WALKING TROUT FOUNDATION 2013: Rock Creek Lake
Palisades Group Camp
With trips to the Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery, Rock Creek Lake, Mono Lake, Lee Vining and Mammoth
September 15-18, 2013
Mirella, Trung, Monika, Werner, Janice,
John, Cheryl, Armando, Giovanni, Raymond, Cathy, Reyna and Raya
The Walking Trout:
Eric, Charles and Steve
Before jumping right into the tale of the trip, a bit of background would probably help set the stage. In fact, I think that’s the whole idea behind prologues. This trip was organized by the Walking Trout Foundation, which isn’t really a foundation or non-profit corporation or anything even remotely organized; it is just a group of guys who like to go backpacking, who don’t take for granted the beauty of the Sierras, and who thought it would be fun to share the Sierras with a group of people with mobility limitations who might not otherwise have considered taking themselves on a trip like this. (As it turns out, we were right about that: none of the 13 Campers who went on the trip had ever camped in the Sierras before.) We met our cast of characters, and they were definitely characters, through referrals from a number of San Diego-based rehab centers and resource organizations, all of whom we would like to thank for helping us promote the trip: the Alvarado Hospital Rehabilitation Center, the Challenge Center, San Diego Therapeutic Recreation Services and the San Diego Adaptive Sports Foundation. A couple of the campers had met each other previously via these organizations, but for the most part we were all meeting each other for the first time. The trip was free for the Campers and was paid for via fundraising on Indiegogo, donations by Kinderhouse Montessori School, Dynamic Interventions, Lightning Brewery and other companies who insisted on remaining anonymous, the generosity of many friends, family, and business acquaintances, and the unyielding effort of Charles and Eric both before, during and after the trip. But what made the trip possible was the intrepid spriit of 13 Campers who resolved to take themselves out of their comfort zones, to leave behind the relative ease of life in the cityscape, and to discard their customary support systems and instead trust in a group of strangers who refer to themselves as fish. Without their drive and motivation, this trip could not and would not have happened.
Day 1: We Head for the Hills
After months of planning, fundraising, promoting, coordinating, and a lot of other verbs, it was time to hit the road. Our group of 13 Campers and 3 Walking Trout met early on a fine Sunday morning and set off for the Sierras. We loaded into two passenger vans, one of which was equipped with a lift, and a pick-up truck pulling a trailer.
THE VERY LONG TRAILER
AS RAYMOND, CHERYL AND CHARLES GET READY TO ROLL, REYNA AND RAYA START PRACTICING SAYING “ARE WE THERE YET???”
TRUNG AND JOHN ON THE STARBOARD SIDE OF THE VAN
AND VERNER AND JANICE ON THE PORT SIDE OF THE VAN (NOT SURE WHERE THE NAUTICAL TERMS CAME FROM)
MIRELLA RIDES SHOTGUN
GIOVANNI AND ARMANDO GET READY TO ROAD TRIP
We stopped for a picnic lunch at the Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery, just north of Independence. Technically we were still in the Owens Valley at that point, but the Sierras were not far. A warm breeze blew through the valley, as it usually does in the summer, and we had to chase a more than a few paper plates. For those who haven’t been to the hatchery, it is a picturesque spot to take a break from the long drive along the 395.
REYNA AND RAYA GET THE PICNIC STARTED
THE IDYLLIC SETTING OF THE MT. WHITNEY FISH HATCHERY
NOTE: THERE ARE SOME BIG TROUT IN THAT POND
HOW MANY CAPTIONS CAN YOU WRITE ABOUT HAVING A PICNIC?
ARRIVAL AT THE PALISADES GROUP CAMP – OUR HOME FOR THREE NIGHTS
A few notes about the Palisades camp. We chose it because it was relatively level, had ADA-compliant restrooms, and was in a secluded spot that we would have all to ourselves. The stream running by the camp ground was a nice touch, too. Unfortunately, we didn’t count on the soft sand of the campground being such an impediment to the very sleek and high-tech wheels that were on the chairs used by some of the Campers. The thin wheels are great for the cityscape, but they just got mired in the soft sand. You live and learn on trips like this, and this was something the Walking Trout hadn’t counted on. Although it was difficult for some of the Campers to navigate the camp site because of the soft sand, we did find ways to make it all work. For future trips, we’ll have to consider a different site and/or recommending wider tires for the chairs.
