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8/2-8/6/15 LL Valley-North Lake Off Trail Odyssey

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8/2-8/6/15 LL Valley-North Lake Off Trail Odyssey

Postby giantbrookie » Sat Aug 08, 2015 2:18 pm

Gold at the End of the Rainbow 2015.

Note: this is a long post, so I apologize in advance for the length and the likely profusion of typos and grammatical slip ups.
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Map view of the trip route

Nowadays folks are saturated with hyperbole. It’s not good enough to be good. A star is commonplace and a superstar is what a star once was. People are math intolerant, so they invent absurd terms such as “110 percent”. I’m not into this BS. I will say that this was an excellent trip and I mean it. Why? Great off trail backpacking (primary focus of trip) and one singular moment of High Sierra fishing—one hour--of what folks such as me dream about but may never get to experience. Is this “my best High Sierra trip ever:? No. Why? Because this wasn’t one I did with my wife (who was my partner on my very best ones). OK, is this my best High Sierra trip w/o my wife or dad (not to forget my peak bagging trips with my dad from the late 60’s to late 80’s)? Dunno. Has some serious competition (Tunechuck 2008 comes to mind for fishing, Mordor I (2001), and Mordor II (2002) exceed it in off trail theatrics. Time will tell, and this will be measured only in my own memory. Day 1 of this trip coincided with my 56th birthday and in this respect this trip resembles the 2014 Lost Lakes-Algers trip and the 2008 Tunechuck trip in that I celebrated a birthday on the trip. Note fishing folks: owing to that one hour I am a bit more vague about location specifics than usual—If you want to read about the fishing, skip to the end, because I’ve had to make the fishing part non-chronologic for good reason. As regular readers know, I don’t worry as much about spot burn and such as most, but… Anyhow I’m sorry, but don’t bother to PM on the specifics unless you are able to provide me with a senior level (ie full professor) geology faculty position in the academic institution(s) of my choice in the SF Bay Area.
Prelude (“Day minus 1”). August 1, 2015. The plan was to go out of Little Lakes Valley, but I couldn’t reserve a wilderness permit for Aug. 2 entry, so I figured to drive up to Mammoth on the 1st with arrival not long after 11am to swap my reservation (entry from Pine Creek for a grueling day 1 up Morgan Creek) for a walkup LLV permit. I left Fresno later than usual because my son Lee (13) wanted to do a pancake breakfast for my birthday, for which I would be absent for. It was a fine breakfast, following up on his awesome kitchen performance on Friday in which he baked a German chocolate cake beyond anything I’ve ever had because he had heard the family legends of my memorable 10th birthday which I celebrated at Monarch Lake (Mineral King) in 1969 after bagging Sawtooth Peak on a Sierra Club trip—an adult trip member happened to have a Sarah Lee German Chocolate cake that he shared with me for my birthday. Yes Lee is a phenomenal young chef, but back to the story…
In spite of the late start, I made Mammoth at about 1130 am, only half hour after the walk up permits for the next day became available. As hoped, I was able to swap my Pine Creek entry for the Little Lakes Valley permit. This was not as easy at is sounds. The entire regular wilderness permit staff was out sick or otherwise absent at the Mammoth RS, so a very nice, well-intentioned newbie was attempting to operate the system with minimal success. As the time ticked away, I imagined folks snagging my spots from the Bishop RS. Fortunately, with a fine team effort the Mammoth folks were able to get the permit done and I had cut the elevation gain in half for day 1. In the meantime, my redoubtable death march buddy, Todd (alumni of many of my favorite trips, most recently the Dana Mdws-Kuna Pass-Lost Lakes-Algers trip of 2014 and Tunechuck 2008), arrived.
After grabbing a quick lunch (breakfast burritos) at Stellar Coffee, we headed to the Sherwin Lake trailhead for a quickie warmup dayhike. As predicted by NOAA, the weather looked threatening. It was already clouding over and booming elsewhere. My first target was this unnamed golden trout lake near the Sherwin Lakes. Although but a quarter mile from the trail, the topography and forestation make this hard to find. Well, it’s also hard to find because..,it is NOT a lake (see photo), but rather a reed-infested swamp with open water accessible only to some sort of fishing amphibian.
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This is the apparent golden trout "lake" E of the Sherwin Lakes.

