There are more than a few fascinating tales that are part of the tapestry that is life on Clear Lake. Some of them are folklore and legends that originate with the Native Americans of the area. Others are historical discoveries and at least one is an incredibly outlandish tale from a former local who lived in the area around the 1930s.
Legends of Mount Konocti
It is not surprising that there are a fair number of legends and stories about the focal point around the lake, the formidable Mount Konocti. The mountain can be seen from most areas in lake county and was once an active volcano.
Old Homestead & Mysterious Grove
In 1903 a widow woman from Lakeport travelled to the summit of the mountain in search of a peaceful place to make a new home for herself. She found a spot that she felt was the most beautiful place she had ever seen and immediately set up her homestead. To reasssure her family that she was doing well, every day at 2pm she would use a small mirror to make a signal flash, which her family would watch for. There are no streams on the mountain so the woman collected rain water in cisterns. The weathered, empty old cabin is still up there to this day and can be visited by the curious observer. The woman also planted a walnut orchard which can still be seen from Kelseyville today.
Not far from the old homestead of Lakeport widow, Mary R. Downens, is an ancient stand of maul oak tree. The grove, with some of the largest trees being hundreds of years old, has survived for ages without any known source of water and can be hiked through by visitors.
The Legends of Mount Konocti
I am going to start with my favorite one, the story of the two chiefs.
According to legend, there were once two giants or chiefs (depending on where you are reading) who lived on opposite sides of the valley. One was named Kah-bel lived to the North while Chief Konocti was to the South with his beautiful daughter Lupiyoma. Kah-bel wished to marry Lupiyoma but apparently Konocti did not approve of the arrangement because, despite the tearful protests of the beautiful Lupiyoma, the two fought, and both died. Kah-bel’s body became the red hills to the north while Konocti’s body became the giant mount to the south. Lupiyoma, in her heartbreak, flung herself into the lake and her tears still spring forth from Soda Bay to this day.
Another legend tells of a konoc-htai or mountain woman. According to the legend, a woman fought with her husband and left in anger. She told him he would never see her alive again, and he never did. She went up the mountain and was crushed to death by a milk snake, her body being discovered by people from her tribe who gave the mountain its name. Native peoples would climb to the summit to talk to the mountain and gain better health, it is said.
For a more contemporary legend that surrounds the mountain, here is one from the early 20th century. On multiple occassions in 1915, 1931 and 1966 fires exposed a large hole on the eastern side of the mountain that was usually covered with heavy vegetation. It was never explored more than a few yards in and explorers theorized that it was a crater or possible a volcanic vent.
In 1818 a drought brought the water level in Clear Lake down low enough that a person could walk to the base of the mountain. The waters were allegedly also low enough to expose a “great cave” below the eastern slope. The older Indians in the area at the time remembered the cave.
There is another story of a time when native peoples climbed the eastern slope to an air vent located there and dropped down notched sticks. According to the story those notched sticks were later found floating in Clear lake. There have also long been stories of a lake in the base of the mountain that is never touched by sunlight and contains eyeless, white fish.
Mount Konocti is a dormant volcano that is made up of five different peaks. They are the Clara Peak, Buckingham Peak, Wright Peak, Howard Peak and South Peak. Konocti dates to about 5 million years ago and its last eruption was about ten thousand years ago. A series of non-explosive eruptions and lava flows resulted in cones that are composite dacitic lava domes.
Konocti produced a great deal of rhyolitic obsidian which is known in the area as “bottle rock”. This volcanic glass was somewhat popular and sought after among native tribes up and down the California coast and was traded among the peoples of the area. It has been found in archaeological sites in Mendocino, San Francisco, Santa Clara and Colusa
Lake County Diamonds
Yep, you read that right, we have our very own diamonds. Also known as “moon tears”, Lake County diamonds are semi-precious stones, they are volcanic in origin and they are found nowhere else in the world but Lake County California. They might not be as hard as real diamonds, typically rating around 7.5 to 8 to a diamond’s 10, they are capable of cutting glass and have been used commercially. When polished and faceted they make beautiful jewelry and they are popular with collectors as well.
