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Topics - wshawkins

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Eastern Sierra History / Cerro Gordo is for sale!
« on: June 22, 2018, 01:17:23 PM »
Cerro Gordo is for sale

You may have seen this on the news; the Ghost Town of Cerro Gordo is for sale.  Located high in the Inyo Mountains, Cerro Gordo came into existence after the discovery of silver in 1865.  In the 1860s and ’70s, the town saw a murder per week with over 2,000 inhabitants living in this thriving mining town.  So much silver was being taken out of the mountain that there were two steamboats on Owens Lake transporting the ingots from Swansea to Cartago for transport to the port in LA.

Maybe some of you remember the property’s late owner, Michael Patterson or his late wife Jody.  They ran a B&B at the Hotel up to the 1990’s.  The town itself is very well preserved and a fascinating place to visit.  If you do decide to visit I recommend 4-wheel drive and let the caretaker know you’re coming up or soon after you arrive.  The property is already in escrow.  That went fast!  So much for my dreams of owning a ghost town!  I hope the new owners preserve the town.

Strictly Media / 2018 Eastern Sierra Photos
« on: June 13, 2018, 07:01:35 AM »
2018 Eastern Sierra Photos

Thought I’d start another photo college of the Eastern Sierra.  Not quite the snow levels from last spring.   2018 looked more like a more typical spring we had in the last decade.  The photo below I’m standing at the 10,000 ft. elevation looking into some of my favorite fishing destinations, most of them still frozen over.  Enjoy!

 Looking into the Hoover Wilderness

Trip Reports from Elsewhere / Hawaii
« on: May 03, 2018, 08:52:18 AM »

Hawaii is like no other place on earth.  Being the 50th and youngest state of the union, Hawaii is home to one of the world's most active volcanoes.  Hawaii has great surfing, the hula and yummy Hawaii Regional Cuisine. But perhaps Hawaii's most unique feature is it’s aloha spirit that complements the Islands' near perfect temperatures.

I visited four of the major islands during my recent trip: Kauai, Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii Island.  Each island has its own distinct personality and offers its own adventures, activities and sights:  The dramatic cliffs of the Napali Coast on Kauai, the vibrant shores of Waikiki Beach on Oahu, the summit of Haleakala on Maui, the molten magma flowing of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii Island.

I went to Hawaii for two separate weddings about 2 weeks apart, with all flight and hotels paid for by the bride’s parents.  Other than required wedding stuff, I rented a car and discovered the Hawaii Islands like never before.  Instead of writing what I saw, the photos tell a better story than I could come up with.  Enjoy!

Hawaii – Kauai North Shore

Eastern Sierra Fishing / The Palisades
« on: February 26, 2018, 06:44:49 AM »
The Palisades

I took this fun backpacking trip back in Late August 2017 over a long weekend.  The weather was great with 75* F days and in the low 50’s at night with thunder showers in the late afternoon.  My goal was to fish all the Big Pine lakes on the Big Pine Creek North Fork trail, then taking the Black Lake Loop trail to Summit and Black Lakes to complete the loop.  It turned out to be a wonderful fishing trip!  This area is simply known as “The Palisades”.

The Palisades, which follows the valley of Big Pine Creek, are beneath some of the highest peaks in the Eastern Sierra including 14,242 foot North Palisade, the 4th tallest in the state.  Ahead lie over many glacial lakes, numerous cascades and crags, plus several glaciers, one of which is both the southernmost in the US and the largest in the Sierra Nevada.

The Palisades

Eastern Sierra Trip Reports / A Hidden Gem in Mammoth Lakes
« on: February 05, 2018, 07:06:57 AM »
A Hidden Gem in Mammoth Lakes

This lake I’m hiking to is really a gem!  This trip was taken in late October on my last day in the Eastern Sierra in 2017.  I decided to go to Mammoth Lakes.  Mammoth Lakes have dozens of trails to choose from so I decided on Duck Pass Trail.  I believe it’s one of the more spectacular and scenic hikes in the Mammoth Lakes Basin.  The Duck Pass Trailhead is at the end of Coldwater Campground near Lake Mary.

This is a simple out and back hike so should not take long to get the photos uploaded and start this trip report.

