Thursday, July 29, 2010

East Lake, in the Newberry Crater, Oregon

Giant Brown Trout. 20 pounds or more. That's what draws many people to East Lake. A couple of years ago I landed a 22" brown trout, one of the most beautiful fish I'd ever seen, from the lake shore, right at the public camp ground. The 4000 acre lake sits in a "brand-new" volcano (only 1000 years old), just south east of Bend Oregon. Amy and I were on our way to Las Vegas, to attend DEFCON 18 (the annual hacker convention) so we made sure to stop and throw flies.

Again, Amy had the right touch. She landed over a dozen fish, mostly rainbows and browns. The largest fish was a strange brown trout with a big head and a snaky body. He was lethargic and his eyes begged us to be put out of his misery. Weird! Fishing for everyone else (including me) was tough. The blazing sun kept the bigger fish down deeper than we could reach with our fly lines.

Weird Mutant Fish

We pulled our boat up to the resort for some lunch; burgers with chilis on them, yum! Stop by there for some good grub and see the pictures of all the huge fish that were taken there.

On the way out, we spied what appeared to be a mountain of (cooled) lava coming through the trees near the road. We pulled over and found this incredible park with a trail leading up onto the Obsidian flow itself. The flow a hundred feet tall (or more?) and is coursed with massive veins of obsidian. Next time we go there we'll take the full 3 mile hike.

For me, the flow was the highlight of the day. I had no fish pictures but at least I got this cool rock picture!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Yakima in July

From 2010 Fishing
July can be tough on the Yakima. Whatever the temp is in Seattle, add 15 or 20 degrees and that's what it is on the Yakima. The hot weather keeps the fish down. Below Cle Elum, the water is very high and usually not wadable. Above Cle Elum, the water is low and the fish get pooled up in holes; they keep their heads down and don't often rise to a fly.

From 2010 Fishing

But if you work at it hard enough, or happen to be there at the right time of day, you can pick up a fish or two. And even if the fish don't cooperate, it just feels nice to be fishing dry flies in your sandals and shorts. Often you have to cover a lot of ground in between pools so you'll be getting some excercise.

First Fish Ever

The Boys and I were coming back from an interesting desert hike in Ellensburg and we stopped at the river for some water play near Ensign Ranch. There's a long run there ending in a little pool. I had Casey step out into the water with me and told him to hold the line against the rod while he flipped a stonefly into the pool. On his second cast, he had a fish on! He played it just right, working the fish back to the shore, where we got this great picture! We let the fish go and kept the fly and we'll put it in his scrapbook. This was Casey's first fish that he caught by himself. "Are you proud of me, dad?" he asked me later. Heck yeah.

From 2010 Fishing

Amy and I stopped at the same pool a week later so I could show her where it happened. We had to fish the pool again of course. Right at the same place that Casey caught his fish, I hooked another one, also on a stonefly. This is a pretty good fish for July in that part of the water!

I know that this blog is called "Fly Fishing from Snoqualmie," but for me and my family, the Yakima feels like our real home river.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Rough Day at Swan Lake

From 2010 Fishing

On my two previous hikes, Mean Marten Lake Trail and Kendall Peak Lakes I put in 23+ miles, which is a lot, for me. Since then my knee's been acting up so this morning I decided to try an easy hike. I chose Swan Lake near Snoqualmie Pass. I'd never been there but I've heard the fishing was good and you could drive fairly close. I know the area a little bit (reconnaissance last year) and knew that I probably wouldn't see too much company.

View Larger Map

I have a NEW theory on hikes that start on dirt roads. I think there are two "classes" of hikes: a safe set for sandaled suburbanites and their dogs and then a rough set for camouflaged gunslingers and their bears. The latter set, is defined of course, by those dirt roads I was so proud of frequenting. If you want some solitude on a sunny weekend day, you may find them on the dirt roads, like I did at Kendall Peak Lakes last weekend. Or maybe NOT.

Dirt Road Again

Swan Lake is near Rachel Lake, which is one of the most popular hikes in the I-90 corridor. If you have a recreational gazette or you are good with Google Maps you can find your way pretty close. Use a GPS to get the rest of the way there. I parked about a mile away from the lake, just where the road gets really rough. About 5 minutes into my "hike" something emerged from the trees just as I was walking by; a bear stepped out into the sunlight only about 15 feet away from me. We stared at each other. He was about my size, had brown fur and a youthful look about him; probably a juvenile. He bolted back through the trees and was gone.

