Picnicking and Nearly Panicking- Pyramid Lake

Jennifer Stern March 27, 2012 No Comments

Boating on Pyramid Lake Angeles National Forest

Boating on Pyramid Lake Angeles National Forest

Our family was recently invited by our friends Elvia and Sean Shepherd and their young son to drive up to Pyramid Lake for a day of picnicking and boating. Sean had the use of his boss’ speedboat, and our three sons and we were looking forward to spending the afternoon tooling about on the huge and picturesque lake, which is located about an hour’s drive north of Los Angeles in the Angeles and Los Padres National Forest on Piru Creek.

The last time Sean had taken the boat out for a spin, he had been a little concerned that it seemed to be running a bit rough and mentioned it to his employer, who assured him that the vessel had recently had a complete overhaul and was operating perfectly now.

Pyramid Lake broken down vessel

Our not-quite-seaworthy vessel

The drive up the 5 freeway was mostly uneventful, save for a few obligatory “are we there yets?” from the boys, and in a little over an hour’s time we were parked and headed down to the boat launch and dock area.

Once we had all donned life vests and were aboard our little vessel, Sean started up the engine. It sputtered to life and he opened up the throttle. I expected to take off at a high rate of speed across the crystal-blue lake, but that was not the case. The motor was sounding pretty rough, and Sean couldn’t seem to get the boat to travel faster than maybe 20 miles per hour. He did not look happy at all.

I slathered on some sunscreen, adjusted my hat, and settled back in the boat to catch some rays while chatting with Sean’s wife, Elvia. The boys were a little bit disappointed that the boat wasn’t moving faster but still they were happy to be out on the open water.

We trolled about for a while, admiring the beautiful pyramidal rock formations around the lake, and gradually headed towards the barbeque/picnic/beach area on the far side of the lake. I had made and packed hamburgers and potato salad and Elvia had brought fruit salad. It took quite a while to reach the shore, and I wasn’t sure if it was my imagination or if the boat sounded even worse and seemed to be traveling ever more slowly through the water.

Rafting on Pyramid Lake

The boys rafting on Pyramid Lake

LAND HO!! We finally reached the dock and the boys assisted Sean with lashing the boat to the moorings. Elvia and I unloaded our picnic supplies and managed to find an unoccupied picnic table and barbeque grill in the tree-shaded picnic area close to the shore. We unpacked the food and got the grill going while the boys waded and played in the water with inflatable canoes and paddles.

There was a bit of a commotion coming from the general vicinity of the restroom area a few hundred feet to our left. The boys went over to investigate and discovered that the source of the excitement was a dead (thankfully!) rattlesnake curled up next to the path leading to the restrooms. A couple of kids were poking it with a stick and attempting to pick it up and scare each other with it. I shuddered and made a mental note to not stray too far away from our HOPEFULLY snake-free picnic area.

After tossing the burgers on the grill, it dawned on me: I hadn’t brought a spatula. Hmm. That was going to make things quite a bit more difficult. I looked around and noticed another picnic table and grill a few hundred feet away that definitely looked as if someone were using it. There were coolers, Tupperware containers and other supplies, but not a soul in sight. Maybe the picnicking family was out on the water somewhere? I looked around again, and slowly made my way over to their table. If they had a spatula, I thought, I’d simply borrow it, flip the burgers and bring it right back. No harm done. But I didn’t see one in plain sight. Feeling slightly like a thief, I began to poke around, looking in their containers and coolers until I finally uncovered a spatula. Glancing over my shoulder and seeing no one, I removed it and scurried back to our grill. Hopefully I’d be able to return it before the family returned.

Grilling at the Campground Pyramid Lake

My husband grills lunch with our "borrowed" spatula

With the help of our borrowed spatula, we were able to enjoy a delicious lunch and relaxed in the shade of the picnic area while the boys rafted and played in the water for a while longer. Shortly afterward, Sean decided we should pack up and offered to drive us around to the other side of the lake to take in more of the fantastic scenery.

That was the worst decision of the day.

With considerable difficulty since the boat absolutely refused to budge above about 10 m.p.h., we oh-so-slowly wended our way back out onto the open water and towards the far side of the lake. Judging by the expression on Sean’s face, I could tell he was doing a slow burn and wondered whether this was the best idea. But I kept my mouth shut.

Our little vessel began to sputter and cough louder and louder, while moving more and more slowly. Finally the motor stalled completely. Sean moved to the back of the boat and attempted to bring it back to life, to no avail.

We were now drifting, moving slowly towards the rocky shore of the far side of the lake, furthest from the rangers’ station. There were no other boats, jet skis, or any people in sight. Suppressing a slightly panicked feeling, I pulled out my cell phone as Sean continued to try to start the motor again. No cell phone reception. My husband and Elvia also checked their cell phones. Again, no phone service. Uh-oh. What to do now?

Lunch at the Beach Pyramid Lake

They boys enjoying their lunch at the beach

I supposed all we could do was wait for another boat to come along and try to hail it. We tried to keep the boys calm and kept hoping that cell phone service would suddenly kick back in for one of us. But we were simply in too remote of an area.

After what I supposed was about 45 minutes of drifting and seeing no one who could possibly help us, Sean began to rummage around in the storage areas of the boat. And just like the spatula that so conveniently appeared–lo and behold!–he triumphantly held up an air horn that he’d discovered in the back.

Sean signaled a distress call with a few short and very LOUD blasts from the air horn, which echoed all the way across the lake. And thankfully, shortly thereafter, we spotted an L.A. County Sheriff’s patrol boat on the horizon headed towards us. We were saved!!

Park Ranger Towing our Boat Pyramid Lake

We and our boat get towed back to shore by the park ranger

The boat pulled up alongside us and Sean explained our situation to the ranger, who quickly produced a tow rope and handed it to Sean, who tied it to the front of our boat. Then all we had to do was sit back and relax as the patrol boat towed us slowly back to the dock. The kids all thought this was great fun, and we adults were just relieved that we didn’t get stranded for hours.

Pyramid Lake offers year-round recreation including boating, fishing, jet-skiing, water-skiing and camping in addition to its beaches and picnic facilities. If you have the opportunity, you should really enjoy this gorgeous spot. But please–make sure your boat is shipshape first before taking it out on the water.

avatarAbout the Author:

Jennifer Stern is a mom of three teen boys, who provide her with constant inspiration to write. She is also a fitness professional/junkie who teaches everything from Spinning to Zumba. A New Jersey native, this is her second time living in Southern California. She loves the L.A. lifestyle, but does miss eating decent pizza and bagels--so she consoles herself with excellent Mexican food. She and her family live in Burbank.

Tags: , , Travel Disasters, Travel Excursions

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