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Meeting people in the backcountry

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Postby Shawn » Wed Dec 21, 2005 1:32 am

Hmmm, been thinking about a Bearikade myself; maybe it's time to test my assertivesness? :)

"I bet mentioning the infamous SN's name would even work today too." No doubt markskor meant to use the word famous as the word "infamous" means "having a reputation of the worst kind" :eek:



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Postby markskor » Wed Dec 21, 2005 4:18 am

Famous / infamous: Anybody who got out 86 weekends in a row. She snowboards, is a published photographer, lives in Mammoth, I hear she outhikes 20-year-olds, probably wrastles bears too - I hate her,
lol ...
I rest my case.
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Postby sierranomad » Wed Dec 21, 2005 8:31 am

;) Ha Ha, I hear ya, Marksor.
Jon

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Postby Shawn » Wed Dec 21, 2005 12:47 pm

I agree markskor. I really believe we are mingling with someone who will go down in the history books as few other Sierra adventurers have (seriously).

Shoot, I'm waiting to catch up with SN on the trail so I can get an autograph and a photo!
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Postby Hikin Mike » Wed Dec 21, 2005 1:22 pm

Hmmm...maybe they will give me a Bearikade because I have actually hiked with Snow Nymph ( a few times)... :D
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Postby giantbrookie » Wed Dec 28, 2005 12:25 pm

I can't possibly compete with Markskor's stories, but I too have had some memorable meetings with folks in the middle of nowhere. One of the best was at an unnamed lake somewhere in trailless Kings Canyon above 11000'. My wife and I had just arrived at this lake on a dayhike from our camp when we met two fellows leaving it. When we told them we were there to check out the fishing they smiled and said simply "you'll like this place". We did. In terms of large fish AND lots of action (usually an inverse relationship here) this may be the best high altitude lake in the Sierra. After fishing my wife and I happily bounced back several miles to our campsite to find, much to our surprise, that the two fellows were camped fairly close by. After a big red-meated trout dinner, we dropped into their campsite, they mixed some G and T's and pulled out a heavily reinforced JMW-Seki topo map. We exchanged a heck of a lot of fishing info that evening. It's probably the only time we were ever in such a situation where we were actually receiving far more than giving--these guys knew more about JMW-Seki fishing than anyone alive. I guess they spent every summer based in Bishop, and they'd do more trips than one could count.

Another interesting meeting happened 25 years ago on the Copper Creek trail---I didn't recall it but a fellow who is now a friend of mine figured it out last year. I had returned from working the summer in Montana and wanted to get my dad tuned up to do a 2-day blitz of Split Mtn. and Mt. Prater via Taboose. I looked at a topo a thought Grouse L. below Goat Mtn. looked promising, so I dragged my dad and my bro up the 5000+ elev. gain"warm up" backpack to find the lake full of frogs (and not fish). After bagging Goat Mtn. on the next day we headed out and apparently met a family on the Copper Creek trail. I didn't know it at the time but this was Prof. Cliff Hopson of the UCSB geology department and his family. Something like 22 years later Cliff related to me the story of hiking to Grouse Lake, where he had years earlier caught huge fish, only to find it fishless in 1980. I mentioned to Cliff that I had also hiked to Grouse in 1980 and found it fishless but didn't think anything more of it until last year when his oldest son, Forrest, mentioned to me that they had been there in September of 1980, which made the dates much closer. At that point, Forrest remembered, "meeting and talking with this Asian guy and two sons who were using ice axes as walking sticks." Now this WAS an odd habit of ours in those days and there wasn't anything close to a speck of snow in that part of the Sierra, so it could have only been us.
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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Postby markskor » Wed Dec 28, 2005 1:15 pm

