Wildwood Cafe

There are many exciting places to visit accross the country-side. Sometimes the adventure is right out the door, other times it is not even necessary to leave these 4 walls.

Monday, September 05, 2005

California Camping (6/04)

Shortly after returning from my Washington trip which was 2 years ago, I wondered to myself where my next outdoor adventure might lead me.

I was considering Montana and the beauty of Glacier National Park, I considered Alaska and Denali Bay, but I was almost certain that my travel would take me to the rugged wilds of Maine and the Atlantic Ocean.

Things kind of took a different twist than what I initially planned. Earlier this year my brother’s family moved out to Fresno California. Andrew told me that I should come out and visit Yosemite, and Becky told me that I would be the 1st of the family to actually make this trip. I said that I would keep this in consideration, but wasn’t to convinced that this would come about. A couple months ago a National Geographic Adventurer magazine changed my mind. This issue covered the best National Parks in our country. Wouldn’t you know that 3 of these best National Parks were found in California; Redwood National Park, Lassen Volcanic Park, and of course Yosemite National Park.

Quickly the idea of a California trip changed from a perhaps some day to a lets do this trip right away, and I started making preparations for my trip out west. I was also very pleased that Andrew was going to allow me to borrow his truck for the duration of my visit.

I wanted to test my physical endurance level prior to the trip so I took a backpacking trip along the Manistee River trail. Even though the trail didn’t lay me to waste, I discovered that 18 years of office work did not make me a great physical specimen. Backpacking was to be avoided unless I took the kiddy trail.

I also was 20 pounds heavier than I was last year, so I started dieting.

Day 1

Before I knew it I met my brother in Fresno airport. The arid hot heat of Fresno was so much different than the incessant rainy cool days up here in Northern Michigan.

The 1st order of business was to buy some hiking boots, because my memory left out this fine detail.

It was real nice to see Andrew, Carol, and little Katherine. Even though I arrived in the flurry of moving I was able to share the pleasure of their backyard pool, and of course the 1st of several visits to the Coldstone on Blackstone ice-cream shop.

Day 2

Thursday morning I dropped my brother off at work and started my outdoor adventure.

Most of California seems pretty desolate, bordering on being a desert climate. It was to be a very long trip to the Redwood Coastline. Eleven hours passed before I arrived at my destination. I camped in some very tall trees in the Jedediah Smith State Park. A stream bordered the campground and I took a short hike, looking for signs of good fishing. When I cooked my ramen noodles back at camp I was very pleased at how quick my new 1 burner stove had the meal ready.

Day 3

The next day I enjoyed all the sights of the Redwood Park. I started out by hiking a trail in the Simpson-Reed Grove. Next I admired the coastal scenery. In many ways the Redwood Forest looked like the scenery I remembered from my Washington trip. I saw lots of bubbling brooks, moss hanging from trees, and dense vegetation. I searched for whales off of Patrick’s Point. There were no whales to be seen, but I took pictures of several sea lions that I saw in the distance. After this I traveled back north for a little spell and took the very beautiful coastal drive, admiring many sea stacks that hung close to the shore. Arriving back at the main road I bought some smoked salmon near the Klamath River.

I arrived at my new campground at Prairie Creek. Supper was next. You normally wouldn’t think about putting smoked salmon in spaghetti, but it was an excellent taste combination, and as far as I’m concerned that’s what camping’s all about. That pleasure was short lived when I happened to sneeze with my mouth full. As all sneezing mistakes start, I tried to minimize my sneeze. The mouthful of food really didn’t help any. Before I knew it I was walking very carefully around my campsite looking for something to take care of my little disaster. The best thing I could locate was a few moist towelettes. They became moister as I cleared my nose, and I was fascinated to see that some of my spaghetti made the upward journey. Clearing my nose tickled something else up there and I had another moist towelette ready. To my simple amusement, this time I actually cleared a considerable sized chunk of salmon. That is not something that happens every day.

That evening I worried that my sneezing episode would attract bears to my campsite. Thankfully instead they were drawn to the raunchy smell of some well locked down garbage cans.

Day 4

That ended my blur tour of the Redwood Park. On my way back I enjoyed the different mountain pass that I took that aimed me towards Redding. Towards the end of the pass there were some nice views of Mount Shasta.

Saturday evening my brother and I enjoyed a Fresno Grizzlies baseball game. We were fortunate to see the Philly Phanatic mascot who was at this ball game. This ballpark had a very pleasant atmosphere to it.

