This is a post that I did on another forum right after the trip had taken place. It's about a one day hike to a SoCal local looking for wild fish on Father's Day that stands out in my memory.
My 36 year old son called me Saturday night and said, "Let's go fishing tomorrow. There's a place I heard about and should be good for Father's Day". We made plans to meet at my daughter's for a family breakfast and then we were off for a great hike and some wild fish. What he didn't tell me at the time was that their station had a fatal fire involving a two year old that morning. (My son is a Fire Captain with our County Fire Department. I retired from the same department after 34 years) I thought he was a bit more quiet then usual but attributed it to the fact he was working a 96 hour shift. Ironically, a few years back, I called him and said the same thing after doing a program that always drains me. (see this thread: http://www.kernriverflyfishing.com/cgi- ... 1210047609 )
We drove an hour or so from our high desert home and parked at the trail head. I was a little concerned about crowds and our proximity to a pretty big population base but that would prove groundless. We did meet two Pilgrims who were carrying way too much stuff on their backs for an overnight and both were lugging ice chests that were pretty heavy for the return trip. I suspected that ice chests contained a whole bunch of trout.
We started up the trail and it was a continuous climb. The trail was in good shape and the air temperature was about perfect. I was not happy about my choice of foot wear but little did I know just how far we were going to go. We had a general idea of where we were going (so we thought at the time) and looked forward to wetting a line
As we climbed and the miles went by, the profusion of growth and flowering plants in the Chaparral was incredible. Last year's rain really let the plants cut loose with a riot of color and brought out some plants I have never seen in this drainage. Hummingbirds were everywhere and bird songs echoed throughout the mountain. It was obvious that fire had come by this way recently but nature was well on her way to rebounding and filling in the voids. I never cease to be amazed at what beauty we have right in our backyards. I'm sure Josh got tired of waiting for me as I took pictures of flowers or bugs or a glade along the creek. We could hear the creek alongside us at times but other times it seemed to fade far away. Sometimes the trail was loose granite and other times it was cushioned by the needles of pine and leaves of oak. The air was perfumed in the hot sun by the plants giving off a wonderful fragrance. Finally, as we gained several thousand feet in elevation, the forest began to close in on us as we met the creek once again.
The higher we climbed, the more things changed. The trail never wavered in it's uphill gradient. Trees, brushes and shrubs began to transition as we made over 2,000 in elevation gain. We began to enter sylvan glades of muted and bright green. As we got back to the water, the sound of it's roar as it fell downward was constant and ever changing. With gravity it's only master, it always knows which way to go. Ever downward....gurgling and bubbling as it makes it's way to the valley far below. Water that has passed by our very spot will soon water a lawn or wash a car in a subdivision driveway. I see a Water Ozuel dart into and under the water and appear fifteen feet away on the other side of the bank. Now the Big Cone Doug Fir stands block the sun along with Oak and some massive Cedars. We pass by a giant Cedar that fell maybe fifty years ago and look as it slowly falls apart....helped by Black Bear who tear at it's bark looking for tasty grubs. At times, it is very much like walking through a sanctuary. The trail is cushioned and our feet make no sound. Even as we pass through these wondrous places, we look for a sign that we have arrived where we think we want to be. For several hours, we climb. We rest every hour and it is hard to believe that we have come this far up the mountain and that we still haven't wet a line.
The constant was the water. There certainly was lots of it. Sometimes it was pretty skinny...other times it looked and sounded like a roaring river. We came for the native (they hadn't been stocked for decades and we were willing to hike to get to places where most were not willing to go. Cold, clear and very refreshing (Yep....by the end of the day I was refilling water bottles several times over). As we climbed, the water we could access was so clear and such little vegetation that it seems as if winter rains had scoured the area. It meant that we had not yet reached where we supposed to be yet and so we climbed some more. At the apogee of our hike we had gained almost 3,000 feet and frankly, I had hit the wall. My almost 63 year old body no longer had the will to put one foot in front of the other on the promise that just around the bend we would find fish. Almost four hours had elapsed and we had really covered some ground but it was a reality check that had to listened to . We set a time deadline...met it and started back down the mountain to try and find some fishable water.
Going down was bittersweet. We hadn't found the fish nirvana that we had heard about. Perhaps just a fish tale. We did have a great time together. Josh had introduced me to fly fishing a number of years ago with a Crystal River travel rod combo and it's a journey ever since. Did we fish? Yep. We found a couple of places that allowed us access to the water. Did we catch fish? Yep. Some small...some not so small. It was pocket water that only allowed dapping a nymph into the bubbles. The picture of the fish coming towards the camera was a fluke. I was taking a picture of the pool with my line in it....the fish took the nymph (that I had tied the night before) and my involuntary reaction was to pick the rod up and somehow I caught the moment with my little Olympus. Gave me kind of a start. All fish caught still swim in these pristine waters. The sun had dropped below the steep canyon walls and it was time to continue down the hill.
My knees were giving me enough concern that I was kinda getting worried. The insides and outside of my knees were on fire with each step. Walking on level ground or uphill was no problem but I was really reminded of the surgeon who told me that I would someday be back for knee surgery when I retired. Soon enough the trail head came into view. We loaded up and I popped four Motrin. Reflecting back on the day reminded me of several things. First, spending the morning with my daughter and son and their family was wonderful. Being able to visit a place that is still wild and makes you work for her secrets was well worth the slight (well....major discomfort) discomfort. The land was taking care of itself and the bountiful rains made the mountain come alive with life of every sort. Believe it or not, we only saw one example of graffiti (done in 1962 with a paint brush) and one small piece of trail trash. Pretty cool. We saw secret places that few men have ever set foot on and some fish were caught. Not a lot of words were spoken but they weren't needed.
I thought back to my father, who died in 1974, and the hundreds of miles we spent hiking the local mountains and doing the John Muir Trail twice....in 1958 and 1962. It was good to think of him and what he taught me. Amy...thanks for the great Father's Day breakfast. Josh, thanks for taking the Old Man on a hike on Father's Day. I think, maybe, you needed it as much as I did.