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TR: Woodchuck Lake 5/3/15-5/6/15

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TR: Woodchuck Lake 5/3/15-5/6/15

Postby gabe&mel » Thu May 07, 2015 7:15 pm

Hello all,

This is my first trip report & an introduction. Since I’ve passively benefited greatly from the knowledge on this forum I decided to make the transition from lurker to contributor. So please, forgive my transgression.

As such, my partner (Melody) & I decided to head up to Woodchuck Lake in hopes of getting to some nice country, catch some fish and enjoy some solitude. Before our trip we had visited family and friends down in socal. Early sunday morning (5/3) we left the OC, and by 11 am were having lunch in Fresno. I was really tempted to stop by Dog House Grill and eat a tri-tip sandwich , but much to our stomach’s and hearts dismay we decided that it would have to wait. As a Fresno State Alum (Class of 09) Dog House was my favorite place to visit after any sierra day hike or backpacking trip, something about a cold beer and salty fries and a tri-tip sandwich made even the most hellacious trip an afterthought (ala Tehipite Valley 2012).

Alas, the show must go on, and in short order we had picked up our permit at Prather Ranger Station. The ranger there told us that we should expect isolated afternoon thunderstorms but nothing like the previous couple of weeks that had seen 6-8 inches of snow. Usually we don’t plan any Sierra trips this early in the season, but we had an itch that hadn’t been scratched since our month long romp on the JMT last August. At 2:30 pm we had finally arrived at the Rancheria Creek Trailhead and to my delight, not a car in sight. 30 minutes later we were actually on the trail. This winter I picked up a Delorme InReach and was eager to test it out, too alleviate my partners nerves when I go on my solo adventures [Side note: 5 day solo trip to the North Fork of the Mokelumne River in 2014 and a few hairy moments had me reprioritize things and see the value in a GPS/texting unit]. I sent off a message to my sister that we were starting our trip.

It sure did feel good to be back on trail. We were in a good transition point in our careers and we desperately needed to feel the cool crisp air. We ended our 1st night somewhere near Little Rancheria Creek, after hiking ~ 2.5 hours. That night we did hear an interesting recurrent noise which I would describe as a deep oscillating hum, it would last about 5 seconds and recurr every 30 seconds or so, I still can’t figure out what it was. The next morning, we leisurely hit the trail at 9:30 am, waiting first for the sun to hit our tent before breaking camp. In short order we were at Duck Lake Junction and proceeded to head on our way to Woodchuck Lake. Other than a few downed trees and some pretty views of Hoffman Mountain things were pretty uneventful until we lost the trail for small bits near a marshy area Round Corral Meadow. We found the trail again and we marched towards Woodchuck Creek. At this point, the trail the trail was submerged in water and blended into marshy swampiness. We left the trail for a bit to find a dry crossing but our search came up empty. Saddened, we took off our boots and crossed Woodchuck Creek near a shallow bend. Luckily this was the only wet crossing. The clouds were rolling in and we hastily had lunch and moved on.

We then climbed all the way up to Woodchuck Lake, passing through some nice country as the forest cover opened up a bit. I don’t know if it was the altitude or lack of training during the winter but we were dogging it uphill. The clouds got a little darker, and peppered us with some hail but that lasted only for maybe 45 minutes or so. We finally reached our destination around 6 pm, found a descent camp site between Woodchuck lake and what I’ll refer to as the loudest frog pond I’ve ever heard. A hot dinner and some glimpses of a partially ice covered Woodchuck Lake were a treat before the sunset. Condensation on our tent turned to frost by the time we hit the sack. We didn’t dare venture out of the tent until the sun hit our tent the next morning.

Day 3: a day to recover and move our campsite to the south-western part of the lake. Luckily someone had built a fire ring and some left a huge stack of wood. We picked up some extra pieces from a downed tree and enjoyed a nice fire that night. I then explored the rest of the lake, looked down its outlet and set out to catch some fish. The ice had expanded overnight and seemed to cover nearly ⅔ of the lake. The occasional fish would rise (once per every few hours or so), though I couldn’t spot any. Near the outlet I found a nice spot to sit and changed from a dry fly to a gold ribbed hare’s ear on my tenkara rod, a few casts later (just like hitting the red button at Staples), I yelled out to Mel, “that was easy, I caught one.” Mel then tried but for awhile but hit nothing, and went back to our camp. I stuck around and ventured to the rocks a bit past the outlet. I found a nice little ledge which I shimmied down to and was able to fish some deeper water. After a few casts I landed a much larger and fatter fish with about twice the girth of the first one, easily the largest fish I’ve ever caught. I looked over my shoulder hoping Mel would snap a pic of my prize but it was not to be. I let him go, and headed back to camp to warm up by the fire and tell Mel about my latest catch.