Day 5

Sunday afternoon I left for the main focus of my camping trip, which was Yosemite National Park. This was not nearly as long of a trip. I arrived at my destination several hours later. I loved the sights of Yosemite until I arrived at the campground in which I reserved 2 evenings of camping. This place looked like a city away from the city. Campsites were crammed much to close to each other. A person could listen in on a half dozen conversations at once. I went about my business and cooked myself a freeze dried supper. Afterwards I started talking with a couple guys whose tents were directly adjacent to my own. They talked about some places that they enjoyed in Yosemite, as well as a couple lakes that they enjoyed in Sequoia National Park, which were Jenny and Weaver Lakes. I also learned thru them that the Lakers were going to thoroughly thrash the Pistons. The 1st game was that evening but I had to miss out on it.

Day 6

The next morning I beat the crowd by waking up at 8 AM. I never adjusted to the time zone difference, in this case West Coast time would be 5 AM. I preferred to think that I slept in instead of waking up early. I ate breakfast and promptly took the truck out to a recommended stream in the “Yosemite Trout Fishing” book. This was almost a step across creek, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. Even though they weren’t that big, I was quite happy to land my 1st 4 trout in California. I don’t recall any mention in the book about waterfalls on this creek, but they were a welcome addition to this fishing trip. I determined a good spot to end the fishing trip to be an area where one waterfall was quite difficult to go around.

After fishing I decided to check out my camping options for later into the week. I went to the Big Oak Flat Visitor center and inquired about any available campsites within Yosemite. Unfortunately there wasn’t even one campsite that was not taken. This only left 2 options available for me 1) Getting a wilderness permit and doing some backpacking, and 2) camping outside of Yosemite.

The gentleman who wrote “Yosemite Trout Fishing” did not steer me wrong in finding my first trout, so I decided to try out the 10 Lakes area in which he recommended backpacking in. The dotted lines to 10 Lakes on my topo map appeared to be fairly straight so it should be an easy trek. This required that I get a wilderness camping permit from the Toulumne Wilderness Center. The trip over to Tuolumne winded through some very scenic areas, and the altitude gain meant that I got to see my 1st snow up close. At the Tuolumne Wilderness Center I had quite a wait because the lady working there had some computer problems. Eventually I was able to talk with her about my choice of camping in the 10 Lakes area. She seemed to want to dissuade me, instead suggesting that I try some camping outside of Yosemite and taking a day hike to 10 Lakes. Since I wanted to stay central to my main area of activity I stayed firm with my decision to camp at 10 Lakes, and I requested a 3 day permit. (I figured that she wanted to get to the break time that she missed due to her faulty computer.) She asked me about a bear canister, which I had, and as she issued my permit, she also issued me a bear incident form.

I decided to journey into Yosemite’s main village. I took a hike along the Merced River and was rewarded with some very beautiful scenic vistas. I could see Yosemite falls on one side of the river, and Half Dome on the other.

I arrived back at the Hodgdon Meadows Campground in which I had 1 evening of camping remaining. Only 1 of the 2 gentlemen that I talked with the previous evening was left, and he was on his way out. He told me about how his friend turned ill during the 17 mile hike they took earlier that day. He also talked about a pair of people that they talked with that had a bear encounter. He said that a good sized bear approached them as they were eating lunch, and they ended up abandoning lunch to this bear. This put a little edge of fear in my mind; because it seemed that a bear encounter could be likely.

Day 7

In the morning I started packing things away as I was preparing for the next leg of the Yosemite trip. Looking around me I couldn’t help but compare this campground to Washington for its stark contrast. Instead of the beautiful mountain smell, I took in the aroma of beer. Instead of sights of cone shaped volcanic mountains I had a myriad of dome tents of which the closest one had an eruption of cigar smoke coming out of its door. Instead of sounds of mountain streams I heard a chorus of coughing joined with an occasional fart. The name Hog Dung Meadows seemed more appropriate to this campground than its real name. I was happy to leave for another place with a little more ambience and elbow room.

I arrived at my trail head around 9 AM. The previous day I conceptualized what my camping game plan would be. I thought that I would camp one night at my base camp and on each following day I would go back to the car to trade camping garbage for new supplies, and cook the fish I would catch at the trail head so there would be less odors to attract bears. The 1st sign at the trail head altered my plans somewhat. I thought the trip in was a little over 4 miles, but the sign said 6.5 miles. This meant that I couldn’t realistically make a 13 mile round trip hike every day, so I packed up everything that I thought I might need for the 3 day duration.

