Thursday, July 10, 2014

High Desert Trails

“I don’t think most people would understand it. I have been beat to hell, scratched up, I think I tore a ligament in my finger, I am sunburned, dirty, sweaty, exhausted…and it feels great!”- Jesse after a recent mountain climb and mountain bike trip.
Well, the high desert was awesome once again! Arid landscapes interlaced with sage, juniper, pinion pine, and the occasional willow lined spring yielded some of the most fantastic views I have seen in years. The sunsets were stunning to say the least; vibrant red, pink and orange hues lighting up the sky among wisps of thunder clouds.

In the least likely place we encountered wild horses (who always seemed to come around in large herds and close proximity when my camera was stowed away).

We also got to see desert big horned sheep (too quick for my camera work as well). But one of my favorite encounteres turned out to be with a reptile. We noticed numerous horny toads here and there, but it was right as we took a break for lunch that I bumped into one of the most stunning reptiles I have ever encountered. I still have no idea what kind he was, but talk about a handsome devil huh?


I found a green oasis in the sage scrub. Meandering like the rattle snakes that took refuge near by, this little emerald green snowmelt stream looked like prime jackrabbit habitat to me. Armed with my old .22 pistol and a wide brimmed hat to keep the sun off, I proceeded along the little creek in search for dinner. There was plenty of sign, and I drew a bead on about five of the eight rabbits I saw. Unfortunately, they were a bit too quick for me so I ended up switching my focus.


We headed down to a nice clear stream with rods and reels in hand. The pure and cool waters cascaded between riffles and pools formed by granitic boulders and fallen tree snags. On the banks we encountered fallen alders with clear evidence of the craftmenship of beavers. We also saw gorgeous groups of black and yellow swollowtailed butterflies.


To gain access to eddies, undercuts, and slack waters that might hold more prolific trout, we carefully waded across the swift river to the far bank.

Alex was the first to land a fish. He did so about fifteen minutes after his first cast. I was very happy to see him land such a nice fish, and he was completely overjoyed as this was his first ever trout!


My dad landed the next fish and I got a bed of driftwood and sage coals going on the river bank. Stripping the bark from green willow boughs, we put together a quick bushcraft grill. About fifteen minutes later we were enjoying the freshest wood smoked trout that money can’t buy!


We set up camp a bit further on down the river and I finally got to try out my new Black Pine Downunder zero degree sleeping bag. It is awesome! Light, warm and packs down quite small.


The next morning my dad moved his sleeping pad only to find a pair of scorpions had set up camp below him over the night. Looks like we’ll be laying down tarps next time!


I landed a nice trout that day and my dad casually caught another four (in addition to the three he had the day before). What can I say, he’s got a gift! While on the water we noticed a few cool looking water snakes as well. The moment they saw us they darted into the river and swam to the bottom.


After breaking camp we headed up the ridge to scout out some hard woods. Alex cut some sizable mountain mahogany for carving volume knobs and fret boards on his custom foraged bass guitars.


We also got a chance to check out last season’s pinion pine cones and see this coming season’s cones developing. Man, I hope we can make the fall harvest and maybe pair it with another rabbit hunt!


When we made it home, we smoked the last of the trout and enjoyed it mixed with cream cheese and spring onions from the garden as part of another delicious antipasta plate that also incorporated fresh crustini, olives, as well as foraged apple, boysenberries, blackberries, and figs. Though it is not traditional to pair fish with red wine, we did not make a chardonnay this year, so our homemade zinfandel was greatly appreciated!


All in all it was a great time, highly productive, scenic, rejuvenating, and exactly what the doctor ordered.

Keep the old ways alive!


  1. It says high desert trails.. what desert are you in?

    1. A lot of this was in the Eastern Sierras, some was near Mono Lake, and some was in Nevada near the White Mountains. Thanks for reading!