We then struggled back through the complex topography (multiple glacial moraines, in there are any geo-geeks reading this) to the Sherwins. These lakes were way down in water level, but I saw some rises, but by now the heavens had cut loose. It really dumped. I attempted to fish but my casts returned no results, so I then moved to another Sherwin. Here I need to back up and report an equipment issue that would plague me throughout the trip. The night before I took off I noticed that my prized Asolo 520s had an issue with a partly delaminating sole. I had to take my “2nd string” Vasques that weigh the same but have decidedly less stability on rough ground and deficient friction grip. The latter failed on a rock surface that couldn’t have been more than 5 degrees inclined (not an exaggeration—I know this from years of using Photoshop). The fall wound up completely breaking the foundation of the fishing reel (ie the part that attaches the reel to the rod), ending the little dayhike before I could really sample the fish population of the Sherwins. Did this mean a shopping run to a sporting goods store in Mammoth or Bishop? No, because in order to save time, I had brought a completely separate dayhike “unit” (daypack plus fishing gear) which was Lee’s. Now I need to buy Lee another reel. After walking/jogging down to the cars, we drove to North Lake, where we left Todd’s car, then we drove back to Bishop, had a very nice dinner at El Ranchito, walking there and back in surprisingly heavy rain, then checked into our room at Best Western.
Day 1 Little Lakes Valley to Spire Lake. Sunday 8/2/2015. When checking into the Best Western the evening before I was pleasantly surprised to hear that their free hot breakfast was served from 6 am, which facilitated an early kickoff. The early takeoff also avoided the construction delays on the Rock Creek road. My aging (2001, 137k miles) but still very spry Sentra took us to the Mosquito Flat kickoff point where we easily secured a parking spot. The weather report had looked ominous for days 1 and 2 with 60 percent chance of precip for day 1 and 20 percent for day 2. I had fretted about this because of the high passes we planned to cross. However, it seemed as all of that moisture condensed and dumped on Saturday. We saw the vestiges of that downpour everywhere. The weather didn’t even get close to dumping on us for the entire trip, as it turned out.
We made our way out up Little Lakes Valley with the usual classic views—they never get old. I killed only two mosquitoes on this part of the hike (one of which was accidentally consumed when it flew into my mouth)—I wouldn’t get another kill until late in day 4 in what ranks as the most bug-free trip I’ve ever done this time of year.
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Little Lakes Valley never gets old. Peppermint Pass is seen just left of Bear Creek Spire.

At the upper end of Little Lakes Valley we left the trail and headed up past Gem Lakes to Dade Lake with a typical sand, rock, and greenery sort of ascent (class 1 with a smidge of class 2). At Dade Lake, the work really began to get to Peppermint Pass. I had gone over this to Spire Lake with my wife, Judy, in 1996 on a “routine overnighter”—maybe not so routine because I pulled a lower body muscle pull that I sustained on the ascent (2 yr recovery time) on which we exited via another off trail route by Finch Lake to Morgan Pass on day 2. This is a standard class 2 talus pass with funky sharp-edged metamorphic talus (this is my 2nd time over this pass and I still don’t know where the class 3 is that is referred to as far back as the 1972 Smatko Climbers Guide—there are innumerable completely class 2 options, including the 3 different variations I’ve done (one in 1996 and two on this trip). I don’t know what it is about this talus. It is not scary loose (Kaweah Pass) or scary steep and loose (Lucy’s Foot Pass, Pants Pass), but there is something tedious and awkward about it. On top of this, I discovered how poor the grip and stability of my Vasques was compared to my Asolos. Ouch. I have more scabs than you can count on my shins that testify to this. In addition, I went into this trip much too lean, as Judy had fretted and warned me about. In spite of attempts to add back weight before the trip, I went in several pounds below my standard base weight instead of my usual several over. This combo made me more wobbly and less stable toward the end of the ascent. In any case, on the way up I surveyed pass no.2 which we’d do on day 2: the shoulder north of Bear Creek Spire—Cox Col es ist nicht! (more later on this other “old school” route). My view confirmed my memories about the details of crossing this 13120+ elev. class 2 high point in 1986 with my dad (backpacking to Lake Italy to climb Gabb and Hilgard).
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Point 13120+ N of Bear Creek Spire (crossing no. 2) viewed from near the top of the north approach to Peppermint Pass. Much of the lower route to 13120+ follows the "groove" (obscured) at the color change.

