All last week I've been off work for a company shutdown, one of three we are having this year. It was a nice opportunity to get out during the week for a change. I'd done this same trip about five years ago, and wondered how things had changed.
I'd reserved my wilderness permit online, called up the ranger station, and they emailed me a copy to sign and carry. Nice not to have to show up at their office (anyone who has ever tried to pick up a permit in Mammoth knows what I'm talking about
After my warmup hike in Mammoth I just went straight to the trailhead the next day and started hiking. Anyone who has driven up 395 has seen these mountains.
The first several miles are a steady uphill without much shade, and the day warmed quickly. A breeze started up around mid-morning, for which I was grateful.
The creek tumbles down the canyon, but around 9000'-ish it is more of a slow and meandering meadow stream.
I'd stopped here to fish for brookies before, but I had another destination in mind today. I continued up the trail and soon the creek increased in gradient again.
I could see fish up here, too. The trail climbed into the forest (shade finally !) and up granite staircases relentlessly. Nearing 10000'-ish and another creek and meadow the mosquitoes started to find me. I'd pre-treated my clothes with permethrin though, and they were not that bad yet.
I found the old use trail, crossed the creek and headed up to my destination for the night. It was steep in places, and there were occasional cairns left by other visitors. I stopped for lunch at a small lake around 10200' and caught a few brookies on my tenkara rod.
A bit later I managed to huff and puff my way up to the lake.
The last time I'd done this the day had turned stormy, and I'd been hailed on en route. This time it was just windy. Fortunately the winds seemed to be blowing towards me (and thus the fish). I lobbed some foam hoppers on my Echo Big Water Glass 8'6" 5wt. Strikes, but no hookups. Oh, there were fish in here all right, and they were hungry. They were just managing to not get caught
Last time I was here I had good luck on light colored nymphs, so I tried something similar and tossed a Flying Squirrel out.
Yikes ! I carry a smallish tenkara net while backpacking and this guy could barely fit; it was the largest golden (or more likely golden-rainbow hybrid) I'd ever caught. As it flopped around, I struggled to get a photo, make sure the nymph hook was out of its mouth, and get it back into the water. Phew, sometimes catching fish seems as traumatic for me as it does for the fish
I picked out some more random nymphs, and thought "I've never caught anything on Egan's Red Dart", but sure enough ...
I continued fishing for a few hours, and had a few more strikes, but that was it for me. The winds got stronger, and continued all night and into the morning. The good thing was that this prevented the mosquitoes from landing on me.
I headed out early, back down to the creek and meadow, and then continued my ascent up the main trail. More granite staircases and meadows. The wind wasn't as bad here, and the mosquitoes were finding me again.
The trail climbed higher, and turned more metamorphic instead of the usual Sierra granitic. At this latitude treeline is below 11000'.
I was nearing the pass, almost 12000' according to the map. The mantra "slow and steady, the mountaineer's pace" went through my head. As I get older I am definitely not getting better at elevation ...
Finally over the pass I surveyed my destination.
That patch of green with a creek running through it was where I wanted to go. Downhill I went ...
The mosquitoes were active well above 11000' on this side of the pass, and the wind had died down. Oh yeah, I was going to be a mosquito snack for sure
Around 10500' I reached the meadow and fished for golden trout in the creek.
After an hour or two of that I continued down the trail, then broke off cross-country heading up into the granite slabs and into another creek canyon. I made my way up to another familiar lake.
I fished here for a few hours and then made camp. I saw a few goldens, but they were shy and avoided capture much like the ones I'd seen the day before. I walked around the lake a bit, but it seemed like things were much quieter than the last time I was here. Huh.
The wind was much quieter overnight. The mosquitoes were out, but really not that bad here. I fished a bit in the morning, but mainly just caught some nice light
I headed back down the creek canyon, and returned to the trail, heading back uphill, and got to another pretty lake.
The brookies were biting here, and it was a nice lunch spot, but I had no intention of stopping.
Instead I headed out cross country again, steeply uphill. Around 11000'-ish I reached the lake. The afternoon upslope winds were blowing, but nothing like the previous day.
This lake is surrounded on most sides by talus and has no trail, no trees, and poor camping options. It is a large lake though, and good-sized rainbows seem to thrive in it. Time to lob some hoppers !
The inlet springs were still running well, and the fish seemed to cluster around where they entered the lake. It was a cooler night, and breezy. I did see a mosquito or two but they were not an issue up here.
In the morning the water was calm, and I could see fish rising.
But I had a ways to go and hurried back down. This is why there is no trail.
I made my way cross-country back to the main trail, and headed up, "slow and steady" again filling my brain. Near the pass I heard the sound of something moving in the rocks; my first marmot sighting of the season.
I blitzed downhill from the pass, and stopped for lunch and a quick fishing session at an 11000' lake.
The brookies here took hoppers with abandon, but it was not as on fire as the last time I had been here five years ago. Or maybe I just remember it differently
There were a bunch of places I could have stopped to fish on the way back to the car, but I'd been suffering from pollen allergies the entire time. Something about early July in the Sierra just makes my sinuses go nuts. I made it back in mid-afternoon, and back down in the canyon it was in the 80's. Time for a long drive home, and a new box of kleenex