Day 4: We had to be back in Sacramento in the afternoon on Thursday (5/7) , so we were debating between making the long trek back to the car vs staying another night but waking up early to get back to town. The idea of Dog House Grill and a hot shower won decisively. We were grooving, with food on our mind time was flying, so much so, that when we got to a key junction we made a wrong turn. Instead of heading south at the junction and back to our car at Rancheria TH, we were so preoccupied with food that we turned west to Wishon Reservoir via Woodchuck TH. This problem did not present itself until 30-45 mins later :eek: . We took a look at our map, decided it would be better to continue on the woodchuck trail and eventually cross country up to the Forest service Road 11S31 rather retrace our steps. This was a good decision up until we were off trail going up some pretty steep terrain. It took us maybe an hour or more of climbing to reach the damn road. Mel let out a shout of relief as we crested onto the road. We were back at our car at 6pm. We embraced, changed into some clean clothing and high tailed it back to town. We made it to Dog House Grill and devoured two tri-tip sandwiches, a hot dog, and some fries. We laughed and thought of how our mindless obsession with food caused us some serious soreness. \:D/ :partyman:

Anyhow, this ended up being way longer than I anticipated. All in all we had a great trip, had the lake to ourselves and I caught some beautiful fish. Thanks to all High Sierra Topix forum members who have helped us find new ways to explore the Sierra.

Gabe & Mel

Pics Below
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Last edited by gabe&mel on Tue May 12, 2015 8:53 am, edited 2 times in total.



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Re: TR: Woodchuck Lake 5/3/15-5/6/15

Postby maverick » Thu May 07, 2015 7:29 pm

Hi Gabe and Mel,

Welcome to HST! Thank you for the TR, pictures, and wonderful intro! Sound like you guys had a fun time. Hopefully you will
get a chance to post the trip to Tehipite Valley later on, we love TR's. :nod:
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: TR: Woodchuck Lake 5/3/15-5/6/15

Postby gabe&mel » Thu May 07, 2015 8:40 pm

Maverick,

Thanks for the welcome. Hopefully soon we can cobble together a trip report about Tehipite Valley. We wanted to make it back there this year but the timing didn't work.
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Re: TR: Woodchuck Lake 5/3/15-5/6/15

Postby giantbrookie » Fri May 08, 2015 5:22 am

Very nice report--both informative and entertaining. I can certainly see how visions of Doghouse would accelerate your hike out. I would not have figured there'd be open water on Woodchuck this early even with the light winter. The lack of snow on the ground is amazing, too, even considering this is a south-facing slope. I would have thought we'd see more left from the late storms that came in. From what I can gather (viewing Sierran weather report while sitting in Paris) the Sierra just got hit with another late cold storm--my wife told me that it really dumped in Fresno yesterday. In any case, this really gets me chomping at the bit to get up there. With all of my travel and stuff I won't be headed up until mid to late June.
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: Woodchuck Lake 5/3/15-5/6/15

Postby gabe&mel » Fri May 08, 2015 9:12 am

I was quite amazed about the lack of snow. In the weeks and days leading up to our trip I was reading the weather reports and in contact with the Ranger station quite frequently. The ranger I spoke to informed me that the storm a week earlier was likely to be melted off by the time of our trip with a snow line of ~9500 feet. The longest section of snow we hiked on was about 50 feet long. We only saw two sets of boot prints in the ground.

Woodchuck lake was quite beautiful. The ice would expand overnight then drift around and thaw during the day. The lows at night were around 25-32 degrees. With my Delorme InReach I was getting daily weather reports and knew that Thursday (5/7) was gonna be a cold nasty day, further hastening our decision to leave a bit early. When we were leaving fresno on thursday morning it indeed was raining pretty hard on the freeway.

