Tadpoles at Hazard Lake, 2014 First Place Youth Division
By Michael Brooke
The lush spring grass waved at me from its perch on the sides of the trail as I hiked up the last few feet to our destination. My family and I were on a vacation at one of our favorite camp sites, Hazard Lake. The Hazard Lake Campground is a high mountain area in the Payette Forest, just north of McCall. It is made up of Upper and Lower Hazard and even though they are different lakes, they share a common name. Our campsite was down by Lower Hazard and had a beautiful stream near it that gurgled happily as the water rushed by. The sky was bright blue with a few silvery white clouds that drifted lazily across the sky. The day was so perfect that my family had decided to hike to the upper lake, a few miles up the trail. My brother and I were five and seven, with me being the younger. The two of us marched over the last rise, trampling the diverse and colorful vegetation underfoot. Then, we spotted the crystal clear water and took off towards the edge of the dazzling lake, laughing and giggling as we dashed through the mountain flowers. When we reached the sparkling liquid, we threw off our shoes and damp socks and stuck our feet into the cool water, sending up murky clouds of mud as they hit the soggy bottom.
The smell of fish was almost covered up by the scent of the beautiful, multicolored flowers that grew with the nourishment that comes from rich soil and clean water. My mom pointed out some of the beautiful plants, calling them Indian paintbrush, polumbine, and lupine. We sat on the damp, sandy edge, staring out over the water. The fine mud squished between my toes and curled around my bare feet as they sank into the lake bottom. There weren’t any real waves on the lake, but small wavelets lapped against our ankles. My fingers absently picked at the stray grasses that had grown on tiny patches of dirt mingling with the sand at the edge of the lake. Our attention was suddenly ripped away from the magnificent scenery and directed to the water. The two of us watched, fascinated, as the water cleared and tiny tadpoles began to creep out to see us.
As they milled about, just out of our reach, our eyes devoured the enticing sight before us. Then, the little creatures began to swim slowly towards our feet, minute eels with their tails waving like windsocks. The tadpoles captivated us as they began swarming around our feet, nibbling at our toes. We laughed as the tiny creatures tickled our feet and then sat there for a while, staring at a wonder of nature before our eyes, loving every second of it. Eventually, it was time to leave. My brother and I reluctantly rose, replaced our socks and shoes on our now wrinkled and soggy feet, and slowly walked to the trail that would take us back to camp, feeling the tiny grains of muddy sand on the bottoms of our shoes as we squelched over to our beckoning parents. As we left the natural scene of beauty behind, I thought about the wonders that the next day would bring. With that thought, I broke into a joyous run down the trail, my brother chasing behind me.