Our Tahoe Trip June, 2009

June 28

The Warden Family Home

Around 6 years ago, my parents bought a lot in South Lake Tahoe and hired people to build a home on it. This is where my brother, Bruce, lives with Rosalie, Branda, and Beverly. However, my parents, who own the house, call this the family home, and any of us are welcome there. Thus, Eunice and I stayed there during our recent vacation, with the blessings of Bruce, Rosalie, Branda and Beverly. According to Rosalie, the value of the home has approximately doubled during the past six years, and has not gone down much during the current recession, unlike homes in most locales. This is because it is in a resort area, according to Rosalie. I guess that rich people have not yet gotten the message that all is not well in America, although I suspect they will soon. Many of the other homes in the neighborhood were merely vacation homes, and more of them are starting to be for sale.

Rosalie's friend, Betty, and her husband, David, whose dock on Tahoe Keys we fished at, are realtors. As it turned out, their home was for sale, and they sold it the next day. I guess there won't be any more fishing trips to their dock for us. They have another home in Florida, which they plan to sell next, then come back to Tahoe and buy another home. For now, there are still enough rich people around to buy up properties in high-priced areas such as Tahoe Keys, but it is hard to say whether this will last. In our travels, Eunice and I went to the Kirkwood Ski Resort area, where there were many homes, presumably vacation homes, about half of which were for sale. So many of them were for sale, that it became a joke between us, as we drove along, announcing "For Sale, For Sale, For Sale" with each successive home that was on sale. I also was noticing that there were two types of "For Sale" signs, a red one and a green one, apparently representing two competing realtors.

Shortly before my parents bought the land where Bruce and family now live, Rosalie had told Eunice that their small apartment was too cramped. Also, Rosalie said that she had lived in a much larger house in the Phillipines, which she missed and was thinking of going back to (hopefully with Bruce and the children). Besides, the intensely snowy winters of Tahoe were troublesome for Rosalie to cope with. Eunice mentioned this to my parents, who certainly would not like to see their relatives moving to the Phillipines. Then my parents had the new house built. During my recent trip, Bruce also mentioned to me that he would like to live in the Phillipines in the winters and Tahoe during the summers, but his job is in Tahoe and he can't afford to quit it.

The Warden Family Home is a beautiful house. The lot is not particularly large, but the house is two stories, with a sort of vertical, cabinish appearance in the midst of the woods near the Tahoe Keys. Summer wildflowers abound there, and vegetables and herbs grow quickly. Add to that the beautiful scenery and excellent fishing opportunities, and it makes a family place that I easily could see myself living in. However, it is clear that this house was primarily built because Bruce, Rosalie, Branda and Beverly needed a home. What eventually will happen with this house is unclear to me. I also need to be careful what I say about these things. If my parents know what they plan to do with the home, they certainly have not told us. I suspect they are still uncertain about it, and are just generously responding to the needs of their family, as they have always done.

The fact that Bruce is divorced and has several children with his first wife also brings up some touchy topics. Several of Bruce's older children live in Meyers, a few miles south of South Lake Tahoe, with his ex-wife, in another nice home. Bruce's eldest son, Joe, lives in South Lake Tahoe as well. I believe he is renting an apartment. As might be expected, Rosalie and Emmy, Bruce's ex-wife, do not get along at all. However, we saw Bruce and Emmy's two youngest children, Shari and Matt, several times while we were there. I know that the next older son, Ryan, has often stayed there. Scott, the next older than Ryan, seems friendly with my parents, as do the other grandchildren, and Bruce seems to be doing his best, having an open door policy for all of his children. Fortunately, Bruce lives close to them. I believe that helping Bruce live near all of his kids in a place that they could share with him, was one of my parent's motives for having the home built. Of course, Bruce's children may eventually get jobs elsewhere, or marry people from elsewhere, and move. Even Bruce and Rosalie may move. Rosalie mentioned to us that she even prefers southern California to Tahoe. Whatever happens, I hope all of us are always welcome there. Whatever happens, I am thankful to my parents that they care so much about all of their family, that they are always willing to take great measures to help us.

June 23-24

My Female Fishing Buddies

Today happens to be my 50th birthday, which is sobering, because it doesn't feel like it should be anywhere near my 50th birthday yet. But perhaps that is a good thing. Thus, today I will present a young-hearted description of my recent activities with mostly female fishing buddies. The cast of female characters include my wife Eunice, nieces Branda, Beverly, and Shari, my sister-in-law Rosalie, and Rosalie's friend, Betty. Male characters include my brother Bruce, nephew Matthew, locksmith Randy, Branda and Beverly's friend Elliot, and myself. Also, I finally have 17 selected pictures with captions, posted here.

Monday June 15: Heading to Tahoe

Eunice and I had our luggage, fishing equipment, and massive amounts of food, including an uncooked Turkey, ready for our sojourn to South Lake Tahoe by around 10:20. Frankly, this day was relatively uneventful, but I must include it in my little travelog for the sake of completeness. Well, there were those little things that happen when one goes on vacation and faces relative unfamiliarity. I went past the turnoff to highway 395 but soon realized that and made a left turn on another street that went to that highway. Later and farther on, in the afternoon, as soon as we made the grade out of the Owens Valley into the higher elevations, the rainclouds which had been swirling all around us until that point showed why they have such an affinity for mountains, and immediately began pouring their load on us and all around us. With all the clouds, even as we drove through the desert, at least it was never too hot on our trip to Tahoe.

