Monthly Archives: August 2015

Clear Creek – 08/31/2015

Time: 11:00AM – 3:00PM

Location: From bottom of Floyd Hill on the west side upstream a half mile.

Fish Landed: 11

Clear Creek 08/31/2015 Photo Album

After a weekend with no fishing I was once again anxious to cast some flies on Monday, the last day of August. Since the flows on Clear Creek were finally favorable after one of the longest run offs I can remember, I decided to give it a try. I also read a favorable report on the Front Range Anglers web site.

Since the drive is merely forty-five minutes, I did my normal morning workout and run before departing at 9:50, and I arrived at my chosen starting point by 10:30. I parked at the end of the Clear Creek bike path at the bottom of the west side of Floyd Hill. By the time I rigged my line and put on my waders and entered the water it was 11AM. The fisherman who filed the report on Front Range Anglers said he was receiving refusals on the larger attractor flies on his dry/dropper rig, and he suggested downsizing to compensate. I used this information to downsize from the beginning and tied on a size 16 elk hair caddis with a medium shade of olive body. The caddis did not have any hackle, but there did seem to be some snowshoe rabbit foot fur tied in as an underwing below the elk hair.

I did not generate any interest in the first two deep pockets, but as I moved away from the parking lot, the small caddis imitation began to produce. I landed five small brown trout in the first hour on the simple pattern. The tan elk hair wing was very visible, as it contrasted nicely with the clear water, and the body rode deep in the surface film, which apparently was what the trout were looking for. I even caught two fish by casting to the opposite bank and using a reach cast as learned from Jake Chutz of Montana Fly Company. This was a significant achievement given the very fast center current on trough-like Clear Creek.

Best Brown Trout from Clear Creek on Monday

After landing number five I foolishly snapped off the elk hair caddis and substituted a size 14 deer hair caddis with a gray body. This pattern generated a few refusals, but then yielded a sixth brown trout just before noon. Unfortunately I also broke off this fly on a tree, as I was reckless with my backcast, and this seemed like a good time to return to the car to eat lunch.

I70 Highway Sign Mars Natural Beauty of Clear Creek

After lunch I checked my boat box and found one additional medium olive elk hair caddis, so I added it to the fly box that I now carry in my wader bib. When I returned to my pre-lunch exit point, I crossed the river to work the bank between interstate 70 and the stream. I always gravitate to water that is more difficult for the average fisherman to access, and the north side of Clear Creek in this area meets that definition. I immediately tied on the same elk hair caddis that was on fire between 11AM and noon, but alas it lost its magical qualities. I covered a fair amount of water propecting with the elk hair with no action, and then I once again broke it off on a brittle dead weed behind me, when I attempted to execute a reach cast and a downstream drift to some slow water along the far bank. Again I became careless when I redirected my casts across rather than upstream and did not check what was behind me.

Since I needed to tie on a new fly, I decided to experiment with the dry/dropper approach that produced so well for me on the South Platte River on Friday. One never knows what the fish are looking for if one does not try different flies and varied approaches. On to my line went a Chernobyl ant, beadhead ultra zug bug, and salvation nymph; but these flies were only moderately successful. I spent an hour prospecting with the dry/dropper combination and managed to land only two small brown trout; one on the ultra zug bug and one on the salvation nymph. I also generated a couple momentary hook ups, but I covered the greatest amount of water with these flies and had minimal return.

Flowers Border Clear Creek

As the sky clouded up I decided to revert to dry flies in case the low light caused trout in Clear Creek to look for caddis. I tied on a size 14 stimulator with a body color close to the elk hair caddis, and then I added a twelve inch dropper and tied on a size 16 deer hair caddis with a light gray body. I rarely fish a double dry combination, but I tried it in the dim light so I could follow the large lead stimulator yet still track the more difficult to follow caddis.

This move proved to be moderately effective, as I landed three additional brown trout before quitting at 3PM. During this time I reached water that appeared more attractive as the creek channel narrowed, and this created more deep pockets along the bank. I suspect that I could have lured more trout to the surface, but my efforts were suddenly interrupted by a streak of lighting and then the loud clap of thunder only seconds afterward. The quick succession of light and sound told me that the lightning strike was nearby, so I hustled up the steep bank and walked back along the shoulder of interstate 70 while the wind picked up and the sky darkened. In order to reach the car I was forced to scramble down the steep rocky bank next to the highway and then cross the creek to the bike path on the other side. As I emerged on the bike path some more lightning brightened the sky and then sheets of rain began to pour from the clouds. I was prepared with my raincoat on, but the threat of another lightning strike kept me on edge until I reached the car.

Since the rain continued to pour from the sky in heavy quantities, I threw my rod, front pack, and backpack in the car and jumped in the driver’s seat clad in wet waders. I drove east on route six a bit to wait out the storm and hopefully sample different water, but when I turned right into the pullout below the gravel quarry, I could see that the creek was beginning to show color. It was a bit after 3PM, so I decided to call it a day and drove home in my waders.

I am grateful for landing eleven fish within an hours drive of my house, but Monday August 31 was also a frustrating outing. The fish were small and ridiculously easy to catch for the first hour, and then they became quite difficult in the afternoon. It just seems that small fish on a lightly pressured stream with flows finally at ideal levels should be more cooperative. But if fly fishing were too easy, I probably would not love it as much as I do.

South Platte River – 08/28/2015

Time: 12:30PM – 5:30PM

Location: South Platte River

Fish Landed: 26

South Platte River 08/28/2015 Photo Album

All is well that ends well. The real hero of this story is my lovely wife, Jane, who converted a potential day of frustration into one of the better outings of the season.

The story begins with my trip to the Elk River in British Columbia. While there Jake Chutz of Montana Fly Company convinced me to purchase some Simms neoprene wading booties for wet wading during hot summer days. I tried them out on the East Fork of Brush Creek, but I was not totally sold on the concept because my bare legs were exposed to thistles and thorns, and I needed to reapply sunscreen often to compensate for getting in and out of the water repeatedly. In order to overcome these negatives, I purchased a pair of quick dry pants that can be converted to shorts. I anticipated that using the pants in combination with the wading booties would make wet wading an enjoyable method of fishing Colorado streams.

One of my favorite areas to fish is the South Platte River, where I am required to hike for three miles from the trailhead to the river. As I was anxious to experiment with my new wet wading set up, I felt that this would be a perfect test. On previous trips I lugged my waders, wading boots, rod, reel, and fishing pack in a regular backpack. The three mile hike with a heavy load put significant stress on my neck, shoulders and back; and after a day of fishing, the three mile return was quite taxing. For this reason I only made the trek one or two times a year, as I needed a month or two for the tiresome aspect of the experience to fade from my memory.

