Frontier Village Canoe
As told by Allen
Weitzel, RFV Historian.
Editing and facts
fixing by Bob Daly, July 13, 2007 & October 12, 2008
It all started as a
river trip. Bob Daly and I had become good friends while
working at Frontier Village. We both had worked the Canoe
ride, which was one of the more enjoyable rides to work, though it
was not necessarily easy on hot, busy days. The Canoemen,
before Warren Weitzel created a required spiel, used to make up
their own brand of patter to entertain the park Guests.
When little kids would ask how deep the water was, we’d say, “Why,
Pardner, that water is so deep it goes all the way to the bottom.”
as kids were getting into the boat, we offer a little commercial of,
“Remember, half the fun of having feet is wear Red Goose Shoes.”
While loading the canoe, we would offer safety information, “Folks,
if we start to take on water and we have to abandon ship. Please
follow approved safety regulations that require women and children
to exit the boat first.” In addition, as the Canoe would round
Petting Zoo Island, we would warn the passengers, “Folks, please
don’t lean over too close to the Llama That Llamas name is Mark.
Ya have to be careful with him, because Mark Spitz (spits).
The joke went over fairly well in 1972 when Mark Spitz was in the
news for winning seven gold medals in swimming in the Olympics.
Actually, Bob and I had
become Relief men, the ride operators who gave lunches and breaks to
employees at all the rides. Therefore, we needed to learn most
of the rides in the park.
One off-season evening
Bob and I were driving around Santa Cruz, as I recall. In our
travels, we crossed over the San Lorenzo River. One of us
commented that it would be fun to take the Village Canoe from the
start of the San Lorenzo River and follow it all the way, down to
where it empties into Monterey Bay, next to the Boardwalk.
In the following weeks, we chatted about the idea and we finally
realized that such a trip might be difficult, especially with the 32
foot War Canoe size; we did not know all the obstacles we would
encounter. It was not a craft where we could get out of the
boat and lift it over rocks if the water was low or river channels
were narrow. After many discussions we finally settled
on the idea to doing a marathon of canoe trips around the three big
California lakes: Berryessa, Clear Lake and Tahoe.
We figured we would do the early lakes in a small canoe and then
finish the extravaganza in the 32-foot War Canoe.
Bob decided we could be
paid to do this little trip by talking Joe Zukin into letting us go
as an advertising stunt. We would do the canoeing on the time
clock and the park could have the advertising agency of Darien,
Russell and Hill write advertising copy for news releases.
first thought it was an okay idea, but then had a moment of pause a
few weeks before the trip. Bob was the negotiator and stuck to
his guns and said we needed to be paid on the clock or we would not
go, especially considering the need for insurance should we run
afoul of the law or become injured, etc. The news releases had
already been issued, so Joe finally approved the whole package.
It was decided that we
would do a warm up run by paddling a small canoe around the Frontier
Village Lake for 48 hours on the Memorial Day weekend. We
would get some press build up, plus the Guests who were at the park
could see us paddling around and we would create some in-park
excitement, as well. There were a few small articles in the San Jose
Mercury Newspaper about our adventure.
Village contacts (I can’t remember who) we were able to obtain a
17-foot canoe for our travels around the lake. It did not have
a front man seat, so I think we used a milk crate. It was an
older aluminum canoe. We first cast off on Memorial Day, 1967 for
our round-the-clock marathon. We named our canoe the
Aardvark. We were supposed to paddle for 48 hours straight,
but it was a rainy holiday weekend so no press came out to check on
us, actually very few news folks even covered our departure, except
for one FV employee, Kim Goozee (now Bob's wife), who exuberantly
waved and wished us good luck from the Frontier Village shore.
fact, Bob was so impressed that he figured that he should ask Kim
out on a date, and they were married in August 1971. Anyway,
we decided to camp out on Goat Island (which was barren; Petting Zoo
island was not even a dream at that time). So we canoed
all day Saturday and then Saturday night we slept on Goat (AKA
Petting Zoo) Island. We were going to sleep in the canoe (one
guy at a time while the other canoed), but it was too tiny for that.
Therefore, we both camped out at the same time. I still, to
this day, remember waking up and getting out of the sleeping bags on
Sunday morning. It was the coldest I had ever been in my life
and I had slept in my clothes, so I had no other layers of clothes
to put over me. The weekend was mostly overcast.
