ALL-TROUT 2014: Three Walking Trout Orientations, Velvet Ants, and a World Cup Final
South Lake to Treasure Lakes
July 10-13, 2014
Liam, Thomas, Jim and CharlesTrailhead Elevation (South Lake) — 9,800’Finish Elevation (Lower Treasure Lakes) — 10,650′
Gain — 850′ (283′ per mile)
Thomas and Liam sit on the couch creating a new world in their Minecraft game. We made it back to civilization. It has been a week, and I figure it’s time to preserve the events of our trip before I lose some of the details. Luckily, the boys took it upon themselves to journal part of the trip to help refresh our memories. My accounts of the trip will be supplemented with their perspective, a nine-year-old’s first backpacking trip to the Eastern Sierras. It’s not everyday you get the opportunity to take your son backpacking for the first time. I waited nine years to take this trip. We unexpectedly took them on a perfect trip.
Three hours on the road got us to the Lone Pine Ranger station. I picked up our wilderness permit and the boys selected thermometer/compass souvenirs. Following a brief stop at Vons to pick up some un-necessities, we stopped at the Pizza Factory in Bishop. This is where we made our final phone calls to the moms before our off-grid ascent to our campsite at Four Jeffery Campground located a couple miles away from the South Lake trailhead.
We enjoyed our pizza and set up camp. The boys then spent their time fighting Orcs with their slingshots, but the Orc battles were disrupted when the boys discovered a new insect. It started as a hairy spider, but we decided that it was some type of velvety tree ant or possibly a type of flightless bee. Either way, it looked strangely dangerous and cuddly at the same time, so we instructed the boys to let it go. They promptly ignored our warnings and proceeded to construct a home for the creature, filling an empty plastic bottle with sand and other furnishings.
LOOKING NORTH FROM FOUR JEFFERYS
THE ALBUM COVER
Just about the time Jim and I let ourselves relax and take note that this trip was finally happening, Liam started yelling for help. He staggered toward us bending over holding his hands between his legs. As suspected, the creature was not the fluffy petting type. His precious was more the biting, stinging type. A couple weeks after the trip, I looked up the insect in The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada. It turns out that it was indeed a Velvet Ant, described as a, “Multillidae, not a true ant but a hairy, wingless wasp with a powerful sting”.
It did not take long for Liam to recover after melting a few ice cubes in his hand. We were soon able to build a huge fire and toss the LED lit Frisbee around camp before retiring to our tents. Although we were excited to see the full moon rise, it canceled out any stargazing opportunities for the trip. It would rise shortly after sunset on schedule all three nights. It was bright enough to consider peeling down the rainfly to avoid its gaze.
It was a beautiful morning. The boys were in good spirits. Jim and I were busily packing the backpacks for the three-day trip. It took us longer than expected and the boys started to grow restless, disrupting our ability to pack and…think. My remedy was to send them off to explore the creek. About twenty minutes later, substantial progress had been made and we were almost packed. However, the period of silence caused us to pause. I then asked Jim if he thought it was a good idea to send them off to play by a creek. I wagered that they would return with wet shoes for the hike. A minute later, Jim observed Thomas walking awkwardly toward camp, trying not to let his clothes touch his body.
Thomas had managed to get completely submerged head to toe. On a side note, before Jim and I set off to take this trip, we agreed to not overreact to maintain a positive atmosphere for the boys. Although Jim had to unpack the recently packed dry clothes, he did so with a smile on his face, knowing that this event only added to our adventure.
With a shiny new dry Thomas, we all walked together to throw away our campsite trash. We also planned to return to the scene of the crime where Thomas took his plunge. Unfortunately, it was now Liam’s turn again. He slipped on loose gravel that covered the semi-paved road and landed hard on his butt, jamming his pinky finger in the process. The finger appeared a little crooked, but he was able to move it. We figured a little tape around the finger would keep us from looking at it. The butt injury received no attention.
At the creek, the boys explained what happened in great detail and enthusiasm, causing us to think that we should have been worried about other things beside their wet shoes. They clearly had a wonderfully exciting adventure as described in their own words from an excerpt out of Liam’s trip journal:
Liam’s trip log:
It started funny! The dads told us to go to the creek and we did! Thomas and I found fish and logs near a large tube of metal. We climbed on the log next to the tube. Then we walked back. We told the dads what happened. Then, we went back and this time we wanted to go to the other side. There were rocks to jump on. It looked like it was impossible! I jumped for my life. I closed my eyes! And…..I…….I made it! Then Thomas wanted to come. He told me to get a log so he could come over. He crawled and crawled. I said, “ I can’t hold it much longer!” Then, it happened. He fell into the creek! The water was on his mouth. The log I used was holding his chest down… for 20 seconds! Then, he got up and said, “That was awesome!”