The trail in the beginning was nicely sheltered and easy hiking. Before I got a half mile in however the trail started climbing. I figured that it would level out, but it kept climbing. I walked through open areas where there were big rocks, and there also were quite a few switchbacks. About 3 miles in I met the only 2 humans that I was to see during my 10 Lakes excursion. They enjoyed the one lake that they stayed at except for the wind, but they warned me about difficulty in reaching the lake because of snow covering the path.

Shortly after that encounter fatigue really started to set in. I knew that I was not in good backpacking shape, and the trail I was taking was everything but flat. It got to where I had to sit down every 50 paces. I ate my lunch of beef jerky, triscuits and trail mix overlooking a small waterfall. Shortly after I resumed my climb I felt something in which I never experienced before, I could not catch my breath. Initially I thought this was results of fatigue, but then I knew I was experiencing the effects of altitude. My rest periods had to be longer. It was getting quite aggravating because just as I would reach what appeared as THE summit, another would appear shortly afterwards. Finally I reached what was the true summit in a field covered with snow. The reflection off the snow made it difficult to see very far, but eventually the trail appeared along a ridgeline. From this ridgeline I saw views of several lakes. The ridgeline got harder to follow, and the trail seemed to disappear. I had to bypass a couple sloping snowfields because one slip would easily end my life. At the edge of the ridgeline I looked down, down and down into a scary looking valley.

I traced my footsteps back to try to find a trail leading down to the lakes. After about a half of an hour looking I finally found the trail that descended the mountain. This was fairly easy going. As I came closer to the base of the mountain I noticed that the lake which was so visible from above had now vanished. Additionally, the trail down the mountainside which was so easy to follow came to an end in a snowfield when I needed it the most.

I remembered the conversation with the 2 people I met earlier that day in my hike. They also had trouble locating the lakes. One of them had suggested that it was easier to stay to the left.

I had a large hill in front of me. To my left there was a wide gully that went downwards. I used my brain where I should have used a map and compass needle. One person had said “stay to the left”, and my mind told me, water likes to collect in lower elevations, kind of the gravity principle. I needed to move quickly because dark clouds were filtering in from the distance.

I started down the gully which was a little more difficult than I thought it might be. There were damp meadows, creeks, snowfields and areas where rocks were pretty tricky. I wanted to hug the base of the mountain downwards, but snowfields and rocky woods made it impassable. I worked my way past that obstacle, and started going down, down, and down. I looked over a rocky ledge, instead of seeing blue inviting water I saw a seemingly endless valley.

The dark clouds were now over top of me. Instantly the temperature took a dive. I didn’t know where the lake was, but I knew that I needed to seek shelter quickly. After a bit of searching I found an area just large enough for a tent along the edge of the mountain. I had a hard time pitching the tent in the cold wind. After this task was taken care of I decided that it was a good time to fix supper. I noticed that my hands were red, and everything exposed was quite cold. I went back into the gully and purified some water from a cold creek just outside of a snow bank. I arrived back at my tent, and started putting things together to cook my supper. When I tried lighting my new stove nothing happened. I tried to start the stove using my lighter, still nothing happened. I decided that the altitude prevented my stove from lighting. I finally gave up and settled on eating some beef jerky instead. I had a hard time with the cold so I decided to make it a very early evening. It was only a little after 6 PM West coast time. I knew that the correct wilderness camping protocol was to place my bear canister 100 feet from my tent, but I kept it in the tent at the base of my feet. I envisioned that if a bear was to get this canister that it would only take a nudge to roll down the gully, which stops at a creek, and descends a long, long distance into the valley. I really didn’t want to lose this canister or its contents.

In my tent I tried to decipher where I was. I reviewed the last pictures that I took to try to pick up land features from the ridgeline above me. This was not a good move as I quickly ran my camera batteries out. Upon looking at my map and compass it was evident that I should have walked up the hill in front of me instead of taking that long left down the hillside. I was a little perturbed that the author of “Yosemite Trout Fishing” suggested that the best idea was to backpack to the 10 Lakes area. I read his description of this backcountry trip to see whether I missed something. His only reference to the hardships of this hike was that he himself would not want to bring a float tube more than a few miles up a steep trail. Yet he did recommend bringing waders, of which I was extremely glad that I didn’t. I read the Bible for a little bit, and then decided to try to sleep.