John!
Welcome back.
In case anybody wondered, John here was/ (now is again) a founding HST member and more importantly, our resident fishing expert on all things lure fishing in the Sierra.
I think he has power hiked everywhere, and probably fished out most of the Sierra Nevada all by himself - oh - he takes his wife along too, just to keep him in line. If I remember correctly, he recently had a child, moved to Fresno from San Francisco, and thinks geology is a real science.
All I know is that he has helped me by going way out of his way with specific fishing information on choice of lures as well as first-hand beta on any number of remote Sierra lakes, and the information has always been on the money.
Good to have him back again. John, what was the old name – Laetacara – the genus of Cichlid?
Now it is giantbrookie ...lol.
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Postby ERIC » Wed Dec 28, 2005 1:17 pm

Hey John! Didn't recognize the username... Welcome back!
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Postby giantbrookie » Wed Dec 28, 2005 4:47 pm

Mark, Eric. Thanks for the welcome back. I didn't realize things were back up and running again until today. I haven't really had the time to check given how manic everything has been with the move and, especially, the fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants experience that every rookie faculty member must go through. In addition, a second kid did indeed arrive here. The move has also required some adjustment, needless to say. Clearly the whole university thing is a big positive, but outside of the professional end, it has been horribly difficult leaving my home of 46 years. However, over everything hangs the Sierra. The other day, on an exceptionally rare smog free day, I could see from my office (well, not my office, but the 2nd floor balcony of where I work), Goddard, North Guard, Brewer, Thunder, Table, Milestone, Midway, Glacier Ridge, the Kaweahs....That alone nearly melted away any lingering regrets I may have had about the move, for the Sierras have and always will be the keys to my sanity. Thanks Eric for helping to spread the joy of the Sierras to so many others.

As for Laetacara, that is indeed my favorite genus of South American dwarf cichlids, and we currently have several of them swimming around in two of our tanks. Fresno has very soft water just like our water back in Hayward, so the cichlids are happy, but I figured giantbrookie is a much more appropriate user name here than the one I use on my favorite tropical fish board.

Now that I'm so much closer to the Sierras I will need to take advantage of it, once I have my academic schedule a bit more under control. This past summer, I took several up and back day trips from here, plus one family trip (older (3-1/2 year) kid's first hike--he hiked over a mile), and one moderate 4 day off trail Desolation trip. This next summer will be better. Hope springs eternal in the "off season".
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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Postby Buck Forester » Wed Dec 28, 2005 5:44 pm

Good to see you here, giantbrookie®! I lived for a few years in Clovis (I'm now back up in the Sac area) and I miss being so close to the glorious High Sierra. I could zip up over Kaiser Pass in no time and be catching fat goldens the same day. Whether it's Yosemite or the John Muir Wilderness or SEKI, you're just a quick hop away. But yes, the smog, oh, the smog. It was a shame to not be able to see the outline of the Sierra just a few miles away on bad days, and just the faint outline on decent days. But when those clear days hit, it's amazing! But it's easier to put up with the smog knowing you can be in magestic beauty within a couple hours from your garage door!
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Postby markskor » Wed Dec 28, 2005 5:49 pm

The Log Bridge at Washburn Lake

Once again, I was out and about – solo, as usual – my all time favorite way to explore the Sierra Nevada – on another of my backpacking adventures. Some, my wife especially, firmly hold onto the adage that solo backpacking is foolish and quite precarious…what do they know. Obviously, there are certain dangers, stuff happens, but I cannot seem to find anyone else who has the same damn-fool inclination to go when and where I want to go; anyway, the adventures always seem better when I start out alone. This particular day I was visiting Washburn Lake, one of my favorite places to visit in all of Yosemite National Park. Located just off the main trail, Washburn Lake is as close to perfect as Sierra lakes get; well over one good day’s hike in, campfires are legal, it does not see the crowds, and the scenery is fantastic. Oh, in case I failed to mention it, the fishing there, fifteen miles in, can be quite satisfying. There is an abundance of 10 – 12 inchers, occasionally bigger, but the evening rise can be glorious… ‘nuff said.