NORTH LOOKS INVITING, BUT WE ARE HEADING EAST INSTEAD
TIME TO WRING OUT THE BOY
With one finger hidden under wrapped tape and two pairs of damp shoes, we made it to the South Lake trailhead by a 10:00am. The South Lake water level was extremely low. Neither boater nor angler was seen on the lake or along the shoreline. The trail route migrated west wrapping around the South and West sides of South Lake before stepping over a saddle out of site West of the ponding Lake.
WE LEAVE IN PEACE
KIDS WEAR GREY WITH BRIGHT ORANGE AND DADS WEAR MUSTARD
The trek took us four hours to reach our destination. Minor adjustments to our gear caused most of our pauses, followed by needed rest and the many photo opportunities along the trail. After the first mile, the whining subsided to an infrequent grumble and the boys appeared to find their rhythm with the trail. The last mile included a fairly steady ascent. But by this time, the boys were ready to see Treasure Lakes and they continued to walk with determination.
Roughly a quarter mile before reaching our destination, we were introduced to a beautiful Siberian husky. She initially took us off guard for a moment with her wolf-like features, but my prior experiences with wild animals in this particular area of wilderness (see WT Saddlerock Lake trip 2002) allowed me to gauge that this would be another friendly encounter. We offered to take care of the dog for the weekend, but the dog’s owners kindly declined our offer. We continued our ascent to Treasure lakes.
THE JOURNEY BEGINS
LIAM AND SOUTH POND
DER BERG IST DAS ZIEL
EXPANDING SHORES OF SOUTH LAKE
THOMAS CONSIDERS THE DAY’S JOURNEY
DESCENDING TRIAL PROVIDES RELEAF
THOMAS POSES WITH “THE SIGN POST AHEAD.” LIAM HIKES IN THE TRAIL ZONE.
NONE SHALL PASS!
BRAVING THE WILD FLOWERS
TOM AND HUCK
JIM IN LAST PLACE
ANSWER WE THESE QUESTIONS THREE!
STREAM CROSSING #14-B
STAIRWAY TO DESTINATION
MODERN MUIR YOUTH
BACKPACKING IS SERIOUS BUSINESS
THOMAS AND JIM LEAVE THE TRAIL BEHIND
THE TRAIL LEVELS OFF
Forgetting the arduous three-mile trek, the boys abandoned their backpacks and raced toward one of the lake islands. They set off to stake their first claim, declaring the island as their own. We had arrived. Jim and I watched as the boys scrambled across a bridge constructed of a loosely positioned logs. Their enthusiasm brought us a great sense of relief and satisfaction. The basin contained two lakes in our immediate area and was surrounded by several 12,000-13,000 foot peaks. Continuing west, a visible and audible drainage trickled down toward the lakes. It was gong to be a great couple of days.
Leaving the boys to their island, we set about the business of locating a campsite before breaking out lunch, which included tuna fish sandwiches, salami and Gruyere cheese. It did not take long; we located a campsite between the two lakes. Each lake could be reached from our campsite by an approximate 50-yard walk.
STAKING A CLAIM
Many trout were easily seen from lakeshore, so it did not take long for the fishing rods to make an appearance. With camp set up, Jim and I rigged up fishing lines and the boys pursued trout. We all migrated to the shoreline of the second lake where we discovered excellent fishing. By days end, we successfully landed and set free one dozen golden trout.
Disregarding the boy’s requests to eat the trout, we sat on a granite slab beach located at the first lake where we ate our freeze-dried lasagna and chili mac and cheese made by Mountain House and watched the sunset. I consider lasagna and chile mac Walking Trout (WT) staples. My palate awarded both an 8.5 out of 10 on the WT freeze-dried food scale.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF WILD CAUGHT FREEZE-DRIED FOOD
IS THIS REALLY OUR DINNER?
Exhausted by the day’s activities, everyone seemed ready to call it a day. Thomas had developed a headache, possibly caused by the elevation gain, so both Jim and Thomas crawled into their tent to pursue sleep before the first star appeared. Liam and I stayed up just a little while longer to take care of a few camp chores, one of which included filtering our water by the lakeside. It is by the lake where Liam called out the location of the first star, one of only a few stars that would appear in the night sky. The giant moon beacon would soon burn away darkness and hide the Milky Way’s inventory, an attraction left aside for the next trip. A bat also made a brief appearance flying low and close to collect insects fluttering out of reach of the surfacing golden trout. I could not squeeze out another moment for this day. Liam and I crawled into our sleeping bags and listened to rushing water and our snoring neighbors.