I wanted to stop for gas at the June Lake Loop junction, but Eunice objected to the price, so instead, we took the scenic route by driving all the way along the June Lake Loop, which is a side road from the highway which forms a loop, never finding any gas stations along the way. Oh well! At least it was scenic, especially with the torrent of water plunging over Rush Creek Falls, and lots of snowy mountains. This year was supposedly another subpar water year for California's main water supply, the Sierra Mountains, but abundant evidence during our trip, including reservoirs which were pouring water over their spillways, or being filled much faster than anticipated after having been drained the previous fall, in the case of Caples Lake, proved this to be a misconception. Of course, the rain, which according to my brother had been a daily event for at least two weeks, also helped.

Using my handy dandy set of directions to my brother's house from MapQuest, I was directed into Nevada, from where there was an obscure set of turns, leading to a narrow, pockmarked road which I passed by the first time around, thinking that couldn't be the highway we were supposed to take to Tahoe. As it turned out, it was. The pavement's quality soon improved, but the road soared out of the Carson Valley and wound its way over some steep mountains, then down to Lake Tahoe's eastern shore. Personally, I would rather have chosen any other route to Tahoe, but MapQuest apparently uses a shortest route criteria, which takes no account of steepness, curves in the road, or the quality of the road. It also fails to notice if a road happens to be closed for construction, as happened to us when following their directions between the airport in Boston and our hotel a couple of years ago, late at night.

A little while later, we made it to our brother's home, a rather vertical, woodsy house with natural wood construction and varnishing, and with various native pine trees naturally growing in their yard, both front and back. Actually, as it turned out, it was pretty much on one of the main roads in South Lake Tahoe, and not far from the "keys" which is South Lake Tahoe's marina, having been built by dredging the Truckee Swamp just to the west of where the upper Truckee River enters the lake. We were greeted by Bruce, Rosalie, Branda -- age 7, Beverly -- age 6, Shari -- age 18, who had just graduated from high school, as well as being just barely greeted by Matthew, age 16, if you know what I mean (imagine Eeyore saying "hello, uncle Robert, hello, aunt Eunice").

Eunice, Bruce and I wound up that evening talking about Bruce's ex-wife, Emmy, Shari and Matthew's mother, her bitterness and propensity for holding grudges. Apparently, for example, Eunice and I are on Emmy's list of banned people, for no reason that I can think of. I have had somewhat similar experiences from acquiantances at various times during my life, but Emmy and unfortunately her children, are the only family members who shun me or Eunice, and that really hurts. Actually, it really hurts Emmy and her children, since neither Eunice nor I have ever mistreated any of them. This type of behavior has never been something that I could really understand. (Emmy does still talk to my parents sometimes, but I think it is because they send her money.) Bruce and Emmy totally have 6 children together, but the entire time we were there, we never spoke to or heard from Emmy, nor did we see Joe, Scott, or Ryan, 3 of Bruce and Emmy's older children, who still live at South Lake Tahoe, I believe. Another daughter, Lisa, is working in the Grand Teton National Park area. Joe did call Bruce during our stay to ask for my eldest brother, Craig's address for some reason.

On the other hand, Beverly hugged me and told me she loves me, several times. What a sweet little girl! Branda hugged me also, and told me that she wanted to go fishing with me, several times.

June 16: Fishing and More Fishing

The next day, Branda and Beverly still had to go to school, but only until 1 p.m. Meanwhile, Rosalie's friend, Betty came over around 10 in the morning. Her son Elliot was Branda's good friend and classmate, although apparently Elliot is more in love with the adorable older woman, Shari, than he is with Branda, according to his mom. Eunice and I began talking with Betty about our fishing plans for the trip, to which Betty responded that her house had a private dock on the keys where Elliot often caught fish which they ate. Hmm, that is interesting. I had read about the introduction of various fishing species to the keys by "bucket biologists" -- fisherpeople who want to catch their favorite species in their local waters, so they unofficially stock fish there. The whole situation is intriguing to me -- the huge, cold, mountain trout lake, Tahoe, with one shallow marina filled with warmwater fish such as Bluegills and Largemouth Bass. The next thing we knew, Betty was inviting Eunice and myself to fish from her dock, and we were on our way.

Well, I can officially report it here: The Tahoe Keys have officially been taken over by Bluegills. Over the next couple of hours, Eunice and I probably caught around 20 of them, some fairly good sized -- about 10 apiece -- plus one little Largemouth Bass. Then it was "Where did the time go?" It was time to eat lunch, and after lunch, it was already about 1 p.m., so Bruce, Rosalie, Branda, and Beverly all came over. Branda is something of a tomboy, and fortunately for Uncle Robert, is crazy about fishing. Beverly is very feminine, but always cheerful and plays along with Branda, whatever she is doing. Thus, it was out onto the docks for the girls. Soon, Branda had caught 3 Bluegills, and Beverly, another. Elliot was also trying to catch one, but it wasn't happening for him this time, so Branda kept "giving" him her fish.

