Where can you find chilly water, pelting desert sandstorms of Arabian magnitude, lovely beaches, and impressive starry skies? Read below to find the answer to this and other incredibly pressing questions.
Yuba is a smallish reservoir located a little over an hour away from our house. It’s been nearly a decade since Jas and I have camped at Yuba so we were game when my brother Drew and Jeremy Rowley suggested we go there for a combo camping and boating extravaganza over the long Labor Day weekend. I would be lying if I said every moment of this outing turned out to be splendid. There were some complications and commotions that made parts of it less than enjoyable but our trip also had some really lovely bits that probably made it worth all the bother.
Here is my faithful account of our Yuba expedition including all the problems we encountered while on our “relaxing” getaway.
Problem 1: Labor Day weekend camping reservations
Difficulty Level: 3
Outcome: Goal Achieved
We successfully made reservations for our group to camp at North Beach on the night we desired, which was no small feat considering it was during Labor Day weekend. North Beach is a nice sandy beach, probably the best beach at Yuba. However, there is one problem with a nice sandy beach…the sand.
Problem 2: The Sands of Death
Difficulty Level: 6
Outcome: No Casualties
When Jason and I, and my brother’s family, arrived at Yuba the wind was bent on total destruction. Sand was blowing everywhere in gusts up to 30 miles an hour. Large swirling pillars of it stretched high into the air like enormous gritty fingers. It stung our eyes, flew in our ears, and assailed our legs. Ouch!
Problem 3: Tent Apparatus Erection
Difficulty Level: 4
Outcome: Operation Successful
We somehow managed to find a great camping spot away from the swirling sand and secluded from other campers and went about setting up our tents. Drew’s tent was way too aerodynamic for the blustery conditions so it took some serious teamwork, and a whole lot of staking, to finally get it to stay in place.
Problem 4: Rowley Category Stress
Difficulty Level: Infinite
Outcome: Moodiness Diverted
The wind wasn’t the only brooding force at Yuba. We encountered another problem when Jeremy and his family arrived an hour or so after everyone else: Rowley Category Stress. Jeremy is famous for flipping out a little randomly and having anxiety over stuff that other people would classify as “no big deal”; I think it’s the drama queen in him. When his family met up with the rest of us he was freaking out a bit about a number of things. Apparently driving his boat down did not suit him, or parking it, or getting it stuck briefly in the drifting beach sand. He was not a happy camper (pun intended). But going for a little swim in Yuba’s frigid water seemed to lighten his mood. Nothing like wading in a freezing reservoir to improve your outlook on life.
Problem 5: Glacial Waters
Difficulty Level: 5
Outcome: No Permanent Damage to Extremities
Yup, we walked down to the lake and let the kids get as mucky in the sand as they desired. They loved it. The wimpier members of our contingency ventured into the water a little…a very little. They got their toes and calves the tiniest bit wet and then retreated back to the shore claiming that the water was inhumanly cold. But Jeremy and I, obviously the tougher members of the group, dared each other to go further and further into the icy water until all but our heads were covered and there we reluctantly stayed. We got used to the temperature of the lake and didn’t shiver too much after a while but getting back out was a completely miserable and teeth-chattering experience.
Problem 6: Dinner
Difficulty Level: 1
After swimming and freezing it was time for our camp-style super. Jas and I had brought tin foil dinners with us to cook for everyone that evening: a Rachel original recipe. Mmmm… potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, onions, bacon, and lots of seasonings. It makes me hungry just thinking about those babies sizzling over the fiery coals. We overfed ourselves, roasted marshmallows, and kept a talking until after midnight. We were in no hurry to go to bed since it was very pleasant conversing around our cozy fire and the star strewn sky overhead was amazing. There was no moon out that night so countless glittering orbs were strikingly visible above us, as if the dark fabric of the sky had been stretched past endurance and hundreds of tiny holes of light had been ripped into its threads. That twinkling canopy reminded me just how much beauty is dimmed out by civilization. Gorgeous!
Problem 7: Sleep Without Heat
Difficulty Level: 6
Outcome: Operation Suffered Major Loses Before Achieving Victory
Going to bed was more of a theory than a reality for me that night. It was cold, in the low 40s or high 30s, and I could not get warm in my sleeping back. I wore a jacket, flannel PJs, and Jason’s socks to bed but for some reason my body refused to heat up. I was awake for hours after everyone else had dozed off and eventually I got that deep achiness in my bones that comes from cold muscles twitching too much, which didn’t help induce restfulness either. It wasn’t until Jason woke up much later and kindly unzipped his sleeping bag a little and covered me with some of it that I got comfortable enough to nod off. As much as I’d like to whine about my sleeping grievances, and I am obviously doing so, I really can’t complain too much. Sleeping poorly is part of the packaged deal when it comes to camping.
Problem 8: Converting to a Strapless
Difficulty Level: 4
Outcome: No Casualties Except Jeremy’s Tranquility
The next day we went boating, which turned out to be pretty much your typical boating experience except Jeremy forgot to take off one of the boat straps when we were launching his vessel. It took us a while to figure out why the boat mysteriously refused to unload and Jeremy was pretty frazzled by the situation but even he chuckled a bit when we realized all the trouble was due to his dumb mistake.
Despite all the sand I’m still digging out of my scalp, the less than optimal temperature of the reservoir’s water, the scant amount of sleep I got, and the occasional stress-induced ravings of Jeremy, the trip was pretty fun. After all, there’s nothing quite like skewering marshmallows and chatting over a toasty fire with nature’s beauty strewn about you.
Incidentally, I learned a bit about the history of Yuba reading a sign at the boat dock. Yuba Dam, which created Yuba Reservoir, was built about a hundred years ago to water the dry farmlands that surrounded it. All the farmers in the county had to pitch in $5 for the building of it. As ridiculously small as that sum may seem, apparently many of them didn’t have sufficient funds to donate so instead they opted to work off their required contribution by helping build the dam. These workers got a kick out of saying, “U.B. dammed if you do and damned if you don’t.” while they labored away on this barrier. The phrase became so common that “U.B.” was eventually transformed into “Yuba” and that’s how the reservoir got its name.