Cresting Peppermint Pass under the breathtaking prow of Bear Creek Spire, we descended more amazingly tedious class 2 talus to Spire Lake, our camp of day 1. This is a pretty bleak place to find a camping spot and I can’t say our campsite was ideal (this is why Judy and I camped at Split Lake below in 1996), but it sufficed, and the views from this lake are hard to beat if you like the most ruggedly alpine High Sierra backdrop.
4858SpireFrSpire.jpg
Bear Creek Spire over Spire Lake on the morning of 8/3/15. Peppermint Pass is seen to the right of the peak.

Day 2 8/3/15 “Day of the Three Passes” Spire Lake to White Bear Lake.
OK, the title here is overly dramatic (yes, I too resort to hyperbole, now and then) and inspired by the legendary chapter XXVII title in Three Kingdoms (“Beautiful beard (Guan Yu) rides on a solitary journey and slays six captains at five passes”); the truth is vastly short of the inspiration in every respect.
Waking up to the stunning sunrise on Bear Creek Spire over Spire Lake, we finished breakfast, broke camp and trudged/limped back up Spire Pass. We had both figured out that some of our less-than-expected hiking speed of day 1 was attributed to not eating enough, so we resolved to munch more while hiking. We had heard voices the afternoon/evening before and had initially been puzzled as to why we never saw anyone. We reasoned that we must have heard folks who were doing technical routes on Bear Creek Spire, a hypothesis that appeared stronger based on what we observed on this morning. First we heard and then saw folks at Peppermint Pass but they were already ascending the NE arête of Bear Creek Spire when we reached the pass. We then spotted two more hikers who were trudging up the miserable scree/talus cone below Cox Col (first low point N of Bear Creek Spire). We initially figured these folks were doing some really poor route choices to cross the crest, but these two quickly proved us wrong by moving onto the great N buttress of Bear Creek Spire.
In the meantime, I aimed for highpoint 13120+ north of Bear Creek Spire instead of the so-called Cox Col (12960+) that I understand has a rather unsavory reputation for crummy rock on the E side. I’d always figured I’d crossed here in 1986 because of something in the Voge (1965?) or Smatko (1972) or Roper (1976) Climber’s guide, but I can’t find anything in any book about this route when I reviewed these references during writing this. I presume that (1) I (or my dad) had heard about this route in the 70’s from Loma Prieta Sierra Club folk or (2) (very likely) I followed this route in 1986 by inspecting the topo map because the eastern gradient is much less steep here than anywhere north or south, including “Cox Col”. Now a bit of an aside… For those that know me (including my ancient Climber.org posts on “Corrections to Secor”) you might get the impression that I enjoy bashing RJ. I don’t. RJ isn’t the problem. His is the finest guidebook ever written on the subject, by far. The problem is folks’ slavish following of everything in RJ’s book. In fact many complain that RJ doesn’t give enough detail (see Roper, for contrast). If one goes off trail, be it off trail backpacking or peak bagging, it is imperative to have descent terrain reading skills (not just topo map but finer scale on-spot terrain reading), or class 2 easily becomes class 3 or worse (or class 2 easy becomes class 2 miserable in this case). Don’t ask for the beta, folks, read the ---king terrain. Sorry I had to vent. The 56-year-old curmudgeon is leaking out.
In any case, we didn’t have to lose much elevation (at most 200’) off of Peppermint Pass to bypass the junkpile below Cox Col, then worked up mixed slabs, sand, stable solid granite talus blocks to Pt 13120+.
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View to Bear Creek Spire from the top of 13120+