Since Branda and Beverly still had one more day of school, and since we were really much more interested in catching various trout species rather than the ubiquitous Bluegill, we took off later that afternoon for some trout fishing spots. I had been to Tahoe once before, in late August and early September of 1993 or 1994, when I managed to fish a few spots in the area and catch some trout. My favorite spot from then was Red Lake, which was also a convenient, kid-friendly place. I had also taken some of Bruce and Emmy's kids there, and they caught fish. My thinking was that we would check out Red Lake, and if it had good fishing, we would take Branda and Beverly there another day. When we got to Red Lake, it was raining. Nonetheless, I got out of the car, casted out with a bobber and worm, only about 20 feet from shore, and while I was talking with Eunice, noticed the absence of my bobber. I quickly discovered that a good sized Brook Trout had pulled my bobber under. Soon this beauty (10-11 inches) was wiggling in our net. Ahh, Red Lake was just as good as I had remembered! I was a happy camper, as the rain stopped. (That was the last rain we saw on the trip.) But I soon had to reassess the fishing at Red Lake. We fished there for over another hour, without so much as another nibble. We saw several other people fishing there as well, and only one other fish caught. Perhaps they bite better there later in the season.

We gave up on Red Lake, and headed for another lake a little farther on, Woods Lake, and its outlet, Caples Creek. I had actually seen aerial photos of Caples Creek downstream from Woods Lake on the internet, and could see that it was a very large and inviting stream. Well, as it turned out, we never fished Woods lake that day. We got sidetracked fishing Caples Creek, where we caught 8 more Brook Trout in the 7-9 inch range, and lost a bunch more. (Note: Brook Trout tend to be rather small, but prolific and very tasty, usually with pink meat, so I would consider those average sized Brook Trout and a "good eating" catch. Because Brook Trout tend to be small, abundant, and even stunted throughout most mountain areas of the western U.S., and are a non-native species, they usually have special allowances so that fisherpeople can keep more of them to eat. This region allows fisherpeople to keep 10 extra Brook Trout under 10 inches each, in addition to the normal 5 trout limit. However, according to the California fishing regulations, fisherpeople can only keep 5 trout from Red Lake, including Brook Trout, apparently since there is relatively heavy fishing pressure for the ones in Red lake, and they grow relatively large there.) In any case, Eunice and I, along with whomever we took fishing, stayed well within our limits on this trip. That was nice of us, huh? Of course, the fact that we were unable to catch our limits even had we tried had something to do with that.

June 17: Whoops! How Did We Get Here?

On Wednesday, we got off to a late start. I was still somewhat "burnt out" from the previous day's activities, as well as literally burnt, sunburnt. I had forgotten to put sunscreen on the day before. I made sure to put on sunscreen every day we went fishing after that point. Since Branda and Beverly were having their last day of school, and official end-of-the-year party and festivities that day, Eunice and I went off without them. I was planning to keep heading down the road (Highway 88) beyond the previous day's trout fishing spots, to some new spots. Things did not go according to plan. Somehow, I wound up on Highway 50 instead of Highway 88. Soon, we found ourselves at Echo Summit -- okay, no problem. I had seen a little lake near there on the map (and the aerial photos). We pulled off the highway there, only to find a locked gate, since Echo Summit Ski Resort was closed for the season, and that was their road. All right, no problem again -- Echo Lakes were nearby, and I had wanted to go there at some point, anyway. We found Echo lakes without any trouble. So had everybody else. The lots were fairly jammed full of cars. Hikers, backpackers, and fisherpeople were quite abundant. Some sort of minnow was also abundant there. Anything larger, was not. Eunice was nice to me and did allow me to fish there for awhile, anyway, while she nursed her headache, or whatever it was that was bothering her. I suspect it might have been my lack of pathfinding skills which were bothering her, actually. I did actually manage to catch one small Rainbow Trout there, which was probably better than anyone else there was doing.

By then, it was midafternoon, and both of us still wanted to hit the more productive fishing waters of the Highway 88 environs, so back we went to Woods Lake. This time, we tried fishing this beautiful lake, without so much as a nibble, despite the enticing sight of numerous trout surfacing there. Apparently, they were feeding on the tiny flies which were swarming around us. These flies were so tiny that even the tiniest of artificial flies were too large to imitate them. Oh well! After giving up on Woods Lake, it was back to Caples Creek downstream from there. It felt like home to us by then. We fished the same spots as the day before, and still caught 6 more fish, and left a bunch of others to hopefully spawn future generations of wild trout. This time, 3 of the fish from Caples Creek were Rainbows, though, with the other 3 being Brook Trout. Actually, one fish that Eunice caught was extremely colorful, with goldenish hues, indicating it might have been a Golden-Rainbow hybrid trout -- that is, a hybrid between California's State freshwater fish, the Golden Trout, and a Rainbow Trout. Such hybrids are common in many places in the Sierras which are downstream from Golden Trout habitat. These are fertile hybrids which produce a strain of varied, healthy, gorgeous fish, with all the hues of a "Rainbow" and all the brightness of "Gold," so to speak. As I recall, a lake upstream from Woods Lake called Roundtop Lake is a Golden Trout lake, which makes hybrids in this area a strong possibility. On the way back, we tried Red Lake again, without so much as a nibble.

When we returned, Bruce and Rosalie proudly showed us the photo of very beautiful Shari in the local South Lake Tahoe newspaper. She had won second prize for her drawings in an art contest, a trip to Korea for several weeks (to study its art, I guess), and a one month scholarship to California Institute for the Arts. Congratulations, Shari! Shari certainly did not get her drawing talent from her Uncle Robert. Nonetheless, I am glad that she is doing so well.

