Thursday, July 28, 2011

Heading to a Family Reunion

Renita's family is having a reunion in Northern Minnesota and so we left the Red Desert and headed east and north, bound for Ely, Minnesota. The first night we traveled across the Wind River mountains and spent the night back at Boysen State Park, the Tuff Creek Campground.
It was quite a different place as the lake is now full from all the runoff and most of the campground is  flooded. We were still able to back into a spot and we could see where the lake is going down, so we felt safe, except for the mosquito swarm.
I waded along the shore to a place where I had caught walleyes during a tournament, years ago. Armed with my favorite crankbait I cast into a swarm of minnows and hooked and lost a fish on the first cast. Two more casts and I landed a nice eating size walleye.
With visions of fresh walleye for dinner I continued casting and soon caught a second. Not that big but enough to make a meal for us and so I waded back to our fifth wheel where Renita waited with the camera. It isn't often that we can camp for a night and catch dinner, not as often as we would like so the day was extra special.
The next morning we left Boysen and drove through Wind River Canyon, and if you haven't driven through there its a road worth taking. We traveled through Thermopolis and crossed the Big Horns driving to Keyhole State Park where we got the same spot we had camped in June.
Another morning and back on the road again but this time a shorter drive to Rapid City where we got a spot at Three Flags Rv. Now I don't usually talk about rv parks but this is our first rv park with full hookups since June fifth, we have spent that much time boondocking in the Red Desert.
I stood there for a while before I remembered we could hook up a hose for water instead of hauling it to our fifth wheel. We are living high on the hog for a couple of days before heading further east to more boondocking! Clear skies

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Catching Kokeenee Salmon at Flaming Gorge

The first step to catch Kokeenee salmon at Flaming Gorge is to launch your boat. Now that is pretty easy but the next step is to start your engine and there we were with an engine that started but overheated due to a bad water pump. So I ordered a water pump and of course the company shipped it to my confirmed address, which is in Texas,(We use a mail forwarding service called Escapees). The problem is that we are in Wyoming.
So we had it forwarded to Matt and Patty's house and armed with the new water pump we headed south to Flaming Gorge. I carefully read the directions on how to change a water pump in my new book, Yamaha Service Manuel for 2003 Outboard Engines, (Thank you Amazon). I had never changed one and would have preferred to pay to have it done but the closest dealer is in Salt Lake City.
The motor came apart quite easy and there was the water pump! Now lets see it says to clean the drive shaft and remove the old parts after cleaning the shaft. As I removed the compression ring I discovered it was made of plastic and of course it broke. It would make sense to me that a new compression ring would be in the kit but of course it wasn't so I had to reuse it as I installed the new water pump.
I barely got the lower unit into the motor and got it all together. Hitching up the trailer we drove to the boat ramp and the water pump actually worked! I didn't have any forward or reverse but the water pump worked, hmmmmm. Back at the campsite I looked at the directions and noticed step 23, be sure the shift lever is lined up as you reinstall the lower unit.
The next day I dropped the lower unit and sure enough the shift lever was not connected. I reinstalled the lever and reinstalled the lower unit and we headed back to the boat ramp to test the motor. Now it not only pumped water but it shifted into gear! Yeah it worked!The next day we headed down to Anvil boat ramp. Launching the boat we drove quickly across the lake and joined the seventeen boats working theschool of salmon.
I put out our first line and we hooked a nice kokeenee before I could get out the second pole. tT came to the boat after making several jumps and Renita deftly netted it, salmon for dinner! Three hours later  we worked back to the boat ramp and just before quitting another salmon hit, fought in, and then was netted by my first, and only, mate.
The next day we headed back to Anvil and just as quickly caught a nice koke. Soon another joined it in the cooler and then nothing for a while. Most of the other boats left and as it was about noon we got out our lunch. I am sure you know what happened next, a double hit and I landed both fish. Releasing them I put the down rigger back down and another fish hit, this one larger and it filled my limit.
Now Renita had not caught any fish as she didn't have a fishing license. The lady at the Marina refused to sell her one because we don't have a permanent address. Even though Renita showed her our fishing licence from last year and her valid and only Wyoming driver license.
It didn't matter as Renita drove the boat, netted the fish, and played boat captain while I played the deck hand role. Everyone knows its the captain that really catches the fish so she gets equal credit. It was a good day fishing and catching and oh how we love eating fresh kokeenee salmon. Clear skies.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Green River Lakes and Square Top Mountain

