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LAKE COUNTY HISTORY CHAPTER 14: AN ANSWER TO THE PUZZLE

Maybe the answer to Konocti’s puzzle is an underground river. At Buckingham Bluffs, the ‘River from Nowhere,’ inside Konocti, may run alongside an Earth Slip, a slip that exists below the bluffs. Perhaps the volcano is air-conditioned. Some of the vents, or chimneys, where hot lava escaped at a time in the past, may be hollow still. As the lava and the mountain cooled, cracks and fissures formed. Their numbers may be far greater than we supposed. There are air cells inside the mountain. Would a giant slice cut through the mountain reveal Konocti’s secret? Would the cut face look like a gopher tunnel city?

A few years ago a trapper, as he tended his lines, reported something that disturbed him.

“I stumbled on an opening on a slope of the mountain. The hole was only a few feet from the county road that goes to Soda Bay. I noticed a rush of air into the opening. The air, sucked into the hole, was strong enough the smoke from my cigarette was drawn into the opening.”

After the trapper died, other explorers tried to find that same hole. By that time WPA workers had widened the road and covered the earth over the mysterious opening into the mountain, it was gone. It was never found again.

Another time, as the workmen blasted the side of the mountain to recover the red lava gravel for commercial purposes, one of the Powder Monkeys, the handler for the explosives, noticed that the blast opened two cracks at the bottom of the blasted crater. The two cracks opened into the mountain. At the bottom of the crater smoke and dust was being drawn into the hole.

These men, as curious as you or I, fired tarred roofing paper. The smoke from the burning paper was drawn into the two openings. Not content with this, they set fire to an old tire. The tire burned with thick, heavy, low-lying clouds of smoke. Almost immediately, the smoke dissipated and disappeared into the blasted opening as it was drawn into the mountain. The men walked around the blast site for a great distance and in several directions. They looked for signs of smoke knowing it had to go somewhere. There wasn’t any sign of smoke. No smoke could be detected anywhere.

Although the blast site was soon covered over as more of the work commenced to recover the gravel, the superintendent’s report noted the strange openings were near the trapper’s site. These facts were later verified by the Crew Boss.

Here is one last riddle. In the nineteen twenties, diamond mining had become as exciting as the Gold Rush had been in 1849. In 1926 a diamond miner drove his drill into a cliff next to the Perini County Road. He looked for hard quartz, and his drill probed deeply; one hundred and seventy-five feet into the cliff side.

“By the time I reached that far,” he reported, “The earth and rock had turned to stones the size of my head. They were crammed close together, and cold air was gushing from between the stones.”

After the prospector found nothing more of interest, he abandoned the project. A party, interested in the Miner’s tale, visited the same excavation on 4 July 1952. One of their members told an impossible tale.

“The prospector’s original tunnel had collapsed twelve feet back from the opening. Nevertheless, a blast of cold air, coming from inside the tunnel, was powerful enough to blow out a candle. It was hot outside, a hundred and six degrees in the shade. When our thermometer tested the temperature of the cold air, it registered fifty degrees.”

Since then the tunnel has finished its collapse. No air issues from the opening but one odd fact remains that may be a clue to the mystery. The tunnel is twelve miles from Konocti, and Indian legends say there is a tunnel all the way from Konocti to Ukiah.

Next Week: Is a New Blowup Coming?

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

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

e-mail: genepaleno@gmail.com

Website: genepaleno.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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