I knew I was fairly safe at that time, yet I knew that I was surrounded in a very rugged location, and just one predicament could lead to bad consequences. This made me think about home. I thought of my dog Amber. I thought of my brother’s family in Fresno. Even the Hog Dung Meadows didn’t seem so bad at this time.

I fell asleep and woke up at 10 PM to hear some noises outside my tent. It sounded like something was moving around out there. I heard a noise near my head that sounded like sniffing. I heard something that sounded like brushing against my tent. I looked towards the base of the tent near my food canister, is that a head pressing against the mesh of the door?!?

Lying beside me I had my defense system for if a bear should invade my dwelling. Green alert was a flashlight; perhaps sudden light could scare away a bear. Yellow alert was a whistle; perhaps loud noises would scare it away, but it might also be loud enough to gather other animals curiosity. Red alert was my Buck utility tool, which includes a very sharp knife, I really only wanted to use this if I was attacked.

I reached over for my flashlight. I turned it on, envisioning 2 glints of light reflecting back at me. I didn’t see anything; in fact the mesh door wasn’t even pushed inwards any more. What???

I ignored some small noises outside and fell back asleep.

Day 8

When I woke up in the morning once again I heard what sounded like an animal sniffing near my head. What I saw was the inner wall of my tent rubbing against the outer wall. I also heard a sound that sounded like brushing against my tent. What I saw was snow starting to accumulate, and then falling away from my tent.

That evaporated the fear of the night before, but it built a new fear. I saw how quickly the snow was dropping, and I definitely did not want a situation where I had to wade through snow that hid danger underfoot. Also I did not want to lose the trace of the trail that led away from this place.

When I opened the door I saw only a half inch accumulation of snow. I didn’t want to try my luck however. I put on several layers of clothes. Long underwear, shirt, fleece jacket, and rain Jacket. My hands still froze when I started to take down my tent.

I started taking my load up the hill, through the trees and snowfields, and back out to the clearing and mountain side. After a half hour hiking I was shocked to find I completed a circle, because I saw the bare outline of a tent in the ground in front of me.

Out came the compass and map. I decided to find the lakes as it might help me rediscover my trail again. Compass needle in front of me I walked uphill in the direction that the lakes had to be. I did locate the big lake, but at that point in time it did not look that inviting, only cold and imposing. I walked around the end that faced the ridgeline but did not pick up a trail. I discovered what the people had tried to convey to me the previous day. When they said that they veered left, they only meant left of the big lake. Otherwise there were lots of waterholes to dodge, and the many fingers of fast moving water which connected from the other lake made keeping dry feet very difficult.

Using compass I located where I thought I needed to be along the ridgeline. Unfortunately I could not see the trail so I started up the hill where it looked the easiest. When I was higher up the hillside I discovered that I overestimated by about 100 yards, but it was great to see the trail again. Connected again I made my way up the ridgeline.

The one last obstacle to finding my way back was to make my way overtop of a snowfield which was at the highest elevation of my trip. I was not happy to find that I lost my compass out of my front pocket. This must have happened on one of the times that I had to sit down. Fortunately I only had to split the middle of the snowy pass and I found the trail again.

The scenery was great all the way back, but fatigue definitely set in, and I wondered to myself how in the world was I able to pack that far in.

It was a joy to be back in Andrew’s truck and traveling down the road again. That joy was short lived because my brother’s truck was sounding kind of rough. It was really dogging its way and couldn’t hold its gear very well. I decided to find a campground and then call my brother and see if he wanted to have the vehicle serviced.

I checked out the campgrounds outside of Yosemite on the way to Mono Lake, unfortunately the lower altitude ones were either full or under repair. I drove back to the campground just outside of Yosemite. I talked with the campground caretaker. He told me that the previous evening’s temperature was 13 degrees Fahrenheit. (That felt close to what it must have been where I camped.) He also told me that the only area I could get a phone call out was near Mono Lake.

I jumped in the truck and headed back down the hill. I called Andrew at work, and mentioned how the truck sounded. I told him that I’d check the fluid levels to make sure nothing went down real low.