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Todd at the top of 13120+ (highest elev. of trip) with Mts Hilgard and Gabb in the back.

On the easy W side there were some tracks and a cairn, but the most prominent tracks led to the low point (ie Cox Col). Descending the west side, you have to do a bit of side stepping partway down to avoid a big drop off then “follow the green” (to quote Old Ranger—see post viewtopic.php?f=6&t=12225) to the easy slopes above Lake Italy. We paused to snack along Lake Italy and then at Brown Bear Lake, before finishing with the steep class 2 White Bear Pass, with another “follow the green” plus some talus and slabs. In fact, this trip revisited much of the route of their superb “Circle of Gold, Follow the Green” trip of 2014 (see URL above). It was late when we cleared our third pass, so we camped in a nice sandy campsite near White Bear Lake.
4869WhiteBearL.jpg
Reaching our camp at White Bear Lake ended the "Day of the Three Passes".
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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Gold at the End of the Rainbow Part II

Postby giantbrookie » Sat Aug 08, 2015 2:40 pm

Day 3. 8/4/15 White Bear Lake to Little Moccasin Lake
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The pleasant setting of Bear Basin exemplified by this view of Ursa (L) and Big Bear (R) Lakes.

In the morning we hiked through soothing and beautiful Bear Basin, visiting Big Bear, Little Bear, and then Vee Lake, before going to the Seven Gables Lakes to set up what we later viewed as the off trail hiking highlight of the entire trip: the pass from Seven Gables Lakes (Bear Creek drainage) to Aweetasal Lake (E. Pinnacles Creek drainage). As often the case I had planned a bit too ambitiously and figured on going partway up to the saddle N of Gemini then sidehill traversing to the saddle above Aweetasal after a dayhike climb to Gemini. This route is in fact described in Sierra South 1st Ed (1968, trip no. 7, p. 25: “Routefinding on these rugged talus slopes is difficult at best, but the hiker will find the traverse around the steep northern slope of Gemini a moderate one that descends to a broad saddle and down to the unnamed and scree-ridden lake just north of Aweetasal Lake”)). I looked at the sidehill and I wasn’t convinced it was ‘moderate’, so we decided on the more direct climb to this pass from Seven Gables Lakes, foregoing the planned Gemini climb. We found the pass, called Gemini Lake Pass (bit confusing owing to a “Gemini Pass” named much further north in another area of the Sierra) very enjoyable because the route finding was fairly intricate. The post by Alpinemike (see viewtopic.php?f=31&t=11670) in cross country passes is excellent, partly because it does NOT, as is my common gripe (see above comments on “Cox Col”), lay the description out as if there is only one hairline way up this. I think you can stay in the main chute longer than we did (appears true of alpinemike and rogue), but we exited to the left on benches and ledges well before the top. Some of these crossed moderate angle granite slabs and may be considered by some easy 3rd class because of exposure on a few walk/step-across moves, but this was a very enjoyable climb.
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In the chute above Seven Gables Lakes en route to our favorite pass of the trip.

4878UpGeminiPass.jpg
Maybe we bailed the chute too soon, but it was fun.

