Lake Sonoma’s Yorty Creek

We are a Lake family. Tom and I raised our kids practically on Lake Sonoma, specifically the Yorty Creek recreational area. Every chance we could get we would hang out on the beach, by the lake with our kids and our dog. The kids grew up out there. We brought grandparents, cousins, friends, visitors. Everybody we were close to, had to come with us to the lake; where we played, swam, kayaked and picnicked for days on end.

Back on April of 2010 we were coming out of, I will say a mini-drought. I wrote a blog post with pictures of the lake under drought conditions, but was happy to report in the same post that there was plenty of water from the latest storms for our summer adventures by the water.

Not this year though. Never in 26 years have I seen the lake…empty. It’s dry, ugly, murky and pretty much looks like the dead sea. We walked along the dry, barren cliffs, kicking around dust and clods of dirt. Finding fresh water clams, of course dead. We were actually I think stunned, silent and just walking, each one of us in our own world of thoughts. Disoriented even, the landscape looked that different! Wondering what happened? Where was our beautiful lake? Where is the water? Why hasn’t it rained? Even the sporadic green bushes were gone. We tried fishing it to no avail. Weary hunters passed us by silently, looking like they too were disheartened by the whole day.

We are in a serious drought. I realized standing there, how we must never take our water for granted. How we need to thank God for it. How we really need to do a rain dance and pray for rain. This lake is our drinking supply and for our farming and wine industry. We have a fish hatchery connected to the lake and annual spawning, salmon runs. This year is really, bad. What will happen to us if we don’t get rain next year? I couldn’t bare to think past that… This is a depressing post, I know. But, the reality of it all is there and posted here for you to see.

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So Who Planted the Mangrove Tree?

My favorite lake, close to home is Lake Sonoma. On the north tributary end of the lake is Yorty Creek which boasts, the only beach on the lake and BBQ pits. We have been traveling the long, windy and bumpy dirt road to the lake for about twenty years now.

Children in tow, plus the dog, kayak and fishing pole packed to the gills (pardon the pun) with beach everything, we hang out on the sandy beach, relax and unwind. Once everyone’s happily playing in the water or eating I sufficiently relax getting into my zen, creative mode and take pictures and/or draw the surrounding scenery.

Huge oak trees dot the golden, grassy hills alternating with pine trees on the far end of the hills that slope down on both sides of the blue lake. It’s beautiful, surreal and I love it here. Interesting to me is the smallish tree on the left side of the lake sitting alone on the edge of the water so sweetly, a mangrove tree. Where did it come from and who planted it? This is not a tree indigenous to Northern California. I don’t see any other mangrove trees lining the water’s edge. Just one lonely, not from around here, mangrove tree with long spindly curved trunks and a little umbrella overshadowing its base. A tree that you would see in some far away tropical island ten times its size.

I’ve been drawing the trees in the area for some time now and I know it wasn’t there before. The mangrove tree is quite young, about three years old I guess to myself. But, there it is. I walked along the dirt path winding along the side of the lake to take a look at it in the scorching heat and ended up enjoying its tiny bit of shade. Fishermen cherish the canopy of leaves for its shade to be sure. It’s the only tree around on the dusty pathway where the heat is usually ninety or above during the summer. I sat under it, alone too, enjoying its welcoming comfort. Little finches graced its green foliage and flew off in unison together happy also for its presence. I felt at peace with the world. Who planted it or where it came from, I’ll never know. I am grateful for the mangrove tree, its beauty alone on the far side of the lake.

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