Cold morning at the Duck Pass Trailhead

Anything Goes / Entry into Yosemite could cost up to $70
« on: October 30, 2017, 07:20:13 AM »
Heard this on the news last night: The National Park Service is asking for a steep fee increase at 17 of its most popular parks.  Visitors to Yosemite for example would be charged $70 per vehicle, up from the fee of $30 for a weekly pass. 

The 17 parks affected are:

● Acadia National Park (ACAD)
● Arches National Park (ARCH)
● Bryce Canyon National Park (BRCA)
● Canyonlands National Park (CANY)
● Denali National Park (DENA)
● Glacier National Park (GLAC)
● Grand Canyon National Park (GRCA)
● Grand Teton National Park (GRTE)
● Joshua Tree National Park (JOTR)
● Mount Rainier National Park (MORA)
● Rocky Mountain National Park (ROMO)
● Olympic National Park (OLYM)
● Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park (SEKI)
● Shenandoah National Park (SHEN)
● Yellowstone National Park (YELL)

The last fee increase in 2015 was supposed to help chip away at the $12 billion maintenance backlog that plagues the national park system.  So where did the last fee increase go to?  Also they just recently raised the cost of a lifetime Senior National Parks Pass from $10 to $80.

There is a 30-day public comment period if you like to respond to it.  Here is the link for comments:

Strictly Media / 2017 Eastern Sierra Photos
« on: September 23, 2017, 01:12:21 PM »
2017 Eastern Sierra Photos

If you like lots of snow and water, 2017 was the year for you!  I can’t remember seeing so much snow and rushing water so late in the season (as of mid-September).  The negatives are I had to wait late in the season to get to my favorite high country lakes and the damage the winter snow and melting waters did to the roads, bridges, buildings and trails along the way.  I’ll share what I have seen so far as I was up there early, mid and planning to be there late season (late October). 

If you have any photos you like to share, please do as I’m using imgur photo sharing site for this report.  Imgur is a free photo sharing site!

Can anybody guess where this is?  This photo was taken during the 4th of July holiday weekend.

Eastern Sierra Fishing / First Golden Trout for 2017
« on: August 09, 2017, 12:59:58 PM »
First Golden Trout for 2017

Was finally able to hike back to the backcountry for some Golden Trout fishing.  Still lots of snow on the trails over 10,000 ft. but was able to get to this Golden Trout gem of a lake at over 11,000 ft.  Can’t believe it took it to August before I was able to get up there!  Never seen so much snow in August! 

Be careful out there as it’s still very dangerous with the swift running creeks and snow bridges getting ready to collapse in the high country.  But the hike was worth it with hungry goldens attacking my fly!

This is a test run using “imgur”, a free photo sharing site.

Golden Trout

Golden Trout

Strictly Media / Eastern Sierra Fall Colors 2016
« on: October 22, 2016, 07:03:21 AM »
Eastern Sierra Fall Colors 2016

Fall colors for 2016 were just too beautiful not to share.  From up north to Sonora Pass down south to Bishop and everywhere in between, fall colors were just bursting out.  Most surprising was the fall color I ran into during my hikes into the backcountry.  Still some fall colors out there but most areas are past peak now, especially after the latest storm to come though the Eastern Sierra.
Anybody who were up during this fall and took any fall color pictures please share them here.  I’m sure there are many beautiful Eastern Sierra fall color photos in our group.  Give a few days to find and organize my photos but in the meantime I’ll post a few to whet your appetite!

Carson Peak – June Lake Loop

South Fork Bishop Creek near Parcher’s

Strictly Media / 2016 Sierra Nevada Pictures
« on: June 16, 2016, 05:21:29 PM »

Thought I’d start another Eastern Sierra Picture thread.  I have a ton of pictures to share and hoping others will share their Sierra pictures as well.  Let’s continue this for 2016 and share your pictures of anything “Sierra”.  All Sierra Nevada photos are welcome, old and new.

Looking into the "Hoover Wilderness" during an early trip this year.  Little more snow on the ground than last year!

