I have heard that there are dozens, if not hundreds of creeks called Deer Creek in the United States. To me, there is only one. The Deer Creek along Highway 32 between Butte Meadows and Chester, California is a lovely, clear, cold mountain stream. It holds many Rainbow Trout and many of my fondest memories. Several future Reeling in Paradise stories have taken place at Deer Creek.
When my children were little, back in the 80’s, we decided to go on a family adventure. There are 6 of us and a 5-day camping trip required us to take both our pickup truck and our Honda Accord. We needed lots of stuff: All of our gear, sleeping bags and tents, the kids’ bikes, food, cooking equipment, etc.
We went back to Potato Patch Campground enough times that there was one campsite we considered to be ours. It was #22; it backed up to the creek and it was bigger than most of the others. It was far enough away from the bathrooms and close enough to water. Some of the lasting memories were:
- The time Josh locked the keys in the Honda. At 30 miles away from town, you have to learn to do things on your own. We tried for hours before we found a wire coat hanger and got the car open.
- The time Tara cut herself badly carving her name into a tree. There is still a carving there that says, “Ta.”
- The time we borrowed a tent from my dad and spent 3 hours trying to put it together. There were no directions and he had put it in a vacuum cleaner box. Let’s just say my language was quite colorful that day (not too loud because of the kids)—I don’t think I have ever used that many curse words in a row. We slept on the ground with no tent that night.
- The time we camped in a nearly empty campground and, lo and behold, here comes a guy by himself who pulls up and parks right next to us. He was trying to be really friendly and I must admit, I am kind of anti-social. He wanted me to come over and play horseshoes with him, so while he was fishing we pulled up our camp and moved before he got back. To this day my wife and my kids still joke about me being the “Howdy Neighbor” kind of guy.
- The time Josh saw a fishing lure stuck up in a tree and shot it down with a BB gun.
- The time Sue and I saw a bear crossing the road while the kids were asleep.
- The time we saw a eagle swoop down and take a 12 inch trout out of the creek, then fly off. Amazing!
One of the most memorable trips to Deer Creek was when I was trying to teach my oldest son, Josh, how to cast a spinner. We got up early and went to the prime hole of the campground in the most perfect place to cast a lure over a big pool. We were standing side-by-side, and I was trying to teach him and fish at the same time, which is not the best idea when your son is 8 years old. I told him to bring the spinner back, watch it all the way while you heave it with most of your strength, all the while pointing your pole tip at the place where you generally want the spinner to land. It is a great theory when you are 40 years old and have fished for 35 of those years. It is not, as it turns out, a great theory for someone who is 8 and has fished just twice in his life. Josh had good form on his back-swing, and he seemed to be paying good attention to what he was doing, so I let my attention lapse for just a moment. That was a mistake. Josh swung the lure mightily, it was off a little with the aim and it wound up buried in the skin of my hatless head. I felt the stick of the lure, no real pain yet….and then I just looked at him. He was not sure what he was hung up on, but he knew he was hung up. He gave a couple little jerks and then he looked at me. Suddenly he realized that he had hooked me. He looked at me with the most sheepish little grin I have ever seen and he said, straight faced, “Looks like I hooked a big one!” I couldn’t stop laughing. Poor Sue, she had to be the doctor. She hated pulling out that spinner, but she has a steady hand and she loves me, so I knew I was in good hands. I was OK, Josh was OK, Sue was OK and we had another lifelong memory to cherish.
We caught lots of fish. For Josh, Chris, and Gina, it was their first fish. Tara had caught a few before. I love the feeling when dawn is just about to crack. Everybody else stays in bed and I get up to light the fire and make coffee. They slowly awaken and join me with their camper head hair and warm coats over their PJ’s.
I also love just after sundown until dark, when we would sit around the campfire and talk about our day. The little ones were scared and tended to snuggle with us more, looking for safety. The food tastes better, the night is darker, there are more stars, and there are no phones.
Mostly, I loved us being all together. I miss that feeling.
*For a map of the Deer Creek area, head over HERE.