Sun and Mist

With my new fishing apparel purchases, I could hike to the river in my wading boots and quick dry pants, and the only equipment I would need to carry on my back would be my normal fishing backpack which contained water and a raincoat. I decided to evaluate my new hike-in summer fishing approach on Friday August 28, and my wife, Jane, decided to accompany me.

The trailhead for this South Platte venture is two hours and fifteen minutes from our home in Denver, and the hike generally adds another one hour and fifteen minutes. In order to allow myself to begin fishing by mid-morning, I like to camp near the river the night before. Jane and I adhered to this plan by making the drive on Thursday, and we stopped for dinner along the way and then set up our tent before dark.

A Rocky Section with More Mist

The flows in the section of the river that I wished to fish were 157 CFS. This is a bit high, but I fished the area at 180 CFS several years ago with excellent results, so I was actually optimistic that the fishing would be good. Also above normal flows are a welcome change from the normal low clear difficult conditions present on most Colorado streams in late August. Everything seemed to be falling in place for a fun fishing trip to the South Platte River.

On Friday morning after eating breakfast and packing our camping gear, we arrived at the trailhead by 9AM. I was already attired in my quick dry pants, so after I pulled on my wading booties and boots and completed all my normal preparations for a day of fishing, we began our hike. I assembled my Sage four weight four piece rod, but I did not string the line because I do not normally do that until I arrive at the stream so I can observe the water before deciding on what flies to use. We hiked for a couple miles with Jane setting the pace, and I became annoyed with constantly getting my rod entangled in low overhead branches. Also I tended to gain on Jane and came close to tapping her with the rod several times, so I decided to reverse the position of my rod and began holding it with the tip facing backwards.

We arrived at the river by 10AM and established a base camp, and then Jane walked down the path with me for another .5 mile to the point where I planned to enter the river. I gave my camera to Jane so she could record my maiden entry into the cold river with my wet wading uniform. I stopped at the edge of the river while Jane looked on and began to string my rod with the fly line. When I reached the tip section, my jaw dropped, and my facial expression made an abrupt shift from anxious anticipation to deep gloom. A tip section was no longer present on my rod! My first concern was the cost of buying another tip section for my rod, but rather quickly this shifted to the anger and frustration that results from the sudden shattering of all plans for a day of fishing on one of my favorite remote stretches of Colorado water.

We had camped in order to be on the water early, so I could maximize my fishing time to compensate for the arduous hike. I purchased the wading booties and quick dry pants to test, and now that was in jeopardy as well. What could I do besides cry? As usual Jane was the voice of reason. She suggested that we retrace our steps back to the base camp and carefully look for the rod tip along the way. If we did not find it by the time we arrived at the base camp, we would need to hike back along the entry trail and look for it along the way. The worst case scenario resulted in our return to the car to pick up my spare tip, and then we could return to the river to fish. We were retired and had all day, so if I needed to fish later to make up for lost time in the morning, that would be the answer.

I meanwhile was in the depths of despair. I was mourning the loss of my rod tip and convinced that my carefully planned day of fishing was ruined as well. We began the process laid out by Jane, but the rod tip did not appear along the trail between my planned fishing entry point and the base camp. When we arrived at the base, I shed all my fishing gear except my wading staff which now morphed into a walking stick. We commenced a slow walk along the trail we had just covered. Before we reached the point where the trail veers away from the river, we encountered a couple on their way in from the trailhead. We asked if they noticed any rod tips, but they both replied no, but they really were not looking for one. Of course my first thought was that they probably stepped on it and crushed it.

We continued up the steep ascent away from the river. Jane suggested that I could move ahead at a faster pace while she moved at a slower methodical rate, but I was concerned that she might find it and have no way to communicate this information to me, so we stayed together. We covered roughly one and half miles from the base camp when Jane suddenly cried, “There it is!” I was in disbelief, but I turned and looked back, and she held the fragile fly rod tip in her hand. Even more amazing was the fact that I walked past the very rock where she found the rod tip, and I never saw it. The decision to not separate was now looking quite fortuitous. Jane handed me the rod section and suggested that I could now return at a faster pace, since she knew how anxious I was to fish.

The Found Rod Tip

I hustled back along the trail to our base camp and decided to eat my lunch since it was now approaching noon. Just as I finished lunch, Jane arrived and agreed to once again walk to the entry point and take a photo. We repeated the entire process, and this time we followed it through to completion. I entered the river with all four sections of my rod in place, and then I knotted a Chernobyl ant, beadhead hares ear and salvation nymph to my line. I thanked Jane for finding my rod tip and accompanying me on this adventure, and I turned my attention to fishing. I lost a couple hours, but at least I was now in a position to salvage some fun from a day that I prematurely wrote off.

Dave’s First Attempt at Wet Wading with Quick Dry Pants

I worked my way upstream methodically casting the dry/dropper trio for thirty minutes, but no fish responded. I was beginning to seethe with frustration since I suffered through many trials and tribulations to get to this point, and now the fish were not cooperating. But once again I was being overly pessimistic, and finally a ten inch brown trout grabbed the salvation nymph at the tail of a deep pocket. I was on the board, and the remainder of the day would raise my spirits and justify the long hike and search. The river was too high to safely cross to the opposite bank, so I continued working along the west side. This necessitated many backhand casts which created wear and tear on seldom used shoulder and back muscles. In addition I was not as accurate, and more nasty snarls resulted from backhand casts and three flies.

Nice Pocket Water Section

Despite these hassles I persisted, and between 1:00PM and 3:30PM I landed sixteen trout on the three fly system that I began with. All the landed fish were brown trout, and quite a few were in the twelve to thirteen inch range, and they displayed vivid spots over a silvery gold background. This was the fishing that I worked so hard for. I love moving quickly and popping three to five casts to likely areas, and the fish were rewarding me frequently by snatching the trailing salvation or hares ear.

Nice Vivid Spots on This Wild Brown

By 3:30 I reached a nice long pool, but the deep areas were not delivering fish on Friday, so I climbed to the path and circled around to the faster run that fed the pool. As I was doing this I ran into Jane, who was cautiously walking toward me to confirm my well being and progress. I could see the large rock across from the base camp, so I told her I planned to fish to that point, and then I would quit, and we would commence the long return hike.