TWO WALKING TROUT WRITERS IN ACTION
It was not surprising to find Jim up working on a project. Perched on a rock slab overlooking the second lake and Johnson Peak above, he sat during sunrise ignoring the resident mosquitoes with a sketchpad (no batteries needed) in his lap replicating the morning glory. He shared with me some amazing sketches drawn by his grandmother contained in the very same notepad. He clearly shares the same skill. Jim’s gift represented by his sketch art is displayed at the beginning of this log (a welcome addition to the spirit of the WT).
We allowed the boys to explore their island while we prepared breakfast (pop tarts and coffee). Reminded by the last time we sent the boys off to explore water, we decided to join them on their island where we observed many fish surfacing for the insect du juor.
JIM DRAWS ON GRANITE
THOMAS SPIES LAKE ISLAND #2
We armed ourselves with fishing rods to begin the day’s activities. I constructed my fly fishing rod, adding to the arsenal. With an almost ideal spot without much lakeside structure to get hung up on, I decided to provide a little fly fishing instruction to Jim who seemed interested. He was getting the hang of it. I only reminded him to keep the rod pullback at one o’clock to avoid snagging the shrubberies behind him. Maybe I was over instructing to the point of distraction? His next forward swing abruptly ended with a “THWAP!” followed by an “OW!” We turned around to see Liam holding his beanie-capped head. Luckily, Jim had only snagged the beanie cap with a barbless hook. We were able to enjoy a good laugh without tears or medical attention. Well, our eyes did tear a bit from laughing.
Lunch came early at 10:45am. We found a good spot to picnic overlooking the lake where we enjoyed a can of sardines and a repeat of yesterday’s lunch: tuna fish sandwiches, salami, and Gruyere cheese. Sustained, the boys trickled down to the lake where they encountered a group of people enjoying the water in their birthday suits. From our lunch spot, Jim and I ended up viewing the backside of this lakeside attraction. We did not offer much explanation to the boys and they returned with an interest in taking a trip to the snow bank located on the far west side of the lake. Welcoming the new distraction, we collected the boys and prepared for a day hike in search of snow.
OK, THIS IS PRETTY COOL
WILD JIM WITH A FLY ROD
MOSQUITO NET HEAD FISHING
We started our approach to the west side by crossing a stream connecting our two lakes via a narrow, wobbly log. Our route ascended up a ridge to an intersection where we needed to choose between continuing up the ridge closer to the lake and snow bank or up the drainage along the roaring stream. We followed our ears and soon discovered a waterfall. The day started to get warm and I wasted no time stripping down to my briefs, intending to stand under the waterfall. The invitation was halted by the contrast in temperatures, for the water was made out of melted ice. I only managed to dunk my head and splash water over the rest of my body. The water was just too cold, for now. The boys drank freshly filtered water from the stream. Liam commented, “It was the best water I ever tasted.”
THOMAS, JIM, AND WATERFALL
Our trail came to a dead end, or what Jim would call a “bear trail.” He took the lead crouching under thick bendable branches of an unknown streamside shrubbery and enchanting wildflowers, eventually picking his way back to the “people trail” that continued upward along the creak to a small snow bank. Although the boys had a different vision or plan in mind with the snow bank they spotted at the lake, this snow bank seemed to satisfy their objectives. We continued on for a while, but not long enough. After consulting Google Earth maps at home, Jim discovered that we missed a very large lake just a few hundred feet before our turn-around point. The lake will have to wait for our next trip to this land. The day grew increasingly enjoyable. Our time spent along the creak involved collecting many rock samples and playing mountain stream Parkour.
ABOVE THE FALLS
THE DAY’S DESTINATION: SNOW PATCH!
