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TR: Rock Creek

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TR: Rock Creek

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Sep 23, 2013 9:37 am

Rock Creek; Little Lakes Valley
Sept. 17-21, 2013

My husband and I do a fishing trip each year after his two fall deadlines. He is a CPA and takes one break after the Sept. 15 deadline and another after the Oct 15 deadline. His goal is to rest! So I planned a trip for his rest where I can also poke around and explore. We managed to take what could be a day-hike and stretched it to five days with lots of fishing, reading; and being late in the season with and early shadows, cold nights and late morning sun; we anticipated 12 hours in the tent, helped by the beautiful full moon, music on an I-pod, and reading. This was Lupe’s, our 1-year old pup, third trip – one day longer that her previous trip and some off trail travel to see how her paws would do.

Tuesday, Day 1. We drove to the Mono Lake visitor center, picked up a permit about noon, ate lunch at Whoa Nellie Deli and were on the trial by 1PM. We slowly walked up the trail, everyone passing us, until we reached Long Lake where we found several nice established campsites near the inlet. Being deep in the valley under high east and west ridges, shadows engulfed us by 4:30. Lupe, who loves to swim out chasing the fishing lures, was leashed so she would not get wet when it was so cold. She protested, with barks echoing off the canyon walls. By 5:30 we had several 8-9 inch brook trout for dinner. As soon as we were back at camp we bundled up and cooked dinner. By time camp chores were done it was nearly dark at 7:30. The full moon soon lit up the night sky, offering no warmth, however.

Wednesday, Day 2. By morning it was 28 degrees. Water in the dog dish froze solid and the Platypus water bottles were full of ice. Lupe snuggled between us and awoke us with kisses. We stayed in our bags, but realizing the sun was not going to hit us soon, we bundled up and cooked breakfast and packed. My intention was to go to Morgan Lakes first and then to Treasure Lakes, but I mistakenly took the use-trail to Treasure Lakes. The trail ended in a thicket of brush with talus to the obvious saddle above us. We realized we had missed the main trail and did not want to turn back so just went up to Treasure Lakes arriving about 11:30. I scouted around and found the prime established campsite on the small ridge between the eastern two lakes and the western lakes. We were right up against the mountains to the west; early afternoon shadows but at least early morning light. We both fished the western lakes, which have golden trout. They were not interested at all in cooperating. Then we went to the eastern two lakes and the brook trout were wild about my tiny fly but had no interest in my husband’s lure. I quickly caught my limit. We cleaned the fish and hauled our dinner back to camp. Shadows hit about 4PM. My husband read and Lupe napped while I tried to catch fish in the northern small lake. If I caught one I would have to release it, but no worry, they just cruised around my fly, not interested at all. We bundled up to cooked dinner. Lupe got two fish for herself in addition to her dog food. Thankfully, it was warmer, just a bit above freezing with light frost down by the lake. Again we had a full moon; I almost was glad to have to get up and pee twice to view the moonlight splendor. I only wish I knew how to photograph moonlight.

Thursday, Day 3. We got up at 7AM and were pleasantly surprised when the sun shone through a notch and warmed our breakfast. We lazily packed and watched the fish rise to feed. We had both put away our fishing gear last night so just watched. The day’s hike was not quite a mile to Gem Lake on a use-trail. I could not talk my husband into continuing to Morgan Lakes; he hung around and read and fished. I took off to day-hike to the Morgan Lakes, promising to be back by 3PM. Passing the upper Morgan Lake I saw fish jump. I went around the bend to the middle Morgan Lake, more of a pond and fished for about half an hour. The lake is very shallow and full of algae and appeared to have no fish. Then I dropped to lower Morgan Lake, where the Game and Fish guide had a question mark as to whether it had fish. At first I thought it did not. Then I saw a fish, actually quite large, down very deep. Soon others appeared. But I could not entice them to surface to feed. At noon I started back up to the upper lake. I ate lunch and then started fishing the south shore from the outlet to inlet. It was very windy. I had bites but no fish using a very small fly. I suspected the fish had trouble successfully getting the fly with the waves so changed to a larger, hideously colored fly that they could easily see and had a bigger hook. Soon I caught an 11-inch rainbow trout. I worked my way up the rocky shore, fishing about 100 feet, back to retrieve my stringer of fish, and so forth, catching several fish, only keeping the larger fish. I was disappointed when I hooked but failed to land another rainbow trout. By 2PM I had three and should have stayed to catch another, but returned to Gem Lake where my husband had only caught one small fish. We set up at a nice established campsite near one of the smaller outlet ponds to the north. I bathed while the sun was still warm and fished another hour at the small pond with no luck. Finally I went up to Gem Lake and fished the eastern shore catching one small brook trout. Lupe had jumped into the pond for a swim so my husband was just returning from taking her on a walk in the sunshine to try to dry her off. Back at camp we cooked dinner, again in the shade. The fish started rising at the pond; I caught one, but let it go, because we were done with dinner and running low on fuel. We again were in bags by 7:30. Later, the moon rose for anther bright night. Thankfully the night was not too cold as Lupe was still a bit damp. We put our rain jackets over her. By morning she was trying to get into our sleeping bags.

