Walking Trout

WALKING TROUT FOUNDATION 2014:  Mammoth Mountain

Pine Glen Group Camp
With trips to the Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery, Convict Lake and the Devil's Postpile

September 18-21, 2014

The Campers:

Jennifer, Dave, Jayden, James, Dusty,
Bob, Cheryl, Mirella, Jose, 
Riley, Evan, Cheryl, Jennifer and Beau

The Walking Trout:

Eric, Brandon, Rick, Toner, Jim, Charles and Steve


  

Let's set the stage:

The second WTF trip took us to Pine Glen Group Camp in the town of Mammoth Lakes, CA.  Since a sequel is rarely better than its predecessor, we did some extra investigation and planning in order to ensure the second trip surpassed the first.  This extra planning involved Charles and Steve taking an extra weekend trip up to the Sierras early in the summer, to methodically reconnoiter every campground between Lone Pine and Mammoth in search of the most wheelchair-friendly campground available.  Charles and Steve were perfectly fine with the added "burden" of spending a weekend checking out campsites in the Sierras.  As a result of the additional planning, the 2014 WTF trip included better campsite accommodations, an increase in the amount of fish caught, and the bringing of much-needed reinforcements to help pitch the tents and break camp.  The sequel, without doubt, proved to be every bit as good an adventure as the inaugural WTF trip.  

Before we get into Part Duex (Alternatively titled: Charles Saved Everyone from Ivan the Ginormous Bear), we would like to thank all of our friends and family for their support and participation.  We would also like to thank everyone who donated to the WTF and made the trip possible.  Special thanks go to Dynamic Interventions, Kinderhouse Montessori School, and Chrome Collision.  Thank you's also go to the rehab facilities and associations that allowed us to spread the word about the trip, and who referred their patrons to the WTF:  the Challenge Center,  Alvarado Hospital, the Adaptive Sports and Recreation Association, and the City of San Diego Park & Recreation Therapeutic Recreation Services.  Thanks also to Jennifer R., who took most of the pictures you see here. Finally, to the new and returning Walking Trout campers who participated in this year's trip, we thank you for your courage and willingness to take a chance on a few strangers who call themselves The Walking Trout.    

Day 1:  From San Diego to Mammoth, And Points Between

All of our campers met at Chrome Collision in Poway, bright and early on a Thursday morning.  Chrome Collision was kind enough to store the cars left behind by the campers, even moving them from the parking lot to inside the building each night.  Thank you Chrome Collision for taking such good care of the specially-modified vehicles used by the campers.   We were packed and off in record time (in this instance, "record time" means "faster than last year"). 

RILEY AND EVAN ARE READY TO GET THEIR CAMPING ON



You can call us creatures of habit, or maybe we just know a good thing when we see it.  Either way, we stopped at the Mount Whitney Fish Hatchery for lunch on our way up - same as the year before.  There is not a more unique and peaceful place to stop for lunch on highway 395, if you ask us.  And this year we we were fortunate to have met two of the docents who take care of the hatchery.  One of the guides gave an impromptu presentation to our group while we ate lunch outside, and a second guide gave a mini-tour to those of us who ventured inside the hatchery.  Very nice of those caretakers to share their time with us.

THE BEAUTIFUL AND TIMELESS MT. WHITNEY FISH HATCHERY




STARING AT THE HUGE FISH IN THE POND - "DOES ANYONE HAVE A FISHING POLE??" 



LUNCH IS SERVED 



ONE OF THE DOCENTS LETS JAYDEN (AKA "J-DOG") FEED THE MINNOWS IN THE TROUGHS 



Not surprisingly, there are no pictures of our arrival at camp or the first evening's festivities.  That's usually a very busy time in Walking Trout Land, as we need to set up 10 tents, hand out sleeping bags, make dinner... all good fun.  This year, however, was much more relaxed than the prior year, since we had Brandon and Rick to help us out.  Rick is a lifelong friend of Charles and Steve, and Brandon is a college friend of Eric's.  Brandon and Rick drove up ahead of the rest of the group.  They reached the campsite a few hours ahead of the rest of us, and got a head start on setting up the tents.   That was, in a word, HUGE.  Between that and their extra help setting up camp and making dinner, our arrival could not have gone more smoothly.  It was spaghetti with meatballs and a salad (same as last year, for anyone noting the comparisons to the 2013 trip).  If it ain't broke, don't fix it.   But we did have one new feature on the 2014 trip that all of our 2013 campers didn't get to see.  A real, live, large bear.  Up close and personal.  The story is worth telling.