Eastern Sierra Fishing / Autumn Brown Trout Fishing
« on: October 01, 2015, 06:42:45 AM »
Autumn Brown Trout Fishing

Fishing in streams and rivers for Brown’s is one of my favorite pastimes. The beautiful scenery, the flowing water and the rising fish, it’s hard to beat. Yes, it’s that time again when the brown trout come up from the deep and feed top-side and spawn.  Fall is prime time for targeting brown trout.  Brown trout spawn late in the fall, so during this time they become more mobile and the usually finicky mature males abandon some of their normal cautiousness.

I never bother the brown trout spawning grounds, and neither should you.  This is for our future brown trout fishing, so a successful spawn is important.  Any brown trout in the middle of the lake is fair game.  There fun to catch and I always release them to fight another battle (unless they bleed).

This year I’m aiming for the high elevation browns, above 10,000 feet.  Many people don’t realize that brown trout even live that high, but they do but are kind of rare.  They are smaller than most of the lower elevation browns, but still to can reach over 20” and more in some waters.  I’m aiming for mid-October, any later in the year and the lakes can freeze over.  I have a list of over a dozen + high elevation lakes that I know have the allusive brown trout with 8 days/7 nights to complete this challenge.  If I have any luck and get some decent pictures, I’ll post my adventure!  Wish me luck! 

Brown trout from last year’s fall trip

Eastern Sierra Fishing / Fishless Lakes
« on: September 27, 2015, 07:12:35 AM »
More bad news for fishermen! 

Latest lakes to go fishless for the frogs.  All these lakes are in Yosemite National Park.  Particularly sad to lose Roosevelt Lake, an excellent Rainbow trout lake that had rainbows up to 18” in its waters.  Skelton Lake used to have rainbows to 12”.  Dog Lake was a brookie lake, but a fun family type lake.

Strictly Media / 2015 Sierra Nevada Pictures
« on: March 12, 2015, 07:41:24 AM »
2015 Sierra Nevada Pictures

Thought I’d start another Eastern Sierra Picture thread.  I have a ton of pictures to share and hoping others will share their Sierra pictures as well.  Let’s continue this for 2015 and share your pictures of anything “Sierra”.  All Sierra Nevada photos are welcome, old and new. 

Looking into the "Hoover Wilderness" during an early trip last year

Eastern Sierra Fishing / Bishop Creek Canyon
« on: January 27, 2015, 08:09:17 AM »
Bishop Creek Canyon

Well, the “Bishop Creek Canyon” fishing trip got the most votes with a whopping “9” (:lol2:) ) votes with 15 members voting.  Thanks to all who voted.  If you’re in to catching wild fish in beautiful back-country scenery, this trip report is for you.

Bishop Creek Canyon

Eastern Sierra Forum / Trip Report
« on: January 10, 2015, 11:05:30 AM »
Not sure if this is a brilliant ideal or a stupid one.  But have quite a treasure trove of reports that I have never posted.  So instead of posting them all, I thought why not take a poll and see what might have the most interest with “Rock Creek’s Message Board” members.  So please vote on one, two or up to three reports you like to see posted.  Of course, no vote’s means I get to take the winter off, which also is fine by me. ;D

A little information on each trip:

1)   “Bennettville” (History) is a former settlement and ghost town in the Tioga Pass area located on Mine Creek.  Mining began here in 1860 but didn’t really get going until The Great Sierra Consolidated Mining Company bought this claim and others nearby in 1878.  This is Part 2 of the Great Sierra Mine Historic Site (see part 1, The Great Sierra Mine  Easy hike to this ghost town with a couple of buildings still standing, mining equipment and a mine tunnel (Adit) to look at.  I’ll take you through the history of this ghost town (with old photos) and bring you up to date what’s to see today.  Good fishing in Mine Creek and nearby lakes with great views.  After visiting Bennettville, I caught over 50 fish in Mine Creek.

2)   “Bishop Creek Canyon” (Fishing) was a great three day fishing trip for me.  After I dropped off some friends at Bishop Pass Trailhead, I went on three separate day hikes to some gorgeous backcountry lakes filled with feisty fish, catching four different species up to 18”.  For the fisher folks, it just doesn’t get any better than this!