Friday, Day 4. We could have easily walked out, but hiked to Box Lake, stopping for two hours to fish at Chicken Foot Lake. The wind had picked up enough to create whitecaps on the lakes. My husband caught one 10-inch brook trout at Chicken Foot Lake; I was totally skunked. At Box Lake we found a nice established campsite with thankful trees for windbreaks. I then walked entirely around the lake (not so easy since the lake is surrounded by reed swamps and shallow ponds and cliffs) with no luck. I only saw a few fish and only caught bushes. I dropped down to Heart Lake to fish the inlet where it was less windy. Fishing became a comedy of errors. The many small fish were not interested in my small fly. Changing flies I spilled all the flies in the grass losing a few reducing my inventory to a few odd balls. I put on lure type “fly” but could not cast it worth beans. Then I took it off and dropped my clippers down a rock crevice, impossible to retrieve. Luckily I had a knife. I then tied a fly onto a piece of leader that I thought was mine, but turned out to be line stuck in the grass and abandoned by someone else. I really have trouble tying on flies because my eyesight is horrible. After quite a struggle, I realized that the fly was NOT tied on my line! So I had to do this all over again. After nearly falling into the lake, I decided it was time to call it quits! Back to camp, we cooked our one-fish dinner, with the fuel can running on fumes. The wind was fierce and cold so we went into the tent at 6PM. I listened to music for 2 hours.

Saturday, Day 5. We simply had to walk out one and a half miles and get on the road to be over Echo Summit before predicted chance of snow. We were again down in the cold shadowy hole getting up in the cold and managed to squeeze enough fuel for coffee but it ran out before water for the cereal boiled. We ate our last two trail bars, packed up and headed out reaching our car by 9AM. I was out of water, thirsty and popped open a cold beer from the cooler, getting disapproving looks at the busy trailhead. I would have preferred coffee, but my husband was driving, so the beer had to do. Lupe was happy to lounge in the car while we drove north into the clouds. By the time we reached Monitor Pass it started to rain. It turned into a deluge by the time we hit Lake Tahoe. We were over the pass by 2PM. It poured down rain all the way home. It started to snow in Tahoe at 4PM.

Photos to follow



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Re: TR: Rock Creek

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Sep 23, 2013 9:44 am

Image
Fish dinner at Long Lake

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Long Lake inlet area

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Cold dog

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Treasure Lakes camp

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Eastern Treasure Lakes
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Re: TR: Rock Creek

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Sep 23, 2013 9:49 am

Image
Wake up kiss

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Lower Morgan Lake

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Gem Lake

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Inlet meadow at Chicken Foot Lake

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Box Lake

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Heart Lake
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Re: TR: Rock Creek

Postby RichardCullip » Mon Sep 23, 2013 9:56 am

Great trip report. Sounds like you guys had fun and got safely out before the nasty weather hit. I was just a bit south of you enjoying the NF Big Pine Creek high country at the same time. The wind that came in on Friday night was pretty rough where we were. I'm pretty sure the gusts hit 50MPH for us.
Life is good. Eternal Life is better!

Richard
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Re: TR: Rock Creek

Postby gary c. » Mon Sep 23, 2013 12:14 pm

I love how LLV can seem so far from it all and remain so beautiful even with all of it's use. Thanks for your report.
"On this proud and beautiful mountain we have lived hours of fraternal, warm and exalting nobility. Here for a few days we have ceased to be slaves and have really been men. It is hard to return to servitude."
-- Lionel Terray
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Re: TR: Rock Creek

Postby JackS » Mon Sep 23, 2013 12:31 pm

Passed up Rock Creek for north fork of American River. Missed the weather. Is that an Aussie? Maybe a miniature Aussie? Great hiking companion.
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Re: TR: Rock Creek

Postby jessegooddog » Mon Sep 23, 2013 4:13 pm

Just returned from a short day hike in LLV - my water bladder was leaking badly so I hiked over to the Eastern Brook Lakes rather than round trip to Gem Lakes. No wind and I got to enjoy the lingering snow (complete with small bear paw tracks) in the shade so it was quite a lovely day. Last month in LLV I hiked cross country from Marsh Lake over to the Hidden Lakes and had complete solitude until I got back onto the busy main trail. If the weather holds in mid October I plan to do an overnight trip to one of those off trail lakes.
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Re: TR: Rock Creek

Postby Tom_H » Tue Sep 24, 2013 7:47 pm

I am glad the two of you had such a relaxing and enjoyable time together. It sounds like you had great fun. The pictures of the dog are really cute.
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Re: TR: Rock Creek

Postby fishhunter » Wed Sep 25, 2013 7:10 pm

Nice trip report. I was mulling over options for 2014 to find some lakes that would be easier to access to accommodate friends with no prior experience, and was thinking of Little Lakes Valley. Nice to know there are fish there, sounds pretty much what I would anticipate for an area that gets fairly heavy use and has lakes with brookies. Was wondering how hard it would be to take off from Lower Morgan up to Finch Lake and Split/Spire Lakes. Sounds like the area has quite a few use trails but campsites could be limited.
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Re: TR: Rock Creek

Postby giantbrookie » Wed Sep 25, 2013 7:43 pm

What a great read. The day 4 fishing sequence is a classic, as is the trailhead beer. Great trip. Little Lakes Valley never gets old.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: TR: Rock Creek

Postby giantbrookie » Wed Sep 25, 2013 7:55 pm

fishhunter wrote:Was wondering how hard it would be to take off from Lower Morgan up to Finch Lake and Split/Spire Lakes. Sounds like the area has quite a few use trails but campsites could be limited.

I don't want to hijack this thread off topic but the route from the Morgan Lakes to Split is fairly easy (class 2), but I don't recall much of anything resembling a use trail. I did this route in reverse (Split Lake to Morgan Lakes to Mosquito Flat trailhead) on the second day of a two-day loop that went into Split L. via Dade Lake over what I believe is called Peppermint Pass (saddle NE of Bear Creek Spire) thence down to Spire L. and then Split.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: TR: Rock Creek

Postby fishhunter » Wed Sep 25, 2013 10:03 pm

Thanks GB, man you've seem to have been everywhere I want to go! How was the fishing up at Split/Spire?
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