The top of this pass is really oddball because of this deep lake that has very steep slopes/cliffs around it and a low sharp-crested ridge to the north (see again write up in cross country passes). To the south the cliffs into the lake go above class 3 level. As noted by alpinemike you can make a few class 3 moves on the N shore of the lake and get by, but… After looking over this place, Todd and I decided we’d try staying right on the crest of the low ridge north of the lake—this turned out to be strictly class 2. Note that I didn’t read the details of the post on this pass until after I returned. Yes, that was by design. The biggest pleasure I derive from off trail travel is working out routes on the fly. After this enjoyable, stimulating pass, we descended the easy class 1-2 benches, talus and greenery, of the southern slope to the main focus of our trip: the Pinnacles Creek drainage, in this case the E. Fork. We found this basin to have an austere alpine feel, enhanced by its remote off trail nature.
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Bleak Aweetasal Lake (with the pass above) exemplifies the austere nature of East Pinnacles Creek basin.

We passed Aweetasal Lake, detoured to Jawbone Lake, thence by Council, Paoha, Negit, and Big Moccasin Lake before arriving at our “camp at the edge” at Little Moccasin Lake (see also Old Ranger’s Circle of Gold thread). The breeze the consistently blew all trip, seemed especially chilly that night. It also resulted in those amazing lenticular clouds to the east. By the time I snapped a picture of them, they had morphed from the classic flying saucers to looking more like a stack of extra large pancakes, tinted by the deeply colored (because of fire smoke) sunset.
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View toward Piute Pass from camp at Little Moccasin L. showing the funky lenticular clouds.

Day 4 Dayhike to W. Pinnacles Creek drainage and back; move camp to Ramona Lake.
Our little dayhike to the West Pinnacles Creek drainage again followed in the footsteps of the “Circle of Gold” trip, that in turn was described earlier in Sierra South 1st ed (p. 26). I think in later editions of SS this may have been dubbed the “Sierra Sidewalk” or something like that. On the topo map this looks like a steep and tedious sidehill traverse but it follows a series of benches with great open views to the south across Piute Canyon. During this traverse I scrutinized the opposite wall and did not like the look of the outlet stream (and adjacent slopes) below Ramona Lake. Not only was this slope steep, but it appeared to be choked with brush. I filed that thought away for later and we continued to the West Pinnacles Creek basin which we found much more hospitable than the Eastern fork. There are more trees here, in part because the main lakes are at lower elevations than those in the east fork. The internal topography is more complex owing many small cliffs that are commonly too small to be resolved on the topo (Old Ranger describes it as maze-like). We found this a really enjoyable place to explore and relax in.
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Spearpoint (foreground) and Big Chief Lakes in West Pinnacles Creek drainage. This is the more hospitable fork of Pinnacles Creek.

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Pilot Knob and Mt Humphreys from the "Sierra Sidewalk" traverse btw the two forks of Pinnacles Creek.

We left the basin in the early afternoon and returned to our camp at Little Moccasin, where we quickly broke camp and started the descent to Piute canyon. Shortly before leaving I made the command decision to NOT attempt the direct climb of the outlet of Ramona, but take the longer way around by taking the trail up Piute Creek to the Honeymoon trail, then going off trail from Lower Honeymoon Lake to Ramona Lake (this is the “standard” Ramona approach). Although longer in distance, this route seemed sensible, based on steepness of the outlet below Ramona (both observation from the “sidewalk” and looking at the topo map), and the comparative experience Todd and I had descending the next drainage to the west with Judy in 1997. That drainage to the west actually has a lower average gradient than Ramona’s outlet and it has less brush, yet we had found the descent difficult, having to detour around many cliff-outs and fighting through some locally intense brush (and fighting brush downhill is much easier than uphill). Owing to our choice of routes to Ramona, I angled the descent to hit the Piute trail well upstream of the crossing of East Pinnacles Creek; we ended up intersecting the trail about half way between the Hutchinson Meadow trail intersection and the East Pinnacles Creek confluence. After soothing our knees with the short hike on the mellow gradient main trail, the hammies and calves were strained by the amazingly steep “old school” trail to Lower Honeymoon Lake. We were pretty gassed by the time we crested out on the short (~700’ gain) off trail hike over the divide to Ramona. The top and west part of this approach was lined with an amazing profusion of lupines (and we’d seen very few lupines on the trip to this point)—I called it “Lupine Lane”. We eventually staggered to a campsite above the shore of rugged Ramona Lake at a bit before 630 pm.
4896Mona.jpg
Ramona Lake and the rather odd rock glacier above its head