The Merced River, a major Sierra artery, restarts there (again), at the exit of Washburn Lake, next to a granite beach, a soot-covered cave, and alongside a well-used trail – dramatic; it exits the lake silently through a 20-foot wide, deep stone, moss-covered channel. This narrow conduit begins crystal clear…first flowing easily, skirting around rocks – deep and tranquil, then tumbling over boulders – meandering… finally exploding down, rushing away towards Merced Lake and its HSC - 3 miles downriver. Staring across Washburn Lake, the far side straight over – the south side untouched, that part deep, now hidden in the morning shadows, there hides the big trout. Fishing rod in hand, I head to the exit channel, the shortest way across, just 20 - 25 feet wide at its narrowest point; it is “swimable” - I know it, provided you can handle the piercing cold – both ways, there and back. See:
http://www.topozone.com/map.asp?z=11&n= ... ayer=DRG25

My brilliantly concocted fishing strategy consisted first of breaking down and wrapping my gear: my Eagle claw 4-piece, my Penn 420, my Perrine fly box, my Nalgene bottle, my clothes, and my lunch; - all strapped down and padded up safe in a blue ensolite pad. The next step was chucking it firmly all across, over the exit channel, hopefully safe onto the smooth, pine cone-covered granite slabs. The final step, diving after my equipment, into the glacier-fed current…well let us say that this plan still had a few subtle flaws. First, the cold shockwave wakes you up quickly…the current takes you instantly 30 feet downstream, then, just when you start to shiver uncontrollably, it thankfully releases you, allowing you to exit, shivering … eagerly prostrating yourself over on the sun-baked granite, trying desperately to get your breath back. Yes, in June, this early in the season, the Merced can be just a bit too cold.

The far side of Washburn Lake holds coves of deep and un-tapped pools, talus cliffs, a few nice flat sitting-boulders … and lunkers – Browns, Brooks, and ‘Bows. I always try, if ever possible, to do my afternoon fishing over there, back along the protected and shaded, Lupine-covered shoreline. Today, late afternoon, coming back after spending successful hours across, (where does the time go?) the return trip always becomes more treacherous than the morning plunge – now late in the afternoon, due to the shade, there was little in the way of recovery relief offered…no convenient granite slabs warmed all day by the sun. I finally concluded, after recovering, after thawing myself out, again, that while the fishing at the far side was worth it, there had to be another way, an easier way to get across besides the continued re-freezing of my valued cajones.

I first looked further downstream, discovering little opportunity besides a good patch of wild onion and spectacular blazes of Indian Paintbrush. The sheer water volume mixed with the dismal odds of possible success… jumping across 5-foot high frothy granite gaps, over waterfalls, and then landing safely atop slick granite boulders, well it quickly lost any appeal, particularly when considering the angle of the rich green, slick, moss-covered boulders jutting out menacingly just below the surface. Searching for any alternate approach…it might be possible, just maybe, to cross over above the lake, at the entrance, up the trail a good half mile away. I hiked up to the far side of the lake – past the entry …a remarkable cache of emerging Snow Plants, then encountering a deep soft-bottomed marsh, bugs aplenty, entwining Manzanita, and finally rich swaths of Lupine hiding more talus-covered cliffs. This way sucked… the obstacle course here confirmed my original swimming venue as the only real viable alternative to crossing over to the far side.

Well, I refused to give up, and I had plenty of time until the evening rise. I should also tell you that about a ¼ mile upstream above Washburn Lake hides a remarkable extravagance – a hidden treasure; an Ester William-ish pool, about 15-feet wide, 5-feet deep, and possessing a nicely formed rock ledge that extends out into and just below a 10-foot waterfall. The water dynamics here, sheeting over and down upon the ledge… an enticing granite and moss covered display. If you ever visit Washburn, find it; use it, it is indeed a magic place, especially later in the season after the river warms.