One of the Better Brown Trout

When I re-entered the river I spotted quite a few tiny blue winged olives floating up from the surface, so I removed the salvation nymph and replaced it with a RS2. For the next two hours I worked upstream to the base camp pool and landed ten more fish. Unlike the early afternoon, two rainbows landed in my net, and these were probably my best fish on the day. Both the rainbows sipped the RS2, but the hares ear continued to outproduce the smaller nymph. During this time I also experienced two awful tangles, and quite a few long distance releases. I attribute the higher rate of momentary hook ups to the tiny size 20 hook contained in the RS2.

The Second Rainbow

At 5:30PM I reached the base camp and prepared for the return trip. We departed by 6PM and reached the Santa Fe by 7:15PM. The wet wading experiment worked out well, as I felt comfortable for the entire afternoon except for a few occasions when some large clouds blocked the sun, and some wind kicked up. Overall however it worked well and cut down greatly on the weight on my back and the associated neck and shoulder strain. We stopped at a brew pub on the way home and enjoyed craft brews and a delicious late dinner. Even this did not begin to repay Jane for salvaging my fishing day on August 28. Perhaps the best gift for Jane was the absence of whining and complaining that would have occurred should I have lost the rod tip and missed a day of fishing. Jane is one of a kind, and I cannot thank her enough. All is well that ends well.


South Boulder Creek – 08/26/2015

Time: 11:00AM – 5:30PM

Location: A half hour hike from the parking lot downstream. Open area beyond where the trail forces one to wade the edge due to high vertical rock wall.

Fish Landed: 21

South Boulder Creek 08/26/2015 Photo Album

Other than one hour and fifteen minutes on Baker Creek, I did not fish from August 14 through August 25, and I was aching to get on a local stream to satisfy my addiction. I did not want to make a long drive, so I checked the flows on Clear Creek, the Big Thompson, Boulder Creek, and South Boulder Creek. The Big Thompson was relatively low at 50 cfs, and Boulder Creek was running at expected late August levels. I felt that both these options would offer fairly difficult conditions with high temperatures approaching ninety degrees in Denver. Clear Creek was nearly ideal at 80 cfs, but I get frustrated with catching fish in the 6-9 inch range. South Boulder Creek was rushing along at 152 cfs, and that is actually high for the small stream bed in a canyon setting. Denver Water actually dropped the flows to this level three days ago, and before that the stream was surging at 200 cfs. I fished South Boulder Creek in the past at 200 cfs, so I knew 150 was manageable, and I suspected that the fish would be less skittish at levels more typical of early July.

Flows Were Just Over 150 CFS

I left the house at 8:50AM and made the short drive to the parking lot on a hill .3 mile past the outlet of Gross Dam. There were three other vehicles in the lot, and another solo fisherman arrived as I was putting on my waders and rigging my Loomis five weight. It was relatively warm as I began my descent to the canyon, so I decided to hike for thirty minutes and then begin fishing. I turned off the Walker Loop trail and followed the fisherman path beyond the talus slope until I reached an open area where I could easily access the water. I read my post from an outing last August 31 on South Boulder Creek, so I used the same flies that performed well a year ago; a Chernobyl ant, a beadhead hares ear, and a salvation nymph.

First Landed Fish Was This Brown Trout

Between 11AM and 1PM I covered quite a bit of attractive water on South Boulder Creek and landed four trout; one nice brown and three rainbows. Two of the fish smashed the Chernobyl and the others nabbed the salvation as it drifted through some nice runs near rocks. I stopped to eat lunch at 1PM, and then resumed fishing the dry/dropper trio for a half hour in the early afternoon. I added two fish to my total, but it seemed like I was covering some very fishy locations with no action, so I decided to make a change. I noticed one or two green drakes during my hour and a half on the water, so I removed three flies and replaced them with a solitary parachute green drake size 14. This proved to be a huge positive move, and I landed ten additional trout between 1:30 and 3:30.

This Rainbow Could Not Resist the Chernobyl Ant

Parachute Green Drake Duped This Beauty

Some very nice rainbows literally leaped at the green drake, as their momentum carried them above the water when I set the hook. A couple decent browns were in the mix, and I knew that I had a convincing fly on my line, because I observed very few refusals. Unfortunately my most productive parachute drake unraveled after eight fish, so I was forced to replace it with another close copy that was in my front pack. This fly actually had an unraveling thread, but I clipped it back and hoped it would last for a few fish, and that is exactly what transpired. After landing two fish, the hackle unraveled on the second parachute, and the green thread formed a small burr behind the eye of the hook.

Saturated but Effective Green Drake

Several Fish Hammered the Green Drake from Beneath the Limbs

I reviewed my front pack and realized that I had only one remaining parachute green drake, and it was a large size 12. Rather than risk refusals on the behemoth, I found a nice size 14 comparadun green drake and attached it to my tippet. This fly produced a fine rainbow on a downstream drift, and then I exited the creek and hiked back down to my starting point. I was searching for an item that I thought I dropped at the start of my day, but it did not appear, so I decided to call it quits.

As I hiked the return trail, I was forced to wade the edge of the creek at the spot where a large vertical wall blocked my land progress. I was about to wade back to the path, but as I gazed upstream at a very nice deep pool, I noticed several rises. Closer inspection revealed some size 18 mayflies fluttering up from the surface, and they reflected a gray hue. I found a gray comparadun in my front pack and knotted it to my line, and this fooled a couple fish in the prime water before me. Unfortunately it was not a perfect match, as I endured quite a few refusals in addition to the landed fish. I suspect that the natural pale morning duns were closer to a size 18, and my imitations were size 16.

Nice Brown by South Boulder Creek Standards

Eventually I could not interest the rising fish in my fly, so I hiked back to the pedestrian bridge crossing and then walked up the left side of the creek to the huge long pool that typically attracts hordes of fishermen. There was a gentleman positioned at the tail, so I moved in next to several large boulders at the head of the run. I could see three or four fish in this area, so I began drifting my comparadun over the sighted trout. It took a lot of casting, but I managed to land three more trout from this area to bring my count to 21.

Deep Rich Colors on This PMD Eater

In typical unpredictable South Boulder Creek fashion, I thought I was in for a below average day, but mayflies made a late appearance and converted a mediocre outing to an above average day. Yes, many of the fish were small, but I also managed to landed five or six fish in the twelve to thirteen inch range, and possibly my best fish managed to shed the hook before being introduced to my net. My deep thirst for fly fishing was momentarily quenched, but I’m already planning another adventure.

National Parks Tour Day 7 Crater Lake 2 – 08/20/2015

National Parks Tour Day 7 Crater Lake 2 08/20/2015

We had one more full day to explore Crater Lake National Park on Thursday, August 20, and Joe and Amy chose to bike Rim Drive. Rim Drive circles the entire crater, and a complete loop is thirty-three miles. The distance is not extraordinarily imposing, but the topography is quite challenging. Our drive from the Cleetwood Trailhead back to Mazama Village encompassed nearly half of the mileage, so Jane and I can attest to the grueling climbs that the adventuresome duo committed to.

