I’ve no way of checking, but I’m pretty sure hell’s frozen over.
After eight years since his last appearance in the Golden State, my brother showed up with no specific plans. That’s where I stepped in as travel agent, outfitter and guide; apparently a role that suits me better than might be expected.A visit to the cabin is akin to establishing a base camp. In our case, a base camp stocked with beef jerky, beer and an XBox. One might be inclined to think it was something like a “man cave,” but there’s an irony to my brother and I spending quality man time together. Those who’ve been in the proximity when we get together know that we quickly prove the adage that you can’t take the boy out of the man.
Mark lives in the Ever
graygreen state and while he said he’d enjoy seeing California family members, it became clear that he perhaps more happy to see the sun. I swung by the airport to him pick up Wednesday evening and we met up with my oldest son, Sean, at the Bass Pro Shop in Manteca. We secured a two-day nonresident fishing license, grabbed dinner and headed up the hill.
Weather-wise, we’d hit it right. Temperatures had peaked that day and would be still warm but slightly lower the next few days, meaning it would cool off at night; something important for a good night’s sleep in a cabin that has no insulation and no air conditioning.
Before Mark or Sean posts a comment below, I will admit that
I was adamant that I would I had expected to wake up and hit the road for Tuolumne Meadows early the next morning. I did wake up at 5:00 a.m. But I rolled over and caught a few more winks.
Mark had asked if we might be able to hike up Lembert Dome. He and I had done so back when we were boys, with my sister and dad. It’s a pretty easy drive from the cabin to Tuolumne Meadows, just about 2½ hours. Since Tioga Pass had opened the week before, we would circle our way back over Sonora Pass.It’s been said many times before, but the blue of the sky is remarkable at higher altitudes, and we weren’t disappointed. With only a few clouds in the sky, we passed through the entrance station and soon arrived at Olmstead Point. Reinforcing that he boy stills lives within the man, Mark was all about seeing and getting photos of the marmots of our childhood at Olmstead. A few marmots obliged.
We next stopped at the Tuolumne Meadows Campground, where we spent many a family vacation camping. Sure, some things have changed — mostly manmade things — but nearly everything was recognizable and Mark and I soon agreed upon the location of “our” campsite, partially based on its position relative to the Tuolumne River, which itself was nearly unrecognizably high. I’m sure Sean was somewhat amused by our reminiscing.
Just down the road we pulled into the parking lot at the Lembert Dome trailhead and loaded up. The trail begins with a modest incline, but starting at about 8,600 feet and rising another 800 feet to the dome’s summit, it was soon clear that our lungs would get the kind of workout not seen in years. The gradient seemed to increase every 100 feet, and even if we were on the trail (we weren’t), it would be covered by extensive snow fields that made the hiking more difficult. At one point, Mark fell through the snow into a waist-high air pocket. Undaunted but pausing more often that we’d care to admit to catch our breath, we pressed on. I’m sure it took a lot of patience for Sean to not charge ahead. (I don’t think he broke a sweat or even breathed hard.)
It’s said that the memory grows hazy over time and Mark and I didn’t remember the last stretch up the back of Lembert Dome being so steep or requiring so much climbing. But climb we did, reaching the top. The view was made a tad more incredible by the fact that we had it to ourselves.
It was hoped that we’d also find some water to fish.
Without much browbeating Mark had asked if he might get a chance to try fly fishing, and I had plenty of gear he could use. We rigged up and flogged the no-so-high-but-higher-than-usual Lee Vining Creek. It was tough going. I was the only one to get two strikes, but missed both fish.
We refueled our egos with some good barbecue at Bodie Mike’s, then headed north to Bridgeport, and I pointed out all of the water that we might have fished. Every single river was the color Yoo-Hoo.
Traveling creates memories, and traversing the Sierra Nevada Mountains can make for some of the most vivid memories. Then there are other things that one doesn’t soon forget.
Our return to the cabin meant a few preparations for the next day, when we’d get out on “Hatchery Creek,” hoping to get Mark into his first trout on a fly rod. Mark looked to verify that his fish license was in his wallet. It was. His driver’s license wasn’t. He searched through my car. Sean looked through his car. I looked around the cabin. Mark began to go through his suitcase. After thinking about it a bit, I called Bass Pro Shop. The customer service rep went through the lost and found, looking for a Washington license with the appropriate name and a goofy looking photo.
Soon we were making the 1½-hour drive back to Manteca. Only a few miles went by without Sean or I reminding Mark of his snafu.
There was an upside to this. We enjoyed a manly dinner at the House of Beef.
Back at the cabin, assurances were made that I’d not linger in bed the next morning as there’d be fish to catch. And I did not.
But Mark’s First Fly Fishing Experience is a story unto itself, and for next week.
(You can find more photos here under “The Brother’s Visit – Tuolumne Meadows, Eastern Sierra, First Time Fly Fishing”.)