I got off the phone and popped the hood. I jumped in my boots when I saw a cat sized furry animal on top of the engine. This thing started screeching at me. I was kind of frozen for a few seconds because I didn’t want to reach for the hood post or lower the hood, because it might try to bite me. I recognized later that this was a Marmot. Thankfully the Marmot decided to scramble, and underneath where it was it left behind a couple piles of crap as evidence of its scary ride. The fluid levels were fine, and the Marmot didn’t do any damage, so I drove back up the hill to the Campground.

I got out my food and my stove, and was hoping that there wasn’t an altitude problem with the stove where I was at. Once again my best efforts couldn’t bring this stove to light. Once again I was back in the truck and down the hill to the village at Mono Bay. It was good to have real food again.

Day 9

In the morning I decided to try out a little bit of fly fishing on a creek that the campground caretaker recommended. I started fishing at a culvert that went underneath a dirt road that led to another campground. I was in the process of moving downstream when another vehicle stopped and a couple people walked over. The one guy asked if I caught anything, I told him no. He asked if they were still there, I said that I didn’t notice anything. He walked over and said “yes they’re still there”. I walked over and 50 or so good sized trout appeared in front of my eyes. Since this was a small creek I yielded my spot, and privately cursed my eyes for not noticing these fish. I waded downstream for quite a stretch. The water seemed a little too fast to conceal trout. In the distance I noticed that another culvert crossed the main road, and just before this I noticed another pod of 50 trout that were holding in a 3 or 4 foot deep pool. I tried just about everything to catch one of these trout, but the best that happened was when one or two of the fish even looked at my fly.

I decided to see if the culvert on the other side of the road dug out any kind of a pool. When I crossed the road I noticed the same 2 people fishing that I saw earlier that day. I would have yielded this spot, but they told me that they needed 1 more fish to limit out. Sure enough it only was a few minutes before this spot was mine, and what a spot it was. The water was at least 10 feet deep in this pool and it contained hundreds of trout. Once again my 1st casts did not produce anything, but when I experimented with different types of retrieves finally the fish started hitting. I had a great time, and shortly I ended up with 3 fish which averaged 12 inches on the bank side. That evening I determined that I’d have these trout with Andrew’s family.

I backtracked my way through Yosemite. Since I replaced my battery I was able to get some pictures that I didn’t get earlier. I was half resenting that I didn’t fish the Tuolumne River which was quite beautiful, but I didn’t want to delay getting the fish that I caught earlier back to my brother’s house. I was very happy to get a couple decent pictures of the famous post card view of Yosemite Valley.

When I arrived at my brother’s house Katherine was very happy to see me again. She told me lots of things in baby talk.

I was able to grill my trout that had a lemon pepper marinade on it. Andrew tossed in a couple hotdogs because he is not a fish fan. At least Carol enjoys trout. The fish tasted pretty good except it was slightly under done, and seemed to have a few more bones than the trout from up here in Michigan.

After the meal we all sat down and watched the Pistons and Lakers play. Luckily the Pistons won the game which put them up 2 games to 1.

Day 10

Friday morning I dropped Andrew off at work and took a long drive to Morro Bay. Even though the map showed an easy drive down 41 to Morro Bay the roads got confusing and I ended up about an hour off my course.

The coastline in this area was a lot different than in Northern California. There is a much dryer climate. Along the beach I watched several people trying their luck at surfing. I finally got to see a Sea Lion up close but unfortunately it was dead.

I went to a real nice hands on type museum that overlooked Morro Bay.

Afterwards I located an authentic sea food restaurant, which I was hoping to enjoy. This restaurant overlooked Morro Rock, and I could watch a fishing ship return from its voyage. The food was quite enjoyable; out of the combination platter I enjoyed everything except for the oysters.

On my drive back to Fresno I listened to 3 different sets of sports talk show hosts, and they all predicted that the Lakers would win, and the only reasons that they lost 2 games was that the officiating was bad and that the Lakers didn’t play good.

Back at my brother’s family’s house I enjoyed the backyard swimming pool. Afterwards everyone settled down to watch game 5 of the Lakers-Pistons series. This one was close, but you could tell the Pistons were going to win the game. Finally the commentator with the bad suit said that he thought the Pistons were going to win the NBA Finals. It took a 3 to 1 lead before someone actually thought the Pistons had a chance.