Joe and Amy Ready to Circle the Rim of Crater Lake

Jane and I accompanied Joe and Amy to the park headquarters where they unloaded their vintage bikes and prepared to depart. Both have old road bikes with only twelve to fourteen gears, so this added additional difficulty to the rim ride challenge. As parents are apt to do, we made sure they had sun screen and water and spare tires before we wished them luck and watched them roll down the road.

Wizard Island from Watchman Overlook

While the cyclists were doing their thing, Jane and I picked out two moderate hikes to tackle. Our first stop was a fire overlook called The Watchman. Visiting The Watchman entailed a 1.6 mile roundtrip hike, but it was well worth the effort. A small building stood at the terminus of the trail, and we climbed the stairs and enjoyed spectacular views of Crater Lake and Wizard Island. As we stood on the north side of the platform, we could see the dense volume of smoke that was created by the wildfire that burned out of control in the northwest corner of the park. Fortunately the main body of the smoke cloud hovered in the atmosphere north of Crater Lake so that our views were largely unobstructed.

Smoke Haze in the Distance

After we returned to the car, we stopped at Lightning Spring and ate our light lunches and then moved on to Rim Village and Crater Lake Lodge. The old but recently remodeled lodge was perched on the edge of the crater wall, and many guests enjoyed the view from the small deck while sipping coffee or an  alcoholic beverage. The scene appeared to be quite restful, but we had another hike to complete, so we once again moved on.

The Deck at Crater Lake Lodge

Our final hike for the day was Plaikni Falls, and reaching this destination caused us to drive southeastward on East Rim Drive until we turned south on Pinnacles Road. The hike to Plaikni Falls was only two miles roundtrip, and the elevation rise and fall was fairly minimal. The falls were pretty, but fairly narrow, and ten to fifteen tourists rested and posed for photos while Jane and I did the same.

Plaikni Falls

Not Too Much Farther

As we returned to East Rim Drive, we estimated that Joe and Amy would be passing through during the late afternoon time window, so we found a pullout at the top of a long hill and waited for their arrival. Sure enough within fifteen minutes they came into view as they climbed a relentless uphill. They rested and stretched and chatted a bit, and then they resumed their quest to finish the endurance test. Jane and I drove ahead to the top of another steep uphill section, and we once again waited and offered them encouragement.

Another Climb

This was our last contact with the cycling pair until they arrived at our campsite at five o’clock. We were all quite proud of their accomplishment, although it took some food and water before Amy was feeling positive about her experience. For dinner on Thursday Amy prepared beans and rice while Joe built a campfire which we used to grill some leftover bratwursts. These ingredients were combined in a tortilla to yield a tasty burrito to satisfy everyone’s hunger. While preparing the meal I noticed that our camping neighbors were waving crawfish above a pot, so I visited their table. A young thirteen year old camper had apparently captured ten crawfish from the rocky shores of Crater Lake. In addition he discovered a trap that had not been emptied for several days, and he was offered the captured crustaceans. He and his mother combined all the shell fish to create a boiled crawfish feast, and Joe and I each sampled one. They were OK, but a small cup of melted butter would have enhanced the taste.

What a Natural Feast

It was a challenging and fun day at Crater Lake. We all looked forward to returning to Portland for showers and clean clothing, but we were also sad to say goodbye to the beautiful clean cold waters. Crater Lake National Park actually lived up to and probably exceeded our expectations.

National Parks Tour Day 6 Crater Lake – 08/19/2015

National Parks Tour Day 6 Crater Lake 08/19/2015 Photo Album

The main attraction of Crater Lake National Park is obviously the lake itself. Seeing it up close, however, is a bit of a challenge. A boat cruise and tour exists, but reserving a spot and getting to the boat launch present some challenges.

Jane attempted to reserve four places on the guided boat tour with a stop on Wizard Island in advance of our trip, but each time she was informed that we were rejected. The only option left was the boat cruise kiosk at the Mazama Village gift shop, so while we waited for Joe and Amy to arrive on Tuesday afternoon, we paid the shop a visit. Amazingly we had no trouble reserving seats on the boat that departed at 11AM, and we were relieved to print four passes from the kiosk ticket dispenser. The tickets stated that we needed to begin our descent on the Cleetwood Trail one hour before departure, and we had a 45 minute drive from Mazama Village to the trailhead.

Looking Back at Annie Creek from High Up

After breakfast on Wednesday morning we had some spare time, so we found the trailhead for the Annie Creek Canyon Trail. This trail began behind the amphitheater where we witnessed Tim Elam’s presentation on Tuesday night, and it descended down a steep path littered with switchbacks. The trail was only 1.7 miles long in total, but it was rated moderate due to the steep climb necessary to exit the canyon. Amy found a guide book in a small box at the trailhead and read us descriptions at numbered stopping points along the way. When we reached the bottom of the canyon next to Annie Creek, we felt like we were in a different world with thick vegetation, a bubbling stream and moss covered rocks.

With adequate lead time we jumped in the Santa Fe and made the drive nearly half way around Crater Lake until we reached the Cleetwood Trailhead parking area. All the spaces were occupied, so we found a place along the shoulder of the rim road. The hike down the 1.1 mile trail with a 700 foot vertical drop was a piece of cake, but we all shuddered to think of the strenuous climb back out of the crater at the end of our much anticipated cruise.

Steep Descent

The Boat Launch

We reached the end of the trail and the boat launch in thirty minutes and used the rest room facilities since none were available on the cruise boat. As I exited the small bathroom, I looked down to the small cove below and spotted several young fly fishermen and some brave swimmers. Tim Elam informed us that the water temperature was a relatively constant forty-five degrees, and that is cold for swimming. The guide book stated that the fishing was very challenging due to the depth and clarity of the water and the steep drop off. Apparently the lake harbors kokanee salmon and rainbow trout that were stocked many years ago.

And Some Fly Fishermen

Amy Cools Her Feet

When I returned to the rocky shoreline next to the dock, I sat on a rock perch and observed the water while Amy removed her shoes and socks and dangled her legs in the water. The water was extremely clear and very calm, and in the fifteen minutes before we departed, I salivated at the constant rings in front of me from rising fish. Why did the guide book scare me off from bringing my fly rod to the edge of the lake? Most of the rises appeared to be quite small fish, but every once in a while my trained eye noticed a more substantial surface disturbance accompanied by a deep slurp sound.