From 2010 Fishing

Unlike last summer's bear encounter, this one didn't unnerve me, so I just kept walking. Before too long, I had topped a ridge and dropped down to the shallow, 5 acre lake. A beautiful campsite was set there. I stood, looking out at the water, slapping mosquitoes, when the camper approached with his dog. He was man in his late 20's, dressed in camouflage, sweating profusely. He had just hiked up to Stonesthrow lake and back down again because the mosquitoes were too fierce and he'd forgotten to bring his DEET. He took off his coat and he was wearing a pistol on his hip. Given the bear activity up there, maybe that's a good idea. However, something about him and the firearm unnerved me. Or maybe I was having a delayed reaction to the bear. I geared up and got out on the lake, always keeping one eye on the guy as he decamped. I felt some relief when he left.

Swan Lake Rainbow

The fishing itself turned out to be pretty good. Mayflies were hatching everywhere and fish were rising all around the lake. I hooked a few small fish before finding the area where the bigger fish hung out. I was surprised to land this 12" fish in such a small, shallow lake. An underwater spring helps the fish survive the winter. At one moment there was a sound like the sky tearing in half. What could it be? An avalanche? A jet fighter blasted overhead at only about 60 feet. Scared me to death! I was getting tired of that feeling!

From 2010 Fishing

Throughout the valley I started hearing the pop-pop of gun fire. It continued as I fished for a couple of hours, picking up a sharp sunburn for my trouble. Even though the fishing was still going strong, I had explored Swan Lake to my satisfaction so decamped myself in the mid-afternoon. As I walked down to my truck, the pop-pop turned into the downright rat-tat-tat-tat of automatic gunfire. I could hear a vehicle coming down the road behind me. I stepped off the road behind a bush. An old jeep rumbled by with a couple of grizzled camo dudes and their rifles. If you go, bring a piece, I guess!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Kendall Peak Lakes

3 Miles of Dirt Roads

There's something about hikes that begin on dirt roads. In parts of the Northwest you are more likely to get solitude on dirt roads than the popular maintained trails. The Kendall Peak Lakes trail is like that. Its a sunny Saturday morning and the trails all around Snoqualmie Pass will be teaming with parades of hikers, but you have a feeling you might find some solitude by choosing the dirt road less taken!

Views South to Snoqualmie Pass Area

You drive to the the Hyak Exit (54) from I-90, go north under the freeway and straight onto a dirt road over a concrete bridge and then about 1/3 mile to where cement blockades force you to park. The first three miles of hiking is wide-open, double-track dirt road.

From 2010 Fishing

As you approach the last mile you start to get significant views of the Snoqualmie Pass area below. You've brought your GPS since several of the roads fork and its not always obvious which way to go. Eventually Mt. Rainier starts to show! You place your camera on a stump, set the timer and get a cheesy self-portrait!

Three lakes between You and Kendall Peak

A cairn of rocks on the road marks the start of the off-road trail. As you enter the brush, you start getting excited because there are three lakes, each more beautiful than the last, between you and stony Kendall Peak above.

The Lower Lake

Within a minute you're standing in a meadow looking at a beautiful mountain lake surrounded by bee-filled meadows. Many people stop right here, and this would be a very nice place to hang out and just kind of look around, if it weren't for the fact that there's a much prettier lake just 10 minutes on.

The Middle Lake

You tip-toe across muddy patches and rivulets criss-crossing the mountain meadow to pick up the trail again. It rises through the forest, little more than a game trail now. You emerge from the trees by a nice campsite at the middle of the three lakes.

More Middle Lake

Of the few people who make it to the middle lake, most stop here, and that's perfectly fine. But the best fishing, and most impressive views, are at the upper lake. And you've come three and a half miles and 1500 feet. You might as well go that last little bit.

Looking backward on way to upper lake

The short trek to the upper lake is daunting. It's almost straight up on a quaint fisherman's track; about 400 vertical feet in a 1/4 mile. Half way up, you look back toward the middle lake and you see exactly HOW vertical it is! Huffing and puffing and dragging your 25lb pack, you top the saddle and into the first views of the upper lake.

the Upper Lake

A giant bowl, with steep sides all around, jealously grips the upper lake. On this particular day, the lake is two-thirds covered in ice; you've arrived to witness a one-day ice-off! You bushwhack clockwise across dangerous cliff-sides and emerge to the open water on the far side of the lake and inflate your four pound trail boat. You fish for a couple of hours, lazily drifting back and forth across across the sunlit water. The ice is retreating quickly, making a constant crackling sound as it melts, uncovering the deeper water. Like the middle lake, this water is crystal clear and you can't tell which is more unnerving, floating over giant boulders that you can see, or floating over blackness that must be fifty feet deep or more.

