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LAKE COUNTY HISTORY CHAPTER 12: A MYSTERY

For any action, there is a reaction. Newton’s First Law of Motion is responsible for the unbreakable umbilical cord that keeps the Mountain and the Lake forever bonded in eternal intimacy. So it was with the mountain and the earthquakes that followed. Each time the earth rose and bucked, the land that was the Clear Lake Basin, dropped an equal distance.

Here is a mystery. As silt, called ‘Graben,’ fills the Lake to the thickness of a baby’s fingernail, Clear Lake’s water level drops the same amount. Here is another mystery about Konocti’s insides and the water that may lie beneath the mountain. ‘’The blind fish live there,’ the old men say in their legends. ‘The mountain is hollow.’

There are still more questions about that mountain. During one dry summer in the 1980’s, when the water in Clear Lake was lower than usual, a local explore, R. D. Winters, found several small caves running into the mountain to a depth of ten or twelve feet.

On the western slope, not far from the foot of Konocti, there is a miniature valley. In 1888 George Gard dug a well in that valley and found water at twenty-five feet.

Not satisfied, he told friends, “I kept drilling another ten feet when my crowbar went through the bottom into a crevice or a cavity of some sort. I felt on my face a strong current of cold air that rushed forth with a roaring sound. After that happened, my well wouldn’t hold water. All the water that ran into it from the sides above the crowbar hole ran to the bottom and was lost. I had to have water, so I put cement in the bottom of the hole to stop the leak. Wherever the water went, it had to be a big cavity because, until I stopped up the leak, the water ran out night and day.”

Since then the well has caved in. Nobody’s bothered to investigate more. To make the enigma more perplexing, there are no water wells on Konocti. Konocti’s guts appear as free of moisture as a beggar’s purse is empty of money. In all the miles of Konocti’s broad slopes, there is not a stream, not a spring, not even seepage. There is no ‘wash,’ no gullies, and not a mark of running water. No matter how hard it rains or how long the storm lasts, every drop of water is as completely absorbed as if the mountain is a dry sponge. Yet, one hour after a storm has passed, the mountain is dry. Mysteriously, vegetation on the slopes is green all year.

As if to further prove the lie, a few hundred feet from the summit grow the most magnificent grove of Live Oaks in the world. To insult logic more, at the foot of the mountain through Clear Lake’s waters a giant soda spring boils up. One observer reported, “When the boiling is at its best, a fish or two is thrown out of the water.”

Most of Clear Lake is not much deeper than twenty feet. Nevertheless, at Soda Springs, next to Konocti, the depth of Clear Lake is bottomless. It may be because that early volcanic activity created an underground channel between Clear Lake and the center of Konocti. Some cause is responsible for the half million gallons of water from the odd springs that bubble up from the rock in twenty-four-hour cycles.

There are legends of the geologic changes inside the mountain. Native Americans say there are tunnels under Konocti. “One of the tunnels is large enough,” one Native said, “…a man can paddle his boat for yards into the darkness.”

Another legend tells of a stream that flows fast and comes out, by some miracle, at Horseshoe Bend. On the west side of the Buckingham Peninsula, where it joins Konocti, there is, at odd times, a run of Hitch (a species of local fish), that comes from the opening. In the streams of water that come from the mountain, the Native Americans believe, these fish go underground to spawn.

Next Week: The Underground River

Lake County History. $32. (includes. Tax & Shipping)

Pal Publishing, PO Box 6, Upper Lake, Ca 95485

e-mail: genepaleno@gmail.com

Gene Paleno

Gene runs his life at a full sprint. In his ninety-three years he's dug ditches, painted signs, played semi-pro football, worked as a taxicab driver, an insurance agent, and a school teacher. He's been a technical artist, a marketing director, and a business owner. He served in World War II, raised four children, and was married to the love of his life for fifty years. He's an accomplished oil painter and skilled in ceramics. He's written fifteen books, including the definitive Lake County History, and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

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