3)   “Dunderberg Mill & Mine Sites” (History) is a ghost town on Dunderberg Mountain.  This mining operation had its own mill, two town sites (one at the mill and one up higher up the mountain) and dug eight adit’s up to 1500 feet into the mountain.  Built in 1870, I go through the history with old photos and what’s left today.  Lots to see here if you know what to look for.  Great views on top of Dunderberg Mountain of the Green Creek Drainage and lakes.  When this mine was abandoned, a miner named Ed Page worked this claim until the late 1950’s and built two cabins for himself, one for summer and the other for winter living.  There both still standing today and oh what great glorious views he had!

4)   “Fern Lake”, (Fishing) is an alpine lake tucked in a small valley above the June Lake Loop.  This is a Brookie Lake and they are easy to catch, but the top reason to go here is for the spectacular views from high up on the trail of Silver, Gull, June Lakes and Mono Craters.  Also the wildlife was friendly here! (More on that latter).

5)   “Green Treble Lake” (Fishing) is a pristine alpine mountain lake located in the Harvey Monroe Hall Natural Area in the Hoover Wilderness.  If you ever read any of “John Barbier” books on fishing the Eastern Sierra, you would know that this lake is one of his favorites.  Not hard to see why if you ever visited this gem of a lake.  Have Brookies and feisty Kamloop Rainbows to fish for and lots of solitude with super views.

6)   “Log Cabin Mine”, (History) which first started operation back in 1890, was the first gold discovery in Lee Vining.  This mine operated until 1970 so buildings are still in good shape and lots to see here.  This mine became famous for the gold it produced and for the harsh winters the miners had to endure.  I will go through the history of this gold mine with old photos and show you what’s left to see today.

7)   “Yosemite Lake with Brown Trout”!  (Fishing) At well over 10,000 feet elevation, this Yosemite Lake was the best fishing I ever had for the elusive Brown Trout.  This was my last trip last year in Late October and what a way to end the fishing season!  I’ll name this lake and location if it gets enough votes.  I’m sure some of you already know what lake I’m referring too.

Other Trips that might interest some:

A)   “Upper McCabe Lake”, (Fishing) which is south of Shepherd Crest in Yosemite.  Take the water taxi from Saddlebag Lake for the shortest hike.  Went twice this year, so you know the fishing was outstanding.  Was going to submit this Trip Report but I believe “Tex” did this trip too this year so I’ll let him report on Upper McCabe Lake.  Thought I put that out there. 

B)   “John Muir Trail”.  (Media) Finished the complete “John Muir Trail” through hike for the third time last summer!  The trail started in Yosemite National Park, and continues 215 miles through the Ansel Adams Wilderness, Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, and ended at the highest peak in continental United States, Mount Whitney at 14,496 ft.  This time I took my time and completed it in 30 days over 3 summers, which included several layover days for fishing Golden Trout lunkers lakes in Sequoia National Park.  Best fishing/backpacking trip ever!

C)   “Volcanic Tableland Petroglyphs”.  (History) Just north of Bishop is one of the best displays of Petroglyphs I seen on a nice maintained driving loop.  The Petroglyphs in this area are thought to be up to 8,800 years old and were made by the ancestors of the native Paiute-Shoshone people who still inhibit the valley.  Chidago, Chalfant, Fish Slough and Red Canyon Petroglyphs sites were easy access from the road and a delight to see.

D)   “Arrowhead, Skelton, Barney, Red, and the two Woods Lakes”.  (Fishing) These lakes are part of the Upper Mammoth Lakes basin.  From the Duck Pass Trail, this loop trail never disappoints for the fishing or the views.  Six lakes with easy Brook and Rainbows fishing makes this one of my favorite loop hikes.

E)   “Jordan Hot Springs”.  (History) Went here for the fishing, stayed for the hot springs.  Great history for Jordan Hot Springs which starts long before the coming of the white man.  Native Americans used this area for summer encampments for hundreds of years before John Jordan blazed a trail in 1861 for miners traveling over the Sierra to get to the latest gold strike.  Today you can see the Jordan Hot Springs Resort with old cabins; pack station, cow camps and pillars in the springs were the docks were built.  It’s now part of the Golden Trout Wilderness.