Upper Lake Panorama

Eventually, you hook a rainbow trout! Its a healthy, fat fish about a foot long. He's been eating well on a diet of big midges zinging across the surface and caddis too. You've walked 4 miles and bush-whacked another, up 2000 vertical feet to catch this single fish. You release it and note that the steep shoreline is making a premature sunset. You pack your boat and begin the long trek back to your car.

Getting Late

As you walk, you note to yourself that you haven't seen a single soul since you left the freeway that morning. You marvel that you're only 25 miles from millions of people in Seattle on a sunny Saturday and yet you had three beautiful alpine lakes all to yourself. Its got to be those dirt roads, keeping Eden quiet just for you!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Adventures with the Boys

Watch Out world!

Casey has a friend who's been staying over a lot. I think we had Kent three nights in a row last week. They get along okay. Like many kids, they are angels when they are one-on-one with adults, but the usual kid-competition gets in the way a lot when they're together. Sometimes the situation calls for ADVENTURE. That's where I come in; your local adventure guide.

Climbing at Exit 38

Exit 38 is a great place to go. So much to see and do. On the north side of the freeway is Dirty Harry's Balcony and lots of river access. One hot evening, the boys and I played in the river while Amy made a fire on the beach. Another evening, I took the boys to the climbing rocks along the John Wayne Trail on our way to The Change Creek Trail.

Raven's Roost

We watched people climbing the rocks (for real, with gear) and then we made a short trip up the Change Creek Trail to Raven's Roost Point. The blog Hiking with My Brother has a great write-up of this new trail. I took the boys to the first lookout, called Raven's Roost, and I held their hands as we walked along the edge of the cliff. It's so steep and such a long drop that I get vertigo when I'm up there.

Playing in Alice Creek

On the way down, the boys asked if they could play in the creek under the trestle. This section of the creek is pretty safe (rusty metal aside) and is only a 5 minute walk from the road. 8 year old boys can play in a creek for hours and hours. Bring a book if you're an adult and your set for an afternoon.

From 2010 Hiking and Camping

Another day, Amy joined us as we visited three places: the Yakima River in Easton (caught a little 8" trout thank you). Then got sunburned pretty bad at Lake Easton State Park.

At the Denny Creek Waterslide

The last stop that day was Casey's favorite hike, the Denny Creek Waterslide. We lied and told Mom it was only a 20 minute walk in the woods (its 40). Casey and I each rode a part of the river that was pretty turbulent. I did it first, and when I tried to get out at a spot where the river beat against a big boulder, the water grabbed me and pushed me down another channel. I tried to get out again, and again the river wouldn't let me go.

Denny Creek Water-slide

Casey rode the same stretch later (before I could stop him) and when he came to the boulder he also tried to get out. We saw his face and his arm stretched out and then the river got him and pulled him under! I was up on my feet in a second running across the rocks. Casey emerged from the channel on the other side of the boulder and he tried to get out (as I did) but the river would have none of it. I was able to get him shortly after. What a crazy ride! Dennny Creek is always a good bet on a hot day!

When we moved to Snoqualmie, I told Amy that by the time Casey was grown, he and I were going to know every inch of the Snoqualmie Valley and the I-90 corridor. We're working at it.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Mean Marten Lake Trail

From 2010 Hiking and Camping
For some people, like these guys, the Marten Lake Trail is "hard" but not much more than that. To my friend Vlad, the Alpine Lake Ninja, its a walk in the park. But to me, Marten Lake was the Meanest Trail Ever. Its has been on my TO DO list for three years, but I knew that its ascent was just at the edge of my ability. At 8 miles round trip and 2000 feet elevation gain, most of it on unmaintained "fisherman's trail", I knew it would be significantly harder than any hike I did last year. However I've just come back from a Mission Trip that expanded my ideas about what is possible, about what I can do in a day. Inspired from that trip, I awoke on Monday the 5th, grabbed my pack and headed for the Middle Fork Road.

View Larger Map

To get to Marten Lake, you must first walk 2.8 miles along the gentle Taylor River trail; about 75 minutes of walking for a plodder like myself. Normally 2.8 miles is the HIKE ITSELF for me!

