93 Roughwheelers Vacation Run
“There Ain’t No Fish In That Lake”
On the 93 vacation run, we enjoyed a wide variety of jeep trails, scenery, points of historical interest, and a total lack of fish cooperation.
The start of this run was quite different from other Roughwheeler runs in that we left only 5 minutes later than the scheduled time rather than the usual 30 minutes. Included in the group were Charlie Brown, Mickey, Red Dog, One-Eyed Jack, Four-Eyed Jill, and Sundance.
After breakfast in Mojave, we headed up Hwys 14 and 395, early enough to beat the desert heat. We stopped in Bridgeport for lunch before continuing to Hwy 89. Upon reaching Hwy 4, we headed west on a winding up and down road. About 4:00 PM, we reached the Utica Reservoir trail head, just past Alpine Lake. This trail follows along the edge of Silver Creek. Although the trail was not terribly challenging, it kept our interest and the scenery was beautiful. Just prior to the Silver Creek crossing, we found a camp site large enough to accommodate our group.
As we were setting up camp, we heard the sound of spinning tires and flying rocks from further up the trail. Walking down the trail, we found a crowd cheering on (and advising) a guy with a brand new, bone stock Wrangler. He had encountered a seemingly difficult rocky hill to climb. After several trys and conflicting advice, he made it up the hill. Although his vehicle may need some improvements, I would have given him a “10” for perseverance.
Following a quick Sunday breakfast, we continued down the trail until we reached a bridge that was probably built by the pioneers. After an inspection of the structural integrity, I crossed the bridge, followed by Charlie Brown and One-Eyed Jack. As we reached the end of the trail, I noticed a strange looking green structure perched high on a hill. It was a small building, only 4′ x 4′ x 7′ high. One- Eyed Jack went in to explore for about 10 minutes, followed by Charlie Brown for another 10 minutes. I’m not sure what was in there, but each one came out with that Al Bundy type smile.
Following the blacktop back to Hwy 4, we headed back down the winding road to Hwy 89. We continued past Lake Tahoe to Hwy 49 and then west to Gold Lake road. We reached Gold Lake and found a camp site about 5:30 PM. After dinner and rain preparation, we sat around the camp fire until it started raining. The rain didn’t stop until about 2 AM. There must have been a river flowing under my tent because the floor felt like a baggy filled with water.
Monday was spent drying out tents, taking Red Dog to the Vet, and fishing. My 9′ inflatable raft did a great job of getting One-Eyed Jack and myself to the middle of the lake, however, we didn’t catch any fish. Although other campers were catching fish, One-Eyed Jack concluded: “There Ain’t No Fish In This Lake.” About 2 PM, Gasman and Suds arrived in camp after completing the Sierra Trek run.
Tuesday started with One-Eyed Jack catching a fish. I guess there was at least one fish in that lake. After breaking camp we headed toward the Snake Lake trail. After several wrong turns on the unmarked dirt roads, we found the start of the trail to Snake Lake. The trail started with a narrow squeeze between two trees and continued down a steep switchback descent on ball bearing rocks. This trail has been adopted by Esprit De Four and they have done a great job of maintaining it.
Following a leisurely lunch at Snake Lake, we headed toward Little Deer Lake. Although there are exceptions such as Cadillac Hill and Thompson Grade, most Sierra trails that we have done have been mostly rock crawling with few hills. The trail to Little Deer Lake was another exception. There were several difficult hills with ball bearing rocks to climb. Fortunately, the recent rains improved traction and almost eliminated the dust.
Upon approaching Little Deer Lake, we encountered the most fearsome hill of all: the notorious Hot Head Hill. At the bottom of this hill, One-Eyed Jack’s right rear tire slid into a hole, raising his left front tire about 3′ above the ground. At about the same time, his brakes went out. He and Four-Eyed Jill were close to a rollover down a steep embankment. Charlie Brown held One-Eyed Jack’s Jeep from rolling with a tow strap until he could drive to safety.
Although the camp sites at Little Deer Lake were small and limited, we managed to find room for the four tents. The scenery at this lake was beautiful. There must have been an abundant snow fall in this area because there was still a patch of snow near the lake at 7,000 feet in August.
After several days without a shower, and bodies producing odors that the flies rejected, One-Eyed Jack and I braved the cold waters of Little Deer Lake. The clean refreshing feeling was well worth the discomfort of the cold water. Charlie Brown, One-Eyed Jack, and I continued pursuit of the elusive fish without success. “There Ain’t No Fish In This Lake.” Later that night, Suds thought she heard a bear and went outside the tent to find it. Fortunately, they did not meet.
After a leisurely Wednesday morning breakfast, we broke camp and finished the last two hills of the trail. We then continued on dirt roads until we exited at Gold Lake. Heading down Hwy 49, we eventually arrived in Nevada City. The Wimpwheelers stayed in a motel while Charlie Brown, Mickey, and Red Dog continued on to the Auburn KOA.
On Thursday Morning, we started for the Malakof Diggins. After a wrong turn, and 26 miles of unnecessary travel we arrived in the Ghost town of North Bloomfield. The museum offered much information about the hydraulic mining that once gave this town its livelihood. This quaint little town had a population of 1229 people in 1880. Beyond North Bloomfield we found the Malakof Diggins. The mighty waters of the Sierras were channeled down a system of narrowing pipes until they reached the 6″ monitor. These monitors were used to blast away the earth and down into a sluice where the gold was retrieved. The tailings from these operations washed down into the valleys and caused massive flooding until the process was outlawed in 1884. More than 100 years later the damage done is still evident. I wonder if 100 years from now the tire tracks from our jeeps will still be seen. I doubt it.
From the Diggins, we proceeded back down to Lake Tahoe, where Gasman and Suds decided to stay for a few more days. The remainder of the group continued down 395 past Mammoth where we camped for the night on the Owens river.
Upon crawling out of our tents Friday morning, we observed a fisherman (a real one) catching 9 fish. Once again Charlie Brown, One-Eyed Jack, and I tried our fishing luck to no avail. “There Ain’t No Fish In This River.” In a state of despair, we broke camp and drove to Toms Place for an excellent breakfast. After breakfast, Charlie Brown, Mickey, and Red Dog headed home, leaving all fishing responsibilities to One-Eyed Jack, Four-Eyed Jill and myself. For one last attempt at the elusive fish, we headed up to Rock Creek. Although we saw others catch fish, we didn’t. “There Ain’t No Fish In This Creek.”
For those that haven’t mastered the art of fishing, there is a place near Crowley Lake called Mc Gees fishing pond where any one can catch fish – even One-Eyed Jack and myself. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. One-Eyed Jack caught four and I caught five. “There Are Fish In This Pond.”
After the mighty anglers reaped their harvest, we camped at Lake Diaz for the night before heading home Saturday morning.