16 October 2015

Arrowhead Island

Lake Cachuma Recreation Area

With the drought, Arrowhead Island has been abandoned by the lake for a couple years now. It is just an unremarkable hill the highway used to pass by that becomes noticed now because of the happenstance of where a dam was placed. My mother said, "Let's go after Pluto," and so we went. Pluto is a geocache that is part of a set that make up a scale model of the solar system with the Westmont Observatory as the sun. It was still a planet when the model was made and it happens to be on the island. We start at the stub of highway left at the side of 150, which is a little difficult to achieve, then just follow it out. It is bushy at first, but then we hit the high water line and travel becomes easy. Freshwater clam shells are steady company from a few feet down.

highway in the lake
The old highway stretches away into the lake bed and the island rises to the right of it.

below water, sometimes
The area is vast and flat, but we are about as far from the dam as we can be and the lake does not get very deep here.

clam shells in the road way
The remains of fresh water clams are everywhere. Some areas have much more and some only a few, but they are everywhere.

There is an old driveway that cuts toward the island, but we leave it for later. Just ahead is a small bridge and we take a moment to investigate this bridge that is rather unremarkable except that usually it is below at least a few feet of water.

short bridge for a dry creek
A small bridge for the old highway.

mud flat
The creek below the bridge is now just a mud flat a few feet under.

The bridge has a benchmark embedded in it. The designation on it is all but unreadable after the submersion, but the agency is still clear. We head back to the driveway and start climbing it. It ends at a foundation that must be only two to six feet below the water when the lake is full. Walls that look like they were adobe have been worn nearly smooth with the ground and pieces of broken stone work are scattered through the interior. This would have been one of the losers when it was decided we needed a lake.

thick mud walls
A few of the walls of the sprawling building that once sat here.

ranch beside the lake
Looking across the lake bed to bits of the San Marcos Land Grant.

Tire tracks and then a trail continue past the foundation and up the spine of the hill that becomes an island when the lake fills. We climb to its top. From here, we can see the lake that should be surrounding us as a distant bit of water.

Lake Cachuma
The distant lake from what should be an island.

hawk remains
A bit of wing and sternum of a hawk upon the island.

After placing our signatures on Pluto, we head back the way we came. I cannot help but notice all the tamarisk growing up in the bottom of the retreated lake. Its presence mars an otherwise cute little hike that cannot normally be done.

©2015 Valerie Norton
Posted 26 Oct 2015