By Lauren Mueller | Editor
Located off of Highway 41 and Road 222 is Bass Lake. It’s a small tourist-type town, a landmark on the way to Yosemite National Park. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see a tour bus stop at the Pines grocery store on the way past, only a ten-minute detour before a final two-hour stretch to the bottom of Yosemite Valley.
But this fourth of July weekend, it wasn’t about the tourists. It was about those who call Bass Lake home, or home-away-from-home.
The normally calm lake was crowded with hundreds of boats as everyone scrambled to get on the water for some water skiing or tubing. With the two tragedies last year on their minds, Sheriffs were out on the water in full force. Not only did they have boats patrolling, they also had wave runners on the water.
One private boat dock had a different way of kicking off the Fourth of July. To inspire creativity, they hosted an “Anything That can Float but a Boat” race. The rules were simple: build a craft that can float with a person inside it, but don’t use something that you would typically use on the water (including kayaks, paddle boards, and inner tubes).
It wasn’t as successful as they had hoped: there were only four entries. But the creativity was something to be applauded. The winning vessel was crafted from watermelon transport boxes, zip ties and a tarp. But perhaps the craziest craft idea was entered by two teenage boys, who used two trash cans, some PVC pipe, buoys and duct tape. The craft turned into a submarine the moment water entered the uncovered cans, but it stayed up enough that the teens were able to complete the race.
The overall winners of the race were Randi Johnson and her partner Natalie Guynn. Second place (and preteen winner) went to Andrew Peterson, third went to Chance Bolding and Ty Peterson (they were given the award for “fastest submarine”), and fourth was Jeff Peterson. Each participant was given an award for a different reason, including the two teens who jumped in to help drag ships back to shore when they were nearly stranded.
Before the race ever began, however, 15 year old Madison Mueller sang the National Anthem, her first time performing the song in front of an audience. There is no word yet on whether the dock plans to host this race again next year.
When the sun set, though, is when the real festivities began.
The lake was cleared at 8 p.m. by the sheriffs, though many were off the water before then as families enjoyed dinner together. After 8 p.m., the entire lake is designated as a “no-wake” zone, so all boats move slowly, barely disturbing the glass-like water.
The boats began to jockey for position on the water shortly after the sheriff cleared it of all speed-happy vessels. People without boats filled docks and beaches and any empty space they could find with a view of the water. They were all waiting for the fireworks to start.
After a dismal display last year, when a laser lights show replaced the fireworks, everyone was excited to see what Bass Lake would do with its return. The lake is as full as it has ever been in the last ten years, and with the water high and spirits higher, expectations for this show were monumental.
The show began with a warning shot, a single firework launched into the air to direct everyone’s attention towards the large fireworks barge resting on the water. Boats killed their engines and all eyes turned towards the promise of a show soon to start.
By 9 p.m., the show was in full swing. The sun had fully set behind the mountains and the stars had appeared only to be overshadowed by the fiery display. Red, white and blue fireworks were accompanied by greens, pinks, purples and even oranges.
Throughout the show, boats continued to jockey for position, but the sheriff ensured that they all stayed far enough away from the barge that they wouldn’t catch fire. Some fireworks went off directly above the water, others flew high into the air, well above the 50 feet residents had been told was going to be the limit of the show.
The fireworks ended around 10:30 p.m., and people slowly departed from the docks and beaches. Boats made their way back to slips and tied off in the dark, using only their navigation lights to see.
The next morning was once again still and quiet. The water was smooth as glass, with no indication of the display it had hosted the night before. Cabins were silent, cars were gone. Suddenly, Bass Lake seemed once more like a tourist town, dead between seasons when its season is really in full swing.
Next year promises to be spectacular.