F)   “The Ghost Town of Bodie”.  (History)  The granddaddy of all ghost towns!  A town frozen in time and in a “state of arrested decay” as they like to say.  This mining town from the late 1800’s in its peak had 10,000 people with 65 saloons bustled with families, robbers, miners, store owners, gunfighters, prostitutes with numerous brothels and ‘houses of ill repute’, gambling halls and opium dens – an entertainment outlet just about for everyone.

Eastern Sierra Fishing / 21.6 Lb German Brown caught and released
« on: November 15, 2014, 10:30:53 AM »
This story is making the rounds today;

From Mono County Tourism - California's Eastern Sierra Facebook page, Paul Gonzalas bagged a 21.6 German Brown caught and released along the June Lake Loop!

Eastern Sierra Fishing / October Caddis Hatch
« on: October 09, 2014, 06:54:56 AM »
October Caddis Hatch

When the first leaves fall off the trees at the beginning of fall in the Eastern Sierra, that’s when I begin preparing for the arrival of the giant tent winged caddis fly.  This is a major food source on the trout’s menu from late September into November in the Eastern Sierra.  This is also their last large protein source of the season, and you can bet the big trout will key on this large caddis to prepare for winter.  What I’m referring to is the October Caddis.

October Caddis

The October Caddis has an orange body with dark red-brown wing to orange-brown wing and is one of the best insects for fall anglers to catch a trophy trout.  Over the years I’ve had mixed results targeting this hatch.  It’s only been in the last few seasons that I’ve learned to fish the hatch correctly.  The key success factors in fishing this hatch for me was understand their behavior, and then fishing with the right fly imitations to grab their attention.

October Caddis are found in any moving waters in the Eastern Sierra, but a good place to observe them is at Owens River when the flows start to drop in fall, on the EF Walker River, Rush Creek and even at Rock Creek .  You’ll be able to see their stick cases as the level drops, attached to rocks or downed trees.  You may even see them crawl out of the water by the hundreds during the hatch.

October Caddis crawling out of the water

Peak activity of hatching is usually from late afternoon until about dark.  That being said, when the hatch is on, the fish key in and will feed on the October Caddis all day.  During the early phase of this hatch, I like to fish using a big caddis pupa fished under an indicator.  I’ve found this fly rig to be a great strategy for catching good numbers of fish.  The larva and pupa stages of these insects are when their most vulnerable and big trout catch on to this very quickly.

My Favorite Fly’s to use during a hatch:

Larva October Caddis

Pupa October Caddis

Adult October Caddis

Once I know the hatch is in full swing, I’ll switch to a dry dropper rig.  Using an adult October Caddis dry fly with a pupa pattern dropped 18-24 inches off the back does a great job for both stages.  This is a great strategy to use and it’s paid me many dividends (Fish dividends).  Experimenting with a gentle jerk on your dry fly on the surface can often trigger aggressive takes.

I’ll be heading up the Eastern Sierra this week for hopefully some great October Caddis Hatch bite.  I’ll be targeting the big browns as usual, but plan also on visiting some of the backcountry lakes if the weather cooperates.  I’ve been hitting some big wind the last couple of trips which has made the
fishing difficult.  I’ll report back if anything exciting happens!  Wish me luck.

Nice Brown Trout caught during “October Caddis Hatch” from last fall

Eastern Sierra Forum / June Lake Fire
« on: September 18, 2014, 07:53:50 AM »
Fire in June Lake

A fire broke out near the June Lake ski area and winds are pushing it towards June Lake Village.  Mandatory evacuations are in force in the June Lake Village area.  State Route 158 was closed.  See story:;_ylu=X3oDMTEzMjNuaTNuBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDNQRjb2xvA2JmMQR2dGlkA1ZJUDUyNF8x/RV=2/RE=1411080298/RO=10/

Eastern Sierra Forum / Fall Colors
« on: September 03, 2014, 02:45:35 PM »
Looks like fall colors are just around the corner.  I was at South Lake Trailhead on August 22nd dropping off some friends for their backpacking trip and the aspens and meadow grasses are beginning to yellow, mostly above the 9,000 foot range.  Also upper Rock Creek and McGee Creek are starting to change colors.  If I would have to guess, Mid-September to the 1st week of October should be prime time fall colors this year!

