By Bob Kaster
About twenty-five years ago, the YMCA had just hired a new executive director, a woman named Sheila Silvaggio, who moved to town from Colorado with her family. My wife was on the YMCA Board of Directors at the time and wanted to welcome the family to town. The Silvaggios had two kids. The youngest was a boy about eight or nine years old, named Peter. It was summertime, and since Peter didn’t know anyone in town, one Saturday I invited him to go on a day-hike to Ruffey Lake with me and Nestle, our chocolate Labrador.
The trail to Ruffey Lake starts at the Etna Summit, on the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s a short hike to Ruffey Lake, but the trail continues on to several other lakes farther in. There was a group of ladies, friends living in different parts of the country, who decided to go on an extended backpack trip together, something they did every year. Their age range was probably upper-twenties to mid-thirties. Ruffey Lake was their starting point. I remember that they left a sign at the trailhead, actually a paper plate with handwritten words on it tacked to a post, announcing that they would all meet at Ruffey Lake, and go on from there. To get to Ruffey Lake, you hike maybe an hour-and-a-half along an easy trail with little elevation change, and then the trail drops downhill fairly steep into a basin where the lake is nestled. As we walked down, we occasionally got glimpses of the lake below through the trees, and I could see that some of the ladies were skinny-dipping, and others were sunbathing nude on some large rocks by the lake. I didn’t want to startle them when we arrived at the clearing of the lake, so I intentionally made some noise, banging things together, as a warning. It was quite entertaining watching them scramble for cover. I know that Peter saw them too, but he didn’t say a word. He didn’t appear to notice, or if he did, he pretended not to. After we got to the lake, we hiked around it to the other side, but the only path to get there led right through the area where the ladies had their campsite. By then, they were all clothed, sort of. They were friendly and cheerful, and got along especially well with Nestle, who felt compelled to enthusiastically greet each one individually.
We walked around to the other side of the lake, where we spent most of the afternoon fishing. Nestle was the second of three dogs that Ann and I have owned during our married life. The other two were black Labrador Retrievers, super hyper. Nestle, the chocolate, was more laid-back, but still had the in-bred compulsion to jump into the water at every opportunity. Trust me, fishing from the shore of a lake with a Lab can be daunting, because she will want to jump in after your lure with every cast. And if you actually have a fish on, good luck. Despite all the help from Nestle, we caught some fish. It was a good day.
Sheila Silvaggio and her family lived in Yreka for about a year, and then moved back to Colorado. Last month Ann spent a few days in Colorado and visited her. During the visit, she also saw and talked with Peter, now an adult with kids of his own. He told her he had a fond memory of that day-hike to Ruffey Lake and catching fish, but only a vague recollection of the naked ladies.