Charles and Jennifer R. were talking about one thing or another, when Jennifer's eyes became saucers.  A rather large bear, in the vicinity of 500 pounds if it was an ounce, had walked up behind Charles and began taking a proprietorial interest in one of our ice chests.  Charles had his back to his bear so he couldn't see the beast, but he could tell something was awry given the look in Jennifer's eye.  When he turned to see what was behind him, his eyes likely turned into saucers, too, but not for long; for he bolted into action in a particularly admirable way.  He grabbed the two closest things he could reach, one of them being a stick and one of them being a pristine frying pan, and began banging them together, in a textbook act of "bear shooing." The only problem was that the bear wasn't convinced.  So Charles dropped the stick and grabbed something heavier, that being a hammer.  The hammer was indeed more effective than the stick at making a loud noise when struck against the pan, and therefore was more effective in cajoling the bear to leave our ice chest alone.  The hammer was also considerably more effective than the stick at denting the frying pan beyond use, if not recognition.  So between Charles' banging and yelling, and some gratuitous whistling thrown in by Steve who arrived late on the scene, the bear, which was roughly the size of a Volkswagen, relented his conquest of the cooler and sulked back into the woods.  When all was said and done, we got a good laugh at the ruined frying pan, and at the stern and vociferous berating Charles had dished out.  Make no mistake:  Charles was the hero of the camp and his quick actions undoubtedly saved the cooler and its precious contents from certain destruction; but still we envisioned the bear retreating into the woods sullenly wondering what it had done to get yelled at like that.   [Note:  we learned from the ranger the following morning that the bear's name is Ivan, and that he had been transplanted from Yosemite for being too "friendly" with the humans (i.e., breaking into too many coolers).  So, while the bear was certainly of an impressive and perhaps arresting (except for Charles) size, he likely posed us no real harm.  Our jam, honey, butter., etc., however, were indeed at great peril.    

Although there are no pictures to prove it, we had a camp fire that night, and s'mores more than likely made an appearance. One thing is for sure - we all had a great time.  Except the lonely, hungry and downtrodden bear.    

Day 2:  Fishing at Convict Lake 


Here at the Walking Trout Foundation, we like to ease into the trip with a nice, big breakfast.  Nothing helps acclimating to the high altitude like a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, toast, juice and coffee, followed by some relaxation time around the campfire to ward off the morning chill.  And since we've never run out of food during any of our meals, it's always "All U Can Eat."  (Bears excepted)   

BRANDON, ERIC AND CHARLES ON KP DUTY




CHARLES, STEVE, JAMES, RICK, ERIC, AND BRANDON POSE FOR JENNIFER



IS THAT A TRIPLE MOCHA ESPRESSO CARMEL MACCHIATO?   NO - JUST COFFEE.  BUT IT WAS GOOD.  



THE TAIL END OF AN EXCELLENT BREAKFAST.  BOB LOOKS PLEASED.



BOB AND JAMES SPIN SOME YARNS BY THE MORNING FIRE, WHILE CHERYL TWEETS TO HER FOLLOWERS ABOUT HOW GREAT THE TRIP IS



GETTING RID OF THE CHILL WHILE WE PACK UP FOR SOME FISHING  (IVAN THE BEAR LIKELY LURKS SOMEWHERE IN THE FOREST BEHIND OUR CAMP)



RILEY WINS THE "BEST JAMMIES" COMPETITION



MORE HANGING OUT BEFORE THE FISHING TRIP.  THIS PIC SHOWS THE SCALE OF "OUR" FOREST.



MIRELLA, CHERYL, DUSTY, JOSE AND JAMES DISCUSS THEIR FISHING STRATEGIES



DAVE SHOWS SOME CHARGERS PRIDE - GO BOLTS!