Day 11

Saturday we took a trip to the Fresno Zoo. Katherine really liked the Flamingos and some of the other birds. We enjoyed another visit to Coldstone on Blackstone. I discovered that my new stove had a mechanical malfunction instead of problems with the altitude. I bent the piezo electric starter to the right spot and once again the stove roared to life. The rest of the weekend seemed to go by real quickly, which brought up Monday morning.

I left for Kings Canyon/Sequoia Park at the same time that Andrew left for work. This was the closest of all of the National Parks, and besides getting turned around on the California roads again the trip went quickly. The northern road in Kings Canyon was not that long so I took this to the end. This road offered several panoramic viewpoints. I was told that from top of mountain to depth of valley that Kings Canyon is the deepest canyon in America. For a little diversity I took a tour of Boyden Caves.

I camped near General Grant’s Grove. It was nice to actually have a choice of campsites, and some room to breathe. Monday afternoon I went to Hume Lake on the recommendations of a Park Ranger. Hume Lake has quite a large Christian Camp which is on the Western side of the lake. There was an inlet that entered the lake that I saw several teenagers with either their parents or councilors. A little ways off I tried my luck fishing off of a large rock. I was not having near the luck that these other people were having. They were catching lots of trout underneath a debris pile on the water. I had a few bites and nearly landed a fish that was near 10 inches in length, but I knew it could get a lot better. The next day I vowed to catch myself lunch by the debris pile.

Day 12

Tuesday morning I got up early and broke camp. I was the 1st one at the lake’s inlet, so I went right to work. I found out as I have seen on several occasions that the trout have a decided preference for live bait over the artificial fly. It took a bit of coaxing but eventually I caught my lunch. 10 AM is actually a bit early for lunch, but as I mentioned I never let myself adjust to the time difference, so I told myself that I was going to have a lunch at 1 PM. I drove past the Christian camp area, and saw a picnic area sign. This was setup real nice for cooking trout, with a grill right next to a picnic table. I mixed some lemon with creole seasoning and grilled the trout inside foil.

Meanwhile I was watching a camp counselor talking with his students. After this meeting I was surprised to see the entire class of teenagers empty into the area that I was at for a quiet time. This must have added an additional level of concentration for these students for someone to be eating lunch in front of them. I decided not to make yummy sounds, even though the trout tasted very yummy.

I started down the road again to my next destinations. To top off the deepest canyon I went to see the tallest living thing in the world, which is the General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park. It is so difficult to describe the size of some of these trees. It is near impossible to catch this in picture. I did take a picture of a camper leaving the grove which showed good perspective of size, in these trees immensity they still couldn’t compare with the size of General Sherman tree.

I worked my way across Sequoia Park to where the road took a leave of the park, where I could pick up another road to enter the Mineral King area. From this area I hoped to maybe see views of Mount Whitney. Unfortunately I changed my mind as the road away from Sequoia was very much switch backed, and my brother’s truck was running a bit on the rough side. I gassed the truck up and re-entered the park from the same road that I left the park.

Earlier that day I passed a nice looking campground named Lodgepole that had a fast stream running through it, I decided to give this spot a try. I was able to get a campsite at the entrance, the ranger said something about bears entering the campground from this area, but he said it was a good site. When I arrived at my site, I was very happy with it, as it was nested beautifully into the hillside, and not very far from the creek. I went back to the campground entrance and purchased an extra night at the spot I was at. I was also impressed with the Lodgepole store which was fairly close to the campground. I indulged myself with a Dove ice-cream bar before I went out to do a little fishing.

There were quite a few pools along the stream, and several people beat the heat by relaxing in the cold water. I fished the areas that weren’t occupied, and surprisingly I was able to catch 6 small rainbow trout, not including a nice fish that got away.

When I returned I enjoyed talking with my next door neighbors. They helped me with my itinerary for the next day. They talked about an enjoyable 9 mile round trip hike. They told me that it had a 2000 foot elevation gain, but it wasn’t too terrible. Somehow our conversation turned to Mountain Lions, and they talked about a couple fatalities that occurred north of San Francisco.

That night I heard noises in surrounding campsites that suggested that the bears made their entrance into the campground. I wasn’t particularly concerned because I had all my food stored in the provided locker, and I hadn’t sneezed up my dinner that evening.