I stopped at the bridge across Marten Creek for a break. While there, I was chatting with some passers-by who took my picture and told me that there were a couple of guys right behind them who were going to Marten Lake too. I decided to wait for them at the beginning of the trail, which is just before the bridge.

Alec Thomas

The guys showed up few minutes later; Alec Thomas (above) and Mike Vega (below).

Mike Vega

Calling the path to Marten Lake a "trail" would be charitable at best. The word "scramble" seems more appropriate. The unmarked "scramble" starts in the trees just before the bridge over Marten Creek.

Start of Marten Lake Trail

The next 1.5 miles tortured us with thousands of slippery tree roots, slick rocks, bushwhacks and straight-up climbing. I knew it was going to be hard but I had no idea it was going to be THAT hard. It took us 2.5 hours to climb to within 200 vertical feet of the lake and that's when I hit my wall. We'd spent the last 20 minutes climbing at a 45 degree angle on slippery roots and muddy rocks. We had somehow lost the trail and were scrambling up RIDICULOUS inclines. My legs were shaking and I was losing my balance; I knew that I needed to rest a while, even though we were so close. I told the guys to go on, but you know what? They graciously waited for me just up the trail while I ate some trail-mix and rested.

From 2010 Hiking and Camping

15 minutes later, I was back on my feet and together we busted out of the brush onto the trail. We followed it the last 100 yards to the Marten Lake, which was beautiful! Campsites dot the peaceful glade around the outlet of the lake. The far side of the lake is bounded by impressive granite cliffs.

The weather was overcast and cold. I brought out the trail boat anyway and paddled around for about an hour. Hooked two fish; lost one but the other was an 11" rainbow. I was going to stay longer but decided instead to join Alec and Mike on the way down. They had been such good companions I was loathe to give them up!

From 2010 Hiking and Camping

Going back down was almost worse than coming up; its a miracle that none of us got hurt. After another 90 minutes of torture, we arrived back at the Taylor River Trail. I exchanged cards with my new friends and said goodbye. I continued UP the Taylor River trail another mile to check out Lipsy Lake and Otter falls. Like Marten Lake, Lipsy is unmarked and I had to scramble around to find it (thank you Garmin!).

From 2010 Hiking and Camping

Otter Falls is downright amazing. Water tumbles at least a hundred feet down a smooth face, plunging into the pool named Lipsy Lake. Calling it a lake is generous, its clearly just a large beaver pond. Looks like a great place to spend an afternoon with kids if you are camping nearby. As I stood there taking pictures, I realized that it was 8pm and I was 4 miles away from my car! I high-tailed it back as fast as I could but still had to walk the last mile in the dark.

I can finally cross Marten Lake off my TODO list! This hike was a personal milestone for me; by far the hardest day of hiking I've ever done. Also, 11+ miles, the longest. The best part about the Marten Lake hike? The sense of victory afteward.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Camera: Fuji XP 10 - Looks Good!

I'm back from one of the most profound, yet fun, weeks of my entire life: A 7-day Mission Trip at Camp Twinlow outside of Post Falls, Idaho. We had brought 7 of our Church's kids with us.  We went out into the community, gaining skills (even me) and learning to work as teams.  I had my doubts about leading a group of kids in hands-on, work projects and about sleeping in a cabin with 6 teenagers for a week but everything worked out great.  I was honestly kinda sad when the trip came to an end and I can't wait to do it all over again next year. 

Can you see me?

A full trip report will be available at my other blog (see here) but there was some fishing to be had.  Also, remember how I had picked up another compact camera before I left?  It was the Fujifilm Finepix XP 10 compact.  Waterproof, Shockproof and cheap! 

Let me just come out and say that I LOVED THIS CAMERA.  Took 220 pictures and several videos.   Here's what I appreciated so much about the camera:
  • Waterproof.  Didn't come in handy this trip, but I'm sure it will this summer.
  • Shockproof.  Already dropped it several times with no damage.
  • Great Value.  $140 is an excellent price, even for something that's NOT waterproof.
  • Fast.  Turns on quickly, snappy response to most operations.
      • Compact.  Fits hand just right.  Easy enough to carry in a pocket.
      • Smart.  Seems to have some impressive facial recognition features.
      • Bright Green.  Easy to find.  Eye-catching to others.

The quality of the pictures themselves isn't fantastic.  But they are good enough for my purposes and better than I was expecting, after having returned the last Fuji that I'd purchased last year.

I have a busy summer of hiking, fishing and traveling.  Expect to see more pictures from the XP 10!