After the breakfast was stowed, Rick had to take his leave and return home.  It was his daughter's birthday and a party was planned for that evening.  Even so, Rick was kind enough to drive all the way to Mammoth just for one night to help us set up camp.  A big thank you to Rick.  As for the rest of us who stayed on, we took a quick drive to Convict Lake, one of the most storied lakes in the Eastern Sierras.  It is usually one of the most picturesque lakes, too, but a fire in the Yosemite area sent over some unwanted smoke which hazed our view.   When Charles and Steve drove up and down the Sierras earlier in the summer on their reconnaissance trip (which was also an excuse to get up into the mountains for a couple of days), they discovered that Convict Lake has the only wheelchair accessible fishing pier in the entire Eastern Sierras.  When we considered the lake's wheelchair-accessible pier, its beauty, it's proximity to the campground we'd selected in Mammoth, and its reputation for serving up monster trout, we knew Convict Lake would be perfect for us.  And even though we were expecting it to be perfect, it exceeded our expectations.     

MIRELLA SAYS "WELCOME TO CONVICT LAKE"




"OUR" FISHING PIER



As it turns out, Dusty's stepbrother, Kent, is a Lutheran pastor who lives in the area.  When Dusty told Kent we were coming, and that we would be fishing from the Convict Lake pier, Kent took it upon himself to show up early and set up some chairs to hold the spot for us.  Not only that, but he loaned us extra fishing rods, donated some night crawlers to use for bait, and put on a fishing clinic to show our group the finer points of catching fish from the pier.  His tutelage was dead on:  five of our campers caught fish!  And for three of them, it was the first fish they'd ever caught. Thank you, Kent, for your thoughtfulness in reserving the deck for us, and for lending your gear and expertise to our group.  After Riley caught her fish, she announced "I love camping" - and that, right there, makes the whole trip worthwhile. 
 
KENT ILLUSTRATES THE FINER POINTS OF BAIT CASTING, WHILE DUSTY, MIRELLA, RILEY AND CHERYL P. OBSERVE




CHERYL S. WAS DETERMINED, ALAS, IT WAS NOT TO BE



JAYDEN, JENNIFER R. AND CHERYL P. FISH, WHILE ERIC DREAMS OF FISHING



RILEY, JAYDEN AND JAMES SMILE; BRANDON AND ERIC DO NOT



WITH ENCOURAGEMENT FROM DAVE, JOSE PREPARES TO SWALLOW THE FISH WHOLE



MIRELLA WITH A FISH ON THE LINE!  IF I'M NOT MISTAKEN, HER FIRST FISH EVER!



Also during the reconnaissance trip earlier in the summer, Charles and Steve checked out the boats for rent at the Convict Lake marina.  The 22-foot pontoon boat caught their eye, in particular.  The only problem is that the stairs leading down to the dock, and the dock itself, are not what one would call "wheelchair accessible."   In fact, the floating wharf gives way so much that it is barely accessible for anyone.  Fortunately, the dock hand who was working the marina said that there is a way to push the pontoon boat against the cement buttress next to the boat launch area, and to load wheelchairs onto the boat from there.  We are so fortunate that we came across that particular dock hand, and that he volunteered that information, because it worked out perfectly for our group.  We split our party into two, with one half catching fish on the pier while the other half cruised the lake trolling for monster trout.  After a bit, we switched groups, so everyone who wanted to take a cruise was able to do so.  We also gave everyone a chance to captain the boat.  When it was Steve's turn to captain the boat, he offered to marry anyone who wanted to be married (it being within his purview and authority as captain of the ship), however, there were no takers.  There were also no fish caught from the boat, but it was still a great time.  Lunch, in the form of a "make your own sandwich" sandwich bar, was brought out at the pier, as well.  

JOSE VOLUNTEERS TO BE THE FIRST PERSON TO WHEEL ONTO THE BOAT - IT WORKED PERFECTLY




HMMM.... DO YOU THINK RILEY LIKES BOATING?  HER SMILE SAYS "YES"



RILEY MAKES AN EXCELLENT SEA CAPTAIN - EVAN PATIENTLY WAITS FOR HIS TURN



J-DOG AT THE HELM!



