Two backpackers, three dogs, no bears, no fish and lots of mosquitoes
July 25, 2005
A week ago Tuesday, I accomplished a very rare feat: I finally attended one of the Ormsby Sportsmen’s Association (OSA) monthly summer picnics at Mills Park.
It was the first time in about 12 years that I have been able to do so due to previous commitments with my television show that aired live every Tuesday evening and ended last November. Yep, 12 long years!
By attending that OSA picnic, I also had the opportunity to talk at length with Scott Matheus (56) about his and Jeff Nowling’s (52) backpack trip in the High Sierras.
I’d like to share some of that fascinating information with you:
Their original plan was to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) from Ebbett’s Pass to Kit Carson Pass, a distance of about 30 miles.
Scott’s wife, Evelyn, dropped them off, early on July 12, at the trailhead, and they began their long trip. They were carrying heavy backpacks (Jeff’s pack contained 25 pounds of food and “goodies” for their three dogs: A Golden Retriever named Maeson, an Australian Silky named Sydney and a Bassett Hound named Boswell).
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Geez, who else but Scott would name his poor dog Boswell?
Their hike took them past Kinney Reservoir, Upper and Lower Kinney Lakes, before dropping down to Pennsylvania Creek and on to Raymond Creek.
They reported major-sized snow fields, snow drifts, with lots of rapidly running streams everywhere, from the melting snow, plus hordes of mosquitoes everywhere.
Most amazing, to me, they saw no bears. Over the years, I have seen six bears in that same area.
Note: For their entire trip, they saw no bears, no coyotes, no deer, one rabbit and one grouse.
Finally, after many hours of walking, they ran “out of gas” and stopped for the night, about 1.5 miles short of their planned destination of Raymond Lake.
They had taken fresh steak for dinner, but were so tired they skipped dinner, crawled into their sleeping bags at 6 p.m., and slept like logs until the next morning.
They got up early, quickly hiked the short distance to Raymond Lake, where they would spend the next three nights, and had the steak for breakfast (a major mistake, as it turned out, later.)
Raymond Lake is a beautiful, high-altitude lake (8,994′), located at the base of jagged-looking Raymond Peak (10,074′).
The lake contains a Golden Trout that can reach 16 inches or greater.
Goldens either bite like crazy or develop a severe case of “Lock Jaw.”
There is no in-between.
Scott and Jeff sadly discovered the Lock Jaw version due to a combo of the fish being in spawning mode and a bright, full moon.
No matter what kind of bait, lure or fly they tried, the results were the same: Nada, Nil, Zip, Zero.
And, here’s the worse part: They had made a typical, backpacker error of planning to have fish for dinner for one of the nights.
That is a big “No-No.”
You can plan to have fish to supplement your breakfast or dinner meals, but don’t ever plan on them as a main course. More often than not, the fish won’t be biting.
So, on the night that they were expecting to eat fish, they had Potatoes Au Gratin. Yuk!
For their entire trip, they only saw two other hikers. That’s all!
One was hiking the entire distance of the PCT. He had started in April in Mexico and is planning to end in October in Canada.
Those hikers warned Scott and Jeff the mosquitoes were “Unholy” on the trail between Raymond Lake and the Blue Lakes area, and those pests were the worst they had ever encountered, anywhere.
Based on those warnings, Scott and Jeff decided to terminate their hike at the Blue Lakes area, rather than going on to Kit Carson Pass.
Scott called Evelyn on his cell phone, told her about the change in plans and asked her to meet them at Wet Meadows Lake.
They began their hike to that lake, and the other backpackers were absolutely correct in their warnings: There were hordes of those monsters waiting for them.
They both reported, time after time, brushing hundreds of mosquitoes off their bare arms and legs, which had been thickly sprayed with insect repellent.
They reached the lake, Evelyn was there and a memorable backpack trip was in the history book.
If you are interested in fishing for Goldens, try Raymond Lake in nearby Alpine County.
If you are interested in breathtaking, high-altitude scenery, try the Raymond Peak and Raymond Lake area.
If you are interested in camping overnight in that area, don’t plan on fish for dinner. Be forewarned!
• Bet Your Favorite Pigeon
Bet your favorite pigeon he can’t tell you the name of another nearby lake containing Golden Trout.
If he grins and says, “Clyde Lake in Desolation Wilderness Area,” he could have been on one of my many backpack trips.