksgiving, we hope you all have a wonderful holiday with your family and friends.

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