JOSE AND CHERYL S. TAKE IN SOME SUN



THIS PHOTO WAS TAKEN JUST MOMENTS BEFORE JOSE'S HAT JUMPED INTO THE LAKE, NEVER TO BE SEEN AGAIN (SAD, BUT TRUE)




CAPTAIN MIRELLA



JENNIFER R. TAKES US FOR A SPIN



After a successful day of fishing and boating at Convict Lake, we headed back to our home-away-from-home for an excellent meal of barbecued hamburgers, hot dogs and beans.  Jennifer M. and Bo also joined us (they had to miss the first day of the trip on account of work), so our party swelled to its full compliment of 15 campers.  And, as an added bonus, more reinforcements arrived.  Toner and Jim, lifelong friends of Steve and Charles (and Rick) arrived to help out with the second half of the trip.  While Rick's help was instrumental in setting up the camp, Toner and Jim would help take everything down (in the rain, as it turned out, but we're getting ahead of ourselves).  With all campers and "Walking Trout Staff" now present, another campfire was held, more s'mores where eaten, and a good time was had by all.  No bears were invited to the festivities, and we assume Ivan had skulked half way back to Yosemite by this time.

MIRELLA PREPARES TO CHOP SOME WOOD AND/OR JOSE'S FINGERS




Day 3:  Hike to the Devil's Postpile

The first night camping is always the most difficult.  Our bodies are furiously trying to acclimate to the high altitudes of the Sierras, we are trying to figure out the best way to set up our sleeping bags, and frankly the weather in the dog days of summer can be a little chilly at night.  I'm not saying the second night is actually warmer, but it just seems warmer.  With our second night under our belts, we all awoke a little more acclimated, and a little warmer, than the night before.  Besides, looking forward to a pancake breakfast would warm just about anyone's soul.  But first, there was fish to clean.     

AFTER FENDING OFF A 1,400 POUND RABID GRIZZLY BEAR EARLIER IN THE TRIP, CHARLES FURTHER EXHIBITS HIS DAVY CROCKETT MANLINESS BY GUTTING THE FISH.  JAYDEN'S FURROUGHED BROWS SIGNIFY AMUSED DISPLEASURE, WHILE EVAN (PERHAPS A FUTURE SURGEON) IS UNAFFECTED BY THE GORE.




TONER AND JIM GET A HEAD START ON THE BREAKFAST PREP



ERIC REPRISES HIS ROLE AS THE BLUEBERRY PANCAKE WIZARD

Yes, that's right:  blueberries.  Because if you are going to take a bunch of people camping, and serve them pancakes, you should go the extra mile and bring fresh blueberries.  Besides, bears are deathly afraid of blueberries, I think, so it's good to have them all over the camp.  And honey.




After what can only be described as another fine Walking Trout Foundation meal, we packed up and drove down (and yes, we mean DOWN) to the beautiful Red's Meadow area of Mammoth.  The drive down to the valley offers breathtaking views of not only the valley floor, but also the majestic Minarets, one of the prettiest mountain ranges anywhere in the Sierras, if not the universe.  The views rival Yosemite's offerings, minus the waterfalls of course.  It is an area not to be missed.  And we were headed to the heart of it, to visit the Devil's Postpile National Monument.  The postpile is an odd formation of hexagonal-shaped stone (basalt) columns which formed as molten lava cooled many, many days before we arrived (actually 80,000 to 100,000 years before we arrived).  Getting to the postpile is not easy - it is about half a mile away from the road-end, on a real, live hiking trail that is sometimes steep and sometimes rough.  And not just any trail, but a segment of the John Muir Trail.  Charles and Steve had been on the trail many times before, but made a point of visiting it on their reconnaissance trip earlier in the summer to decide whether it would make a good trail for this particular trip.  They decided it was worth a shot, and so the postpile found its way onto the WTF itinerary.  And that's fortunate, because the hike was a highlight of the Walking Trout Foundation's (albeit brief) existence.  And as an added bonus, the Forest Service was kind enough to provide a ranger to give our group a guided tour, which we had arranged in advance.  The trail was difficult enough to challenge all of the participants, but not so difficult that it could not be beaten.  It was, as it turned out, a perfect hike.