Drizzle, no heavy rain that I recall. On Sunday, the park was
open to the public. Wild Bill Kelsey, somewhat playfully, kidnapped
us, as we stopped for a “nature calls” break where the lake meets
Picnic Area A Annex. When we ended the 48 hours at the Village
Lake, again, no press met us at the dock.
Our first real lake
canoeing experience was scheduled to be Lake Berryessa. For
Park insurance purposes, we hooked up with the Red Cross for some
expert white water and deep lake canoe training. As I
remember, this gentleman was a friend of Joe’s and loaned us his
very nice Grumman 17’ foot canoe for the Berryessa trip.
It was a different canoe from the one we used on the Village run.
Though we were not going to encounter any heavy white water on our
canoe trip, we still went to this guy’s house and saw some of their
home movies on white water canoeing. He put us in the canoe in
a back yard swimming pool and we learned the rigors of serious big
time canoeing and how to survive a flooded canoe and/or overturned
It was amazing how difficult it is to get back into a canoe when
your feet are not on something solid. We practiced canoe
techniques, learned how to right a canoe that might get overturned
in the water, how to pack your gear to balance the canoe properly
and how to store and secure a extra paddle in case one got lost on
the trip. After our crash course on the fine points of outdoor
canoeing, we were ready for our Berryessa trip.
The Lake Berryessa trip
received a little more newspaper coverage. As my Dad had done
for the first canoe trip around the Village Lake, he also made promo
signs for us to put on the boat for this second adventure. My
Dad was a former sign painter by trade. We had an AARDVARK 2
signs on the bow of the boat and a big HOWDY FROM FRONTIER VILLAGE
banner along each side of the craft. This trip was scheduled
to take place over the four days of July 4th Weekend in 1967.
My recollection is, remember this was 41 years ago, that my Dad and
his friend, Hugh Taylor, drove us up to the lake in Bob’s car and
helped us unload the canoe and shove off, on the first day of the 4
day weekend. We departed from Markley Cove just off Highway
128. As we had done on the Village event, we wore our FV
Canoemen’s uniforms on this trip, as well; name tags and all.
Because we were exposed to some various types of weather and we
would be camping out, we did take some other clothing as well, as
you can see from the photos. Until we were right smack
dab in the middle of this trip, did we fully realize the scope of
this leg of our canoe promotion. Our goal was to traverse from
the southeast end of the lake (Markley Cove) to the northern most
point, where Highway 121 (Knoxville Road) crosses over a bridge at
that part of the lake (where the lake is transformed from tiny
Eticura Creek). We did need to get a boating permit,
which we did obtain and plastered it prominently on the front left
bow of the craft.
we departed from Markley’s Cove after taping our signs to our craft
and bidding farewell to Dad and Hugh Taylor (also posing for our
marathon archive photos). In a two-man canoe, the front
man provides the main power and the rear man is both power and
steering. The craft is steered by the rear man using his oar
as a rudder. Paddling a forward stroke, on the end of that
stroke the rear canoeist would twist the oar blade in one direction
or another to move the nose of the canoe in the desired direction.
Bob enjoyed being the front man and I like the rear spot, most of
the time, but we did switch off.
The first day, we made
left Markley’s Cove and took a trip to the Monticello Dam to see
that location. From there, we made our way through
the waterways of the lower lake area and took our first break at
South Shore Resort. Leaving that area, we headed north.
Since we were within many of the waterways of the south end of the
lake, we were deceived into thinking that we would complete the trip
sooner than planned. Midday of day one, we rounded the
section of the lake called the Narrows, between Gosling Canyon (to
the north) and Lake Berryessa Highlands (to the south). Only
then did we see the full expanse of the lake in front of us.
We then realized it would take us the entire weekend to complete our
journey. We made some good time and distance on our
first day. We located a small flat area to camp on the first
night on the west side of the lake. Our first night of
camping was uneventful. We were tired so we slept well.
Bob was the camp master and did what little cooking we did. I
was more of a liquid meal man and took many cans of instant milk
shakes on the trip. Many of my meals were milkshakes and
snacks. In the morning of our second day, after leaving our
campsite, we found a nice little marina with a snack shop and store.