June 18: Silver Lake Breakdown

Thursday was the day when things really took a strange turn. With school out, we endeavered to take Branda and Beverly fishing. As it turns out, their friend Elliot came along too. Since Red Lake's "catching" was not happening, I decided to drive farther, to a reservoir called Silver Lake. This was around a 1 hour drive (and the farthest we went to fish from my brother's home). Rosalie took the kids in her car, while Eunice and I went in our car. When we arrived, Elliot popped out of the car and immediately announced to us"I need to find a cell phone and call my mom to have her pick me up." A sarcastic "wonderful" went through my mind as I rolled my eyes -- the things that little kids will say and do are so funny. Never mind that cell phones do not work at a remote place such as Silver Lake. (We tried.) Six year old Elliot had gotten insecure and wanted to go home. A moment later, Eunice took him to pee somewhere in the woods, after which, Elliot seemed to be cured of his homesickness. He spent the next several hours happily playing with Branda and Beverly, looking at the baby trout near shore, the larger ones farther from shore, and trying to fish with his kiddie pole from which the line refused to go out. We soon noticed numerous fish surfacing, although we were not getting any bites. Shortly after that, schools of fish which were more or less disinterested in any baits began appearing near shore. They appeared to be Brown Trout, and there were so many of them in the 8-9 inch range, that I was pretty sure they had recently been stocked. That might also have explained their reluctance to bite. Newly stocked fish are known for being in a state of confusion, and disinterested in food for a few days. What is strange is that they were Brown Trout, not the usual Rainbow Trout.

They were surfacing from time to time, as there were swarms of midges in the air, so I put on a fly that resembles a midge, and quickly got a bite, but missed it. I tried casting for Branda, and letting her reel in. This produced a bite on the fly for her, too, but she also missed it. Actually, I didn't spend much time fishing, because every time Branda or Beverly tried operating a fishing pole, within a minute or two, if not seconds, there was some sort of problem. It was a constant refrain of, "Uncle Robert, the line is all tangled. Uncle Robert, my line is in the tree. Uncle Robert, the line broke." Then I would spend the next several minutes while the kids ran around playing, or found another pole that was working and found a way to make it stop working as well. Oh well! Eventually, I had a chance to fish and decided to put on a lure (a metal lure called a Super Duper). On the first cast, I hooked a fish, which immediately went airborne. This one was clearly a Rainbow Trout. It jumped again a moment later, at which time the lure dropped out of its mouth. Drats! At least the sight of the leaping fish made the kids happy for a moment. Encouraged, I kept trying with the lure, and eventually hooked a good sized fish which stuck to the hook. It turned out to be a Brown Trout of about 12 inches, which Branda netted. I think the kids spent about 1/2 hour playing with the fish. Branda kept saying, "Can I give this fish some water?" (I said no.) Her next question was "Is the fish dying?"(Yes, we are going to eat it, and it's saying "I'm stupid and yummy" I told her.) All of this was very familiar to me, basically the same things that happened when I took Branda and Beverly fishing in April, as described in the "I took two kids fishing" entry in this blog. There was also the hooking of worms issue. "I'm going to stab you; you have no brain" they would say. I taught them that worms have no brain in April, which is true, although they do have a sparse network of nerve cells. Actually, I enjoyed the whole time, as did the kids, despite the lack of catches. My little female fishing buddies, Branda and Beverly, in particular, are children with a very cheerful disposition. They seem to find fun and interest in anything which catches their attention. If something upsets one of them, it is generally not serious, and she quickly gets over it. Elliot seemed to have fun as well doing whatever Branda and Beverly were doing. Anyway, Silver Lake was a beautiful place.

Eventually, the kids sort of wore out (or perhaps it was Rosalie who wore out) and needed a break, so around 5 p.m. Rosalie decided that it was time to take the kids home. I decided to head for a nearby fishing spot I had seen on the map, especially since I was not into catching recently stocked fish, anyway. (They don't like to bite, and they don't taste good, anyway, since they taste pretty much like the cheap Purina Trout Chow they are fed in the hatchery.) Soon, we were at a place called Plasse's Resort, near a major inlet to Silver Lake. Eunice took a break in the car, telling me to check whether the fishing in the creek was any good. It was a nice looking creek, around 10-20 feet wide with sparkling clear flowing water. However, nothing bit in the first spot, so I took my pole with a worm on the hook, to a larger pool a little downstream. I had a net, but left it upstream -- big mistake. I cast in the pool, started slowly reeling, and soon noticed a large trout busily moving back and forth on the downward-sloping flat underwater rock in front of me. It took me a moment to realize that the fish was biting my worm, since I didn't know my worm was there. When I did, it was "fish on" and it was a big one. After touring the pool several times, I finally had the fish near shore, but with no net, I had to figure out a way to land it. I was really excited because I could see that it was a really large -- and beautiful -- Brook Trout, a total surprise to me. It was fat, and around 14 inches long, easily my largest Brook Trout ever, if only I could land it. (My previous largest Brook Trout was a 12 incher which I caught during a backpacking trip.) If the net had been with me, I would have had the fish in position to land, but as it was, I had to land it by hand, literally. I got this beauty to shore, pinned it to the rather steep shore with my hand and attempted to lift it, but this slippery beauty jerked, fell into the water, the line broke, and it swam away. At that point, I said a word out loud which I usually do not use, one which resembles the method by which engineers create artificial lakes such as Silver Lake. Anyone who loves the art and challenge of fishing knows the sort of anxious, indescribably poignant adrenaline rush I was experiencing (especially since Brook Trout are one of my favorite fish species). As it turns out, the fish in this pool were not through with me. I retrieved my net and equipment and kept fishing there. Before long, I had hooked two more big Brook Trout (or perhaps the same one again), but the hook came out both times, before I got the fish in netting position. After that, the fish stopped biting. It was frustrating to say the least. I do not usually try to catch large fish, or really worry about that, but when a situation such as that arises, it is distressing to lose the fish and miss the opportunity.