Across the lake the mountain stood. A sentinel of granite and metamprphic rock commanding the glacial valley with its size, shape and spires. I had only once seen anything that compares  and that was when we visited Yosemite and viewed Half Dome. Why wasn't this a national park?
I thought a bit and then realized that it had been declared a wilderness and perhaps that was the correct desigination for this high place of beauty The only access to it is by a gravel road that bounces up along the side of the Green River, (the Green River Lakes are its source afterall).
Matt pointed out a herd of elk grazing in the high country, atop another peak that stood to the north and west and Jenny countered with more elk in a meadow to the west. Renita pointed out the trail that paralled the lake before heading into the valley that stood below Square Top and how I longed to don a backpack and head out.......
Not today however but perhaps in the future. There is a trail that leads to the Green River Trailhead from Elk Park, a place just thirty miles away. It's another reason why this place is so remote and so unknown. THe distances and approaches are so long that few venture into the Winds without horses.
We watched two boats fight the wind which blew hard from the south, raising whitecaps and threating to grab our picnic lunch as we sat in a meadow and ate our sandwhichs. We finished our lunch and walked along the lake for a bit, but not far enough. I know only too well how one must be prepared, and not just physically, to enter such a place.
We took more images before climbing back into our truck and returned home bouncing down the washboard gravel and rock road. The road itself is not place to take our fifth wheel, (allthough you could if one didn't mind that everything would be bounced apart). We arrived home and talked again of the day spent and the beauty that surrounds us. We have been truely blessed. Clear skies

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Short Hike in the High Country of the Wind River Mountains. The Long Lake Trail

We loaded up the cooler for a lunch in the Winds and headed to Pinedale and points east. Our goal was to drive to the trail head for Long Lake and maybe take a short hike to check out our conditioning for the high country.
 Its about twenty miles from Matt and Patty's house to the town of Pinedale and then another fifteen to the trail head at Elkpoint. Matt drove and pointed out local features to Jenny, who had just arrived the night before. We just listened to the kids talk, smug in our knowledge,(we had been there for two days).
After leaving PInedale the road became bumpy and started to climb. We were driving along a ridge to the south of Fremont Lake. The climb never seemed to stop as we passed several turnoffs and the Alpine Ski area. Half Moon lake was to the south of the road but we kept driving as we really wanted to reach the trail head and the end of the road.
Topping out at 9300 feet we left the safety of the truck and we swarmed with mosquitoes. Matt had remembered to bring bug spray and so after dosing ourselves we ate a quick lunch. Another vehicle arrived and three people got out, hefted their day packs and fly rods and started down the Long Lake trail. They stopped to tell us that the trail was steep but that the hike was worth it for the cutthroat trout waiting in the lake below.
Talking it over we decided to try and hike a portion of the trail. Aware of the recent grizzly bear attack just north we kept together and hiked with ease down the trail. Matt stopped and asked me if I realized how steep the return trip was going to be and I felt ok so we continued . It leveled off for a bit before crossing a stream and then plunging again.
Luckily it wasn't too bad, it never is going downhill and it did level off for a bit. We were about one and a half miles in when we got a great view of the upper end of Fremont Lake. Getting the glasses out we saw streams cascading from the high country. The water was really in an almost vertical free fall ad we thought it was snow at first but the binoculars allowed us to see the movement.
We still couldn't see Long Lake and we reached an agreement that we wouldn't go any further. It turned out that it was a good decision as the I later learned the trail plunged down a steep high another 900 feet before reaching the lakes shores. That would have been a total elevation change of over 1600 feet down and then back up, a bit much for a first days hike at 9300 feet above sea level.
Starting back up it stopped often and checked out our heart rates. The kids obligingly herded us along the trail with Matt following and Jenny getting out her skittles and forcing us to eat candy to keep our sugar levels up,(Well eating candy doesn't really take much force).
Surprisingly the hike back up went well and it reassured us that we were acclimatized to the elevation enough that another hike would be possible and maybe even a longer one. It was a good day to be walking in the wilderness and the first time in years that we had been together. Clear skies.

I have more imagess but our internet is really slow so I will add them later.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Watching the Sun Set

The campfire was burning and it was the easiest fire I have ever started as the wood burst into flames from the previous campers still glowing coals,(with all the wildfire stories how could someone leave a still smoldering fire)? The lake was still after the thunderstorm  had passed and we viewed two seperate  rainbows to the south and east.
The sun set below Black Butte and the crimson color reminded me of the crimson petals of the Indian Paintbrush. As the colors faded to darker reds and then purple I thought of how lucky we were to have left the crowded campground behind.
Our nearest neighbor was a good quarter mile away and they had left their fifth wheel and driven back to town. There were others on our lakes stretch but most had also left as it was the evening of the fourth and tomorrows work called.
The night hawks came out and started their erratic dives as they chased the miller moths which were still feeding on the flowers of the Red Desert. The moths should be in the high county but the snow was still deep and its still winter there. Will the bears find enough feed to fattenup  for their winter nap? The moths are such an important fat source.
It was so quiet here, probably the only place where fireworks weren't bursting from every yard and city park. Our neaest city is Manilla, Utah, about ten miles away from our desert campsite. No howls from coyotes or wolfs, they are still too far north near Yellowstone, but two doe antelope feed near us.
Their kids stayed close to their mothers and one had twins, somewhat unusal for antelope.
It was too cloudy for the stars to come out but that would have been too much for one day, storms, rainbows, a sunset across the Red Desert. What more could ones senses take in. I though of our artist friends Alan and Sharon and how they would color their canvas with pastels giving their impressions of the deserts clouds and sky. If only I had some dark red carnelian, I do have lots of purple lepidolite, hmmmm .......Clear skies