While Bob straightened the canoe and readied us for our second day
of travel, I went to the store to get some fresher supplies (milk,
orange juice and snacks). In leaving the store, the screen
door slammed shut on my left hand and cut open a decent gash on my
left middle finger. The same day I also got a decent
size wood sliver in my left foot from some wood planks in the bottom
of the canoe or from the wood dock at the marina, which Bob ribs me
about to this day. (Bob’s note: I still do not know how Allen
got the sliver in his foot because I do not recall wood planks in
Resupplied and bandaged up (me) we headed toward the north end of
the lake where Eticura Creek empties into the lake, under the
Knoxville Road Bridge. The original goal of these trips was to
pass close to all shorelines and resorts so people could see our
boat and our FV banner, hoping we would attract some discussion and
provide advertising for the park. Once Bob and I realized how
large Berryessa truly was, we realized that to complete our journey
within the allotted time frame and meet Dad and Hugh at our
rendezvous, we would have to travel more up the middle of the lake -
completing the round trip in big chunks. Not all was lost,
however, as many power boats in the middle of the lake saw our
craft. Lake Berryessa was a deep lake. As I recall, we
carried life jackets, but seldom wore them…. So day two, we traveled
from the middle of the lake up to Eticura Creek, under the bridge
and back. On the return leg of the journey, that evening, we
found a nice little area to camp on the west side of the lake, where
a little creek fed into the lake itself. I am sure it was
Patah Creek. We put a nice little board of wood across
part of the creek and stuck some of our cans and foods in the water
to keep them cold. Almost like Davy Crockett. Day
three we paddled down the west side of the lake and went past the
three significant islands on the lake, “Small Island”, “Big Island”
and (shades of Frontier Village) “Goat Island”. These
are all the names these islands as cited on the Berryessa map.
On one island, we saw and photographed a lean-to that some ardent
camper had constructed. We stopped on one of the islands for a
short time. We recalled swimming in the lake sometime during
the trip. It was oppressively hot with no wind during the day
that we decided to cross the middle of the lake. We were in
kind of a no man's land and swimming was our only relief from the
heat and work of canoe paddling. When we camped that evening, we met
two lovely young girls (our age or maybe a little younger).
Either we heard these girls talking on the road near our camp, or we
were walking on a road near our camp and met them. They told
us about their folks having a boat, and we went for a powerboat ride
in their family boat (or one of the girls family boat, because I do
not recall if they were related) and then they walked us back to our
camp and we sat around for a little while together. Bob and I paired
off with the young ladies after dinner and enjoyed some time with
them alone before we bid farewells. I recall Bob latching onto
the cuter of the two; however, my date was no dog by any means. I
remember sitting on a log (around our campfire) with the young lady
I was with, and I had my arm around her waist and back. I
recall one kiss, but I don't think I recall doing much more... It
did not occur to us at the time, but we really had not bathed in a
few days, and our “mountain men” smell did not increase our chances
of any more romantic activity than what we received. All that aside,
we had made up some of our lost time and now felt we had the trip
under control, time-wise.
On the final day, we
made it back to Markley’s Cove in midday, as the photos we took
illustrate. We met with Dad and Hugh and posed for some
arrival pictures.... giving the camera to Dad and then shoving off
and having Dad shoot pictures of us arriving. After some
hand shakes and more pictures on shore, we headed home exhausted,
thinking about our next lake adventure, Lake Tahoe.
Following the Berryessa
trip, we felt we were not getting the press coverage we thought was
needed for the effort we were putting into the events. At that
point, we decided to edit out the Clear Lake trip and jump to the
big lake, Tahoe. We also realized that the 17-foot Grumman
canoe we had used for Berryessa was the all-around best canoe for
the Tahoe trip. We had enjoyed good success with the trusty
Grumman and we also felt it would be a real chore to get the FV 32
foot Old Town canoe to the lake for the trip; plus we’d be exhausted
in man-handling the large boat without more help.
we decided to head for Lake Tahoe. The week before, we drove
up to Tahoe to contact the Coast Guard and get our boat permit.
Since the lake is split by two states, Nevada and California, it is
under Coast Guard jurisdiction. For our trip, Bob and I packed some
life preservers (which we never wore) and warm clothing.
The San Jose Mercury
News reported that we were scheduled to depart from the North Shore
at Agate Bay at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, July 1, 1967.