Of course you know there is a legend attached to these rare stones that only exist here in Lake Co. The Pomo people tell a story of when the moon and a Pomo chief fell in love. The diamonds are said to be the moon’s tears born of her sadness of not being able to stay with the Chief that she loved because she was needed by the people to light the night sky and mark the seasons.
1946: Amazing Stories
The following is found on the website SubterraneanBases.com and purports to be excerpts from an extensive letter to Amazing Stories Magazine in the May, 1946 issue on page 171-173. The letter describes bizarre events in the area between Hopland and Lakeport California in the early 1930s. This is one of my favorites and I only just recently learned of it. I will, of course, include a link to the actual article at the bottom of this post with the rest of the source links.
The letter writer talks about how in 1931 he and his mother got a piece of land in the area between Hopland and Lakeport, the land was to be used for cattle raising and homesteading. It was apparently a difficult piece of land to find, however, and the two ended up staying with a neighbor for a period of time. The neighbor’s property turned out to be around six miles from the property the man and his mother were going to settle on. They moved onto the land but ended up only staying for two years and before quitting the ranch business and leaving the area.
The letter writer said there were too many bizarre incident’s to be described in a single letter, and opted for one that really stuck in his mind, a strange case of disappearing automobiles. Apparently, at around 10pm one night at the nieghbor’s home, the letter writer and his mother and neighbor were sitting out on the front porch after supper when they witnessed a strange event. They saw headlights approaching on the dirt road leading to the property. The headlights continued their progress for about a half mile before they winked out and did not reappear again.
The next morning, the letter writer and the neighbor set out toward the fence line where they had seen the headlights the previous evening. There on the dirt track they found tire tracks imprinted in the dust, but the tracks only went one way. The track was far too narrow for a car to be able to turn around on, the vehicle would have had to back out the way it had come in and the letter writer is confident that that would have left different tracks. I do not disagree with that assessment.
Another strange detail noted by the letter writer is that when the headlights were travelling through the dark on the rough, dirt track, they were completely steady. A car, especially one in 1931, would not have been able to travel over a rutted, dirt track without bouncing and wavering at least a little bit and visible to the witnesses. These headlights allegedly travelled smoothly before disappearing and never turning back up.
The letter writer describes the area as being on the old Pieta road that used to run between Lakeport and Hopland, although the specific location of the property is now unknown and apparently impossible to find again. He did describe some characteristics of the area:
Characteristics of the vicinity are one: no wind; two: silence. You can hear your heart beat and after two weeks, you can hear insects running on the ground; Three: Forest fires will not burn there. They burnt 250,000 acres, then burnt all around this area; and that stopped the forest rangers. They could never understand because most of it is on the slope of a mountain and it should have gone, but they say that the wind came down and blew from the top down and blew North, South, East and West at once and that was the only time that the wind ever blew there…
Clear Lake Man
The remains of a man found in 1923 by Charles Hesse, who was just trying to dig a pit for his new septic tank at his home near Borax Lake, may be some of the oldest human remains in North America.
According to examinations conducted at the San Francisco state university, the remains were of a surprisingly healthy, 45 to 50 year old Caucasian male. It was noted that the skull had suffered trauma and there was a crude, obsidian arrowhead lodged in his shoulder blade. Another strange observation of the remains, the ear holes were completely closed over with bone growth. The condition is similar to what is now known as “Surfer’s Ear” and was not uncommon among humans accustomed to doing a lot of fishing in extremely cold water.
There are some other resource links below for more interesting stories, legends and historical accounts of events in Lake County. I hope you enjoyed what I left here and if you think I left something out please let me know in the comments. I am determined to boost the morale around here after that nasty L.A. Times reporter soiled it.