OK, so Highway 395 from I-15 to Ridgecrest is no longer one of my least favorite drives: It turns out that if you are the slow vehicle (which we almost always are now) instead of the fast vehicle (which we almost always were then), the drive is quite relaxing and enjoyable.
Lone Pine being about 150 miles from Adelanto, we decided to stop for lunch along the way. We missed our turn off for Little Lake, so we decided to take the next interesting looking road. (There are no exits off of Highway 395, just little roads and charming towns here and there.) The interesting road turned out to be a Bureau of Land Management area (often great places for boon-docking but this area has a small campground) named Fossil Falls. We pulled Salt down the bumpy dirt road to the day use area and hiked the quarter mile to the dry falls for a picnic lunch. The scenery is amazing – check out the pictures in the link. (By the way, Alan’s knee continues to do well, I have to often [try and] stop him from doing too much—it hasn’t even been two weeks since surgery!)
We reached Lone Pine in the early afternoon and headed out to the Lone Pine Campground (NFS.) Had an ugly exchange with a lady in the campground who thought she was the water police (long story, not worth reiterating) and a lovely exchange with a gentleman and his grandson in which we learned that they had each pulled four trout out of the creek. That got us moving! We set up camp quickly and hit the creek.
I let the dogs off leash and they were having a grand time running between Alan and me along the creek. I probably should have grabbed a clue that something odd was going on when I looked up and saw River on the other side of the creek—crossing water is something she is hesitant to do even when the three of us do it first. But I was frantic for the fish.
And man did I land a beauty! It was the largest one yet—dark grey on the back with a gorgeous crimson streak down the side, at least 12” maybe more. You know how I have trouble actually bringing the fish in, and with Rosco hot on its tail, it was a challenge. So I am calling out for Alan, swinging the fish up out of the creek but trying to keep it away from Rosco. The fish is so heavy, it is pulling extra line from my pole, so I take a huge pull at it and end up getting my line tangled in a tree. The fish is now hanging from the tree—this is the first site Alan sees as he is rushing upstream to help me, a fish hanging in the tree.
Somewhere in all this, River, who has come back to my side of the creek, lets out a huge bark: Those of you who have heard her know that “bark” isn’t a good word for it, she sounds more like something from the Hound of the Baskervilles. But with so much happening fish-wise, I paid little attention. Alan gets to me as the fish falls from the tree and back into the creek. I (finally!) get the net disconnected from my fishing bag and try to net him in the water (he was a little dazed after his fall.) Unfortunately, he recuperated before I could maneuver the net around the rocks and he swam back to his original resting spot.
Rosco is now keen on how this all works: Little string goes into the water and sometimes a lovely fish comes back out. So he wades into the creek and stands, literally, with one front paw on each side of the fish, staring into the water. The fish is not concerned. Rosco doesn’t heed my “fetch the fish!” command, so I am trying to get my fly back into the water over Rosco’s head when River barks again. This time Rosco looks over, does a double take and leaps to the shore. And who wouldn’t? It turns out we were sharing our fishing hole with a bear! I almost pee'd my pants.
Not 10 yards from me was the biggest bear I have ever seen short of a grizzly (and having spent many summers in British Columbia, I have seen a lot of bears.) Thankfully, he had already decided not to play the terrier game and, as Rosco had begun to chase him, he had already turned and was moving away from me. So all I really saw was a giant bear butt. But even that butt was too close for me.
Yelling for River, Rosco and Alan, I throw down my pole and chase after them. River came back almost immediately (good dog, or scared dog, we’ll never know) but Rosco took some time. When we finally have both dogs leashed up, I realized I was shaking like a leaf and just had to sit down for a while.
Alan took over my fishing hole. After a few minutes, I saw the bear on the other side of the creek. Alan turns in time to see him running back into the bushes. That was enough for me. I was out of there. Alan tried to follow him a bit to get a better look but the bear was gone.
What a day! I got back to Salt and poured myself a glass of wine. I can’t even remember what we had for dinner—ah, left over birthday pot roast. (Yes, Alan made pot roast and pineapple upside-down cake in Salt for my birthday!)
In the morning we drove up to the Whitney Portal campground (not recommended for trailers), a gorgeous place with the happiest, healthiest looking people you will ever see walking around looking like they need a hot shower.