This time, Dad and Hugh Taylor dropped us off at North Shore.
They drove Bob’s car to South Shore and parked it in the carport of
my Uncle Perk Field, who had a house at South Shore. We left
from King’s Beach, that morning at 10:00 a.m., which is in Agate
Bay; a few miles from the State Line. This trip for
most, in fact probably all of the way, we were in our favorite
stations in the boat. I was rear (steering) man and Bob was front
(power) man. In traveling Tahoe, we made a diagonal cut across
the lake from the north shore to the middle of the west side of the
lake. We stopped a few time for rest periods. In
the morning, the water was like glass and, to say the least,
paddling was a bit boring. It was also the longest leg. I
almost threw Bob overboard with him deciding to sing “100 Bottles of
Beer on the Wall” to pass the time of day. The Coast
Guard told us that we should expect large waves while we were in the
middle of the lake. We never did. Some decent size
swells that were fun to ride, but none of the large waves we
expected. This leg was uneventful in the morning. The
only excitement was when we passed a small bird infested island near
Tahoe City. We did beach the canoe at Tahoe City for a little break
and to reposition our load in the canoe. Many curious
girls were nearby, watching at a distance as to what we were
doing. It was, alas, the only female companionship we would enjoy
on this trip. Upon leaving Tahoe City, we continued
until we beached the canoe again at somewhere around Homewood.
We traversed a decent distance on Saturday. We
paddled through McKinney Bay and stopped again late in the afternoon
at Meeks Bay. This beach had a lot of activity, boaters and
swimmers. For a reason I cannot remember, maybe too many
people, we decided we would not camp at this location overnight, but
I seem to remember in our trip preplanning that we had originally
talked of camping there.
We decided to push on.
Night was threatening to fall, so we pulled into DL Bliss State
Park. Boy, we were tired. Upon beaching the boat
and finding a likely spot to set up camp, we commenced unloading the
supplies we would need for that night’s repose. Halfway
through the unloading process, a State Park Ranger came out of the
woods and approached us. He greeted us with a warm
greeting of, “Hey, you can’t camp here!” When we
inquired why we could not camp at an area that clearly was marked
and looked like a full-fledged campsite. The Ranger
informed us that powerboats could not dock or set up camp there.
asked, “How do you figure a canoe is a power boat?” The Ranger
informed us that, in his rulebook, a powerboat was any metal-hulled
craft that could travel over 5 miles per hour in the water.
Bob said, “The only way we could travel 5 miles per hour is if we
both paddled as fast as we could with all our might as long as we
could and then leaned over and threw up over the side. That’s
the only way we could get this canoe, with this gear, up to five
miles per hour” No dice. The Park Ranger was not buying it.
We were a powerboat. We would have to leave. Where would
we go? He did not care; offered no solutions. He
hung around long enough to see that we were reluctantly packing up
and preparing to shove off. After the “lone” Ranger
left, Bob and I were in the middle of packing up, when a few young
teenage men came out of the woods. They explained that they
were Junior Rangers, in training to be Park Rangers. They had
seen and heard what the State Ranger had told us. They felt,
as we did, that it was unfair that we were classified as a powerboat
and had been told to leave. In discussing our camping
options, which were few, the Junior Rangers offered us the
opportunity to stay with them over night in the Junior Ranger Dorm
(house) that they occupied up on the hills near Emerald Bay.
Great! Sounds good to us. Wow, sleep in a house for once,
without the bugs and other creepy crawlies. Beats
sleeping in the canoe. They said they would go to their
cabin. They would get some flashlights and they would wait for
us and guide us into their dock in Emerald Bay. They told us
to pack up, take the canoe south, pass Rubicon Point (one of the
deepest parts of the lake) and then we would see Emerald Bay right
after Rubicon Point. Pull into the Bay and look for
their signal. It took us from 7:30 p.m. (dusk) to around
9:30 p.m. to leave Bliss Park, pass Rubicon Point, enter the Bay,
and pick up the Rangers’ signal light. Rubicon Point has
sheer cliffs that ride to 6,500 feet and the water right next to the
Point drops straight down to 1,448 feet deep, at some spots.