At the scheduled hour our group boarded the cruise boat, and we departed for Wizard Island. We cruised along the north shore of the lake, and we discovered that our tour guide was the same Tim Elam that delivered the excellent presentation the previous evening. He described several rock formations, but it was not long before we moored at the Wizard Island dock and exited our tour craft.

Wizard Island Getting Closer

Our first move on Wizard Island was to hike a very rocky path toward Fumarole Bay. Before we reached the rocky shoreline, we found a shady spot among the rocks and enjoyed our lunch. After lunch we reversed our course until we reached the intersection with the trail that led us to the summit of Wizard Island. We learned from our guide that Wizard Island is actually a volcano within a volcano. The original volcanic mountain collapsed into the large crater that filled up with water and became Crater Lake, and then in the years afterward a small eruption produced the cone shaped island now called Wizard Island. The trail climbs 700 feet over .9 mile from the boat dock to the rim of the cone.

Looking Down at Skell Channel

A Group Photo

Amy, Joe, Jane and I set our sights on reaching the top despite a hot smokey day in Oregon, and we accomplished our goal. Jane and I circled the circumference of the rim and snapped a few photos. The whitebark pines clustered on the northeast rim created a unique scene with their twisted and gnarled trunks and limbs. The return hike was much more enjoyable, and we made sure to arrive at the dock with time to spare before the return boat appeared. Jane, Amy and Joe sat on the end of the dock and dangled their feet in the ice cold water. In fact Joe took it an extra step and jumped into the clear deep lake and then drank the pure ice cold liquid. He did not seem to acquire any negative after-effects in the following days while we were present in Oregon.


When the return boat arrived, we all boarded, and the vessel cruised along the western and southern shoreline. Tim pointed out several additional landmarks, but to me the most striking was the rock formation know as Phantom Ship. I expected to see a ship captain bearing a telescope on the deck at any moment.

Silhouette of Phantom Ship

Of course our greatest challenge was still ahead of us; the ascent of Cleetwood Trail back to the crater rim and our car. When the time arrived to vacate the cruise boat, we gritted our teeth and leaned into the climb. Jane and I actually passed quite a few of our boat mates and arrived at the rim road in reasonable condition after pausing once or twice along the way.

After a very active day we enjoyed a delicious dinner of bratwursts grilled in beer and topped with sauteed onions and peppers including a Santa Fe grande hot pepper from our garden. Joe is a keen devotee of hot peppers, and he offered his informed approval of our garden produce.

Wednesday was one of the best days of our road trip. Neither Jane nor I could imagine visiting Crater Lake without undertaking the cruise and stepping on Wizard Island. Words cannot describe the unique beauty of this deep clear body of water situated in the middle of a volcanic crater and surrounded by a steep craggy rim. It is a must see for any lover of natural beauty.


National Parks Tour Day 5 Lassen Volcanic to Crater Lake – 08/18/2015

National Parks Tour Day 5 Lassen Volcanic to Crater Lake 08/18/2015 Photo Album

Tuesday August 18 was a day of transition for us, as we packed up our camping gear at Lassen Volcanic National Park and drove six hours to Crater Lake National Park. This was new terrain for both of us, so we enjoyed the drive immensely.

Lassen Peak Erupted in 1915

Boulder Tossed Three Miles During 1915 Eruption

Since we had all day to make the trip, we stopped on the north side of Lassen at the Devastation Area. Ironically the last eruption of Lassen Peak was one hundred years ago in 1915, and at that time the northeast side of the mountain blew out and hurled debris for great distances. The hot lava combined with melting snow to flood the streams and create new lakes in the area. The Devastation Area has trails that enable the visitor to browse one of the areas that retains much of the character of the post-eruption time. We stopped to read about the 1915 event and marveled at the huge boulders that were tossed over three miles. A photographer was present at the time of one of the eruptions a century ago, and he captured some spectacular photos.

Rocks in the Devastation Area from the Eruption 100 Years Ago

We left the park in the late morning and continued toward the northwest until we intersected with interstate 5. The next leg of our trip displayed the sad situation that exists in northern California and the Pacific Northwest during the summer of 2015. The landscape was parched and portrayed all the characteristics of a tinder box. Grass looked like straw and was brittle to the touch. Shrubs and leafy vegetation displayed brown curled leaves, but the most distressing visual was the heavy layer of smoke that pervaded the atmosphere in every direction. Every time we exited the car, the air smelled like a campfire as wildfires raged through the region.

Snowfields on 14,000 Ft. Mt. Shasta

I followed our northern progression on the road atlas, and I was excited to realize that we would pass by Redding, CA and then Mt. Shasta. I read numerous articles in my fly fishing magazines about streams in this area, and a well known fly shop is located in Redding. Unfortunately as we passed over the McCloud River, I was depressed to see the low level and the large margins of exposed stream bed. Mt. Shasta is a 14,000 foot volcanic peak northeast of Redding, and I could barely see several snowfields through the smokey haze that engulfed the tall prominent peak.

As we progressed farther north the smoke became worse rather than better. We talked to our daughter Amy on the phone, and she informed us that the north entrance to Crater Lake National Park was closed due to wildfires. We were unaffected by this news, as we were entering from the south, but it was concerning nonetheless. How would this situation affect our ability to view Crater Lake and all the landmarks that it offers?

By late afternoon we entered the national park and drove northwest on the main highway, route 62, until we turned right and passed through the Annie Spring entrance station. Just beyond the entrance gate we turned right and parked at the camping kiosk for Mazama Village, where we waited in line to check in. A young lady behind the counter confirmed our reservation and informed us that we could select any brown post campsite in the E loop. We were unaccustomed to not reserving a specific campsite, but we went with the flow and drove to our loop and made a long circle before we selected site 54 since it appeared to provide more space for two tents and a party of four.

Bikes Stashed in Oregon Forest for Hike to Canyon Rim

Amy and Joe were not expected until 6PM since they were required to detour from the north to the south entrance, so we assembled our new tent and then hopped on our bikes and explored the area. We biked north and then east for a mile, and then we stashed our bicycles behind some large trees and walked to the edge of the Annie Creek canyon. We were both amazed that such a tiny stream could cut such a deep trough in the volcanic soil. On the return ride we parked our bikes at a trailhead that led to the Pacific Crest Trail, and from here we hiked to Annie Spring which is the source of Annie Creek.

Annie Creek Emerges from the Mountain as a Spring Here

We returned to the campground and posted a sign on the bulletin board at the kiosk so Amy and Joe would know where to find us, and then we cruised through the other loops and also checked out the hiker/biker area that was nearly across from our loop. During this survey of the campground we discovered that we could have reserved a nicer campsite by selecting one of the larger categories. We chose small tent because that is what we have, but we now learned that we could have upgraded to large tent or even small RV, and these sites offered much more space. Of course these sites also cost more per night, but I was eligible for a senior discount of 50% off.