RILEY, EVAN AND J-DOG AT THE VALLEY FLOOR




DAVE AND JAYDEN ON THE BANKS OF THE MIGHTY SAN JOAQUIN RIVER (OK, THE RIVER IS NOT SO "MIGHTY" AT THE END OF A DRY SUMMER...)



DUSTY ALSO VISITS THE SAN JOAQUIN



OUR GUIDED TOUR TO THE POSTPILE BEGINS 



ONE OF THE STOPS ON THE WAY TO THE POSTPILE



JAMES HAS EXCELLENT TASTE IN SHIRTS!



OUR GROUP TACKLES THE JOHN MUIR TRAIL



AT THE POSTPILE 



CLEAR EVIDENCE OF PRE-HISTORIC ALIEN VISITORS.  



WALKING TROUT FOUNDATION 2014 - AT THE POSTPILE



THE BRIDGE OVER THE SAN JOAQUIN RIVER



TEAMWORK



After the hike, we broke out the sandwich cooler and made lunch at the valley floor.  You will not have lunch in a prettier place.  After that, we drove up and out of the valley, and all the way to the top of the Mammoth Mountain ski resort.  Well we didn't drive all the way to the top of the ski resort, but we did take gondolas.  A big THANK YOU to Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra for providing the tickets.  We cut it close on timing, and as a result we didn't get to get out of the gondolas at the top of the resort to take in the view of the Minarets, but we did get a chance to "fly" up the mountain and back down again.

CHERYL P., MIRELLA, RILEY, JAMES AND EVAN IN GONDOLA #78




DAVE AND JAYDEN ON THE RIDE UP.  OR MAYBE THE RIDE DOWN.  IT'S HARD TO SAY.



DUSTY SEEMS TO BE ENJOYING HIS TIME IN GONDOLA #34



BOB IN AN UNNUMBERED GONDOLA



THE DISTANT MINARETS, AS SEEN FROM THE GONDOLAS.  THE RAINCLOUDS ARE MOVING IN.  MAMMOTH MOUNTAIN'S SKI RUNS ARE IN THE FOREGROUND.



BACK ON LAND



GROUP PHOTO #2




This was the end of a busy day and our attention was drawn to the idea of another campfire-side dinner.  We settled into the vehicles and headed down the mountain back toward our campsite, but one final digression was required. The road back crosses an earthquake fissure, incorrectly labeled by a roadside sign as an "earthquake fault." Thinking it was just too much for one day, we hesitantly offered to share one more Mammoth Mountain attraction. The idea was to park and view the fissure for a few minutes from the comfort of the vans.  This group refused our proposal of a leisurely view from the vans, and practically demanded to be let out for a closer look.  We reluctantly opened the doors, for we were now on uncertain ground; this trek did not get pre-scanned for accessibility.  Our group had morphed into adventure monsters with no fears or limitations. 

We picked our way through the forest to the edge of the deep fissure.  Some made it across the fissure, some made it to the very edge of the fissure, and some, in our imagination, fell into the fissure.  Impressed with everyone's spirit for adventure and satisfied with the head count, we left the giant crack and headed back to camp; Jim, Toner, a mature campfire, and a pot of marinating chicken waited for us.  
It felt good coming back to base camp with camping activities already started.    

Eager campers quickly surrounded the campfire. Someone invited the Clouds to stay, so we had to get started on dinner before the invitation got extended to Rain.  This was a fun evening.  A unique feature about this campsite is the row of evenly spaced stand-alone grills.  We were all set for our very own master chef competition.   Toner did a fine job grilling up the Stub’s marinated chicken.  It appeared as if Toner would complete his task unchallenged, but Eric took on new ingredients, leaving his pancake spatula for foil wrapped fish.   To our surprise, the la truite au lard (trout with bacon) turned out to be a real treat.  A vote for best dish was not required; we were all winners, except Ivan.   We were indeed visited by Rain, as well as Thunder.  Fortunately, it was more of an exhibition than a proper storm, so other than a few brief interruptions where we scrambled to take cover, Mother Nature allowed us to enjoy the evening.