I went back to the car, and told Eunice what had happened. I thought perhaps she would have better luck, and she seemed ready to give it a try, so I went to get a pole for her from the trunk of my car. I opened the trunk of my 1992 Toyota Corolla, and the next thing I knew, I was staring at the nub of my car key in my hand; the rest of it was still in the trunk of my car. The main part of the key had snapped off as I opened the trunk. "Uh oh! This is real trouble!" I thought. What made it worse was that this was the only key I had for the car. We got the car from my parents, who hardly ever drove it, and they gave us 2 keys, but the second one must have been mislabelled, because when I tried it, it didn't work. I never thought I would need another key for this car, so I did not bother to get another one made. I went to the nearby resort to ask for help. Two nice employees of the resort tried to help, but they could not get the broken part of the key out of the trunk, with which it might have been possible to start the car, and they did not know how else to help. They joked that we were having an adventure. "A little too much of an adventure" I laughed. Next, I went to the pay phone in front of the resort store. I tried called the National Automobile Club, for which my parents bought me a membership, but they did not cover broken keys. Eunice was talking about sleeping in the car overnight, but I doubted that I could really sleep under such conditions. I had a better idea -- brother Bruce to the rescue. He could take us back to Tahoe, where we could find a locksmith. Around 7:30 p.m., I called Bruce, and fortunately, he answered the phone. Unfortunately, things were a bit confusing and difficult at that point. Bruce was perfectly willing to help, especially since he was taking the next day off from work. (He had been planning to tag along with everyone while we went fishing.) However, he kept telling me that Rosalie and the kids had not come home, and he was worried about them. Soon, our three minutes had run out, and it was time for the automatized phone message "Please deposit 1 dollar for the next three minutes." Anyone who has used a pay phone knows what kind of message I am talking about. Apparently, I did not put the quarters in the phone quickly enough, and the phone was disconnected. I called again, and explained to Bruce exactly where we were. He said he would come to pick us up, but then, we were cut off again.

Eunice told me not to worry. "Bruce is on his way," she said. But with the way we were cut off, I was not sure. Over the next hour or so, we waited, walked around and looked at the dusk sky, noticed what a beautiful day it was, and tried to find a wire or something which might be used to remove the broken key piece from the trunk of our car. Around 9 p.m. just as the sky was getting dark, I convinced Eunice that we should call my brother's house again, to make sure that Bruce was on the way. I changed two dollars for 8 quarters in the restaurant, where everyone knew of our dilemma, called, and to my relief, Rosalie answered and told me that Bruce had left about around 8 p.m. Let me see, it took about one hour of driving time to get there, and Bruce had been driving for about one hour, so he was just about due to arrive. Just at that moment, I spotted Bruce's new hybrid SUV he was so proud of, as he arrived in the parking lot just as darkness was enveloping us. Bruce and I shook hands, and we discussed the situation. Soon, he took us home, and we managed to get to bed by 11 p.m.

June 19: Randy to the Rescue

After waking up, we first tried calling the local Toyota dealer. They were no help. They could not make keys, and asked for all sorts of information, some of which I did not have available, in order to get the specifications for the key. I thought at that point, that it was probably better to call a locksmith, anyway. Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if the key specifications for my car, given by the Toyota dealer, would turn out to be wrong, anyway, like the second key my parents gave me. It might cost more, but if a locksmith could go to the car, at least he/she could confirm that a new key would work. Bruce got the phonebook out, turned it to "locksmith," and said, "Oh, Randy, I know that guy." As it turned out, Randy's shop was only about 1/2 mile away. When I called his shop's number, his wife (I think) answered, and said he was out on a call, but would be back after a while. Surely enough, after about 1/2 hour, she called back, said Randy was back, and he was ready to go out to Silver Lake to make new keys, to the tune of $200. It was quite a bit of money, but it could have been worse. I actually felt relieved and fortunate at that point. About an hour and a half later, Randy, the friendly travelling neighborhood locksmith, Bruce, Eunice, and myself were at Plasse's Resort. Randy, who seemed to enjoy the entire trip, including the beautiful drive there, used some thin wires with hooks, and some WD40 to remove the broken part of the key from the keyhole. Then he put the pieces together in some sort of mold, made a template, and made two new keys from blanks. He tried the keys out, and they worked. I was relieved to hear the engine start up. Randy filed the keys a little to adjust them, after which he was done with his work. Randy mentioned to me that Toyota keys have a narrow spot which makes them relatively weak, which probably resulted in it breaking. I paid him, and he was on his way. Before we left, I showed Bruce where I had hooked the large Brook Trout. While we were looking, we saw a total of 3 large Brook Trout, right on cue. Bruce, who works for the California Water Quality Control Board, as a scientist who deals with issues of water quality, mentioned that this stream appeared to be excellent trout habitat, with a well-developed ecosystem, including plenty of insects and vegetation, beautiful, clean water, good water flows, holding spots for fish in deep areas, behind rocks and in slow meadow stretches, and spawning gravel (sand or silt is too small to allow the eggs enough circulation). Due to his job, Bruce is now something of an expert regarding trout habitat. As a matter of fact, Bruce is working on a project to protect the native habitat of a beautiful and rare California native, the Paiute Cutthroat Trout, in the nearby Silver King Creek drainage.

