The white caps are the strongest memory of my encounter with Alturas Lake.
Alturas Lake is two miles long and stretches along the valley of Alturas Lake Creek. There is a relentless flow of cool air settling from the Sawtooth’s high peeks down to the floor of Stanley Basin, the site of Alturas Lake. With two miles for the wind to blow along the surface of the lake, the water was always riled up. Choppy swells covered the lake like meringue on a lemon pie and I was introduced to the term, “white caps.”
What better place to rent a tiny boat and take the family on a putt-about?
It was all perfectly safe, we were assured by the man behind the counter of the Alturas Lake Lodge. The boats were all steel, which would sink like the Titanic. But at both the front and back of the boats were compartments sealed shut with strong welds. The trapped air in the compartments would float the boat should the choppy waters cause it to capsize.
At the time I did not know of the Titanic and its unsinkable compartments. Nor do I remember the man behind the counter making the comparison.
It was a lovely time on the choppy lake, being beaten on the butt by the metal seats and sprayed in the face with the wind-blown icy water of glacial melt. We frolicked on the beach at the far end of the lake for an afternoon and then headed on the two-mile journey to the lodge.
Checking out my Dad’s slides, I did seem to have an encounter with the lake on the return trip. We were not at a pier or sandy beach, so perhaps my sisters, mother and I were being let off near the campground while Dad returned the boat. I vaguely remember a mass of leaves, logs and twigs luring me off the boat. With no experience on lake water, it looked perfectly solid but was, instead, floating in some two feet of water.
My dad caught my nine-year-old reaction to being shocked at the unexpected results.