It was an eerie feeling paddling past the quiet part of the deep
lake with huge cliffs next to us. As we entered Emerald Bay, I
noted the shallowness of the north entrance to the Bay. We
actually could drag our paddles on the bottom. It must have
only been 24 inches to 36 inches deep! With the Rangers’ help,
it was a textbook docking. Upon docking, the Junior
Rangers helped us carry our supplies and sleeping bags up to their
cabin. We asked about the “lone” Ranger and they said he
would not be back that night, maybe checking on them in the morning.
That evening was extremely enjoyable as far as learning the history
of Lake Tahoe. The Rangers were full of knowledge and even had
a 1957 book about the Lake’s history, titled: The Saga of Lake
Tahoe, by Edward B, Scott. They told us how a strong
current runs from the Nevada side of the lake, from Deadman Point to
Rubicon Point. The story goes Mafia hit men would dump
dead bodies off Deadman Point and the bodies would cross over the
Lake to Rubicon Point. The water was so deep and cold that the
bodies would not decompose. The current so strong the bodies
would sometimes, still in tact, surface on parts of the lake for a
few feet (boaters would think they were seeing floating ghosts) and
the bodies would then sink again. I read so much of the book
before going to sleep; I vowed that I would procure a copy of the
book when I returned home (which I did and have to this day).
We had a nice meal with the Rangers and chatted deep into the night.
We slept well that evening, but early the next morning (I think it
was about 6:00 a.m., but it could have been 8:00), we were rapidly
wakened by a few of the Rangers. They said the “lone” Ranger
had driven up to come and check on the Rangers. We needed to
hide our gear and run out into the woods and hide until he left.
We hid our gear and bolted out the back door and into the woods.
There we were, half dressed, standing in the forest, fighting off
mosquitoes and bugs and shivering in the morning brisk air.
The old Ranger stayed long time and enjoyed a cup of coffee with his
finally left. We returned to the cabin and cleaned up, ate
some grub, and packed our gear. The Rangers helped us carry
our supplies back to the canoe. The evening before, they had
told us the history of the Mrs. Lora Knight, her Vikingsholm, and
Mrs. Knight’s Tea House on Emerald Isle in the middle of Emerald
Bay. So, as we bid farewell to our young hosts, we decided we
explore a little bit of Emerald Bay and Mrs. Knight’s island Tea
House. We left the Rangers’ dock and headed for Vikingsholm at the
southwest corner of the Bay. We docked the canoe outside
the beach to the Vikingsholm. The facility was closed to
tourists; do not know if it was too early in the day or if tourists
were not permitted. We walked explored around the outside of
the house. After a little visit, we shoved off and headed for
the Island. We docked in a little island cove and climbed up
to the top of the island, where we found the stone teahouse built
around 1928. We explored for a while and then headed out
off the island and into Emerald Bay to continue our journey.
We exited Emerald Bay, again, from the north mouth of the Bay, where
the water is shallow. We did not want to be run over by
speedboats using the deep southern channel. In the
daylight were able to see how truly shallow the mouth of Emerald Bay
really is. Tahoe water is so very clear, we were able to
see the lake bottom, at this point, as well as at other spots in the
lake. The distance from Emerald Lake to the South Shore
was not very far. As I recall, my Uncle Perk had his house at
Camp Richardson at the south end of the lake. When we
made our destination, it was a nice beach with lots of people
around. Though they did not know exactly what we were doing,
we made a little stir as we approached the crowds of swimmers.
My recollection is that I stayed with the boat, as Bob went to get
the car and bring it back so we could load up. I vaguely recall us
saying hello to my Aunt Margie before we left town, but again, my
mind is a little fuzzy. The Tahoe trip was much shorter
than Berryessa. In pretty much two days, we completed
the Tahoe crossing. We probably did not get all the
publicity we wanted, but we had a good time and Bob and I bonded
forever as friends. It certainly was something that most
young men never attempt or complete in a lifetime. The
Tahoe trip left me with a deep appreciation for the Tahoe Basin
history, and I enjoy it to this day.
-Allen F. Weitzel
are events in life that stick with you; kind of like how jam and
peanut butter in a sandwich stick to your fingers and top of your
mouth. These canoe trips with Allen are one of those stick to your
life events. We did bond as lifetime friends with a shared
experience where we had to dream, sell our idea, organize and plan,
execute, and now fondly remember a time when we two alone shared a
bit of the time and space of life.