Santa Ana River

Lori Kegler | Santa Ana River, California

My husband’s family has owned a cabin on the Santa Ana River for ninety years. My mother in law is 101 years old. When she was 17, the cabin burned down. She drew the floor plan for the current cabin, and her father rebuilt the structure that stands today. My husband has countless stories of summers spent at the cabin. His parents and grandmother were all teachers, so they could spend most of the summer at the cabin. Almost all of his stories center around the river.

A man who owned a neighboring cabin taught my husband how to fish, when he was 11 years old. My husband would leave after breakfast, and they would walk for miles up and down the river. The elderly gentleman taught him the art of river fishing, and they would easily catch their limit of fresh trout, much to the delight of his family. My husband loved the stories of floods, freezes, and countless other river related events.

My husband began to bring me up to the cabin when we were first married, 37 years ago. I have countless memories of walking up and down the river, catching sight of beavers and their dams, deer, coyotes, bobcats, snakes, and even a cougar. We picked fresh mint and watercress, swam in the pools, and slid down rocks. It was paradise.

When our children were born, they began to play in the river. All three of our children and our nieces and nephews learned to drive on the river road at the tender age of eleven: it became a rite of passage. They love it to this day. Now our grandchildren are learning the love of the forest and river.

The river never changes, it is timeless. It floods, it shrivels, it rises and falls, but it is always there. The cabin would not be the same without the river. It’s music lulls us to sleep at night and wakes us in the morning. We bathe in it, play in it, and throw sticks for our water loving dogs into it.
The last time we were up there my two granddaughters, aged 2 and 5, were throwing pebbles into the river. They were trying to skip the stones the way grandpa (my husband) can. My five year old granddaughter asked, “Can we stay up here forever?” It took me back to our children asking the same question. I shared this with my mother in law, who smiled and replied, “Oh, I remember Daniel asking that same question, and my sister and I used to ask our parents that, as well.” That would be heaven on Earth, to stay on the river forever.

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