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Backcountry Meeting

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Backcountry Meeting

Postby markskor » Mon Jul 26, 2010 8:47 am

By the most amazing coincidence, there I was, sitting beneath the Curry Arch with my loaded backpack. You know the place, Yosemite Valley, big wooden thing says Curry stretching across overhead, and up pulls a dark SUV driven by my good friend Mike. (Many of you here know him here as the OldRanger.) Also occupying this nicely tricked out ride was Mike’s son Matt, (soon to enter the Coast Guard … will await more info that part…perhaps for another day) and also inside, crammed to the gills was the usual backpacking gear crapola. Obviously they were heading somewhere fun, so, knowing a good thing when it appears, I jumped in and tagged along… easy.

Anyway, before you could blink an eye, all three of us reprobates were heading south, maybe a 2 hour drive, where we stopped at an intentionally un-named Wilderness Permit establishment, now with the intent of maybe hiking a few legal miles in and then perhaps three days of fishing…excellent!

Inside the official building more pleasant surprises awaited. Just so happened that another of our HST members “coincidently” was also there to pick up his own permit – TehipiteTom…big smiles all around but almost impossible to recognize him at first as he has gone anarchist, letting his hair grow out – maybe ¾ inch now but still looking every bit fit and trim- for Tom. What a grand happenstance – some might even say this was extraordinary fortune.

After doing the official permit thing myself, picking up a solo 12 day, walking out of a very cordial women’s office who handled the wilderness permits up there BTW, (thanks for the freebies!), then most amazingly, another large dude, a total burly stranger bumped into me coming out of the office – Russ by name, only to discover he was also a HST member – our own rlown, travelling with his outlandish side-kick/wingman Steve. (Just another strange twist of fate I reckon). BTW, Steve was an ex-mule packer out of Tuolumne, now an artist…but we let him stay anyway. They both also had their backpacks stuffed; fishing gear stowed and ready…one might even surmise that this entire soiree was all planned out months beforehand…in secret. Turns out that it had to be our own Mike who had surreptitiously orchestrated the whole thing… (Just for the record, if you ever need a Fall Guy, or if anything planned ever goes awry in any manner, or if you just want to blame someone else - ever, it will always be, by definition, totally Mike’s fault.)

Continuing on with the story, the immediate plan was all six of us, first to have a big Mexican lunch at El Cyd’s, (a Mexican restaurant located next to the permit office location,) then drive up to a ~8000 feet elevation trailhead on a nearby 20 mile dirt road, and finally hike out six miles or so to a spectacular campsite (picking up another 1000 foot of elevation in the process). We were heading to a series of linked fishing lakes – armed and ready…HST style. (Plenty of needed hints as to location here.) All together, we spent 3 days together laughing, swatting bugs, and fishing.

Before proceeding with this tale, it should be noted that I personally do not carry a camera – others on the trip did however and hopefully will chime in with plenty of embarrassing photos – I am a wordsmith only as my photo skills never seem to satisfy. At one point on the endless hour-long, dirt road, drive up, we rounded a curve only to discover the entire Sierra West side spread out before us. We all got out of 3 cars and stood staring at the wonders in front of us.

Also it should be noted that having a big lard-laden (it was very good but) Mexican meal and beer immediately before a 6 mile hike in the 95º hot sun was someone else’s questionable idea (guess who?)…explosive. Mikes exact words as he led up the trail, “You will really enjoy that last one!” (Starting to get the drift of this meeting?)

Finally arriving at our predetermined secret destination – lakeside, it should be mentioned/confessed that I broke another hiking pole – (a BD elliptical), by falling through at a creek crossing. Interesting, where the elliptical design of the shaft has extra strength in one direction, there is a lacking force (too easily snapped) in another. (The round ones are better.) Thank God for REI.

We took up that whole end of the lake – spread out our camps…one large communal kitchen…tents and packs…stoves everywhere…fishing gear readied…everyone seemingly had it well together. Turns out that Mike brought along his son along not only as a companion but also as an indentured servant…his ice slave. (Mike does enjoy his cocktail hour and needs someone on call to constantly hike up the hill and procure fresh shaved ice for the frozen drinks ahead.) Oh, I may have forgot to mention that all attending carried at least a liter (or two) of fine distilled spirits…Tequila, Grand Mariner, 151…had a full bar up there. It was not uncommon to hear, “Matt...More ice!” That first night, as Mike poured, Russ pulls out his stash (on ice) of fresh abalone steaks…pounded out and ready…he cooks/sautés/ slices them up right there…perfect…amazing hors d’oeuvres at 9000 feet…This was to be truly hard-core, HST camping.