Both going to Plasse's Resort and returning, Bruce and I talked about politics, economics, and the Phillipines, where Rosalie is from. It seems that Bruce and Rosalie bought a Mango plantation on Rosalie's native island (a small island, not one of the major ones) a few years ago. Since the Phillipines does not allow foreigners to own land, the land is in her name. (They also have a maximum amount of land which a person can own, which limits the size of their plantation.) I found that Bruce and I largely agree on politics and economics, having a progressive, environmentalist point of view. On the other hand, while Bruce is frustrated with Phillipine politics, and their policies do seem rather draconian, I understand the reason for these policies. After all, the Phillipines were dominated and colonized for many years by Spain, then the United States. Even now, international corporate interests would like to have their way with the Phillipines. Bruce and I did agree that any so-called "free market" system needs lots of appropriate regulation to make it more fair and workable long-term. Otherwise, wealth and power become concentrated in the hands of a few, often less-than-worthy individuals. We also agreed that in a free market, it is really the money that has the freedom, and thus the rich people who have the most money and the power to use it, not the great masses of unrich such as us.

Since it was well into the afternoon by the time we got back, we decided to skip the fishing this Friday. After lunch, Rosalie, Branda, Beverly, Eunice and I decided to go to Virginia City, which is nearby. Eunice is fond of the old western, Bonanza, so she wanted to see the place where the Cartwrights (fictionally) used to hang out. Bruce, meanwhile, said he was tired, and wanted to stay home, relax, and work some on the yard. Thus, we went to Virginia City, walked up and down its main street, and took pictures. Basically, it is a tourist stop full of stereotyped offerings for tourists, including a plethora of saloons, western souvenir shops, sellers of valuable rocks, and 1800s style restaurants. Mentions of Bonanza and Mark Twain were numerous there. There were some signs of the poor economy there as well. The place where we parked was supposed to be a private, pay parking lot, but it was out of business, and thus, free. There was also a museum which probably had run on donations, which had been closed down. Nonetheless, Virginia City was a fairly pleasant diversion, although there were no Cartwright sightings.

Due to our key problem, Eunice and I also decided to change our schedule; rather than returning on Saturday, and stopping to fish somewhere along the way, we would fish around Tahoe on Saturday, and drive more or less straight home on Sunday. Besides, I had an appointment with some rather large trout in the creek at Plasse's Resort.

June 20: Appointment With a Whopper

Branda was eager to go fishing again, but unfortunately for her, the intense fishing trip planned for this day made bringing kids along a difficult proposition. My number one female fishing buddy, wife Eunice, and I, were both in agreement that really giving our best effort at catching fish would be impossible with Branda along, at least until she gains better fishing skills. Thus, we left a dissapointed Branda and Beverly, and went to keep our appointment at Plasse's Resort, to be followed by various other exploratory fishing adventures.

When we got to Plasse's, it was already after 11 a.m. having played with the kids and been cuddled by cuddly Beverly before going. Eunice decided to stay in the car for awhile and eat while I went to catch "The Big Ones." Perhaps Eunice figured this was something I needed to do myself, which was a good assessment. To be succinct, I spotted two of the Brook Trout, and one even hovered around my bait, making me think that it would bite. However, none of them actually bit, much to my dissapointment. Apparently, the fish had gotten "smart lessons" by me and perhaps others in the past few days, and also some of them had perhaps moved, most likely upstream. It is important to note that these Brook Trout were most likely wild fish, since this creek is not stocked, and Brook Trout are not even stocked in nearby Silver Lake. Another possibility is that they had come from Caples Lake the previous year, since Caples Lake, another reservoir in the area, had been drained the previous fall in order to repair its outlet valve, and thousands of fish, including Brook Trout, I think, had been transferred from there to Silver Lake at that time.

