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We were cresting the Sierra Nevadas late Friday afternoon. The sky was dark with storm, the thunderheads building directly above us. Hard chucks of hail blasted against the windshield, the storm's first onslaught. This quickly turned to huge raindrops and the Lady and I raced each other to get our windows down to fill the truck cab and our lungs with the smell of summer rainstorm in the mountains. This was the perfect start to a quick trip.
Our next two upcoming weekends are work and teaching. I had put off the Lady on getting away this last free weekend as we got a handle on prep needs for the upcoming field class. Thursday afternoon I asked the Lady, "Want to go somewhere this weekend?" I got the happy hand claps, a big grin, and "Really!" It is amazing how quickly the truck can be made ready, a few items in the dry goods bin and a few things out of the home refrigerator placed in the chest fridge in the camper. Our packs are always ready, a habit from the Search & Rescue days.
Early Friday evening found our chairs set up along Green Creek at one of the dispersed sites.
With the dissipating storm clouds, we wondered what was in store for sunset colors. We walked along the creek. A beaver moved away from us in deep water. The birds were busy with their spring time activities. A bright yellow flycatcher remains to be identified. A muskrat scooted across the creek, its nose high, out of the water. The mosquitoes were a pleasant surprise. Yeah, they were around but really not too bad.
Both the Carson and Bridgeport districts of the Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest have wisely gone into fire restrictions on May 30. The signs are up.
Restrictions include other activities besides campfires -
- Building, maintaining, attending or using a fire (using wood, charcoal or any other material), campfire, or stove fire except a portable stove using gas or pressurized liquid fuel, outside of a developed fee campground or picnic area (except by permit).
- Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or at a developed campground or picnic area.
- Welding, or operating an acetylene torch with open flames, except by permit.
- Using or causing to be used, any explosive, except by permit.
- Possession or use of fireworks (always prohibited), or any other incendiary device.
- Use of tracer rounds, steel-core ammunition or exploding targets including Binary Explosive Targets while recreational shooting.
- Open burning (e.g. weeds, brush, and yard debris).
I believe the current fine is $375 for a campfire and each person at the camp can be cited, not just the person who built the fire - as in "maintaining, attending, or using."
The Green Creek area is heavily used throughout the summer. We were pleasantly surprised it was fairly quiet this weekend. The small campground at roads end was full, maybe because they could huddle around campfires here.
We walked back down the road past our campsite. A shooting barrage unleashed further down the valley. It was violent. No one in the Green Creek area was untouched by the noise of the muzzle blasts. It sounded like mostly large caliber semi-auto handguns. (As an aside, it amazes that people are so dumb. It is easy to count and figure out the size of the clips being used.) They could have been legal with their shooting in this area but it was way out of line insofar as being a good neighbor. We felt for the young father on an evening walk with his toddler daughter through the meadow close to their camp when the unexpected barrage began.
Early morning was quiet and just right at our creek side camp.
We set off on our adventure, hiking into the Hoover Wilderness. We soon arrived at the major intersection.
This is all familiar country. We backpack in the heavily used Sierra areas only in the early season when most are still waiting for the snow to clear. In 2007 (with a pretty normal snowpack) we got our overnight permit for the Fourth of July holiday. Ice axes allowed us to easily climb up to West Lake and spend several days in relative solitude. The lake had just cleared of ice. The lakes in the basin above, including Par Value and Begonia, were still snow covered. We explored everywhere our legs and skills could take us.
We were going back to spend the day at West Lake. A cascade of falls mark the outlet from West Lake, high above Green Lake.
The route up to West Lake is one of our favorite trails, a well laid out series of short switchbacks that work their way up steep terrain always keeping to a nice grade that allows easy breathing and soft conversation. The rock work is excellent with the trail bed across talus filled with small cobble. We planned our upcoming summer adventure as we climbed.
"How 'bout we return to the Wind River Range?" I asked the Lady.
She smiled as I continued, "Remember that lake that held brook trout, big brook trout, heavy brook trout shaped like footballs?"
"Your cousin wrote about it in his book," she answered.
"It's about a day and a half, making good time, hike in with backpacks," I went on. "That would make a nice five day backpack with explorations to some of the other high lakes nearby."
"I would not have thought about returning there. I like that plan!" The Lady was cheerful. "Let's do that."
"I was thinking we could explore some new areas for us in the Winds with day hikes from the camper and also throw in another short backpack if we felt like it."
It was settled. It took only four or five switchbacks and our big adventure was planned.
We arrived at West Lake's high basin.
West Lake's inlet also is a series of cascades.
Just before leaving home Friday afternoon, something drew me to going online and purchasing my yearly fishing license. West Lake is mentioned in Bill Sunderland's book. I had spent a couple pleasant evenings in 2007 casting flies and catching trout. We dropped our packs, the Lady got comfortable, pulled out her book, and made her nest. I readied my fly rod and tied on a small scud pattern under a strike indicator. A little movement and a skinny long brook trout was carefully released. The third brookie was the largest but still not much meat on the bones.
As I released this brookie I saw what I had been watching for - a group of six nice heavy rainbows; heavy for their size, from about 13 to 15 inches long. I took on the challenge and studied. They methodically moved from the depths into the shallows. Occasionally one of them would violently explode out of the water right in front of me. I could not make out what they were taking. I tried four different dry fly patterns, had it waiting for them as they returned from the depths. No takes, ignored. I returned to the scud pattern. They were interested but their takes so gentle I missed setting the hook time after time. Any time you get to feeling cocky about your skills, just pick up your fly rod and be humbled. I tried two nymph patterns with no interest at all. The third pattern got attention and I had a nice fat 14 inch rainbow to release.
I hadn't moved from my spot for an hour and a half and I finally had success, a perfect afternoon in wonderful country. I fished for a while longer and returned to the Lady. She was sound asleep, her book on her chest, completely relaxed, completely at home. Some high mountain days are made for fly rods and books.
We started our journey back with Dunderburg Peak in the distance.
The panorama unfolded before us as we reached the edge of the basin with Green Lake below.
The length of Green Creek Valley stretched off to the east.
I focused in on Dunderburg Peak and Kavanaugh Ridge. We spent one memorable evening sitting atop the rocky columns on the far left.
We enjoyed the drop down the trail to Green Lake.
This is one of our joys in having our camper. There is never a need for a rush to get back to the trailhead. We get there when we get there. Those hands on the clock or those digital numbers are put in their place - meaningless. The day is ours, the whole day.
Dinner was my favorite for camping, macaroni and cheese. We throw in extra ingredients like good cheese and some chicken breast. It's a camper staple.
We slept well. Our muscles felt warm, used, happy. Morning came the way we felt, unhurried and refreshed.
As the sun hit the water the midges came to life.
Breakfast was the Lady's favorite, pancakes with fried eggs. We could not think of a more beautiful place to sit in the morning's quiet and dine.
Why do we keep heading out with the camper? Why can't we stay home? With a world like this to travel through, to live in, to get lost in, how could we ever stay home?