Day 5 “The Conventional” Ramona Lake to North Lake.
I planned a late departure from Ramona Lake, figuring on a quick and easy exit via Piute Pass, but I suppose I really didn’t consider the fairly large distances involved. We left Ramona Lake at about 1030 am via Lupine Lane.
4898LupineLane.jpg
Lupine Lane.

The fire smoke, which had been intermittently horrible the entire week was at its worst on this day. We coughed and our eyes burned. In fact there had been some especially bad times during the earlier days. The weather had been wonderfully breezy (no bugs) the entire trip, and it had been cooler, partly because of the gray overcast from the smoke. This was both an aid and an impediment to our hiking. Dropping the temperature by blocking the sunlight made our ascents cooler, but breathing that smoke was certainly unpleasant. Throughout the trip the lines of the Ohio Players’ 1974 song “Fire” “…’bout to choke from the smoke, ‘til we tighten up our stroke…” kept creeping into my head (Old School indeed) and the song played louder than ever on the finale. After a somewhat plodding ascent to Piute Pass, tormented by at least one “false pass”, gravity lent its hand and propelled us rapidly to Todd’s car at North Lake. Like most hikers at this point, we were thinking only of the end game: “may the drive home be a safe one”, a non trivial concern given the length of the drive and one’s fatigue. Todd had taken care of this by getting a room in Bridgeport, but I figured on blasting home to Fresno, although I figured I’d need a bit of food first, so after getting dropped off at my car at Little Lakes Valley I aimed to gas up and eat at Whoa Nellie. Unfortunately there was some sort of event going on and the place was simply jammed (cars parked all along 120!), so I headed through Yosemite with a growling stomach. The ’01 Sentra did its usual magic to help me blow past some of the road slugs on 120 (41 has essentially no passing opportunities and I am at the mercy of folks using turnouts) and I arrived in Fresno about 11 pm where I found my family up later-than-usual. Lee warmed up very tasty leftovers (Judy’s creation this time; we currently have three dedicated chefs in the family) and I recounted some of the stories of the trip. The next day (Fri. Aug. 7) Judy and I met at one of our favorite pubs for happy hour. Trips such as this put one in a state of reflection, but one thing really popped into my head… Yes, this was one of my best High Sierra trips ever, but something was missing. It wasn’t quite the same as sharing the trip with Judy as I did for many years, especially 1990-1997 when we typically spent >40 days out of the year in the High Sierra and a 5-day trip such as this would have been the “warm up” for a 7-9 day “signature” trip. As with everyone, we all go through stages in life. We’ve slowly brought our kids into the game but it’s not clear they will have the same passion for the mountains (although my daughter Dawn seems to). In the meantime I have the Annual Death March and it is certainly a highlight of any given year. Friday night I cooked up pasta dish with a white sauce that featured wild yarrow I had picked on the last day of the trip; the High Sierra had contributed one last note of enjoyment from the trip.
Fishing Notes “McDermand 2015”:
OK, now the fishing… The overall stats were decidedly unimpressive. I caught but 22 goldens over the course of the trip (Todd doesn’t fish), only two of which exceeded 12” in size. If this were indeed a case of “The mountain hath roared, and brought forth a mouse” (a Churchill quote from late in WWII), however, I would have sprinkled fishing information throughout the hiking narrative above.
So many of us read those old accounts, such as the great 1940’s narratives of Charlie McDermand (Yosemite and Kings Canyon Trout & Waters of Golden Trout Country) and have heard experiences of old timers about the “way it used to be”, when folks such as Charlie seemed to routinely find these lakes with giant 18 to 20 inch and larger goldens or rainbows and when there was no such thing as a stunted brookie lake (see Charlie’s account of the big 15-16” brookies in Marjorie for example). The uninformed think that the generally smaller fish we find today are a consequence of fishing pressure. Nothing could be further from the truth (experience Desolation Wilderness to see the folly of that theory). In the old days, the trout had been much more recently introduced into these lakes by humans and their population densities were lower, hence more food for each fish. In addition, there were prey that the trout hadn’t wiped out yet (such as those frogs—read the many McDermand accounts of obese trout scarfing polliwogs!). But as can be seen from some of the past posts on Topix by others, a McDermanesque experience (minus the polliwog-munching) is still possible at some High Sierra spots. It hadn’t happened to me before, though (Deso and the Big G is separate beast, so I exclude those trips), in my 40+ years of High Sierra fishing. Judy and I often talked of our “golden jinx”. Not after that one magical hour.