After giving up on the original fishing pool, I headed downstream. Just downstream from this pool, there was a spot where cars going to the campground on the other side of the creek drive through a shallow spot, mucking up the creek. Bruce had seen that on Thursday and complained about it as something his agency disapproved of. Nonetheless, I headed downstream, crossing the creek on a bridge and walking between the campground and the creek. I tried two spots with no bites. The first was a large, relatively deep, rocky pool, the second, a nice slow, moving meadow pool with undercut banks, both likely spots for stream fish (along with places where fallen trees create a sort of small, natural dam). I was not messing around here. Since I knew that there were large trout in the creek, I was making sure to keep the net with me, and tie good knots. I was using worms for bait, since they seemed to be working the best on this trip (perhaps due to it being early in the season). I also intentionally was using small hooks, because they are sharper and smaller, making them actually easier, in my opinion, for fish to swallow, and easier to solidly hook the fish. If I caught any good sized fish, I was planning to keep them, anyway, and if I caught a small one that had swallowed the hook, I could always cut the line and still release the fish. (The hook dissolves after a couple of weeks in the fish's stomach.) Moving downstream, I found a third pool in the meadow similar to the second, but somewhat larger. I put a "garden worm" on my little worm hook, cast in, and immediately my line started moving from a bite. I tightened the line and felt a solid hookup. Immediately I knew it was a large fish. Soon, it surfaced, and I said out loud "big one." I could also see that it was a Rainbow, not a Brook or Brown Trout, and in fact, I was pretty certain that it was the largest trout I had ever hooked. Strangely, the fish swam straight toward me next, making think that perhaps it had come off, since my line went slack. As it turned out, the fish was still on the line, and it thrashed enticingly on the shoreline next to me for several seconds, once it got there. I resisted the urge to try to net it then, since that would almost certainly result in a surge by the fish, and a probable broken line. I was determined not to lose this one, however long it took. I could clearly see that this fish appeared to be at least 20 inches long. The largest trout I had caught before was only 17 inches long, and I had been fishing since I was a kid, often for trout. I am the sort of fisherman who prefers catching wild trout, even if small, and smaller panfish species, rather than seeking large fish to catch. However, I do like it when a big one comes along. After all, I am not crazy. Over the next, I guess, three minutes or so, the fish went on various drag-screaming runs, literally making my line sing as it took line off my reel and headed to all parts of this large pool. Finally, I got the fish within a few feet from shore. I dipped the net into the water, and the fish made another run, but it was weaker than before. Soon, I had the fish near shore again. I put the net into the water, and to my surprise and relief, the fish swam straght into the net. At last, I had my prize fish, a real whopper, at least for me. It had beautiful colors, and all of its fins were full, indicating that it was a wild Rainbow Trout, even though this species is stocked in Silver Lake. Hatchery trout generally have a clipped fin (including the Brown TroutI caught at Silver Lake) as well as dull coloration and ragged fins even where they have not been clipped. I am sure that Rainbow Trout spawn in the inlet creeks to Silver Lake. In fact, I had seen several baby trout, which appeared to be Rainbows, earlier upstream. It is likely that this fish was in the creek to spawn, although June 20 should be late in the spawning season there, so it had probably already spawned. It is possible that this fish was a transpant from Caples Lake, but either way, it appeared to be a wild trout, which in my opinion, at least, is far better than catching a hatchery fish of the same size. By the way, the fish actually had not swallowed the hook, but was solidly hooked in one corner of its mouth. There was also someone else's line protruding from the fish's mouth, including a swivel. Apparently, this fish had been hooked in the days prior to my catching it, but had broken the other person's line.

I made a couple more halfhearted attempts to fish this pool in the creek, in case there were any more big fish there, but nothing bit. Then, I quickly went back to the car and Eunice, my number one female fishing buddy. I joked to her that I had only had one bite, and only caught one small fish. I opened the cooler in which I had put the fish, and showed her my "small fish." A big, surprised smile came across her face as she saw the fish. I had caught bigger fish before, but they were Catfish, Carp, and Largemouth Bass. I got out my measuring tape from the backpack (bookbag) which I use as an equipment holder, and measured the fish on a nearby log. It officially measured 20 1/2 inches. I do not have a good scale to weigh something in this weight range with at home, but a length-weight conversion chart for Rainbow Trout indicates that a 20 1/2 inch Rainbow should weigh about 3.2 pounds -- in other words, around 3 pounds, 3 ounces. Eunice next took her turn at fishing for the "big ones." She had one bite in the same pool where I had caught the big one, but when we saw it, it appeared to be only around 10 inches long, another Rainbow. After that, the hook pulled out and Eunice lost it. That was the only bite Eunice had in this creek.

Afterward, we drove back toward South Lake Tahoe, stopping at nearly every potential fishing spot along the way. There were two more inlet creeks to Silver Lake which were near another road. I endeavered to find them, but somehow, I got caught on a one way road through a campground which looped back to its origin. Oh well -- perhaps I will find them next time. We also stopped at Oyster Creek, Kirkwood Creek, and Kirkwood Lake without finding any more fish. In any case, I was already happy with my day's catch. Since Eunice kept mentioning that she wanted to fish in newly refilled Caples Lake, we stopped on the dam there, which provides a convenient fishing spot. We had a couple of light bites there, and kept seeing small fish swimming around, but could not catch any. On the plus side, I was pleasantly surprised that Caples Lake was nearly full already. Apparently, actual snowfalls in the area had exceeded the estimates. Also, the two weeks of rain ending on Tuesday must have helped. Silver Lake, in fact, was so full that it was pouring over its spillway into the Silver Fork of the American River (which, as near as I could tell, was the name of the creek where I had just caught the largest trout of my life). I was also pleasantly surprised by the large number of young trout in Caples Lake. Perhaps some of them had recently been stocked, but I suspect that many of them had been spawned naturally in Caples Lake's inlets and survived the winter drawdown.

