ALL-TROUT 2012: The Home Run Derby
South Lake to Bull Lake and Long Lake
July 20 – 22, 2012
Jack, Cole, Eric, Kevin, Steve, Cowboy
2012 was another year of firsts. In 2011, it was Jack, Cole and nephew Matthew who made their first Sierran backpacking trips. In 2012, Eric and Kevin made their maiden voyages. Jack and Cole were comfortable in their surroundings with the prior year’s experience under their belts, and Eric and Kevin were naturals. Cowboy, also a sophomore, was definitely in his element; he didn’t let a single squirrel escape without a chase or at least a stern look.
Day 1: South Lake to Bull Lake
Clouds dotted the summertime skies, as is often the case in the Sierras. Fortunately, other than one brief scare, the clouds were kind enough to hold their rain until we were safely back in the car on Sunday. Still, the weather, and the sometimes-strong wind, was enough to make us change our plans. We had originally decided to camp at Long Lake, but given the wind and the clouds, and based upon reports of strong winds from hikers coming down the trail, we opted to camp at Bull Lake instead, where we (or at least this writer, who in theory was the decision maker for the group) felt there might be more protection from wind and rain. It turned out to be an unnecessary precaution, but was probably the right decision at the time.
A brief note on Cowboy’s backpack. This writer believes backpacks on dogs are a little goofy. However, Cowboy eats four cups of dense, dry food (read: heavy) each day. On a trip like this, he needed eight cups. Plus some treats and some collapsable bowls. All that weight was NOT going in my backpack. So, a dogpack it was. At least I didn’t put hiking booties on him.
The hike was an easy one, just under two miles and only a thousand foot gain. The easy route was chosen intentionally for the benefit of the younger hikers, but this writer is certain that the four backwoodsmen in the above picture could have traveled much further. The hope is to have them arrive at camp tired and worn out, instead of filled with boundless energy that they used to frustrate this writer. Next year, they will be experiencing a longer walk.
Day 2: Layover – Fishing at Bull Lake and Long Lake. And a Nap.
COLE LANDS A TROUT
We contemplated cooking some of our catch, but this writer (who was doing, ahem, more than his fair share of the work on this trip) opted for catch-and-release, so as to avoid having to clean the fish, cook the fish, and clean up the pans – likely by himself.
We fished our way along the shore of Bull Lake towards the trail to Long Lake. This writer played a hunch, and instead of taking the trail, we bushwhacked a shortcut near the outlet of Bull Lake. We must have hit the timing just right, as there was a variety of beautiful wildflowers along the route, none of which could be properly identified by this writer. Let’s just say that pretty much every color in the rainbow was represented. It made for a very pretty walk.
Right at the spot where the above picture was taken, we met up with a solo dayhiker who had just walked up to fish Long Lake in search of one of those big lunkers. He had been studying the science behind fish behavior (a true ichthyologist) and recited to us a number of formulae that would predict the most likely depth of large-sized fish given the temperature of the water, the position of the moon, and other variables known only to ichthyologists and fish. It would be unfair to say he had a crazed look about him, but it would be altogether accurate to say that he was on a mission, and he meant business. Near this spot, we also met some teenagers who had thought it would be a good idea to dayhike to Long Lake with an inflatable boat and a battery-powered air compressor, so that they could more easily fish the lake. While they had successfully lugged the boat, and the compressor, to the lake, their express words were something to the effect of “never, ever again.” Maybe they should have opted for a foot pump instead of an air compressor.
After some time enjoying the lake and the warm sun, this writer, being wholly contented by watching his sons and nephews fishing together under the blue sky, began to develop an acute medical condition commonly referred to as being “drowsy.” So, in an effort to seek shelter from the sun and to catch a moment of two of shuteye, he deposited himself in the shade of an overhanging rock. And then, in three, two, one… he was asleep. It was perfection itself. Until he was woken by the sound of thunder. Which was disorienting because he had fallen asleep presumably only a short time prior, under skies that were blue or at least mostly blue, on a day that was warm enough to send him seeking shade for his nap. But it is hard to argue with thunder, so thunder it was. The skies had, in fact, become overcast, and the thunder threatened to bring rain with it, so the fishing was cut short and we retreated back to our camp, in the “protected” valley below such comfort-giving features as the “Inconsolable Range” and “Cloudripper.” At least we had Chocolate Peak to lift our spirits.
THIS IS A VIDEO CLIP OF LONG LAKE
Fortunately, the thunder was all talk and no rain. Or at least very little rain. We had to endure no more than a few sprinkles and the scare was over. So we did the only logical thing (considering this writer’s sons and nephews are all baseball nuts) and started a Home Run Derby. We had a perfect stadium for it… plenty of flat space for the “field,” with enormous trees uniformly positioned to represent the foul poles. We followed the same rules as the Major League Baseball Home Run Derby, more or less anyway: a hit that cleared the tents was a home run, and all other hits were outs. The batter could take as many pitches as he wanted, and as long as he didn’t swing, it didn’t count against him. It was an epic derby. Or derbies, I should say, as we started over and did it a second time. If I am not mistaken, Jack took the first derby, and Eric, after forcing two or three tie-breaker/extra innings with Jack, took the second one. Notably, Kevin outlasted this writer in the second derby. It was indeed a great way to spend an hour with the kids, and this writer particularly enjoyed watching Cole impersonate the batting stances of various major leaguers (most of them Red Sox), which he does with great accuracy (“now I’m Youkilis… now I’m David Ortiz….”).
After completing the Breakfast Ritual, this writer allowed the kids to spend one last morning in paradise, fishing at our own private lake while this writer and Cowboy packed up the camp. This writer packed all the backpacks, stuffed all the sleeping bags, took down both tents… and Cowboy hardly helped at all. Knowing the kids were down at the lake, fishing for the last hour or two before we made our descent back to civilization, made the labor worthwhile. Cole came back to camp cold and wet at one point, having partially fallen into the lake. A fresh set of socks, some mittens, and some encouragement sent him back on his way. As this writer finished packing, the thunder returned, and a few more drops of drizzle, but no real rain to speak of.