This will just be the start – the first installment of the first day of what will be a thread hopefully added to by all others in attendance. Before signing off now, it must also be mentioned that while fishing at “my spot” – corner of the lake, we looked over and saw another angler, maybe 100 feet over also snagging a nice fish. I called out, “What are you using?”…"Red and gold Z-Ray – 3/8 oz” came back as a reply. “That lure is my #1, go-to lure”.
Maybe I forgot to include some pertinent data, but the new angler’s name was John…our own GiantBrookie.
More to come - HST style.
Mountainman who swims with trout



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Re: Backcountry Meeting

Postby oldranger » Mon Jul 26, 2010 10:17 am

In camp, cast of HST Characters!
Mark.jpg
Mark

HST.jpg
Here's to you! HST crew, front Mark, John. back Russ, Mike, Tom

tom, mark, russ.jpg
Tom and Russ supervising Mark's preparation of trout


It was a great event with outstanding drink and food! And best of all great company!

Mike
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Re: Backcountry Meeting

Postby schmalz » Mon Jul 26, 2010 11:05 am

This thread is awesome! Seems like a cool spot you guys found. I'll have to bust out a map when I get home. Any more hints would be great.
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Re: Backcountry Meeting

Postby maverick » Mon Jul 26, 2010 11:32 am

Looking forward with great anticipation to the next installment with more
photo's from Mike, and hopefully Tom.
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Re: Backcountry Meeting

Postby rlown » Mon Jul 26, 2010 11:35 am

This was probably one of the most interesting trips i've been on for awhile. I have shyed away from July trips because of the heat, bugs, and slow fishing. I tend to prefer late season. This was a "must do" trip, just to meet those behind the posts..

If you look closely at the pic of Mark in his "kitchen", you might notice the bucket of ice to his front left (thanks Matt), the plethora of stoves, the french press for the 1lb of Peet's french roast we used every morning, the fresh onions and garlic, basalmic vinegar.

And the complimentary fresh cheese and cracker plate served by Tom and Mike.. (drool) It was like walking into Trader Joe's for a sampling tour..

Mark was our head chef for trout. We had them stuffed with orange, ritz crackers, onions, garlic.. Mike brought some tortillas, so it was decided that one night we do fish tacos with a Morel mushroom onion stuffing. :thumbsup:

Tom made a capellini pasta that was to DIE FOR!

Most of us didn't get to anything freeze-dried for at least 3 days, and when we did, it wasn't the same.

Thanks for arranging the trip, Mike.

Now.. Mark.. wanna tell them about your mythically large 6lb'er you claimed to have caught and not filmed? [-X

Russ
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Re: Backcountry Meeting

Postby markskor » Mon Jul 26, 2010 1:03 pm

OK, you asked...

The tournament –
The next day Mike decided that a “challenge” duel – fishing contest was to occur… (Why? who knows)… between myself and the OldRanger. Somehow it did make sense at the time. I think Mike just likes to stir things up. The rules were the first to 50 inches – 5 fish only, would win some dubious bragging rights. The day previously, thankfully, Russ and Steve had visited some of the other, higher lakes in the string, sizing up which of the many lakes close might hold the bigger fish. FYI, Russ is quite the accomplished angler – probably/possibly the most successful of all present at this HST meeting – at least for that first day. Who knows though? Everybody was pulling out fish everywhere.

At the inlet of one of the lakes, not saying what one – many to choose from – they discovered a Rainbow bonanza. There were 7 maybe 10 large fish lined up, snapping up whatever bugs came down the waterfall stream. There were easily 1 ½ - 2 pounders positioned in a row waiting, all in a bathtub-sized pool. I do not know how fish decide positions, maybe a hierarchy of dominance/size, but they kept to their own individual spots. Because of their success there the previous day, someone arbitrarily decided that this pool was off limits to the contest…fat chance.

After fishing one of the lakes and both of us catching and releasing a few 10 - 12 inchers, (BTW, verified by Tom our official judge), the early-afternoon bite waned here and I decided to pay a visit to this afore-mentioned glory hole and take my chances there. Finding myself alone here…everybody had taken their own paths and was doing their own thing…lots of places to try…I tried my luck in the forbidden pool.

Using a large borrowed Wooly Bugger, (thanks Steve), and a split shot about 2 feet above the fly, I jigged the pool. Maybe letting 15 feet of line out into the current, pulling in line and letting it drift back…in five feet, back three…letting the fly drift deep under the banks, into the pools, and under bubbling ledges unseen. After about five minutes there was an explosion…something grand had taken the fly.

This mother was huge…I started whooping and hollering…it was the biggest Rainbow ever seen by this fool. I have never seen a Rainbow with a noticeable kype… (The large underhanging jaw typical of an ocean going trout). I did not even think that non-ocean trout ever developed such an aperture, but here it was. The fish was darkly colored, bright orange belly, and an almost blue-black shiny coloration beneath the head. It was fat and gorgeous. As I think back, it looked a little like Jackie Gleason in appearance…big head, fat body, large bottom jaw, but relatively short as compared to the size of its head. The best I can do is point you to Behneke’s treatise, Trout and Salmon, the bottom picture on page 13, only much, much fatter. This was the king of the pool.

As previously stated, I carry no camera, and in this age of needing picture verification as proof…Alas, I had none. I measured the beast against my pole, later measured by Mike as 21 ½ inches…so fat in the body as unable to circle its girth with two hands…Whatever the contest rules, I had landed a true Sierra whopper.