We arrived at Palisades in the late afternoon and immediately began setting up camp and preparing dinner, which if I’m not mistaken was spaghetti with sausage and meatballs, a salad, and bread (we of the Walking Trout are somewhat food-centric when it comes to camping, and as a result there was plenty of good eats on this trip). We had rented tents, sleeping mats, and sleeping bags for everyone, and bought cots for those Campers who did not want to transfer all the way to the floor – and all of this gear needed to be set up. It was some work, but we were able to get dinner made and the camp set up, and still had time for the nightly campfire.
I’m not going to sugar coat this… it got COLD during the night. That happens in the Sierras in September. Mirella was most affected by the cold, but we made some adjustments and she slept very well for the second and third nights.
Day 2: Fishing at Rock Creek Lake
We served up a breakfast of eggs, potatoes, bacon, sausage, toast and juice, and got ready for some FISHING. I wish the news were better, but Rock Creek Lake was not willing to depart with any of her trout that day. I blame Eric and Charles for the bad luck, as clearly it couldn’t possibly have been my fault. But like they say, the worst day fishing is better than the best day working.
A MID-MORNING CAMPFIRE TO HELP DISPEL THE CHILL. MONIKA MAKES HER FIRST APPEARANCE IN A PHOTO. WELCOME TO THE WEBSITE, MONIKA!
A NICE PHOTO OF RAYMOND, CATHY AND THE GIRLS, BUT THEY PROBABLY WOULDN’T BE SMILING IF THEY KNEW WE WERE ABOUT TO GET SKUNKED FISHING
FISHING AT ROCK CREEK LAKE
MORE FISHING AT ROCK CREEK LAKE
REYNA AND RAYA SHOW US HOW IT’S DONE
CHERYL IS NOT DISCOURAGED BY THE LACK OF FISH BEING CAUGHT
MIRELLA CATCHES SOME RAYS; JOHN AND TRUNG DISCUSS THE FINER POINTS OF TROUT FISHING
CATHY, REYNA AND RAYA IN SEARCH OF THE BIG LUNKERS
A SOMEWHAT SCENIC PICTURE OF ROCK CREEK LAKE
Also while at the lake, we brought fixin’s to make some righteous sandwiches, and we bought a few pies from the Pie in the Sky Cafe at the Rock Creek Lake store. If you have never had pie from Pie in the Sky, you need to close this web page, log off the internet, shut off your computer, drive to Rock Creek Lake, go to the Pie in the Sky Cafe, and get some pie. Right now. While you are there, you can say hello to Sue King, who runs the Cafe, and Jim King, who runs the store and rents the cabins at the Rock Creek Lake Resort. Both Jim and Sue provided some help in planning the trip, and a couple of the Campers who were not comfortable sleeping in tents rented a cabin at the Rock Creek Lake Resort. A special thanks to Jim and Sue for their help.
LATE AFTERNOON AT THE CAMP
Back at camp, Eric started a fire to ward of the chill we knew would be coming. Note how cool Trung’s wheels are. He and John both had some great equipment – very high tech and no doubt they perform awesomely in civilization, but they were no match for the soft sand of the campground.
EVERYBODY LOVES S’MORES
Day 3: Mono Lake tour, lunch at the Whoa Nelli Deli, and a driving tour of Mammoth
THE HUMBLE ABODE OF ARMANDO AND GIOVANNI
ERIC COOKS UP SOME FLAPJACKS (IN THE MOUNTAINS, “PANCAKES” ARE CALLED “FLAPJACKS”) YOUR CHOICE OF PLAIN, CHOCOLATE CHIP, OR BLUEBERRIES – WE AIM TO PLEASE AT THE WALKING TROUT FOUNDATION
After breakfast, we headed over to Mono Lake for a private guided tour which Charles had arranged. Another beautiful day in the Sierras, and our tour guide, Julia, did a fantastic job. We learned a lot about the lake, its unusual rock structures (called Tufas), its history with the local Indian tribes, and its importance to all of California’s seagulls. If you have a chance to visit the lake, set up a tour with the Mono Lake Committee.
JULIA STARTS THE TOUR
NICE SHIRT MIRELLA!
ARMANDO FLASHES A SMILE – AS USUAL
THE TOUR CONTINUES
TRUNG AND MONIKA LEARN ABOUT TUFAS
JULIA, THE TOUR GUIDE, MIXED UP A BATCH OF THE NATURALLY-OCCURRING CHEMICAL REACTION THAT CAUSES THE TUFAS TO GROW, AND WE GREW TUFAS IN A BOTTLE. SOME “REAL” TUFAS ARE IN THE BACKGROUND.