Day 13

I woke up early and arrived at the trailhead to Heather Lake. There was quite a bit of elevation gain on this hike, but it went so much easier without a backpack. I was enjoying the scenery until a sign caught my attention. The sign was kind of makeshift and said Panther Gap. Suddenly I had wished I had not had the Mountain Lion conversation from the previous evening. I only walked about 10 paces, when some branches cracked uphill from me to my side. I jumped to see movement of a light tan shape. I sighed relief as this was one of several deer I had seen during my hikes. In my hikes I periodically checked around me, but all of a sudden I decided to keep a little more of a watchful eye around me. 3 miles in I had a choice between 2 trails; either the hump trail, or the fire tower trail. I chose the hump trail because I imaged that it was a little more sheltered. The last stretch was a bit strenuous but I arrived at the pretty Heather Lake. The only company I had at the lake was a Marmot that was eying me carefully. At the waters edge I saw lots of Brown Trout patrolling their water. I found that these fish were not as easy that I thought they’d be to catch. Eventually I caught 6 fish that ranged from 6 to 9 inches in length. Their growth was stunted; their mouths were disproportionately large to their body. Still it was fun fishing.

As I disassembled my fly rod I looked to see several more people arrive at the lake. Moments afterward several more people arrived. As I left the lake 2 more people arrived. Before long I realized that this was quite a popular hike. I arrived early enough to have seclusion, but as I left I passed many hikers and backpackers.

I arrived back at Lodgepole, grabbed another Dove Ice-cream bar and went back to fishing on the creek. I fished until evening because my fishing permit expired the next day. I might have caught 9 small rainbows before the sunlight passed over the edge of the mountain.

That was a bittersweet evening because it was the last evening I had elected for camping on my California trip. That night I heard a chorus of pots and pans a couple sites down, as the bears went to work again.

Day 14

For my last hike I decided to try out a hike to one of the lakes that the 2 gentlemen from Hodgdon Meadows recommended to me. The hike to Weaver Lake started from Big Meadows trailhead. This was only a 5 mile hike with only a 1500 foot elevation gain so I saved the easiest hike for last.

At the trailhead I met a couple of people whose destination also was Weaver Lake. I passed them on the trail and the hike up to Weaver Lake really wasn’t that bad. The lake was quite pretty, and I enjoyed lunch looking over the water. I did not see as many fish in the lake, but the ones I saw appeared larger than the ones I saw the day before at Heather Lake. I talked with one of the people that I had passed on the trail. He told me about his favorite hikes of Yosemite and Kings Canyon, and he asked me where I had hiked. I told him that I went to Heather Lake; he asked me whether I took the hump trail or fire tower trail. I told him that I took the hump trail. He replied “you missed it!” He told me that the fire tower trail overlooked the entire valley overlooking the LodgePole Campground. He asked me whether I continued on to Pear Lake, of which I said that I didn’t. Again he said “you missed it”, and he described the scenic beauty of the Pear Lake area. He told me that his hiking partner was a 78 year old man who hiked to Weaver Lake every week. I told him that he was in great shape. He tried to talk me into hiking to Jenny Lake. He told me that the trout in this lake were huge, (probably because this hike has to cross Poop Out Pass). I declined and mentioned that I didn’t want to get back to Fresno real late.

I took some pictures on my way down, and as I finished putting away my camera I saw that the 2 gentlemen I had passed early on the way up had caught me on the way down. I was amazed that I was being out hiked by a 78 year old man. I decided to just join their company and talk with them all the way back to the truck. We talked a lot about the hiking, animals, and fishing of Yosemite and Kings Canyon. I wished I had met them the 1st day of my trip, but our conversation set up possibilities for a future trip.

This ended my experience of the rugged California outdoors.
It was nice to be able to spend 2 more days with Andrew, Carol and Katherine. Of course I heard the news that the Pistons were the NBA champions. Friday Carol helped me ship some things back to Michigan. Unfortunately I learned that I could not send my stove’s fuel back. Andrew got out of work early so we had one last enjoyable evening. We ordered food from Jack in the Box, and ate it in a real nice park that Katherine enjoyed quite a bit. (That is except for a pretty hard fall along a concrete stream) Of course we finished the evening off with 1 more trip to the Coldstone Ice-cream shop.

It was sad to say goodbye, but it is nice to get home to slightly less rugged Michigan again.


At 1:14 AM, Blogger ladyrain said...

Great blog. Found your blog while searching for more information at yahoo about California Camping (6/04). Your blog has quite a lot of interesting thoughts. Keep up the good work, Paul Imm.

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