It was there, just above the pool, (still looking for any way across), when I met him – (for the life of me, I cannot now remember his name.) I do recall though that he seemed born out of the typical, solo-hiker, Sierra mold – long strides, a bit mangy looking, good equipment… brand name gear; he had that confident and experienced air about him, and covered in that clean Sierra dirt mantle that only appears after a week of backcountry travel. (He said he had just come over the ridge from Bench Canyon, another great trip BTW, and was thinking of spending the night down at the lake below, after a quick dip here.)

With a loud roar, he realized (much like I did earlier) - almost immediately I might add, that it was still much too cold to bathe comfortably. He dried off his foot, laced up his Vasques, dropped on his Bora 80 backpack, me grabbing my fishing gear, and we both proceeded to walk back down the lakeshore trail. After setting up camp on the beach near my campfire, we both dined, (it was something with pasta), and then headed down towards the exit channel - to measure the time by the gold Alpenglow bouncing off Mount Lyell in the distance, and to fish off the beach – my kind of evening. I remember mentioning to him something about my morning ordeal, the chilly crossing, and making a point of pointing out the fast-flowing but relatively narrow waterway. We were both silent for a spell, casting out simultaneously among the hundreds of expanding boils. Staring intently at the German Browns lining up deep in the channel flow, he said he had a great idea – a solution to the problem - for tomorrow.

The next day, after the sun raised high over the ridge and hit upon the water, signaling the end to the early-morning rise, we both put away our rods and headed up the lake. There, alongside of the lagoon, near the river entrance, five or six large fallen trees – pines…logs – floating freely – (like boats docked)… giant slabs of relatively clean wood, mostly devoid of any cluttering side branches. We each selected one – mine a good 30-feet long, fat – his maybe even longer but a bit skinnier – and with the help of ropes, we floated them slowly, down, along the shoreline, wading - taking the next few hours to float them down closer to the aforementioned channel exit.

At the exit, we worked as a team, me securely tying a rope around one end, trying to anchor one side securely to a tree on this side of the channel, and him wading out and coaxing his free end out and into the steady current. I remember holding my end tightly, and watching as the force caught his end, swinging it out and over – him jumping on and riding – yelling like a cowboy – the log arcing slowly across the watery chasm. As the current caught, he rode laughing – then, quickly jumping off as it then wedged itself - tightly I might add too - against the granite slabs marking the far side. The unseen current, pushing mightily against the log, locked it in place – creaking…raising it slightly up, driving it a bit further out of the water. He crossed back tentatively…wood wet and slick, legs in the water, testing our newly erected bridge, and then announced it was my turn. Reversing roles, he tethered my floating log into place next to the other. He looped his rope tightly around the same tree, and now it was my turn to ride, across again to the far end - my log, like the slow-motion movement of a watch, a giant secondhand made of pine, ticking purposefully across the channel.

The next day, and probably for the rest of that summer, our natural bridge remained fixed, the force of the stream, then the water level falling; the end result leaving our efforts anchored securely in place. We stayed and fished the far side for a few more days, catch and releasing mostly 10 – 12 inchers, but snagging a few two-pounders too – good eating. When I returned, the next year or maybe it was the year after; our bridge was gone – obviously washed away by the explosive Sierra spring thaw. However, I am sure that there are still more trees floating at the far left lagoon - the lake entrance, waiting for more adventurous souls willing to engineer another summer bridge – the log bridge at Washburn Lake.

Another solo – backing story…by markskor
Last edited by markskor on Wed May 16, 2007 5:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby ERIC » Wed Dec 28, 2005 7:32 pm

John,

You might get a kick out of this... This is what I do for a living. I'm working with the FS Ag Dept on some joint projects (particularlythe viticulture dept): http://www.osterlingfamily.com/album/main.php?g2_view=core.DownloadItem&g2_itemId=21&g2_serialNumber=4

I have some much higher resolution images of the campus, including some true color ones...
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