A Steller’s Jay Settles Down on My Handlebars in Front of Our New Tent

Eventually we returned to the campsite just as Joe and Amy arrived. We helped them unpack, and Jane began dinner while they set up their tent. After dinner we took a walk at dusk and discovered that there was a campground talk at the amphitheater at 8:00PM. We elected to stay for the presentation, and a volunteer ranger named Tim Elam conveyed a large quantity of information about Crater Lake. Crater Lake is actually a volcano that last erupted 7,700 years ago. When the magma spewed out of the earth, it emptied the large cavity beneath the mountain, and the lack of mass caused the earth to implode creating a huge crater. Over the next 500 years the crater filled with rain water until it reached its current volume.

The volume of water remains in equilibrium as water seeps through the soil and becomes the source of famous rivers in Oregon such as the Umpqua, Rogue and Klamath. If rainfall is above normal, it creates more pressure on the seep, and outflows increase. When drought and low snow level conditions occur, the pressure is less, and the outflow decreases. Crater Lake is one of the deepest lakes on earth, and the water is a constant 45 degrees and crystal clear. Supposedly it is clean enough to drink without treatment or filtration.

After the talk ended we returned to our campsite and after a board game, we retired to our sleeping bags. We all pondered our new knowledge of Crater Lake and volcanoes, and we anxiously looked forward to our boat cruise on Wednesday.

National Parks Tour Day 4 Lassen Volcanic National Park – 08/17/2015

National Parks Tour Day 4 Lassen Volcanic National Park 08/17/2015 Photo Album

Volcanoes are an intriguing natural phenomenon. Most of the remainder of our national parks road trip revolved around these amazing geologic creations, and the next stop was Lassen Volcanic National Park.

We were refreshed and clean as we departed the hot hazy parking lot of the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, NV on Monday morning. We ate a tasty breakfast in the casino cafe and then hit the road anxious to gain our first look at the sparsely populated northeastern corner of California. It was not long before we encountered a smokey haze that continually wafted across the landscape. The combination of the smoke cloud, the constant smell of burning wood, and the hot August air temperatures conveyed the feeling of being a resident of the underworld. I have never been in the underworld, but it matched the descriptions I read. As bad as the atmosphere seemed on our route to Lassen, we would learn that it was modest compared to areas that we would pass through later on our trip.

When we reached Susanville, CA we stopped at a Safeway to restock the cooler with ice and food. We were planning for four nights of camping meals in Lassen and Crater Lake, and Susanville appeared to be the last significant town that offered a supermarket. I also made an impulse buy of a 22 ounce bottle of Eagle Lake Ale that was brewed at the local brewery, Lassen Ale Works. From Susanville we angled westward on route 89 and passed through some small towns before we entered Lassen National Park from the south. Almost immediately we encountered a visitor center and made a quick visit. I spoke to a young park ranger at the counter and discovered that he was from Westminster, CO and a fly fisherman. He pronounced the fishing on the south side of the park a non-event due to the drought and low warm water, but he did mention that Hat Creek on the north side offered some decent angling. I was not planning to fish, but I am always interested in scouting out new water and talking about fly fishing.

We found a picnic table in the shade of some huge evergreens at a campground next to the visitor center parking lot, and we paused to make our lunches before continuing. Some raucous stellar’s jays eyed our food and fluttered about from tree to tree as we munched. We conjectured that they were accustomed to frequent handouts from the tourists and campers that pass through Lassen.

A Mudpot at the Sulfur Works

After lunch we continued on the main park road, and our first stop was the Sulphur Works. Here we learned that Mathias Supan started a sulfur mining operation in 1865. Initially he sold medicinal products from the sulfur mine, but as profits faded, he wisely converted to a tourist spot with mineral baths, a restaurant and gift shop. In 1952 the government acquired the Sulphur Works site from the Supan family. Today one can stop and inspect a large bubbling mud pot situated adjacent to the sidewalk. In fact a plywood board is nailed to the fence to protect tourists from splashes of hot matter, and a rope barrier prevents sightseers from moving too close.

Steam Spewing from This Hole

We jumped back in the car and continued along the main park road for another three miles until we reached the trailhead for Bumpass’s Hell. We read about this in the Fodor’s national parks book, so we found a scarce parking spot, and prepared to complete the 3.2 mile round trip hike. It was now early afternoon, and the air temperature was pushing the thermometer toward ninety degrees. This along with the parched vegetation and the increased amount of smoke particulates created an eerie scene at the start of our hike.

This Used to Be a Volcanic Peak

A Hillside of Flowers

We marched along on the well defined path and passed some pretty hillsides covered with light purple flowers. Based on the shape of the flower and the leaves, I speculated that the wildflowers were some form of lupine. After forty-five minutes of climbing and baking in the sun, we reached an overlook where we could see a large section of the landscape filled with many thermal features. The addition of mud pots, sulfur steam from fumaroles, boiling hot springs, and toxic ponds made the already bizarre landscape even more akin to an inferno.

Overlooking Bumpass’s Hell

We stopped to read the signs and learned that we were in the spot where Mt. Tehama towered 11,000 feet above sea level half a million years ago. The magma pool that fueled the volcano continues to reside below Bumpass’s Hell and the Sulphur Works, and this explains the thermal activity. Additional thermal outlets exist to the east in the form of Devils Kitchen, Boiling Springs Lake, and Terminal Geyser; but we did not elect to take time to make the drive. The magma pool below Mt. Tehama is the source for all the geothermal features cited.

Looks Like a Chemical Waste Dump

Pyrite Scum

When we returned to the car, we once again continued to the northeast for another eight miles until we reached Summit Lake South. We reserved a campsite in the Summit Lake South Campground, so we cruised the road until we found our loop and campsite. We set up our tent and then took a quick bike ride to check out the Summit Lake Trailhead as well as Summit Lake North Campground. As we pedaled back through our loop we spotted a mother grouse perched on a tree stump monitoring her two chicks as they fed along the side of the road.

A Grouse in Our Campground

After we reached the campsite and stashed our bicycles, we hiked along the eastern edge of Summit Lake to the north shore where Jane waded thirty yards into the clear cool and shallow water. She insisted that she totally enjoyed the experience and tried to coax me in as well, but I am note a fan of cold water.

Deepest Point

Our day in Lassen Volcanic National Park was quite enjoyable, and we learned quite a bit about volcanoes and geothermal features. We had a great time, and we looked forward to new adventures on Tuesday.

