City obligations left me but four days for a trip to the upper San Joaquin, not enough time to get up to the high altitude of the golden trout. I enjoyed hot waters at Mono hot springs and a dinner at the rustic resort there before catching the boat up Florence lake.
The hike from the boat landing to Blaney Meadows Hot Spring is an easy five miles, but with a heavy pack and seldom-used boots I had the beginnings of blisters as I arrived. I crossed the river and camped close enough to the hot spring to be able to tell by the comings and goings as to when it was occupied. Runoff has subsided so many people crossed the river for the soothing hot soak. I waited until the first light of dawn and then enjoyed it in solitude.
Sally Keyes lakes host golden trout, but still halfway up the three thousand foot climb the blisters were pressing on my toes and heels so I retreated back to the waterfall a quarter mile above Blaney. The runoff has subsided, leaving many trees down along the banks as I also found along the McCloud. Now there is a tree big enough to walk on across the river just below the falls, in addition to the little-known crossing tree just a quarter mile above the hot spring. I drank a cold beer, sketched another painting at the waterfall pool and caught two good trout for dinner there.
I met an American Indian, David, on the trail up and later found he had the adjoining campsite at Blaney. We shared coffee and cocoa and conversation. I enjoyed his mention of a redneck that flipped him off as he hitchhiked back on his last visit, the same one he saw on TV news that had crashed his crop dustter. He mentioned how a salesman had insulted him with mention of his free Indian money to spend, and I said he should have asked the man for four hundred years of back rent on this whole country. I don't understand how some people can discount our deep indebtedness to the original inhabitants here.
I shared breakfast with David and we walked together; he was heading out and I was moving camp down to the lower camp just downstream from the private land so as to make a quick exit out on Friday, to make a party in Berkeley that evening. The boat runs every two hours and catching the eleven o'clock made the difference for me.
In most years the big brown trout are in this lower section of river but this year they had not yet arrived; or I wasn't able to get them to show. I caught three trout up to twelve inches and had a few more rises but nothing big. Without the big trout I was able to paint this view of the meadow where I camped. The next morning I made the quick hike out and the long drive back in time for a friend's party in Berkeley.
8/23 to 8/25 Spicer Meadows Reservoir
I stopped in at Oakland and finally received and deposited the long awaited check, the financing for all of these travels. Jackie had a nice party but I was antsy to get back out in the wilds. I picked up a painter friend Sue and we made the three hour drive to Spicer Meadows reservoir. It was a tough decision where to take her, not knowing her very well, but the combination of easy camping, short drive and nice scenery made Spicer a good choice. The weather report was the usual - coastal fog and clear and hot in the valley but still as we left the Bay Area I could see there was a storm coming in and the only question was how big and when it would hit. We got camp set and then waited out an hour of rain in the tent. It cleared just at dark, as I would expect from the more usual summer thunderstorms.
Sunday we took a hike across the lake, I spied and caught a trout from some shoreline rocks, and while Sue napped I sketched. Our stay was uneventful and restful, and I apologize for not being more attentive to Sue but my mind was on hitting the road to Montana and the Rockies - my real travels were about to begin.