The summer of 1962 I was five years old when I went on my first camping trip! My grandparents John and Madge Cummins loaded me up in their old worn out Chevy car and off we went. Our first stop was in the little town of North San Juan to stretch our legs and grandma bought me a treat. Then grandpa drove us down that long winding road along the beautiful Yuba River and we stopped at the Ranger Station in Downieville. Grandpa visited with the Ranger there for a few minutes, and the Ranger gave grandpa a key. Then it was back in the car and off to where we would be camping for the next five days. We finally arrived, it was a Forest Service Cabin near beautiful Gold Lake! The first thing I noticed was, on the back part of the cabin, there was this large round tube sticking above the cabin. Grandpa told me there was a door at the top of the tube and that’s how the Rangers would enter the cabin in the winter when the snow was up over the roof of the cabin. The thought of fifteen to twenty feet of snow was so over whelming to this little guy!
That next morning grandma cooked us a big breakfast, and then I was ready to go exploring! Grandpa showed me where the spring was. This was so cool, lots of water running out of the ground, and it had a cedar rail fence built around the spring. Grandpa gave me a tin cup. “Take a drink of the water” he said. The water was so cold, but it was so good! So much better than the Grass Valley water I was used to. I think I sat there for an hour watching this water come up out of the ground, dipping my cup in, and enjoying the wonderful fresh water! Then Grandpa and I walked around and looked at all the huge trees! It was so beautiful and peaceful; I enjoyed walking around with grandpa telling me about the trees and the animals we were seeing! “It’s time to collect some fire wood”, he said. So we walked around, picked up wood and hauled it back to the cabin. The cabin had a nice wood stove that kept us warm at night, and that’s where grandma did all her cooking.
Grandpa asked me if I wanted to go fishing, and of course I said “YES” He found a long straight stick on the ground, he tied about three of four feet of fishing ling on the stick and put a hook on the other end of the line. We walked down to a small stream, he gave me a bottle of worms, and a bottle of salmon eggs. He showed me how to put them on my hook. “Here is a bucket”, he said, “if you catch any fish put them in the bucket, then bring the bucket back to the cabin, and I will clean the fish for you”. As grandpa left, I put a worm on my hook. As the hook touched the water, I had a thirteen inch Brook Trout on the line. In the bucket it went and each time the worm or salmon eggs would touch the water, I had a fish on my line. I filled the bucket to the top with brook trout; however I could not lift the bucket so I dragged it back to the cabin. I said “grandpa look at all the fish I caught!” You should have seen his face! I thought grandpa was going to have a heart attack!
My grandma laughed at grandpa and said you didn’t tell him there was a limit on the number of fish you can catch in a day! So grandpa cleaned all the fish and grandma cooked them up. We had trout for dinner that night and the next night too. The next day I asked grandpa if I could go fishing again, he said NO! Then he explained to me that I had caught two weeks’ worth of fish in one hour, and that we should leave the fish in the stream for other people to catch. Grandma and grandpa took me camping several more times, but that first camping trip to Gold Lake is still my favorite one! When I grew up I asked my dad if it would be possible for us to go camping at the cabin up at Gold Lake. He told me that the Forest Service had torn it down. It kind of broke my heart, because I really wanted to take my wife and my two daughters there to experience what I had experienced when I was a young boy.