Since I could see that Caples Creek was quite accessible below the dam, and very "fishy" looking, I told Eunice that I wanted to take 1/2 hour to go down there and fish it, to which she agreed. By this time, it was 5 p.m., so I told Eunice that I would be back at 5:30. Indeed, the creek was fishy down there. In that half hour, I walked down to the creek, caught a 12 inch and a 9 inch wild Brown Trout, and managed to return on time to report to Eunice. While I was down there, I also saw a school of around 50 or so baby Brown Trout in the shallows. There was another family -- a father along with a son and daughter -- who also were not catching any fish in Caples Lake. They saw my Brown Trout, and were encouraged. Thus, all five of us were soon fishing the creek shortly below Caples Lake. To wrap things up fishingwise (at last), I did not catch any more fish, but mostly assisted Eunice, who caught a beautiful, silvery wild Brown Trout of about 11 inches, which pulled like a much larger fish, then proceeded to catch 5 Suckers. Yes, that is correct -- Suckers, which Eunice wanted to keep. She said they were natural fish that God was giving her, so they must be good to eat. Who was I to disagree? Eunice had quite a touch when it came to catching Suckers (Sacramento Suckers, to be exact). I could see them in the water, but they always ignored my bait. Eunice, on the other hand, was able to entice them to bite, somehow. She told me that she would put her bait (a worm) next to them, wait a couple of minutes, and eventually, a Sucker would bite and hook itself. I guess that is why they call them "Suckers." Eunice has always had a knack of getting fish to bite. She is also good at landing the ones that are properly hooker. Her weakest skill as a fisherperson is that she often has trouble hooking them well. With these Suckers, apparently hooking them wasn't a problem, once they bit. We fished until around 7:30 p.m., when the worms ran out. Eunice loved her Brown Trout and Sucker spot. That's my beautiful, number one fishing buddy.

Once we were back home, I joked with the kids that we only caught "tiny fish" that day. When Branda and Beverly looked inside the cooler, they became excited. Branda asked me where the small fish were, and I told her that I was only kidding. "We only caught good sized ones today, and if we had caught any little tiny ones, we would have put them back in the water" I explained to her. The girls played with the fish for about an hour while Eunice and I ate dinner, so none of us fel too badly that we didn't take the girls fishing that day.

June 21: Goodbye to Tahoe

Before leaving Bruce's house, we talked about the house and Bruce and Rosalie's gardening and home improvement projects. Bruce is really into working on the house, along with being with Rosalie and his children, including the ones from his previous marriage with Emmy. Bruce had bought three grape plants while we were there, varieties which are supposed to grow well in Tahoe's harsh climate. I warned him that grape plants can grow huge and often do not produce much fruit when grown in a yard, but Bruce was nevertheless excited about them. They also had Tomato plants surrounded by some sort of protective plastic, plus various herbs including Mint and Thyme. They had many flowers, including various kinds of flowers from a mix of wildflower seeds, plus Roses, Pansies, and Columbines, which do well there. Bruce seemed proud of his yard. On the other hand, the vacant lot next door was also beautiful, with Pine trees naturally growing, along with various native wildflowers such as Mules Ears, Indian Paintbrush, and several others whose names I do not recall. With the relatively cool, wet climate there, it is much easier to keep plants well watered than in a warm, dry place such as here in Moreno Valley. Flowers naturally grow in a place such as Tahoe in the summertime.

Eunice wanted to thank Bruce, Rosalie and the kids for hosting us. She gave Bruce a $100 dollar bill for helping us out, plus it was Father's Day, and another to Rosalie, especially since Rosalie had mentioned that their camera had broken, so they had none. The next day, when Eunice called them, Bruce and Rosalie told her that they had used the money to buy a new digital camera for $179. Before we left, Eunice also gave $20 each to Branda and Beverly. We told Branda to buy a new fishing pole, since she did not have one, and they can be pretty cheap. Hopefully, she and Beverly will get plenty of fishing practice in the near future, and become skilled fish-catchers.

Before heading home, I decided to circle Lake Tahoe, something I had always wanted to do. Eunice liked the idea as well. She still wanted to look for "the Cartwrights." There had been a Bonanza tourist area in Incline Village in Nevada on the northeast side of Lake Tahoe, but as Bruce had informed us, it had closed several years earlier. All attempts to find any Bonanza-related tourist spots at Incline Village were unsuccessful. We did stop and took pictures at a turnout a little after Incline Village while still on the Nevada side of the lake. Frankly, I find places such as Lake Tahoe, from a geological perspective, astounding. Contemplating how a place such a Lake Tahoe comes into existence, makes me wonder about the past and the future of our planet. What we humans are doing to this planet also makes me wonder about the future.

The rest of the trip home was long and uneventful, but that was okay. The trip had already been eventful enough. We did eat dinner at a restaurant called the Ranchouse on the way back, which was the only time we ate in a restaurant the entire trip. Even at that, Eunice had wanted to eat in the car while driving, but I was tired of operating that way, and in fact, was just plain tired from the trip and not feeling very well. The restaurant was so-so (but with a really nice, young waitress), but I did feel better afterward. When we got to San Bernardino, there was a bad traffic jam caused by a road resurfacing project, which further delayed us. By the time we arrived at home, it was around 11 p.m.. Once there, we were quickly greeted by another lovely female, our official greeting cat, Gorjilina. After making it home, I quickly went to bed. I had class the next day, and plenty of chores to catch up on.

Since this post is so long, but I still have so much to write about, I plan to do (at least) two more related (but much shorter) posts, one on "The Family Home," and another, on "The Long View" about geology, this planet and its future, the concept of ownership, and humanity's place on this planet.

Overall, I would have to say that this was one of my best trips ever, not only from a fishing standpoint, but more importantly, from a family and relationship standpoint. Here is to family, friends, and female fishing buddies!