LIAM ENDORSES MOUNTAIN WATER
FAREWELL TO FALLS
Access to our prior ridge route option seemed possible, so we decided to climb up the side of the ridge to make a loop back to camp. A trail revealed itself, and we followed. The geology expedition continued on the way back, including a very nice quartz stash discovery. We were also rewarded with some amazing views of our Treasure Lakes and South Lake below. Moms may have been a little concerned about this chosen route, but we all carefully and safely made it down the ridge trail to the lake where a new naked lady welcomed us home – what are the odds, again. Directly accross the lake about 50 feet away was a naked woman exiting the lake. We tried to make our presence known by talking loudly, but she seemed oblivious to our arrival. At this time, Jim offered an explanation that people tend to do this when they go to the wilderness. We wanted to give this woman some privacy, so we tried to rush the boys over the adjacent river crossing. As if he was walking the plank, we had to prod the halting Thomas back over the loose narrow log to our side of the shore. He displayed surprising balance walking on the log while looking back over his shoulder toward the lake shoreline, enjoying every minute as revealed by the devilish grin on his face.
DOES ANYONE KNOW WHERE OUR TRAIL WENT?
PICKING OUR WAY BACK TO BASE
TREASURE LAKES AND THIRSTY SOUTH LAKE
Inspired by all the lake swimming we observed, we decided to join in on the fun. The day was close to peak heat. We found our rock-slab beach empty and figured this would be the perfect spot to enter the lake. The water was cold, but we all managed to make our way in the water to swim, briefly. Liam complained that girls could see my underwear, so I echoed Jim’s prior explanation, which I believe, completely satisfied his logic regarding this exit from our social norm. Moving on, the boys had grander plans.
They started looking for the proper materials to build a boat. Jim and I sat on the stony beach watching the boys take over the lake. They managed to walk in the water inside the perimeter of the lake to their island. What a grand time watching them attempt to pull large tree logs from the shoreline! Hearing, “On the count of three…lift!!!” They had completely immersed themselves into project-oriented pretend play. This setting brought out nostalgia.
Stories started to flow out of Jim. He began recalling childhood memories of backpacking with his family. All the while, golden trout started migrating toward us to our little cove, invited by Jim’s stories and morsels turned up from us walking on the lake bottom. The boys continued to play. A little tequila was packed for the purpose of just this moment. We toasted to our good fortune and accepted this to be a perfect ending to a perfect day.
The boys came back with appetite, so we returned to camp and prepared freeze-dried beef stroganoff (Mountain House), unpacked a variety of German smoked meats, and opened up the quesadilla bar. It turns out that we can only eat so much. We had a lot of food leftover to pack out…something to note for the next trip. Exhausted again, we did a repeat of the prior night, except Jim and Thomas joined us by the lake to witness the bat. We caught one glimpse. He, then, disappeared for the night. We crawled into our tents and disappeared as well, until the wind started to blow.
I knew what to expect. I remember how I felt as a kid hearing the sound of wind in the high-sierras whipping through the pine trees. It’s a bit overwhelming and scary. It always made me feel insignificant. Liam fearfully asked, “What is that noise?” As calmly as possible, I gave him a very unconcerned reply, “It’s just the wind. It only makes a loud noise because of the pine tree needles. It sounds like the mountain is trying to whistle.” He snuggled closer to me and I got the impression he was ready to return home.
THOMAS DOES THAI CHI IN THE QUESADILLA LINE
I COULD GET USE TO THIS OR I’M GOING TO SLEEP REALLY WELL TONIGHT
THOMAS, JIM, AND A REALLY SMALL FISHING ROD
CHARLES FLY FISHING LIKE AN OLD MAN
An early rise gave us enough time to take a brief walk and some early morning photos before breaking down camp. We geared up and walked down to our beach for one more departing photo. Pizza and the World Cup soccer match between Germany and Argentina waited for us at the Pizza Factory in Bishop. Walking down seemed much easier for everyone. Jim and I leisurely walked, as the boys took the lead, stopping only for a snack and a busy woodpecker. The trail time was cut in half and we arrived in Bishop just as the game started at 12:00.
FAREWELL TO TREASURE LAKES
IT’S HARD TO SMILE WITH CHAPPED LIPS
BACK TO THE BEGINNING
We enjoyed the atmosphere of the pizza place. The patrons seemed to be split between the two teams. Four German girls painted and dressed for a soccer match sat next to us, which added to the experience. I was happy that my team won, but I could tell that Liam was a bit conflicted about seeing Messi’s team lose.
The trip home was very enjoyable. Jim and I talked about possible next trips and we finished a book on tape, ‘Chronicles of Narnia’. I looked back at the boys and noticed that they were starring out the windows as they listened to the story, a nice change from their world filled with video games and TV screens. It was also nice to bring in some new members to the WT family. Jim, Thomas and Liam should now be sufficiently infected by the Sierra backpacking bug, or fluffy ant bee wasp spider.