In the days when Loch Lomond Resort still ran, seven Prather brothers roamed the mountain, raising hell wherever they went (That’s their words, not mine): Steve, Mike, Gary, Danny, Donny, Timmy, and Darryl. At the cabin on Prather mountain, I’m chatting with three of them. Danny’s rummaging through the icebox for ice while Steve and I sit at the table and talk about the past. A few minutes later, Mike walks in, takes off his coat, and kicks back in a chair. The cabin’s made entirely of wood from the mountain, milled on-site, and built by the Prathers. Framed pictures of bobcats, cougars, and bears caught in a game camera line one wall, surrounded by old guns hanging from hooks.
Danny Prather bears a striking resemblance to his great-grandfather, William Robert. Broad-shouldered and solid-footed from years of felling trees, he hunches over the steering wheel, winding among dirt roads that zigzag across the mountainside. A controlled burn heads into the distance off to the left, eating away at the greenbrown leaves and needles and leaving behind a smoldering haze. I first met Danny at The Roadhouse, Loch Lomond’s long-time, and now closed, bar, where he and his brothers would regularly play music together. He peers through the dusty windshield as we climb a steep hill. “Some people call this Siegler Mountain,” I say. The woods around spread in a patchwork of pine, fir, cedar, and oak trees, all groomed and free of undergrowth. “Yeah, and some people call it Prather mountain,” Danny quickly replies. “It’s been in our family longer than anybody else’s. Siegler was there only a few years.” He cranes his neck to look up the road. “It looks like Gary’s doing some burning,” he says, slowing down. “There he is!” He pulls over and begins walking up towards the burn line.
To understand Loch Lomond, you need to get to know Ruth Springston (Prather) Moody. You met her last week; she’s the one who named the place, helped build it, and maintained it for years. Ruth was there from the beginning. She cleaned rooms, checked guests in and out, filled in at the restaurant, ran the bar, and did everything else in between. After her divorce from Lilburn Prather, Ruth took over the resort and ran it for several years, influencing many. Her strong opinions and tough-mindedness still can be seen in her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
In 1936, Lilburn Prather, W. R.’s son, decided to move and start a new resort a few miles down the road from his father’s resort at Adams Springs. There, on the edge of Highway 175 and hidden beneath the massive pine trees, he started building a rustic lodge. His wife Ruth, inspired by the mountain air and her Scottish heritage, named the resort that sat at the edge of a small vernal pond Loch Lomond. Their son, Lilburn Prather, Jr., made the most of his childhood at the resort. Eighty-four years later, Trudy and I sit at his kitchen table. Known to most as Bob, his shoulders, though hunched, still stretch broadly in his flannel shirt. His son Danny sits next to him, flipping pages of a scrapbook. It’s a crisp day outside, and waves from Clear Lake splash against the bulkhead. A few grebes squeak calls to each other.
Where once stood a kitchen, only an old stove remains. It lays on the ground, flopped on its side, once-white enamel slowly rusting to grey-brown. Sheet metal and tin scatter across the grounds, holding back the scotch broom and blackberry bushes. Bedsprings jauntily poke out of the creekbed, sagged and twisted. Among the debris, a thick piece of handblown glass dating from the turn of the 20th century sits, only a small slice of what once was a gallon jug. The winter sun barely pokes through the hazy sky. It doesn’t look like the map Steve Prather had scribbled on the bottom of a 24 pack of 7-Up a week earlier. His map had squares on it, marking houses and the location of the spring. I look at the torn piece of cardboard in my hand one more time, then look up. There’s nothing here. Only couple of flat spots in a steep-walled notch that drops down into the depths of Big Canyon. In the tip of the notch, some fir and pine trees that made it through the Valley Fire still stand. A trickle of a creek winds through them, shaded in the depths.