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Lakeside in the High Sierra

Thick pine forests and crystal blue waters are all the frills that Huntington Lake needs

July 07, 2002|THOMAS CURWEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Built over 50 years, Eastwood's project would include the construction of six dams and 43 miles of tunnels--driven through granite--that would drop water collected in the back country more than 6,000 feet and drive turbines and generators to create electricity for the fledgling metropolis of Los Angeles, 300 miles to the south. Henry Huntington, the railroad magnate and major bankroller for the lake, purchased his fair share of that electricity to drive the Pacific Electric Red Cars, the trolley line that once coursed across Los Angeles. Today the vitality of Eastwood's dream--and his arrogance--is undiminished. The dams, tunnels, penstocks and power grid are owned and maintained by Southern California Edison.

Eastwood's project didn't tame this part of the Sierra, though; these mountains are as wild as ever. Head over to the D&F Pack Station, just west of Lakeshore, and go out on an hour, half-day or full-day horseback ride. You will find yourself on a narrow trail rising above the lake and soon disappearing in a world of crags, meadows and dizzying views. There are several hiking trails--the Eastwood Visitor Center has guidebooks and maps--that might inspire you to lace up your Vibram-soled boots. Within an hour or two you will have found yourself a private spot to picnic beside a stream or some quiet mountain glade.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday July 14, 2002 Home Edition Travel Part L Page 5 Features Desk 0 inches; 32 words Type of Material: Correction
Huntington Lake--In "Lakeside in the High Sierra" (Travel section, July 7) the name of the owner of Lakeview Cottages in Lakeshore, Calif., was misspelled. His name is Walt Krukow.

One favorite destination is Rancheria Falls, a mile hike up Rancheria Creek on a paved trail. For the more ambitious, there is the hike to Nellie Lake, a 10-mile round trip in the Kaiser wilderness.

We were content to spend our time on the water. That evening, after the wind had died down, we ventured out onto the lake again, this time in a rowboat rented from the Manns. There, in the middle of it all, we sat quietly, listened to the occasional splash of a fish jumping after flies and watched the sunset splash lavender on the peaks.

This trip was something of a homecoming for me. Before leaving, Margie and I had pulled out a Super 8 movie, since converted to video, of a vacation my family had once taken here. Looking at the frames, I couldn't help but feel estranged from the world they depicted. Perhaps that is why I most needed this vacation.

It was the early 1960s. There was my father with his buzz cut; my mom with an assortment of hats; my sister, Sally; my brother, Bob; me and Sheba, our black Lab, all piled into a green Ford station wagon, a homemade sailboat tied to the roof. We had set out to explore this golden state: Mt. Lassen one year, Mammoth the next, then Yosemite and, finally, Huntington.

Years later I had gone to summer camp here and learned how to horseback ride, water ski and sail. At night I lay on my back and watched satellites arc across the sky and, one evening, on a television rigged up in the dining hall, saw Neil Armstrong step into the Sea of Tranquillity. Who we were and what we dreamed back then seemed a nostalgic reverie, and I wondered if the children who toasted marshmallows for s'mores today would have that feeling 30 years from now.

Later that evening I stepped off the porch of our cabin--Margie was making our reservations for next year--and let my eyes adjust to the darkness. The moon was setting. Steam rose from a quenched campfire. As voices bid good night, I watched squares of light from the windows of other cabins go dark.

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Guidebook: Escape to Huntington Lake

Getting there: Huntington Lake is 286 miles--about a five-hour drive--from Los Angeles. Take Interstate 5 north to Highway 99, then 99 north to Fresno. Pick up Highway 41 north to Highway 168, which leads to the eastern shore of the lake and the U.S. Forest Service's Eastwood Visitor Center. It takes about two hours to drive from Fresno to the lake.

Where to stay: Lakeview Cottages, 58374 Huntington Lodge Road, Lakeshore, CA 93634; (559) 893-2330, June 1-Sept. 30; (562) 697-6556,

Oct. 1-June 1. Prices range from $340-$410 a week for a one-bedroom cabin; two-bedroom cabins are $545-$615. Daily rates are available. Fishing boats can be rented.

Lakeshore Resort, 61953 Huntington Lake Road, Lakeshore, CA 93634; (559) 893-3193, fax (559) 893-2193, www.lakeshoreresort.com. A full-service facility with 27 cabins, RV park, marina, general store, saloon and restaurant. Cabins, most with kitchens, are rustic; they range from $77-$150. Restaurant entrees range from $8.50-$17.95. Canoes, sailboats and catamarans can be rented.

Cedar Crest Resort, 61011 Cedar Crest Lane, Lakeshore, CA 93634; (559) 893-3233 or, during winter months, (619) 927-6115. Built in the 1920s, Cedar Crest has 14 cabins, most with decks and kitchens. Cabins range from $84-$125 a night; tent cabins are $30-$35. There are some RV hookups, a general store and a marina, with fishing boat rentals. Restaurant entrees range from $5.95-$22.95.

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