NO RAYMOND DON’T DRINK THAT TUFA JUICE!
A TUFA FORMATION AT MONO LAKE
ANOTHER TUFA FORMATION AT MONO LAKE
JOHN AND CHERYL AT THE MONO LAKE TOUR
WERNER AND JANICE, ALSO AT THE MONO LAKE TOUR
OUR ONE-AND-ONLY GROUP PHOTO, TAKEN AT THE MONO LAKE TOUR
THE WALKWAY BACK TO THE PARKING LOT. THIS USED TO BE UNDERWATER, BEFORE MUCH OF THE WATER THAT FEEDS TO MONO LAKE WAS DIVERTED. SAVE MONO LAKE!
After we finished the Mono Lake tour, we went to Lee Vining to visit the world-famous Whoa Nellie Deli. Or at least regionally-famous. Hard to describe the Whoa Nellie – you just have to experience it. It is a restaurant built inside a Mobil gas station, and while that may make it sound like it would’t be very good, it is actually fantastic. Artisan food including fish tacos with fresh mango salsa, buffalo meatloaf, herb encrusted pork tenderloin… all with views of Mono Lake from a pleasant grassy outdoor dining area. It has its own vibe that could be considered surreal… although that could be the influence of the mango margaritas.
SITTING OUTSIDE THE WHOA NELLIE DELI. A BETTER PHOTOGRAPHER WOULD HAVE CAPTURED MONO LAKE IN THE BACKGROUND
ARMANDO AND GIOVANNI HANGIN’ AT THE NELLIE
VERNER, JANICE AND MIRELLA APPROVE OF THE DELI
CHARLES AND ERIC AT THE WHOA NELLIE
After the Whoa Nellie, we took a drive around the Mammoth area on our way back to the Palisades camp. We drove through the village area, and also out to the sticks to see a few of the lakes. Like the two gems below, which I believe are called the Twin Lakes. I think.
A PICTURE OF TWIN LAKES, OR TWO OTHER LAKES
OUR LAST CAMPFIRE OF THE TRIP
We had a great campfire the last night of the trip. We went around the circle telling jokes, with I think Raya drawing the most laughter with an awesome one-liner. We also just chatted in general, about everything and nothing. A good time was had by all.
THE BBQ CHICKEN TASTED BETTER THAN IT LOOKS IN THIS PHOTO
Day 4: Heading Home
CHARLES AND CHERYL IN THE KITCHEN
It took us longer than we anticipated to break down all the tents and pack everything up, so we ended up having both breakfast AND lunch at the campsite. To fill some of the time, a poker tournament broke out with the guys, and some of the girls explored the stream. Cathy actually caught a trout with her bare hands! So we didn’t get skunked for the entire trip. Leave it to the Camper with Indian blood to catch a trout with her bare hands. Although her decision to plop the live fish into our orange water cooler (see the above photo), is probably a departure from what most fishermen would do with their catch. In any case, we cleaned the fish and put it on ice for the trip home. Hopefully Cathy cooked it up at some point.
RAYMOND AND THE GIRLS OUTSIDE THEIR HOME-AWAY-FROM-HOME
WALKING TROUT FOUNDATION 2013 CHAMPIONSHIP POKER TOUR. (I believe Trung won.)
MIRELLA’S LUXURY TENT
MONIKA SHOWCASES HER AND TRUNG’S TENT
CATHY WON THE “BIGGEST FISH” CONTEST. AND THE “SMALLEST FISH” CONTEST.
OUR LAST MEAL IN PARADISE
ARMANDO SIGNS OFF “UNTIL NEXT TIME”
ERIC CAPTAINED THE TRUCK AND THE VERY LONG TRAILER
JOHN GETS READY FOR THE RIDE HOME
All Sierran trips must come to an end at some point… and this trip was no exception. My hat is off to all the Campers who decided to take their chances with Mother Nature and come along for the wild ride. Sometimes cold, sometimes too sandy, sometimes with bad fishing, but always a great time. On behalf of Charles, Eric and myself, it was great to meet all of you. We hope you enjoyed the trip. If any of you have anything you want to add to the site, email me and I will add your comments below. After all, this is your website, too, and as far as we are concerned you are all now Walking Trout.