A few more pics
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woodchuck lake looking southwest
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woodchuck lake
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Gabe crossing woodchuck creek
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Mel Crossing Woodchuck creek
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Re: TR: Woodchuck Lake 5/3/15-5/6/15

Postby sekihiker » Fri May 08, 2015 10:57 am

Thanks for the report and great photos.
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Re: TR: Woodchuck Lake 5/3/15-5/6/15

Postby oldranger » Fri May 08, 2015 11:18 am

Looks like your second night was same place markskor and I camped last year in early june. There are some nice brookies in that lake.

Mike
Mike

Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!
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Re: TR: Woodchuck Lake 5/3/15-5/6/15

Postby KathyW » Fri May 08, 2015 5:14 pm

Very nice - thanks for sharing.
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Re: TR: Woodchuck Lake 5/3/15-5/6/15

Postby SSSdave » Sat May 09, 2015 4:43 pm

Curious as to what kind of food you two brought up? The reason I'm asking is maybe what you brought wasn't too exciting? In fact you tossed one meal back into the lake haha. Fair numbers of backpackers bring up rather boring bland "backpacker supply store" food. As a young man noted one sure way people shortened their trip itineries was by not having enjoyable food in their pack. Of course one is quite limited in what one can cook with a little backpacking stove. We do tend to bring a lot of small snack stuff, greasy, salty, sugary, that none of us eats at much home just to make it interesting. And with meat the usual beef jerky and salami stuff with cheese etc. Ever roasted dried salami or candy corn on a stick over hot coals? (:
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Re: TR: Woodchuck Lake 5/3/15-5/6/15

Postby gabe&mel » Sat May 09, 2015 5:27 pm

SSSdave,

I thought we actually ate pretty well as far as trail food goes. I brought a lot of my favorite snacks: a full 86% dark chocolate bar, kit kats and other salty goodies and Mel brought a bunch of dark chocolate and her faves. Mel picked up Patagonia's Tsampa soup & Sockeye salmon which tasted more like real food than anything we've eaten previously. http://www.patagoniaprovisions.com/blogs/recipes/15233009-tsampa-soup-creativity

For longer trips we dehydrate ground beef to increase our protein intake but mostly stick with dehydrated commercial meals for dinners on shorter trips. For lunch we had salami/pepperoni with tortillas but forgot to bring some cheese and avocados ](*,) . The dried salami over hot coals sounds delicious.

So I just started fishing last year with Tenkara and haven't yet read up on how to gut/cook a fish in the backcountry. Funny enough, Mel shot a video of the fish I caught and lamented, "it is too bad we don't know how to cook fish!" An hour later when I caught a much bigger and fatter trout I was thinking the same thing. I've transitioned from the initial excitement of just hoping to catch any fish whether big or small, to now thinking ok lets cook and eat this badboy. Any tips to start me point me in the right direction?
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Re: TR: Woodchuck Lake 5/3/15-5/6/15

Postby rlown » Sat May 09, 2015 6:09 pm

gabe&mel wrote:So I just started fishing last year with Tenkara and haven't yet read up on how to gut/cook a fish in the backcountry. Funny enough, Mel shot a video of the fish I caught and lamented, "it is too bad we don't know how to cook fish!" An hour later when I caught a much bigger and fatter trout I was thinking the same thing. I've transitioned from the initial excitement of just hoping to catch any fish whether big or small, to now thinking ok lets cook and eat this badboy. Any tips to start me point me in the right direction?


This is a starter video on how to gut a trout: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-667Wct4mE There are more out there, just search for how to gut a trout.

There are recipes and techniques in the HST TR's and food topix area on how to cook them. You don't necessarily have to filet a trout as when cooked, the bones will pull right away from the flesh. One place to look for cooking is viewtopic.php?f=6&t=10180&hilit=markskor+trout+cooking

Um... I don't do the foil wrap thing in a pan; I wholeheartedly do a fully wrapped fish in a bed of coals, IFF legal. I do like to add fresh spices and orange juice during the cook over the stove. I cover the pan with foil, until done and then peel the flesh off the bones. Mark's technique works as well :nod:
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Re: TR: Woodchuck Lake 5/3/15-5/6/15

Postby gabe&mel » Sat May 09, 2015 7:08 pm

Thanks rlown!! I found this thread too viewtopic.php?f=26&t=953

The reason we enjoy getting out in the high country is to build our skill set every trip we take, and this is the next step. Neither of us grew up in outdoor families so we are learning as we go.
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