Then I started to get apprehensive/ guilty…This was too much of a grand fish to keep. After waiting another 5 minutes or so, hoping someone else might show, I decided to release it back…alas, unseen by anyone else, but knowing that this was a once-in-a-lifetime catch, and that he belonged up there alive...a great breeder.

Mike officially won the contest - I bow to his expertise - but I know I had the fish of the day…
HST karma!
Mountainman who swims with trout
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Re: Backcountry Meeting

Postby rlown » Mon Jul 26, 2010 2:04 pm

markskor wrote:Mike officially won the contest - I bow to his expertise - but I know I had the fish of the day…
HST karma!


Um, to be correct here, there was much discussion to the rules. I think everyone won just by being there. Mike kept some trout for dinner which worked out very well.

Mark caught a nice 70 footer :o , which is another story and i have pics. I still think inlet fishing during a tournament should be off limits.. stacked like cordwood. I should mention the "wade of shame".. Mark and I both had to do it. Snagged the lure at the inlet (for me), gently tossed my rod to the other bank, and then waded in to retreive my hot lure on that first day.. A rainbow body roostertail. That and the red body black blade panther martin were on fire.

An added clue.. 3 lakes. lower, small fish to 11ish.. Middle to, well, an average of 12-14", and then an errant 6lb'er.. And the Upper lake was all stunted brookies, some not larger than my Z-Rays.

It was hot and buggy. If you caught your fish early in the day, and they were ok for release, everyone let them go. I think that amongst 5 guys, we kept about 6 fish a day total, and we could reload at the camp lake if need be for the feast.
Last edited by rlown on Mon Jul 26, 2010 2:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Backcountry Meeting

Postby TehipiteTom » Mon Jul 26, 2010 2:13 pm

This trip was a blast. The destination may be tame by HST's rugged and heroic standards, but it wasn't about the destination--it was about putting faces to screen names, and spending time in the high country with some new friends and a couple old ones, and eating great food, and (last but not least) drinking.

Also, there may have been some fishing going on.

Having met up successfully with Mike and Mark in the middle of nowhere last year, I wasn't surprised to see them walk into the visitor's center at 10:45 am. (By the way, Mark, my hair is nearly an inch long now--I went to get it cut yesterday, but my barber is no longer open on Sundays. I look like a damn hippie.) Russ and Steve followed shortly thereafter, and we all traipsed over to El Cid for lunch and beer (not necessarily in that order).

The road up was spectacular: besides the panoramic views Mark mentioned, there were some truly amazing flower displays. Also spectacular were the potholes, some of which were enormous even by San Francisco standards. (Mostly just in the 'paved' portion of the road, though.)

Image

I was a little apprehensive about hiking in without any acclimation time--especially in the (very hot) afternoon--but it was only 5 point something miles, so I was huffing and puffing but ultimately okay. Lots of great flowers along the trail: three kinds of violets, marsh marigolds, delphinium, little mariposa lilies, tons of lupine, and so on.

Image

Mike and Matt went ahead and staked out a great campsite on the far side of the first lake. I wasn't famished and didn't feel like cooking, so I decided not to bother with my mashed-potatoes-and-bacon dinner. Good call: as we're all sitting around drinking Russ busts out the abalone and fries it up, and man was that delicious. You know how rlown's profile says one of his interests is abalone diving? Well, I'm here to tell you it's no lie. Thanks, Russ!

Image

More drinking and much entertaining conversation before we finally packed it in for the night.
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Re: Backcountry Meeting

Postby oldranger » Mon Jul 26, 2010 2:25 pm

The duel was the result of one of the many insults Mark has unjustifiably slung at me. I just can't remember what it was. At my age I can't remember much of anything!

At any rate sticking with the rules I brought in 57" of fish fully expecting Mark to out do me. (Expecting him to average 12" per fish) How can 5 fish that do not weigh as much as the one that Mark caught be counted as a victory? I can't claim victory. And to tell you the truth it has been a long time since I considered fishing a competitive sport. But it was a great premise to get together!

Mike
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Re: Backcountry Meeting

Postby rlown » Mon Jul 26, 2010 2:26 pm

markskor wrote: At one point on the endless hour-long, dirt road, drive up, we rounded a curve only to discover the entire Sierra West side spread out before us. We all got out of 3 cars and stood staring at the wonders in front of us.



Another clue: the view on the way in:

first view.jpg
First view up the road
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Re: Backcountry Meeting

Postby schmalz » Mon Jul 26, 2010 2:33 pm

If someone would be kind enough to PM me some more detailed info on this location, I would greatly appreciate it. I'm not a fisherman so you don't have to worry about me spoiling your favorite spots.
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Re: Backcountry Meeting

Postby rlown » Mon Jul 26, 2010 3:09 pm

Mark,

Wanna talk about how your hiking pole got repaired on the trail, or maybe how your bubble and fly got retrieved? And even the rest of your trip.. Nice how someone who's an "artist" carries full on pliers.. :D
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