Tuesday, May 20, 2008

iBob in the Wilderness

The hills are alive.... with the sound of music...

iBob here. I just wanted to report about the glorious outdoor experience I had this weekend up at June Lake. Even though the drive was long (and the DVD player died) we arrived at Boulder Lodge without incident.

The old welcoming lodge (think "rustic") embraced us like old friends. We were in one of the deluxe rooms with a small kitchen and a gorgeous view of the lake. Good ol' room 206 (the same room we've stayed in the past 3 years) had been updated with new carpet (now with 50% less fish hooks!), a single bedroom with a queen bed (for the kids) and a twin bed (for my wife) and a couch (for me). This was to be our base camp for this adventure.

My son had been simply buzzing with anticipation all week long. He simply couldn't wait to get here and get fishing. After the long drive we had some dinner and met up with my in-laws, and decided to get to bed early so we would be ready to go first think Saturday morning.

My brother-in-law, Jimbo, was heading out early (4:30am) to Bridgeport (about an hour north) to do some stream fishing, but promised to take my son out as soon as he got back. This meant that I would probably be up early to take him out for the first round.

Turns out that at 3:00am he was awake and crying that "...all he wants to do is fishing. That's the only reason he came up here!" I assured (promised, did a pinky swear) him we'd go - wanting to get a little more sleep myself.

At 6:00am (on the nose) there was a knock on the door and my father-in-law, Don, was dressed and ready to go - asking if he could take my son down to the docks.

Could he? Are you kidding?

I woke him up, got him dressed, stuffed his pockets with snacks and off they went - down to the docks in the crisp, early morning air. Being the stand-up father I am, I promptly... went back to sleep.

When I finally managed to push the cobwebs of an interrupted sleep out of my eyes - it was about 8:00am. My wife and daughter were just waking up - and still there was no sign of Don and Brennan.

We had a little breakfast (doughnuts and coffee), got dressed, and mingled with the extended family for a couple of hours - when Jimbo showed up. He didn't have very good luck in Bridgeport (after hiking in 3 miles and fishing on a icy stream) - but his first question out of his mouth was "where's Don and Brennan?" No sooner that we informed him they were down on the dock - he grabbed his pole and headed out.

The weather was simply gorgeous. There's no other way to put it. The online weather service said it would only be in the high 50's to the lower 60's - but it was easily about 75 degrees. There was a mild breeze, the blue jays were out in force, and it was a beautiful day for fishing.

Around 12:30pm - Don, Brennan and Jimbo came back - no luck. Undeterred in their quest - we all had some lunch, and decided that a good nap was in order.

I didn't wake up until 5:30pm (it's the most sleep I had all week!).

Turns out they were all down on the dock, so I dragged my altitude-weary body down there for a while and was informed that they still had no luck - although there were a couple of people next to them that had caught a fish or two (trout). Late in the day, about an hour before sunset, we all had dinner together (chilie verde burritos) - and I never saw the men eat so quickly. They wanted to get down to the other side of the lake before sunset for one more round. They still had no luck - and we called it a night.

On Sunday morning - the knock came at 5:15am. This time Jimbo was ready - and I got Brennan dressed, stuffed with snacks, and sent him off. Then another knock came at 6:15am - this time Don wanting to know if Brennan could come out and play. After informing him that he and Jimbo had set off - I decided that I would never get back to sleep and put on the coffee.

They came back about 11:00am with one big fish - a 4 pound German brown. Success and high fives all around. I took the kids swimming at the indoor pool for a couple of hours while my wife made lunch (her world-famous chili). She's not been feeling the best (cough, snuffles, not able to sleep) - so I ran into "town" to get some drugs while my niece and her husband watched the kids.

In the general store, they had all the fishing supplies up front - with the boring things - like groceries - in the back. After spending about 5 times more than I would have for the same supplies in civilization (they actually had a sign at the cash register that read "$5.00 charge for listening about how much less you paid everywhere else), I headed back to the compound.

We had some great chili - and hunkered down for our traditional afternoon nap.

After nap everyone decided to go out to a neighboring lake and so they packed up everything (and would have included the kitchen sink if they would have had a pipe wrench!) and were about to head out. My daughter, Brooke, who really isn't "into" fishing and prefers drawing, coloring, and puzzles, said she wanted to stay behind and play in the snow.

Well, with my wife in a cough medicine induced "nap" - I stayed behind with Brooke - and we headed off to the old snow plow pile of dirty, icy snow. You know, it's really amazing to watch a kid's imagination when it's in full swing. She found an old screw driver and was playing in this dirty, icy snow - just singing and hopping around when she hit upon a terrific idea.

She would try her hand at sculpting.

She found a piece of icy snow, sat down and began her work. After about 15 minutes, she announced she was done - and her masterpiece eagle head was finished. "Not too bad for my first sculpturing - huh, Dad?" Well, the snow might not have melted - but my heart sure did.

With everyone else gone (and no cell reception to find out where they actually wound up) - the three of us just sat around in the room with the slider open, feeding the blue jays (and chipmunks) on the deck, and watched the "Parent Trap" (the new version with Lindsay Lohan - before she imploded). We had snacks, read, Brooke colored, my wife dozed - and it was a really, really relaxing time. We had a late dinner (they didn't get back until about 8:30pm) of skillet-cooked hot dogs and salad and settled down for the night.

The knock didn't come until a respectable 6:00am - and it was Jimbo - ready for another day. Of course Brennan was ready to go in 2 minutes flat (try THAT on a school day!) and off they went. The fishing was crappy - mostly chubbs - but they caught one or two small rainbow trout as well.

The best part of the day came later on. We had rented a boat - and while my wife slept (she'd been feeling crappy the whole time) - I took my daughter out on the lake for a little cruise. I got her all strapped into her life jacket and off we went. 80 degrees, slight breeze, warm afternoon sun. There's simply nothing like it in this world.

On the last night we traditionally have the big fish fry - only we decided to do it for a late lunch this year (Jimbo and troop wanted to go back to Bridgeport). I followed Jimbo and Brennan to the little shack set aside for cleaning fish - and watched with rapt fascination as Jimbo made fillets out of about 10 fish in less than 10 minutes. Amazing.

He used his "secret" recipe of salt and pepper and flour and fried them up in hot olive oil on the crappy vintage 1954 electric stove in our room (an managed a small fire in the making). We feasted on baked potatoes, asparagus and fresh fried fish - yummy!

By the time this morning rolled around - I was prepared for the drill and was awake and waiting for the fated "knock" - which came at 5:34am. Brennan and Jimbo headed down to the dock to try their luck. This being the last day and all - I waited for about an hour and then joined them down on the dock.

Brennan was there talking smack - giving me 1,000 pointers about everything ("...you know - chubbs are bottom feeders with no natural predators so we got to get them out while we can..."). I was there about 2 hours in which time Jimbo got zero bites, and Brennan caught 3 chubbs (which promptly became ant food). Because no one was hitting anything - Brennan decided he would just fish for chubb right off the dock (we could see about 50 of them right below us).

His philosophy is: catching fish - even if they are chubb - is funner than not catching fish.

I couldn't agree more.

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