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August 19, 2007

The Folsom Outhouse

Though not ever destined to achieve the notoriety of Folsom Prison, the Folsom Outhouse is nonetheless remarkable in its own right. Only in California, I suppose, but I'll get to that in a minute.

I was supposed to go diving yesterday. The local diveshop had organized a community service project in the form of an expedition to lift a Toyota 4-Runner out of the American River. Seems there is a rocky place along the American river shore, not that far below Folsom dam and just above Nimbus dam. People jump off a cliff there, hurt themselves, and dump all sorts of stuff. Bicycles are said to be there at the bottom of the river, and apparently a Toyota truck. And maybe some guns or ammo or whatever. The truck somehow fell in, or was pushed in, about three years ago. No bodies or anything, but also not a real good thing. So the owner of Divers Cove in Folsom decided it should come out and organized the whole thing.

I had stopped by the shop Friday and they were testing the lift bags. Two long ones with a lift capacity of 2,000 pounds each, and then a big cushion-like one with a capacity to lift 4,000 pounds. Now a Toyota Forerunner weighs perhaps 5,000 pounds or so, but that's on land. In the water it only weighs the difference between the water it displaces and the water itself. So those lift bags were plenty enough to get the Toyota out of the muck and float it back to a dock.

So on Saturday I packed my gear and headed for the dive shop with Morgan, my 11-year-old son. A good number of people were already there and loaded stuff on pickup trucks. Lots of air tanks. Rigging of all sorts. More people trundled in, some seasoned divers, others recently certified and in need of rental gear. Robert Flores then had everyone sit down at the big conference and training table, cranked up his projector, and used Google Earth to show the dive location and explain the dive plan. He did a marvelous job, all concise and to the point. But it also became clear to me that we could not go. Diving meant boarding a boat to get upstream to the site, and only divers could get on the boat. I was not about to leave my son behind in some park all by himself. Besides, cold water, a current and very low visibility didn't exactly sound too appealing. So Morgan and I decided to go to Folsom Lake instead.

Folsom Lake was where I'd done my certification dives a little over a year ago, but it was hard to recognize the place. Since it is a reservoir, Folsom Lake goes up and down a lot, and this summer the water level is way down. All the boats from the big marina had to be moved to dry land and were filling the parking lots. Not much fun for them. When I had done my C-dives, it'd been fun to dive and look down onto a parking lot. Well, that parking lot was all dry now and we parked there. And not only that, but the lake level was now much lower than the parking lot so that the shoreline was totally different.

Morgan and I decided to take a hike along the shore, which isn't that much fun since the surface is either muck or really sharp crushed rock. He thinks it's hysterically funny to sink calf-deep into the muck in new sneakers. Me, less so. Anyway, we made it a good distance and around some bends and there it was, the Folsom Outhouse. I know, that doesn't sound too terribly appealing, a floating outhouse, but it really wasn't just a floating port-a-potty like they have at construction sites or county faires. This was a neat, tidy, floating structure, nicely anchored perhaps 50 feet off-shore. I am not sure if they relocate it if the lake level is higher or lower, but for now that's where it was. And it just looked so bizarre and comical, floating there that we couldn't stop laughing.

Morgan then went into the water, with all his clothes on, and paddled around. It got deep quickly, but he is a good swimmer and diver. He really wanted to swim over to the Outhouse and check it out, and so I told him he could go. I'd have gone with him, but I had stupidly taken my valuables and other non-waterproof stuff with me and didn't want to leave them laying on the shore. So Morgan swims over to the Folsom Outhouse and tries to lift himself up onto the surface, but it is too high. He tried for a few minutes, then swam back. Shortly thereafter a motorboat approached and docked, and a whole procession of people boarded the Outhouse and used its facilities. Morgan saw the presence of the newcomers as an opportunity to get a lift onto the Outhouse deck and I literally had to hold him back as I didn't want him to crash the pooping party.

So we waited until they were all pooped out, then he swam back and tried again. To no avail.

Why is it there, the Folsom Outhouse? Well, I suppose it's better than to stand on the boat and pee in the lake, but the lake isn't all that big and a suitable facility is likely within five minutes' distance for a motorboat. And it's clearly not for swimmers as there isn't a ladder or anything. So the Outhouse remains a mystery, at least to us. Who did it? How did it come about? How do they maintain it? I guess it's a California thing.

Posted by conradb212 at August 19, 2007 11:18 PM