This is the beginning of the beautiful time in the Eastern Sierra!

Eastern Sierra Fishing / In Search of Goldens
« on: September 02, 2014, 08:10:27 AM »
In Search of Goldens

Golden Trout!  They say that golden trout only live in beautiful places.  Although there may be exceptions to this rule, I think we can all agree that this is overwhelmingly true for most golden trout in the High Sierra.  Golden trout have an intense natural beauty that outshines all other species of trout in the Sierra Nevada.  The feelings I derive from catching these beautiful fish make it worth the extra effort to hike, catch and admire these beauties.

I won’t name these lakes as not to cause a stampede and possibly overfish these gems.  I’m sure many here know where I’ve been and probably fished these waters too.  This particular trip was exceptional, as I usually only catch from 0 to 3 goldens each trip.  Yes, even I can and have got a skunk here!

It was with all this in mind that I embarked on my latest fishing trip searching for the elusive and fickle golden trout. My goal today was to try to land some large golden trout I know may exist in these waters.

I’d always subscribed to the theory that spring is the best time of year to fish for goldens, especially before and after they spawn.  But on this trip I hit a cold spell with morning temperatures in the low 20’s and the highs in the low 50’s at best in the 11,000 feet elevation where I was heading.  Will the lakes be iced over?  Will the golden trout even be awake enough to take my offering?   This wouldn’t be the first time I hiked a long distance to find my intended target lake or stream frozen over or the fish not interested in my offerings.

Eastern Sierra Trip Reports / Mono Pass Trail to Lower Sardine Lake
« on: August 05, 2014, 11:43:06 AM »
Mono Pass Trail to Lower Sardine Lake

The Basics:
8 miles round trip to Lower Sardine
10 miles round trip to Mono Pass and the Gold Crown Cabins
2,000 + vertical feet to Lower Sardine lake
Mono Pass Trailhead - el. 8,360ft. 
Walker Lake - el. 7,946ft.
Lower Sardine Lake - el. 9,915ft.
Mono Pass – el. 10,600 ft.


Leave Hwy 395 at the north end of the June Lake Loop, Hwy 158. Just North of Grant Lake, follow dirt road 1S23 along Sawmill Creek to the Trailhead.

It’s been very quiet of late on the Board.  See if I can perk things up with a trip report from the Hawk files.  I made this hike late last fall from the June Lake Loop.  I visit and fish this pristine lake about once every 5 years.  I believe I posted that trip about 5 years ago but it’s lost it due a Board crash.  I think it’s worth looking at again.  This trip has it all, fishing that never disappoints (at least that’s true for me), views that are to die for and a silver mine and cabins to explore to boot!  Hope you enjoy……….. :fishing3:


Eastern Sierra Fishing / Fishing Humor
« on: June 03, 2014, 06:17:27 AM »
Fishing Humor

I hear a lot of fishing stories and jokes, and some are quite funny, and some are just large tales.  When I’m fishing with my buddies in the Sierra or sitting at the campfire that night, the stories come out.  I’ll share what I think are the best ones I heard.

As always, if you have a funny, humorous fishing story or joke to share, please post it.  We could all use a laugh!


A couple went on vacation to a resort up north. The husband liked to fish, and the wife liked to read.  One morning the husband came back from fishing after getting up real early that morning and took a nap.  While he slept, the wife decided to take the boat out.  She was not familiar with the lake, so she rowed out and anchored the boat, and started reading her book.

Along comes the Game Warden in his boat, pulls up alongside the woman's boat and asks her what she's doing?  She says, "Reading my book."  The Game Warden tells her she is in a restricted fishing area and she explains that she's not fishing.  To which he replied, "But you have all this equipment.  I will have to take you in and write you up!"  Angry that the warden was being so unreasonable, the lady told the warden, "If you do that, I will charge you with rape."  The warden, shocked by her statement, replied, "But I didn't even touch you."  To which the lady replied, "Yes; but you have all the equipment!"

