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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Shasta/Trinity National Forest & Trinity Lakes Wilderness – Nov. 9-14, 2011

Thinking about taking up fishing in California?  My advice is to begin in Northern California and then head south to Owen’s Valley in the Eastern Sierras (see postings from October) this way you can be fishless as a beginner but end like a pro.  Although you can see the fish everywhere up here, they are focused on mating and not eating (this is November, after all.)  Such is the setting for our almost fish-less week.

We came here because it was the wildest looking area around Redding, California, and we only had six days before I needed another demo stop.  Most of the government campgrounds are closed this time of year and, afraid of it dropping below freezing at night, (ok, only Kit is afraid of it dropping below freezing!) we decided our first stop would be at the Trinity River RV Park in Lewiston, CA.  It is a funky little place.  So far my experience of RV parks has been that they are either too fancy (including swimming pools and golf cart rentals) or too funky (mostly filled with people living there full time with a few open spots for those of us on the road) with a few charming parks in between (the previously reported Mono Vista RV Park in Lee Vining, CA, being one of them.)    

But the folks at Trinity were welcoming and upon arrival we were offered two choices, a full hook-up spot for $35/night or dry camping along the Trinity River for $25/night.  Gazing across an open meadow to the shores of the river while contemplating these options, we both knew there was little chance that we would start our visit anywhere but at the river’s edge.  The solitude of the wide open meadow and campfire rings were joyous indications of fresh air and freedom after nearly 300 miles in the car.  (Clearly, this was an emotional, not financial, decision—a $10 difference between dry camping and a full hook-up?  Normally that would have been a no-brainer.)

It was lovely down along the shore. The dogs running free and all of us watching the salmon jump up the river (watch the movie of Rosco fishing here – the fish were bigger than he was!)  We also tried our hand at bringing in one of the giants, and Alan had one on his line for a brief period of time, but we never got one to shore.  The weather was sunny and not too cold at night, so we managed to get two nights of dry camping out of our batteries before pulling Salt up to the top for an additional two nights in a full hook-up pitch.

We tried a hike in the Trinity Alps – aptly named for their incredibly high peaks.  Sadly, almost every hike we could find started low (3,500 feet) and then climbed up through the trees to the alpine meadows (and I mean climb!) to above 7,500 feet.   Unlike the trails in the Eastern Sierras which started high and went a little higher, all the altitude gain here is to be done by the hiker.  We went two miles almost straight uphill on the Boulder Creek trail before turning around – it was like 1.5 hours on the StairMaster and we had enough!  Back down to some fishing in Coffee Creek.   (Of note here, Coffee Creek, the town, is a must see if you are in this area.  It’s like a little fantasy land with a narrow windy road, leafy trees, little farms and a running creek.  Delightful, but don’t arrive in a big rig.) 

Fish caught:  0.

Perhaps the best thing to come of this day was the discovery of Ackerman Campground (Shasta-Trinity National Forest) – open all year (but without water or dump after October) and just gorgeous with large deciduous trees (all in color right now) and grassy open pitches right along Lewiston Lake.  We arrived at pitch #44 the very next day. 

Being the only campers at Ackerman we let the dogs run free and they had a blast for a while (cue the Music of Doom.)  We were leaving for our second attempt at lake fishing when I called to River and watched her stumble out of the bushes.  It looked like someone had shrunk the skin on her face:  Her eyes were shut and her teeth were showing, like she was stuck in a permanent sneeze.  And she was pawing the air like she couldn’t breathe.  (She is a bit of a drama queen.)  I ran to her, calling for Alan and we found that she had gotten herself into some kind of a sticker bush which not only has incredibly small and spiky stickers, but also excretes a sticky substance.  She had hundreds of them in her, around her nose and eyes and up her legs.  After about 20 minutes Alan had the stickers off her face and most of them off her legs so we headed down to fish.

Rosco, who by now was as impatient with our lack of fish as we were, decided that he had waited long enough for a fish.  While I was reeling in my cast, he decided to jump out and eat my hook, planting it firmly into his upper lip.  I ran to him, calling for Alan.  (See a pattern here?)  Using his fish pliers (not the true name), Alan worked on the hook while I held Rosco as still as possible.  He’s a tough dog and doesn’t complain about much, but a couple of pulls had him squirming around like crazy.  Alan eventually removed the hook and he was up running around seconds later.

Fish caught:  0.  "Others" caught:  1.

We had a great campfire that night, me sipping Port while Alan held each dog in succession doing the final sticker removal.  Perhaps I had sensed an end to our fish catching on our last grocery trip; I had purchased some chicken and stuck it in our freezer.  We cooked that (marinated in olive oil and Herbs de Provence) over the campfire with some corn on the cob and my Flax Seed Bread right out of the oven. The night was about 40 with a clear, starry sky and the fire kept us toasty until bedtime.

The following day we drove to Rush Creek, having given up on lake fishing.  Alan caught two – one keeper at 10”, the other he let go.  I am still fish-less but at least we are not totally skunked coming out of this National Forest!

We had a quiet afternoon until sticker removal time at which point we discovered three ticks on River.  So instead of watching Episode 2 of Downton Abbey on the last bits of our battery juice, we pulled ticks from the Rivlette.  Just one more way I can tell we are no longer in Orange County.