Thursday, August 26, 2010

Houseboating, but not like Huck Finn

After our recent little raft trip down the Sacramento River, my kids and I were all in Huckleberry Finn mode, and ready for more free floating water fun. We could hardly believe our good fortune a few days later when one of our awesome and friendly neighbors invited us to go spend a couple of days on a houseboat with them on Lake Shasta. We did a big happy dance, well, all except dear husband who had to work, but kids and I were jumping around for joy because we weren't about to miss out on that fun. And, if you're wondering how fun houseboats are- they are very, very fun. In fact, I can totally imagine living on one for months (except for a few small problems like my 4 goats and 20 chickens, and the fact that a houseboat is not very likely be in my budget any time in the near future.) Despite obstacles and odds, a girl can still dream, right?

Lake Shasta is a man made lake, created for both energy production and water storage, but it's recreation value is huge in this hot part of the country. Drought in recent years lowered the lake substantially and the muddy, rocky shorelines really reduced it's appeal. Since a lot of tourism dollars are dependent on the lake, draining it to irrigate golf courses and farms in the lower half of the state is a controversial topic. This year however, late spring rains filled the lake to the highest level in decades, and it was simply beautiful during our visit.

We made the trip with some other neighbor friends in their big truck which we all loaded with food, supplies, and people ready for a big adventure. Our friendly hosts had been out on the lake for a few days before us, and they met us at a launch ramp in a ski boat. These people are not only super nice, they also have super cool toys. We took the short boat ride to our fabulous, private little camping cove where our floating weekend home was waiting. After checking out our lodging and all the cool little spaces it had, the kids couldn't wait to go tubing and were really trying hard to restrain themselves from begging. Instead, boy child dropped what I imagine he thought were subtle hints until he roused the adults into taking them out.

Next, we all had to try wake boarding, myself included. Our hostess gave us lessons and made it look totally easy, smiling and waving and holding the rope leisurely with one hand. I wouldn't be surprised it she could do triple back flips, but didn't want to make us feel bad. I gave it 3 tries and held the rope with a death grip because it felt like my arms were going to be pulled out of their sockets. I never managed to stand up, but I got a very thorough and uncomfortable nasal flushing. On day two, Boy Child was able to stand on the wake board, and was quite proud of himself. Girl Child and I decided that we prefer tubing because it allows you to sit while having your fun. However, it too can have it's downside. After quite a bit of tube fun, Girl Child was involved in a rather spectacular multi-tube crash. Her hair somehow flew wildly out of her French braids and she got some very painful looking rope burns in her armpit. I asked if I could get a picture of her wounds, but she refused.

After that, we were in the mood for food and a quiet and mellow paddle. Kayaks are a wonderful way to explore on water. They are stable and quiet, and easy to maneuver into shallow and small spaces. We watched a beautiful eagle soar overhead and a family of geese on the shore. We also found dozens of fish and a really strange looking, dead snake floating in the water. On my list of homeschooling items, I think kayaks would be a fabulous addition to our nature studies.

In reality, while we started out thinking about living on a houseboat like Huck Finn, our trip was actually nothing like it. We were totally pampered. We lounged in cozy chairs. We ate large quantities of tasty food like roasted chile peppers that were stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon. We sipped ice cold beverages, and we talked whole a lot more than Huck and Jim did.
We did however go to sleep on the rooftop under the stars and wake up to beautiful sunrise views like Huck, but I won't use a page to describe the sunrise like Twain did. My wake up included fruit and chocolate and coffee, and I don't think Huck had that. I did find that our days on the boat flew by, or as Twain put it, "I reckon I might say they swum by; they slid along so quiet and smooth and lovely." It was great wrap up summer kind of trip, even though we are no where near ready to say goodbye to the season. As a homeschooling family that is pretty much learning all the time, we don't put much stock in the official school calendar, but still, fall does have a different flow. It starts to feel more bustling and busy as we head into winter, and we're in no rush for that. We'll be hanging on to the lazy lounging days of summer as long as we can.