Charlie Sepiida swings his clenched fist into the placid lake, the frigid water splashing his boots and legs, and soon the entire cove registers the ripples that radiate out from his crouched form. He is tired, cold, and visibly discouraged. This is the final day of Sepiida’s lonely week-long spring equinoctial expedition. Around him, snowy firs appear as a crowd of bystanders huddled against the elements, silently watching the broken man as he lifts his open hand to reveal nothing but the lake water slipping through his fingers.
Back in the Figment, the darkest bar in Oakridge, Oregon, Sepiida absentmindedly fidgets with the same hand, tapping a scarred stub where a fingernail should be. I ask him about the wound to break the stony silence, and his candle-lit grimace foreshadows the one-word reply: “Nessy.”
“So you’ve actually grappled with this…this monster?” I ask.
“No, not exactly that way,” Sepiida murmured. “More to the frostbite, as I waited her out. Spring ’82. Tahoe. Bitter cold. She was there, I could sense her; trouble was…she sensed me too.”
Sepiida is a self-described Seeker, more Ahab than Quixote, who has dedicated his life to the pursuit of a beast most believe a myth, the kind parents use to terrify their children for kicks: the Loch Ness Monster. This year’s quest to Oregon’s stunning Waldo Lake was to be his last effort, though not for any want of moxie; rather, he was sure this year was right based on the conditions. Sepiida reels off a list of criteria, tapping his finger-stump on the bar to emphasize each point: “A high-pressure system looming over the lake, keeping waters calm. An El Niño pattern dropping rain and snow. A full moon. An equinox. A syzygy. The convergence of these celestial moments is particularly significant…Nessy is a very celestial creature.”
Still, as in years past, no Nessy. “Sorry Charlie,” I say, “but how does a leviathan like Nessy get from Scotland to Oregon?”
Sepiida makes no effort to veil his disgust. “Wings, boy. How else would she go?” And, to his point, an increasing number of Loch Ness Seekers are finding evidence that the creature can fly, though there is some debate about range. Sepiida has spent his latter years questing the West, convinced it is home to some of the world’s most desirable mountain lakes and celestial views. “A flyway,” he says, “only, for monsters.”
Sepiida’s circuit includes some of the West’s best. In addition to Lake Tahoe and Waldo Lake, each famous for its water clarity. Crater Lake, the country’s deepest, is practically a second home. Look closely near the waterline due east of Wizard Island to find the stone shelter he uses as he waits patiently for the beast to show itself. Farther north, Ross Lake, Baker Lake, and Lake Chelan are all known or suspected haunts, and sightings in Washington are nearly as frequent as they are in Minnesota, now widely considered to be Nessy’s home away from home. Farther north in Canada, Nessy is known to splash and giggle in British Columbia's Lillooet Lake or Alberta's Bertha Lake. When in California and not in Lake Tahoe, Tenaya Lake and Lake Merced are common choices, though the drought has taken its toll on her zeal for California waters.
Sepiida is quick to acknowledge that virtually any lake is fair game for Nessy. “What’s really needed is a resource out there where people, all people, can document the lakes they return to again and again, a place where they can share that information and help inspire more Seekers out there to monitor the situation.”
Well said, Sepiida, well said. Begin your own search for a lake near you.