To steer folks away from targeting the usual suspects I want to exonerate some lakes on this trip: large fish were NOT caught or seen at the destination of day 1 (my best fish was 11.75”) or at the Bear Basin lake shaped like an alphabet letter (and named accordingly; skunked, had one strike, and saw nothing bigger than 13”), or ‘Mona (skunked in two very dedicated sessions: no fish, no strikes, no trailers, no cruisers, no rises; saw a few average-ish fish in the outlet). Now you have >20 lakes to choose from.
Now the fish story. I had become accustomed to smallish to medium goldens, so nothing prepared me for what happened on cast no. 2 into one of the lakes. A strike came, which is the strongest hit I’ve experienced in nearly 50 years of Sierra fishing. The drag screamed and line ripped out an absurd rate but then… nothing….and NO LURE either. It did not register that I had been broken off. Had I tied my terminal knot poorly? How could it break off so easily? The reality sank in on cast no. 4. Very shortly after the lure hit the water I absorbed another absolutely vicious hit. This time I saw this orange streak in the water on this rocket-like sideways run, ripping out line. I turned this monster and it sped back in the opposite direction smoking the drag. Then it vaulted into the air, with its brilliant orange and red colors catching the sun, and threw out my hook. That fish was simply immense and the biggest golden I’ve ever seen. I was bummed and really having some confidence issues (recall my recent defeat at the hands of the two giant macks at the Big G). I took two more casts and didn’t get a strike, so I gave the spot a rest for a bit. About two or three casts later, I returned and got rocked again. Another killer hit, and sizzling run, but this decidedly less intense than the first two. This fish jumped and I saw it was considerably smaller than the one that tossed my hook, but clearly a good one. With my mojo kinda down, I really sweated out the additional runs before I brought this fish to the net. It was a 14-inch football shaped golden. It happened that Todd and I were pretty hungry at this time and this fish was bleeding badly so I kept it and figured we’d do a serious pig out with one more. One blank cast followed and then… Well I should back up and say I had some problems snagging my Z-Ray on rocks at this place and had already rescued two stuck casts by walking along the shore for another angle and pulling my lure free. In any case I figured I’d just run into another rock and was preparing to move along the shore to attempt another lure rescue when I noticed the rod tip was in fact doing the dance. This fish first fought somewhat sluggishly with its great size and with some effort I got it up to the surface where I could see its great size. The anticipation began: if I could land this, it would be my best golden ever. The initial sluggish fight made me think this was an old and tired fish until I brought it in close and prepared to net it. “Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz” it woke up and ripped out line in one blazing run after another. Every time I thought I had it in range, it took off. Then it did this little jump—kinda like me nowadays attempting to play hoops (minimal hops)—and I held my breath. With relief I noted the fish was still on there. With each drag-smoking run I hoped my line would hold and that I had set the drag conservatively enough. The fish then dove under some rocks, but I maneuvered and got the fish out. More runs followed and my nerves were a mess. “If I lose this, I’ll be so bummed…” At long last, I steered the fish into my net and held in it my biggest golden of my fishing days to date, measured at 18”. Todd and I have enormous appetites, so the two fish made the best high country meal I’ve ever had. These were really tasty and supremely fatty. The big one had this belly fat that I’ve never seen on a High Sierra trout. Absolutely delicious (cooked in teriyaki sauce). Many might wonder why I didn’t continue my once-in-a-lifetime session with some additional catch-and-release fishing. That wasn’t necessary. Those 15 casts in one hour were more than enough. Some of the best things are meant to be short, like Coltrane’s unforgettable solo on Miles’ Someday My Prince Will Come. I had my magic hour transported in time back into the Waters of Golden Trout Country and the memories will live on.
Goldenscrop.jpg
18 and 14" goldens made for a mighty meal.
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: 8/2-8/6/15 LL Valley-North Lake Off Trail Odyssey