Our Campsite at Summit Lake South

National Parks Tour Day 3 Reno, NV – 08/16/2015

Should gambling be legalized in all states? As an economics major I tend to believe that individuals should be allowed to make free choices about how they spend their money. Why should the government legislate morality? If citizens wish to spend their money on tobacco, alcohol, and gambling; why should they not be given the freedom of choice to do so? I suspect that those against legalized gambling would argue that it is an addiction, and many individuals are not capable of making sound decisions. If gambling debts pile up, victims can affect other innocent citizens through criminal actions.

Jane and I were in the only state with legalized gambling, Nevada, and I pondered this topic as we drove across the state on the loneliest highway in the United States. Perhaps the vast stretches of barren land in this western state dictated that legal gambling needed to exist to entertain the sparse population of the state. We traveled through miles and miles of desert landscape that was occasionally interrupted by mountain ranges that ran from north to south. Our trip across Nevada certainly reinforced the description of the Great Basin.

Our goal for Sunday was to travel to Reno, NV where we booked a room at the Grand Sierra Resort. Our next national park destination was Lassen Volcanic National Park, but we felt the drive from Great Basin to Lassen was too much for one day. The rates at the Grand Sierra were quite attractive at $50 per night plus a $16 resort fee. For $66 a night we could enjoy a nice relatively modern room, and we could take advantage of a shower after one day and night of camping. Of course this presupposed that we could keep our cash in our pockets and not feed the greedy slot machines or other games of chance.

We arrived at the Grand Sierra by late afternoon and checked into our room with no glitches. After some quick showers we took the elevator down from the fifteenth floor to the casino and explored the scene. The Grand Sierra was similar to moderate sized casinos in Las Vegas that I have been in, and of course the gaming area and slot machines were teaming with eager spenders. Sitting at a slot machine and feeding money repetitively into a one armed bandit seems quite pathetic, but we saw many people doing it. We wandered through all the gaming areas…craps, roulette, bacarat, poker and sports book; but we managed to keep all our cash in our pockets.

After we circled the premises including the “beach”, a large swimming pool on the north side of the casino, we strolled along restaurant row with the goal of selecting an eating spot for Sunday night. The casino offered all the cuisines one would expect; Asian, Mexican, Italian, a steakhouse, a burger cafe and a buffet. We chose the Asian restaurant and were seated quickly. For some reason the smell of smoke seemed to permeate the air in the Asian restaurant even though we did not see any smokers nearby. We patiently waited as others were seated and their orders were taken, so after ten minutes without any sort of greeting from the wait staff, we departed and moved to the Mexican restaurant.

Here we were seated quickly and instantly served corn chips and directed to the salsa bar. This restaurant did not smell like cigarette smoke, and we finally had food to munch on. After dinner we returned to our rooms and took advantage of the WiFi that came with our resort fee. If the rest of the world mirrored Jane and me, casinos would not be very profitable operations. Adults should be free to choose whether to gamble or not. There is probably a role for the government to assure that gambling establishments are fair and ethical, but I do not agree that the government should prevent gambling in any state.

Baker Creek – 08/15/215

Time: 5:30PM – 6:45PM

Location: lower end of Baker Creek Campground

Fish Landed: 1

Baker Creek 08/15/2015 Photo Album

The Bonneville cutthroat trout is a subspecies of the cutthroat trout and is native to the Great Basin area of Utah, southern Wyoming and eastern Nevada. This cutthroat trout once inhabited Bonneville Lake, a large body of water that covered much of what is now the Great Basin, but when the water receded to what is now the Great Salt Lake, these trout migrated to cold headwater streams in the surrounding mountains. Their population has since diminished due to over fishing and other human degradation of their environment. When rainbow trout are introduced to their home water, they hybridize with cutthroat trout to create cutbows, and this compromises the pure strain.

After reading about this rare strain of cutthroat trout, I was intrigued by the possibility of catching one during our visit to Great Basin National Park. Information available to me on the internet indicated that Bonneville cutthroat inhabited Lehman Creek and Baker Creek within the park. How convenient that Baker Creek flowed within fifty yards of our campsite! Or was it?

When we returned from our tour of Lehman Cave, I estimated that I had an hour to explore Baker Creek with the goal of landing a Bonneville cutthroat. If I were successful in this endeavor, it would represent my first catch of the subspecies as well as my first trout landed in the state of Nevada. It was quite warm, so I decided to test my newly acquired Simms wading booties which enabled me to wade wet in the tiny creek. I cut across the native grass, shrubs and cactus until I intersected with the tumbling stream named Baker Creek.

The creek was tiny and never wider than five feet with thick brush serving as a barrier to upstream movement. In many places thick branches and dead logs extended over the water, and these obstacles forced me to make repeated exits and re-entry. Unfortunately for me, but lucky for the trout, moving on land was equally difficult as dead branches and pine trees grabbed my rod tip and fly with nearly every step. Since I was at my starting point I was not aware that these challenges stood in front of me, so I naively tied on a Chernobyl ant and went to work.

One of the Better Pools on Baker Creek

As I stepped toward the first small pool, I stumbled a bit, and this shock to the earth sent two fish streaking upstream. I cursed my clumsy approach, but I now knew that there were fish in the narrow trickle. Since I spooked the fish in front of me, I moved upstream a bit to another promising but diminutive pocket. Much to my surprise this location provided enough space to actually execute a backcast, so I flicked the Chernobyl just above a small deep depression. Instantly a decent sized fish charged the Chernobyl, but I cast farther than I anticipated and could not pick up my fly in the shadows. By the time I set the hook, the fish was wise to my presence, and it darted for cover.

There was another tiny deeper run within a few feet of my position, so I dapped a cast and allowed it to drift along the edge of the pocket. Once again I spotted a decent fish as it nipped the large foam ant, but again I was disappointed with only a momentary hook up.

This description of my first two fish encounters largely explained my fishing time on Baker Creek. I either spooked fish or endured momentary connections of which I counted six. I was spurred on by the realization that there were fish in nearly every small nook of this tiny stream, and surely many had to by Bonneville cutthroats. Conversely the skittish fish and tight vegetation made hooking and landing even one fish quite a challenge.

Between seductive momentary hook ups I battled trees and bushes and spent a significant amount of time reeling my fly to within two feet of my rod tip. In many spots this dapping technique with two feet of line was the only way to get a drift over likely fish. Unfortunately this approach was followed by time spent struggling to strip out enough line to clip the fly back in the hook keep in order to make farther progress without getting stuck on a tree limb or bush.

