After five nights at Reds Meadow, it’s time to pack up and head out to the Eastern Sierra for one last night of our 10 day trip and some more fishing!
Rain threatens. From the Mammoth Mountain ski area parking lot, the Big Monkey rides off down the trail to meet us at the Visitor Center in town five miles away. In the van, we’re protected from the sprinkles, then a downpour, then hail! When he rolls in, he’s drenched and exhilarated.
Before we leave Mammoth, we stop at Burgers! for yes, burgers–a big juicy one which the Big Monkey and I share; the boy enjoys a grilled cheese sandwich off the kids menu, and we all take sips from the chocolate malt which comes with a sidecar. Burgers! is located across from the Village on Route 203.
Under stormy skies, we descend Sherwin Summit on Highway 395. The Sierras are gloomy and we’re glad we’re not in the back country on this day. We stop in Bishop at a sporting goods shop for some ideas about where to fish before our planned dinner at the Still Life Cafe in Independence. A clerk informs a flash flood has closed 395 just this side of Independence so we might as well pull over and fish awhile! We thought those clouds were ominous!
First we try Baker Creek Campground, just north and west of Big Pine. Up a mile or two past a park with playground equipment, we find the 70 site campground–hot and sprawling with cottonwoods along the forks of the creek, tents here and there, mostly empty. At a dam, with ponds on both sides, we see several sunburnt people fishing. Their tents and bicycles lead us to suspect this is their home and fishing provides their sustenance; according to the 2008 Eastern Sierra Fishing Guide, 3000 fish will be stocked in this creek this summer. The folks seem friendly enough, but we decide to seek out another spot. We follow a decent dirt and gravel road beyond the electricity transmission lines where a man in a pick-up truck recommends we head back to the pond. “That’s where I’d take my son,” he says.
Since we’ve already ruled the pond out, we continue our way 7 miles south on 395 until the Fish Springs hatchery road and another Inyo County Campground, Tinnemaha Creek, with 55 sites and 6,000 trout stocked this season. Both campgrounds offer vault toilets, a creek, tables, fire rings, and barbeque pits for $10 a night. While the county campground near Big Pine was sloping, this one is flat, allowing the creek to slow down a bit and meander tranquilly through camp under shady, leafy trees. Numerous bridges allow passage for cars and pedestrians to cross easily: it’s just a little too wide to jump, and mostly around knee deep.
The boy and his dad take off up the creek and I relax in the cool shade to enjoy the late afternoon with an iced coffee and an LA Times I picked up in Bishop. Almost immediately, the boy comes running back, lickety split: “Good news! Good news!”
“Did you catch a fish??”
“Good news! Good news! Come see! Good news! We caught a fish! Good news! It’s huge!”
I take off running after him, winding through the sage brush following cattle and fish trails. By the time we get there, the Big Monkey has released the 15″ or so trout since we plan to go out to dinner and he didn’t know what to do with it since we didn’t have a stringer. Ay yi yi, I tell him, like Ray Carver, I am dreaming of brook trout for breakfast (mmm wrapped in bacon…)! He insists he’ll catch another one, and I bring him a bucket for fish and a beer for him to enjoy while he catches them.
While we only catch willows, sticks, and moss, we have fun, and that’s what it’s about, isn’t it?
Up next: Dinner at the Still Life Cafe in Independence and camping at Tuttle Creek near Lone Pine!