Postby oldranger » Sat Aug 08, 2015 3:42 pm

nice!

Mike
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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: 8/2-8/6/15 LL Valley-North Lake Off Trail Odyssey

Postby paul » Sat Aug 08, 2015 3:52 pm

Thank you. Not only do I appreciate the lack of hyperbole, and the general fine trip, it is a pleasure to read a simple account of pure joy. I don't fish, but you made the pleasure that you enjoyed in that one hour palpable for me.
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Re: 8/2-8/6/15 LL Valley-North Lake Off Trail Odyssey

Postby Cross Country » Sat Aug 08, 2015 5:25 pm

WOW that's one great extensive trip report. You mentioned absurd and hyperbole and I agree one hundred percent and clearly not 110 percent. I don't say that, and I don't ever recall saying that. That stuff really attacks the english language. My all time favorite is "AMAZING". I would guess it's the most overused BS word. People use the word amazing when they are not even surprised. I've seen amazing things in my life but not in a TV comercial. Also I've never seen a actress who looked amazing. I expect an actress to look really good therefore how could one possible be amazed or even surprised by one.
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Re: 8/2-8/6/15 LL Valley-North Lake Off Trail Odyssey

Postby gary c. » Sat Aug 08, 2015 9:10 pm

Nice report GB. As I was reading I kept wondering why thee was no mention of fishing. You sure didn't disappoint in the end. Those are some very nice goldens.
"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: 8/2-8/6/15 LL Valley-North Lake Off Trail Odyssey

Postby Shawn » Sat Aug 08, 2015 9:47 pm

Great TR and wonderful photos. Congrats on that whopper of a fish !
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Re: 8/2-8/6/15 LL Valley-North Lake Off Trail Odyssey

Postby nedclyde » Sun Aug 09, 2015 7:34 am

Ol' Mac & Lefty would be proud.
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Re: 8/2-8/6/15 LL Valley-North Lake Off Trail Odyssey

Postby HikenFish » Sun Aug 09, 2015 8:02 am

Congrats on a fine trip and great golden. Never to late to keep pursuing one's dreams. You surely earned a golden dinner after logging that many miles! Thanks for sharing, Giant Brookie.
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Re: 8/2-8/6/15 LL Valley-North Lake Off Trail Odyssey

Postby Mradford » Sun Aug 09, 2015 11:37 pm

Yes! Everything about this trip is awesome.
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Re: 8/2-8/6/15 LL Valley-North Lake Off Trail Odyssey

Postby copeg » Mon Aug 10, 2015 9:52 am

What an epic trip. Thank you for writing this up in such a detailed and entertaining manner! :thumbsup:
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Re: 8/2-8/6/15 LL Valley-North Lake Off Trail Odyssey

Postby markskor » Mon Aug 10, 2015 10:16 am

Nice job!
Nice to revisit places seen, and others missed as just over the crest -
Follow the Green...
Mountainman who swims with trout
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