Eastern Sierra History / Short Stories
« on: May 19, 2014, 06:47:10 AM »
Though I would try something new, a collection of “Short Stories” I collected over the years.   I have a little of everything, including short stories on a lost gold mine, a great climber, old timers talking about the way it was, a scary camp fire story, an earthquake to remember, John Muir, an heroic WW2 Mule, Bodie bad men shooting it out, and so on just to name a few.  Most are old stories (some 100+ years), but all are from or about the Eastern Sierra that we all love.  I’ll start with Ah Wee, a china man from the Lundy/Tioga Hill area from the late 1800’s that wouldn’t die without a fight.  Not a fight per say but,,,,read it and you’ll see what I mean.  If well received, more will be posted.

All are welcome to post any short stories you might have.  I’m sure there are some very interesting one’s out there. 

The Triple Deaths of Ah Wee,
The Laundryman of Bennettville

High in the Sierras, near the base of Tioga Hill, laundryman Ah Wee was sick and dying in his Bennettville shanty.  His friend, Jim Toy, a merchant and Chinese doctor from Lundy, hurried across the rugged mountains to his side.  Not long after he arrived, Ah Wee took his last breath.  Jim waited until the body was cold and rigid, and then went to a boarding house for supper.  After the meal, he and a group of men decided to go back to the laundryman’s and tend to the body.  Imagine their surprise, when they arrived and Ah Wee was up and walking around.  It took the strength of all of the men to get Ah Wee back to bed again.  Jim Toy nursed Ah Wee through the night.  Just before daybreak, however, Ah Wee breathed his last one more time.   

Mule Ride to Lundy

A strong box was built for the Chinese laundryman’s body, so it could be taken to Lundy for internment. Louis Amoit’s pack train would come for the body and the box around noon that day.  Meantime, Jim watched the corpse constantly for returned life.  Louis arrived and they packed the box with Ah Wee’s body in it on the back of a pack mule.  They trudged along slowly until reaching the level ridge of Mount Warren Divide.  As Louis hurried the mules, the one with Ah Wee’s corpse began to trot.  Suddenly, groaning noises were heard from the strong box.  First thoughts were that it was the mule groaning, but Louis decided it best to make sure.  As he stopped the mule, the groans from the box became louder.  Ah Wee was alive once again.  Reportedly, Louis Amoit’s “eyeballs crawled out on his cheeks, looked at his ears, and tried to climb under his hat” in fear.

Louis Amoit and his pack mules, with the once again alive and breathing, Ah Wee, headed on to Lundy.  In Lundy, Ah Wee rested comfortably in quiet quarters, appearing to be convalescing nicely. By 11:00 that Monday morning, an American physician checked on him to see how he was doing.  Ah Wee turned his face to the wall and breathed his last one more time. 

Peaceful and Penniless

The Homer Mining Index of   October 27, 1883, reported that on the Tuesday after his third last breath, Ah Wee was buried with “imposing ceremonies of the Chinese kind.”   When interviewed for the Index, Ah Wee’s friend Jim Toy said he had died of a cold.  Asked if it was a case of pneumonia, Jim Toy thought the reporter had said “no money”, and replied “No, no.  Him got no money - him allee time gamble - tlee week ago him losee two hundled dolla - him got no money.”  Regardless of what caused Ah Wee’s triple deaths, the third death was the charm, and he lay peacefully and penniless, to rest one last time.   

A Biography of Mr. Lee "Ah-wee" Chung

Lee Chung was born in 1838 to peasant Chinese shepherds in the Xiuxeng province of northern China.  The Xiuxneng province is characterized by its high elevation and cold, harsh winters.  As a boy, Lee developed a fondness for snow sports which was go grow into a life-long passion for tobogganing. By the time Lee left China for the western United States in 1878 he was well known throughout northern China as the most enthusiastic (if not-so-talented) Chinese tobogganier as well as a novice toboggan craftsman. While his enthusiasm for the snow-covered slopes could not be tempered, his lack of ability and substandard, home built equipment provided for a continuous series of greater and lesser tobogganing accidents, resulting in greater or lesser quantities of massive injuries. As a result, Lee's wits and reflexes were to grow ever slower over the course of his lifetime. Nonetheless, throughout Lee's worldly travels, he was never seen to travel without his most favorite trusty toboggan which he called "Rosebud".

