ALL-TROUT 2011: Generations
Onion Valley Trailhead to Flower Lake
August 26 – 28, 2011
Cole, Jack, Matthew, Steve, Cowboy
Apologies in advance if some of the text for this trip is a bit sappy. This writer’s excuse is that it is once, and only once, that a backpacker can take his children walking into the Eastern Sierras for the first time. To take them to places that are sacred territory in the heart of their guide… to show them things they have not seen… to push their endurance and test their mettle in ways they have not yet been tested… and at the end of the day be so proud of them that he ends up writing something THIS sappy on a website. It happens once, and only once. And sometimes even less than that; there are plenty of opportunities for life’s travails, distractions and profound impediments to foreclose us from entering these grounds, and so with unrelenting determination and perhaps even reckless capriciousness we have to ignore our would-be limitations and our various obligations and to chase after these megrims, before they are quite literally lost to us forever. The reward? No words would adequately describe it. It wouldn’t even be worth trying.
Day 1: The First Attempt To Flower Lake (approx 1 mile)
It was an epic car ride for this writer, his newphew (Matt), his two young Walking Trout offspring (Jack and Cole) and their faithful guard dog (Cowboy). We started the drive in the dark at 5:30 a.m., and it was no sooner than 1:00 p.m. before we were at the Onion Valley trailhead. During that span of time, we stopped at various locations for coffee, gas, McDonalds (for Jack and Cole), a sleeping mat (for Matt), and “rest stops” (for Cowboy). Unfortunately for Cole, the McDonalds stop also involved having his fingers slammed in the car door, which would be Event #1 (1 of 3) for Cole this day. During that time, we also saw the thunderheads gather to our west, and from our driving ascent to Onion Valley we saw rain, behind us, in the Owens Valley.
Undaunted, we commenced our hike in a light drizzle. As luck would have it, the light drizzle turned into a not-so-light drizzle, which turned into bona-fide rain, which turned into a thunder storm and lightning show. The thunder was at first “rolling,” which evokes in the listener a sensation of “distance,” “safety” and perhaps even “nostalgia,” but it quickly turned into the kind of “pop” and “tear” thunder which evokes a sensation of “you had better get off this mountain right now” for the listener (and his children). Having been up this trail before, and knowing that a portion of the trail just below Gilbert Lake is a wide-open, exposed rockly expanse with no trees in sight (i.e., precisely the kind of terrain they tell you NOT to be in during a thunder storm), this writer reluctantly turned his crew back down the mountain. As the lightening strikes, thunder peals and rain intensified, Cole met with Event #2, which involved him tripping over a rock and flying through the air, pack on his back, to land not on dirt or a shrub, but directly on a pile of rocks. This writer had the misfortune of watching it happen, of being just out of reach so as to be helpless, and of watching Cole crumple into a ball while holding his wrist in the fashion of “I have just broken a bone.” Cole’s tears supported the diagnosis, which, fortunately, turned out to be incorrect. This writer dropped his pack on the trail, and left Cole’s pack as well, and ushered the rest of the cadre down to the protection of a group of trees mixed in with large boulders, carrying a silent and limp Cole like one would carry a bundle of firewood or a sleeping child. Once in the protection of the forested area, an assessment of Cole revealed he would, indeed, live to hike another day. This writer went back up the trail to retrieve the packs, and after rejoining the group a descent was made back to the Onion Valley Trailhead.
We were fortunate enough to find a “walk-in” campsite (Spot #21), and we hurriedly set up the tent. We went inside for an hour or so, where we intermittently played cards and napped. The rain let up in less than an hour, and we were treated to a dry and enjoyable late afternoon and evening – the only negative moment being Event #3 for Cole, where he cut his thumb, not insignificantly, while whittling. Or, more accurately, where he cut his thump while opening his knife to begin whittling. This writer was pleased to be in possession of a first aid kit he’d been diligently carrying up and down the trails of the Sierras for years, but was a bit displeased to discover that the tube of antibiotic gel had expired some 9 years previously. The sort of misfortune experienced by Cole comes in threes, we are told, and it proved true for this trip; there was no Event #4 for Cole (or for his dad, who suffered alongside Cole during each of the three misfortunes). Although the car was a quarter mile away, we kept our distance and treated our stay at the walk-in camp as if we were already “on the trail” – the only difference being that we had a camp fire and ate our freeze-dried dinners at a wooden picnic table.
THE TENT IS NESTLED BEHIND SOME FOLIAGE FOR MAXIMUM RAIN PROTECTION
CHEERS (WITH WARM APPLE CIDER)
MATTHEW EARNS A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF NEPHEW-POINTS
CAMP FIRE AT THE ONION VALLEY BASE CAMP
Day 2: Onion Valley Trailhead to Flower Lake (2.5 miles)
The morning sun was welcome, and we left Onion Valley in great spirits. We raised Flower Lake in an even two hours, and this writer was proud of his younger companions who did not for a moment desire to stop at Gilbert Lake, but were determined to press on to Flower Lake.
LEAVING THE ONION VALLEY WALK-IN CAMP
ALONG THE TRAIL – LIKELY NEAR POTHOLE LAKE
ARRIVAL AT FLOWER LAKE
After making our camp near the outlet from Flower Lake, we had just enough time to eat lunch and set up our tent before the thunder and rain returned, this time accompanied by their friend, “hail.” The younger campers and their four-legged friend entered the tent for another hideout from the rain, while this writer donned his rain jacket and secured the camp. This afternoon’s storm wasn’t long, and we were all treated to an excellent afternoon along the shores of Flower Lake. Activities included whittling (without injury), fishing, and playing high-mountain wiffleball.
THESE WERE SOME OF THE MORE FRIENDLY CLOUDS
JACK CHEWS ON THE LUCKY “CHEW STICK” HE’D WHITTLED
COLE HAS A TURN
SUCCESS! JACK CATCHES (AND RELEASES) DINNER
AN EVENING SEMI-CIRCUMNAVIGATION OF THE LAKE – ANDREI AND CHARLES WOULD BE PROUD
NOT SURE WHO WAS HAPPIER WITH THE SLEEPING ARRANGEMENTS – COWBOY OR THE KIDS
Day 3: Flower Lake to Onion Valley Trailhead (2.5 miles)
Because we’d arrived at Flower Lake a day later than planned, we had a liesurely morning before breaking camp. We fished before breakfast, and this time Cole was the successful angler. We also continued the high-mountain wiffleball game, and of course there was some whittling involved. But first, there was the early-morning photography of the Flower Lake basin, during which this writer swore he would NOT return to the Sierras without a wide-angle lens.
I SEE HOPE IN THE MORNING LIGHT – MIdge Ure
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE LAKE, AS SEEN FROM THIS SIDE OF THE LAKE
COLE CATCHES (AND RELEASES) BREAKFAST
WE CALLED IT “BREAKFAST ROCK”
MATT AND THE 3-PERSON TENT (IN WHICH 4 PERSONS AND A DOG SLEPT)
COWBOY IMPERSONATES “LASSIE”
GETTING READY TO HIKE BACK DOWN TO ONION VALLEY
COLE, MATT AND JACK ENJOY GILBERT LAKE. COWBOY STARES DOWN A SQUIRREL.
GILBERT LAKE 2011 (NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH OTHER SIMILAR PICTURES THIS WRITER HAS TAKEN OF GILBERT LAKE)
ALMOST HOME (SCOTT – THIS IS NOT A TILT-SHIFT LENS)
A CONVERSATION BETWEEN COUSINS
THERE’S ONLY ONE PLACE TO STOP IN LONE PINE FOR LUNCH