The preponderance of momentary hook ups was partly explained by the lack of overhead space in which to raise the rod tip to make a solid hook set. Another factor affecting my fish landing efficiency was the large size of the fly and the tendency of the Chernobyl to spin around the hook shank thus reducing the size of the gap. I probably should have switched to a fresh Chernobyl ant that was not subject to spinning, but I was too caught up with the other hassles and felt that other factors were having more impact.

Finally just before quitting I dapped a promising tiny run, and a fish charged my fly. In this case I had enough space to execute a swift hook set, and I quickly played a trout to my net. I wish I could report that it was the much sought after Bonneville cutthroat, but instead I must reveal that it was an eight inch brown trout. I completed one of my goals, that of landing a trout in the state of Nevada; however, bringing a Bonneville cutthroat to my net remains as a future accomplishment.



National Park Tour Day 2 Great Basin – 08/15/2015

National Park Tour Day 2 Great Basin 08/15/2015 Photo Album

Great Basin National Park is one of the least visited parks in the United States. Evidently other U.S. citizens do not relish traveling across the expansive Great Basin in Utah and Nevada to reach this gem near the eastern edge of Nevada. Jane and I are typically contrarians, and our enjoyment of Great Basin reinforces that label.

After a continental breakfast at the La Quinta, we got off to an early start and back tracked for 65 miles to the eastern entrance to Great Basin at a small town called Baker. We stopped at the visitor center outside of Baker to get an overview of our destination, and then we proceeded from Baker to the Lehman Cave Visitor Center. The Lehman Cave tour is one of the main attractions, so we hoped to confirm a tour reservation. A man behind the counter quickly informed us that the only open spots were in the 3 and 4PM tours, so we signed up for 4PM and departed. A cave tour at 4PM as air temperatures peaked would be a welcome relief.

Interesting Sign Near Our Campground

Our next concern was a campsite. We were arriving on Saturday, the middle of the weekend. The Great Basin campgrounds do not offer a reservation system, so we banked on the remoteness of the park yielding available campsites. The young man at the Lehman visitor center suggested that we check out Baker Creek Campground first, as it is on a gravel road and not along the paved thoroughfare that leads to most of the park attractions. We followed his advice and drove approximately five miles to the Baker Creek Campground where we found 50% of the sites unoccupied. We cruised all the loops and chose a nice site on the eastern most circle. The picnic table was surrounded by pinon pine and juniper trees, and a nice hard gravel area was ideal for tent placement.

Our Perfect Campsite at Baker Creek

After paying our fee for one night, we climbed back in the car to explore as much of the park as we could before honoring our cave tour reservation. We drove to the main paved road and began a slow twisting westward ascent which eventually deposited us at a small parking lot below Wheeler Peak. Along the way we stopped at several overlooks to enjoy the spectacular vistas before us. The parking lot that served the trail heads for the lakes trail, rock glacier and the bristlecone pine grove was full, but we spotted a young couple returning to their car and asked if they were leaving. They replied that yes, indeed they were vacating their spot, so we quickly snagged it and prepared to hike.


The trail to the bristlecone pine grove was 1.4 miles one way, and Jane and I managed to make the climb in 45 minutes. Since we live in the mile high city, the elevation did not bother us, and the air temperatures at this high altitude portion of the park were a pleasant 67 degrees. When we reached the pine grove, a park ranger informed us that he was making a presentation at 1PM, so we hurried our pace and continued on the trail to the rock glacier area. This scene was a wide valley completely filled with a jumble of large boulders and largely devoid of any vegetation. We read the plaque and then hustled back down the trail to the grove of trees where the park ranger had already begun his presentation.

Our Endpoint

We learned quite a bit about bristlecone pines. They are the oldest living organisms on earth, and a research scientist mistakenly cut one down that was 5,000 years old. Killing the oldest known living thing on earth did not make him very popular, but it allowed a laborious ring count that yielded the age of the tree. The name stems from the cone, as it has tiny spikes on each small scale that emanates from the stem of the cone. The longevity of the bristlecone pine is attributed to three factors: a sturdy constitution that allows it to withstand very adverse conditions, living in a location that is too harsh for most organisms, and helpful neighbors that assist in the dispersion of seeds.

A Bristlecone

Jane in Front of a Live Bristlecone

After the informative ranger talk, Jane and I circled the grove and snapped some photographs of the gnarly old specimen, and then we retreated back down the mountain to the parking lot. As we drove from the parking lot toward the visitor center, we stopped and completed a short hike to the Osceola Ditch. I was perplexed over why a ditch merited a hiking trail, but when we reached the overgrown trench, we read the information plaque which provided the answer. Apparently gold was discovered in the next valley north of the park that was called Spring Valley, but the area was too dry and required water. The early miners built a long ditch that transported water from Lehman Creek to Spring Valley, but unfortunately after a lot of labor and cost, the mine played out, and investors were left with a large write off.

Dave in the Osceola Ditch

Our next stop was our campsite, where we used our extra hour to assemble our tent, and then we returned to the Lehman Cave visitor center where we completed a short hiking loop. At 4PM our tour guide appeared, and we pulled on our jackets and completed the Lehman Cave tour with eighteen other tourists. The tour guide was excellent, as he provided us with much information about caves, formations, entrances and history.

Lehman Cave

We returned to our campground for a quick dinner, and then we once again traveled to the visitor center for a ranger talk on the stars. Great Basin is so remote that it offers one of the best environments in the United States for star gazing. The ranger stressed that no white lights were allowed, and then he presented a brief slide show while we waited for the skies to darken. Sure enough, once there was an absence of light in the night sky, a dense mass of stars, galaxies and planets appeared above us. The ranger directed our attention to the northern sky and predicted that the international space station would appear at 9:10. Sure enough a bright object that moved faster than any other celestial bodies appeared and sped half way across the sky before disappearing.

One of the most impressive aspects of the presentation was the laser that the ranger held in his possession. This instrument could project light in a narrow beam 60 miles into space, and he demonstrated its usefulness by pinpointing Saturn and various stars in the night sky. While the presentation was being delivered, some younger rangers set up telescopes on the left side of the visitor center parking lot. The lead ranger invited us all to line up in two queues behind the telescopes, and we were free to use the telescope to view Saturn. Jane and I each had a look, but the line was so long, that we decided to not return to the end in order to view the next celestial body.

Instead we slowly walked to our car without the aid of light, and then I backed out of our parking space and crept to the exit without lights. We did not want to shine white light on the area where the telescopes were set up. Once I turned and drove away from the visitor center, I turned on the lights. We saw a lot on Saturday at Great Basin, but the night presentation was clearly the most impressive. Why Great Basin is one of the least visited parks remains a mystery to us.