Lee worked hard in the railroad camps, and later in the mining camps as he worked his way through the American west. Lee intentionally sought out camps in the harsher environs so he could be close to his beloved slopes. Lee performed any odd job he was offered; Laundromat technician, stable swamper, clerical secretary.  All jobs to Lee were merely an end to a means - to provide him with the sustenance he needed to support his increasingly-habitual toboggan use. Lee amassed a record of call-in "sick days" before or since unrivaled in industrialized nations.  Though everyone knew where Lee was on these "sick days" of course.  For his distinctive and gleeful cry of "ah-WEEEEEE!" as he launched himself from the mountain tops could be heard throughout the locality.

By the time Lee reached the mining camp of Bennettville in 1882 his coordination and mental faculties were clearly impaired. He was soon offered a job in one of the less-reputable bordellos in town, which he gratefully accepted before promptly phoning in sick.  The nickname "Ahwee" or "Ah Wee" was assigned to Lee as he took to the slopes and his familiar cry was heard throughout the town.  The name stuck as more and more camp regulars and visitors turned out to watch Lee's antics on the slopes. His cataclysmic crashes grew in frequency and spectacle as his agility continued to decline undeterred by his indefatigable passion for his "sport".  Such spectacles culminated in the "Tioga Glacier" incident in the deep winter of 1883. Crowds were stunned and delighted as Lee careened off the lip of the 95-foot face of the Tioga glacier, landing in a crumpled heap on the rocky shores of Lake Tioga. His lifeless (and frozen) body was recovered 2 days later and stored in the Bennettville Livery where he was miraculously revived by a birthing mare.

Lee soon took to the slopes again, and shortly thereafter his body was recovered from an abandoned ventilation shaft. The Bennettville townsfolk (in an expression of fondness for Lee) used his body as a makeshift cigar dispenser by propping him up in the frigid shelter in front of Smith's Apothecary, whereupon Lee was inexplicably revived days later by a startled passerby. As the winter season waned in the high Sierras, Lee was forced to seek out more dispersed and isolated patches of snow amongst the rugged crags surrounding Bennettville in order to support his toboggan mania. Such was to be his undoing in May, 1884. As Lee cried "Ah-WEEEE" and pushed off from the top of a rocky swale a lone photographer snapped the last image of Lee "Ah Wee" Chung.

Last known photograph of Lee "Ah Wee" Chung, 1884

Though Lee's body was never recovered, the townsfolk of Bennettville honored Lee by inscribing his moniker on a small granite obelisk which was then hurled off the same rocky crag which had claimed their beloved Ah Wee.


Bennettville and the Tioga Mining District by Alan Patera

Western Places

Ghost Mines of Yosemite

Eastern Sierra Forum / Season Opener 2014
« on: March 13, 2014, 07:48:06 AM »
Opening Day of the 2014 fishing season is on April 26th.  Anyone going up?  Crowley?  Convict?  June Lake?  Owens River?  Maybe some ice fishing?   :fishing3:

Will you be there?   :camping:

Eastern Sierra Fishing / Hoover Lahonton Cutthroats
« on: March 05, 2014, 08:48:14 AM »
Just a little late with this fishing trip but I’m sure nobody minds.  My target lakes for this trip was are known for their Lahonton Cutthroats.  This northern Eastern Sierra trip area didn’t disappoint.  There are 5-6 lakes within a day’s hike of this area where the trout can grow north of 18” and some trophy 20” + trout thrown in for good measure.  Even the Brookies can get huge here.  Without any doubt a fun place to toss your line.    Hope you enjoy!

Hoover Wilderness Sign

Hoover Lahonton Cutthroats

Took another late fall season day hike, this time to some good Lahonton Cutthroat lakes.  These lakes are west of Pickel Meadows near the Sonora Pass.  This trip I think fishes best early or late in the season, at least that’s true for me.  These lakes can get too hot in the summer months due to the lower elevations and the fishing suffers.

This 3 ½ mile hike from Leavitt Meadow to Lane Lake can be done in less than 2 hours.  Lane Lake and its sister, Roosevelt Lake offers good fishing and comfortable campsites with views of the lakes.  This easy hike would make a great backpacking outing on which to bring children or first timers and introduce them to the wilderness.

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