The blue and emerald lake opens before us on the trail, like the sky cutting deep into the ground. Under the shade of the slender oak trees me, my brother and my dad look at the freshly green hills rimming the water. Under my hiking boots, baby grass carpets the ground with Spring. We decide to take the trail around the lake, though all the trails at Highland Spring are magnificent this time of year with the scent of Spring lingering in the air. Small blue flowers scatter the ground, like a handful of diamonds that slipped from someone’s pocket. And tall, dusty purple wildflowers grow with long and dark stems, their buds dispersing in different directions from the top, like poufy hair or a chandelier.
We walk on under the shade of the oaks—the dry and rocky trail popping under our feet. Hot dust settles on my shoes, reminding me of summer, which is still yet to come. The trail around the lake is perfect for a decent hike, but not too long. It is just enough to push me and leave me a bit sore in the morning yet relaxing enough to soothe me with all its life decorating the grass and mossy trees.
From across the lake, I can see people settling by the water, playing music in their cars, and swimming in the chilled water. My dad breathes in the perfumed air as we trot along the winding trail. “Isn’t it great to get out and about?”
I nod, looking at the lake, which now stumbles below the towering trail, lapping on the shore. Cottonwood trees slowly weave into the bank, looking almost like weeping willows but grey and limp, with long roots stretching into the water like grasping fingers. The trail staggers downhill, then climbs back up and onto higher ground. The air is muggy and hot yet sweetly fresh.
New flowers dot the ground, sticking out like paintbrushes, flaming red on top, and poky, like an artist who forgot to rinse the paint off it as it dries in spikes, leaving the bottom furry with green.
The ground flattens out, and my brother points ahead. “This way to the dam.” The trail leads us along the waterside, where tules grow like thick strands of hair.
As we stumble on the dam, I see the sun sewing on the water’s surface, like spider webs making nets of white and gold. We stride across, looking at the lake on one side and the steep grassy hill on the other. The path then plunges us through the scrubby brush, goes back into grassy hills and fields, and after some time, passes by several frisbee platforms and picnic tables.
And, like stepping back into time, we end where we started, at the park. We sit down at a picnic table, feeling sore and sweaty. I chug some water, as does my brother.
“It’s so pretty here in Spring,” I say, looking around at the trees and people.
“It is one of the best places to be in Lake County,” my dad says, taking in the scenery.
I agree, thinking of all the wonderful and mystical flowers we saw, the paintbrushes, the ones like diamonds, and the ones like chandeliers.
But we’re still hot, so we decide to jump into the lake, clothes and all. Who needs a swimsuit to get wet? I hold the rope swing in my hands, looking down at the cold water, and as I swing out, I feel like a bird soaring until I let go and plunge into the depths. As soon as my head goes under, I feel the water’s frigid coldness. I swim back to the shore in a rush to get out and warm. But I, despite the cold, swing off the rope and plunge in the water four more times, feeling alive every time I soar above the lake before splashing down.
Soaking wet, as the hot air warms me up, we make our way back to the car. It’s a normal day at Highland Springs, a place where you can hike, picnic, swim, and relax.
Highland Springs County Park
3600 E Highland Springs Rd, Lakeport, CA 95453
Hours: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week