After dinner we gathered for our final campfire together, where we continued the long-standing tradition (if two years counts as "long standing") of having WTF Comedy Night.  We went around the campfire taking turns telling jokes, and while none of us should quit our day jobs, we still had a great time.  First the kids peeled off as their bedtimes dictated, then a few of the adults, and then a few more, grudgingly.  The last campfire of a camping trip is always bittersweet, and this one was no exception.  Nobody wants a trip like this to end.      

CAMPERS REVISIT THE DAYS EVENTS AND CHARLES HIDES FROM IVAN



JIM CHANGES THE CHANNEL ON TONER'S CHICKEN



TONER SHARES GRILL SPACE WITH ERIC'S FISH



HMMM...MAYBE WE WILL BAN ELECTRONICS FROM NEXT YEAR'S TRIP



TWO CUPS, TWO HEADLAMPS, TWO BANDAIDS, TOO CUTE  (DISCLAIMER:  CHARLES WROTE THIS CAPTION)



WTF COMEDY NIGHT™    -   ADMISSION IS FREE AND THE JOKES ARE WORTH IT!



Day 4:  Journey's End 

While Mother Nature left us mostly unscathed the night before, by morningtime she decided to show our campers what a real rainstorm looks like.  Breakfast was interrupted by the rain, and the campers were forced to retreat to their tents to finish eating while the WTF "staff" had the pleasure of packing up all the gear and tents in the rain.  And the hail.  Let's not forget the hail.  Still, with all the extra help we had compared to the 2013 trip, we were packed and ready to go relatively early.  We even had enough time to continue the tradition of taking pictures of each camper by their tent (except for Mirella, whose tent was the first one packed... but she can always look at the 2013 pictures... it was the same tent, after all). 
 
BOB'S LUXURY APARTMENT




JOSE APPROVES OF HIS ACCOMMODATIONS



JENNIFER R., DAVE AND J-DOG STAYED IN "THE COLEMAN" 



CHERYL'S HOME



JAMES AND DUSTY SURVIVED THE RAIN, THE COLD, AND EACH OTHER'S SNORING




JENNIFER M., BEAU, THEIR TENT, AND A LARGE ROCK  



RILEY, EVAN, CHERYL, AND RAINDROPS CAUGHT IN MID-AIR (EITHER THAT OR GHOSTS)



WTF STAFF HEADQUARTERS (NOT PICTURED:  STEVE'S SOLO TENT)



We timed our departure perfectly... for lunch at the Pizza Factory in Lone Pine, that is.  This is a mandatory stop on all Walking Trout backpacking trips, and we were very excited to be able to share this culinary treasure with the campers.  In the background you can see a bunch of  photos, posters, signed head shots, and other paraphernalia  from all the Western movies filmed in the nearby Alabama Hills.  And the pizza and wings are awesome, too.
 
OUR CREW CLEANS UP NICE!




THE PIZZA FACTORY RECIPES ARE SO SECRET, THEY ARE KEPT IN A VAULT (SEEN IN THE UPPER LEFT CORNER OF THE PICTURE), AND SPECIAL AGENT DUSTY HELPS GUARD THEM





The trip was one for the ages, but it was bound to end.  Over the course of four days, we acclimated to the high altitude, grew accustomed to the cold nights, conquered part of the John Muir Trail, reeled in a stringer of fish, piloted our party boat around a lake, fended off an enormous (but probably friendly) bear,  soared to the top of the Mammoth Mountain ski resort in gondolas, survived a thunderstorm, ate a LOT of food, and, best of all, made some good friends.  Our hope is that all of the campers enjoyed the trip as much as we did, and that they managed to steal a little piece of the Sierras to take home with them, whether it was the sound of the San Joaquin, the sight of the Minarets, the smell of the campfire, the feel of a fish tugging on their fishing line, or something else that stood out for them.  In fact, campers, if there's anything you want to add to this website, a memory, a comment, or anything else, let us know. And we'll put....  it...  right... here:    




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