It is the 7th day we stayed at Merrill Campground by Eagle Lake. This is a great place to camp. We love the sights and sounds of the lake and tranquility. It is one of the best kept secrets of North California. Eagle Lake has no outflows and is fed by several streams. It is at the intersection of the Cascades Range and the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Our neighbors who have been camping here for 20 years said that the lake has receded a lot. The water could reach the picnic tables 20 years ago. Now the water is over 100 yards away from the campground. According to Discover Lassen County 2017-2018 Visitors Guide, low water level of the lake has made grebes unable to find nesting sites because grebes need the emerging vegetation to build their floating nests. No breeding occurred on Eagle Lake in recent years.
The rain yesterday afternoon brought us the gifts of brilliant double rainbow and a beautiful sunset. The dreamy smoky fog floated above the lake. Out there on the lake were pelicans, grebes and other waterfowl. My steps scared a blue heron by the shore. It flew across the water and landed in the distance. Nearby was a white-faced ibis foraging on the marsh. It felt so good to be surrounded by nature.
We headed to Antelope Lookout to explore beyond the Eagle Lake. It was a more than 9-mile bumpy dirt road climbing up the mountain. There was no cell service in the wilderness. We were on our own. The winding road went through the dense pristine Lassen National Forest. Bright yellow green moss stood out on the trunks of some pines by the road. We were surprised by a fire engine driving on this narrow dirt road. We pulled over to the side of the road and let the fire engine pass by. The last stretch of the road was a steep winding climb with no buffer areas by the cliff. The puffy clouds appeared sitting at the end of the road. It was exciting and a little scary! At last we made it to the fire lookout at an elevation of 7,681 feet.
The girl working at the fire lookout greeted us and invited us to the watch tower. The watch tower was small with the equipment in the center. A small bed, a table and chairs, a desk, a dresser, a range, a sink, and a refrigerator were placed around the wall. Through the windows, the watch tower has a gorgeous panoramic view of the area. The majestic Mt. Lassen soared above the mountain range in the west. From the campground we only saw probably 1/3 of Eagle Lake. But we saw the whole lake from the lookout. The beautiful Eagle Lake is nesting among the mountains.
The fire lookout was the first one powered by a solar panel in America. The girl on duty works here two days a week to fill in for the guy when he is off. They work from May through October for the fire season. It might go into November depending on the fire situation. We saw a column of smoke coming from behind the mountains by Eagle Lake in the east. There might be a fire over there. The girl said yesterday was bad because of the storm. There was a wildfire caused by the lightening and luckily it was put out. She looked through the binoculars and communicated with her distant colleagues on wireless equipment. She drives home everyday. This is a lonely job but the view is rewarding.
I rode my bike in the afternoon again and saw the osprey in action clearly through the binoculars. The osprey hovered above the water looking down. It suddenly dropped to the water in a lightening speed and submerged. In a second, it resurfaced and clapped its wings with great strength and flew out of the water. But unfortunately, it didn’t catch anything. It came back after awhile and did it again. The osprey caught a fish in its claws and flew away.
Three black tail deer showed up on the field by the lake in the dusk. It was a mom deer and her two babies. They grazed and looked at us alertly from time to time. After a while, they seemed to be comfortable at our presence and the baby deer rested on the grass. What a peaceful scene! This is the home for these wild animals and birds. We are just visitors and appreciate the wilderness of this area. I hope this Shangri-La will keep its beauty for many years.