We got a late start on Thursday, as I suspected we would. This minor error was compounded by our own serious underestimation of the time it would take to get to our destination. As a result, we spent many hours driving in the dark on windy mountain roads, with the wife clutching the side of the van and fighting off motion sickness. When we finally pulled into the resort, it was nearly eleven o’clock. We stepped out of the van and back into winter. Our breath made puffy clouds in the night air, and mounds of dirty snow remained where it had been piled up. In fact, it had been less than a month since the ice had melted on the lake.
We got the kids into bed, and I stepped outside into the frigid air to enjoy the nearly full moon. In the quiet I could hear frogs chorusing down by the lake, and then the call of a Great Horned Owl off to my right. A few minutes later, I heard another one off to my left. They exchenaged territorial salutations a few more times before I went in and went to bed.
As I may have mentioned, I’m a bit of a misanthrope. I don’t like people, especially large numbers of them, and I have always been much more comfortable surrounded by trees and wildlife than by concrete and cars. So you can imagine how nice it was to wake up on the shore of a remote mountain lake at 6,000 feet above sea level. True, we weren’t exactly roughing it. But there was still more wildlife than people, which was especially soothing to my poor over-civilized soul.
We had a couple of snowshoe hares hop past the cabin, lazily munching on the greenery. Osprey spent the day circling over the lake. They would occasionally fold their wings and plummet into the surface, only to flap away with a fish in their talons. When it got dusky, bats flapped through the twilight, looking for bugs near the lake. We saw a bald eagle. And of course, I can’t overlook the ubiquitous chipmunks and ground squirrels.
Friday we visited the Oregon High Desert Museum, which was very nice. We then ran into town to do some shopping. We basically went into G.I.Joe’s and said “We are going fishing tomorrow, have no equipment, and have no idea what we are doing.” We left with rods, reels, Powerbait, nightcrawlers, treble hooks, sinkers, etc. The children were painfully excited. At one point the salesman was explaining how to remove a hook from the fish’s mouth. My wife asked “Shouldn’t we buy some needle-nose pliers?” at which the salesman and I simultaneously pointed to the Leatherman on my belt. It was pretty funny.
That night, there was a strong breeze off the lake, which made it bitterly cold outside. Nevertheless, we built a fire and cooked hot dogs, followed by s’mores. I went to bed hopeing the lake would be calmer in the morning.
The next day dawned cold and clear and beautiful. We ran down, got the kids into life jackets, and got our pontoon boat at 7:00 am. I can’t say enough about pontoon boats, particularly if you have young children. It’s like having a patio with an outboard motor on it. Being out on the lake was beautiful. You could see the peaks surrounding the lake, and the various lava flows along the shore. We had loads of helpful advice to rely upon:
“Try over near the hot springs.”
“Try over near the pumice landslide.”
“You need to use Powerbait, with just enough weight on the line so it will sink slowly.”
“Don’t use Powerbait, the trout are really hitting nightcrawlers.”
“If you want to catch trout, you need to jig for ‘em. They’ll hit anything that you jig in front of them.”
Okay, then. So, we moved the boat around to fairly shallow areas of the lake and tried to fish. Here’s how the routine went:
Reach desired position. Throw out the first anchor. Throw out the second anchor. Put bait on the boy’s hook. Pick up the girl’s rod. Put down the girl’s rod. Untangle the boy’s line. Cast for the boy. Pick up the girl’s rod. Put bait on the girl’s rod. Put bait on my rod. Cast once. Put down rod. Untangle the girl’s line. Rebait the boy’s line. Pick up my rod, cast once. Rebait the girl’s line. Notice that we’re drifting toward shore. Haul in the first anchor. Haul in the second anchor. Start the motor and putt off to the next location. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Nevertheless, it was pleasant, if cold out there. When it was getting close to time to head back in, I picked up my rod and started reeling it in, only to realize there was something on it. I carefully reeled it in, only to find a 12″ rainbow trout on the line. I was astonished.
My intention had been to catch and release, but the poor little bugger had swallowed the little treble hook halfway down to his anus. He wasn’t going to live even if we tossed him back, so we started filling the bait well and tossed him in. The boy, who had been holding the wife’s rod while she took pictures, started yelling. Sure enough, there was a fish on her line, this time a 10 1/2″ rainbow. Again, I couldn’t remove the hook, so into the well it went.
The children were terribly frustrated that they hadn’t caught anything themselves, but it was time to bring the boat in. After we checked it in, I got to clean the trout, which wasn’t nearly as horrible as I thought it might be. I don’t think it’s worse than whacking up a chicken, for example.
We went out and climbed Lava Butte before coming back and fixing dinner. Again, we built a campfire and had s’mores, only the air was much more still. The girl wrapped herself in a blanket and sat out next to the fire with me until she was finally too cold, and went into the cabin. I sat outside for a bit longer, watching the last of the firewood that we had brought burn.
Sunday morning we decided to eat at the cafe instead of trying to cook in the cabin. Much to our surprise, breakfast at the little resort general store/cafe was excellent. And I don’t mean it was pretty good for being out in the woods, I mean it was ‘man-wish-I-could-get-a-breakfast-like-this-in-town’ excellent. We spoke to the chef only to find out that he had 25 years experience as a chef in Portland, cooking for McCormick and Schmidts and a bunch of other high-end restaurants. Damn. If we had known, we would have been having breakfast there every day.
On our way out we stopped and visited Lava River Cave. It’s an old lava tube that runs 1.1 miles one-way, underground, until the sandy floor rises to meet the roof of the tube. There are no lights except for the ones you carry in, so it can be kind of daunting. Nevertheless, we made it to the end of the tube. Well, we made it to the point that we would have had to crawl on hands and knees. That was far enough, thank you.
I think everyone had a good time, and I pretty much fell in love with the place. I wouldn’t mind going back again, maybe even more than once a year. Does this mean I’m going to become an avid fisherman? Well, I wouldn’t count on it. But it’s nice to know I CAN catch a fish, after those years of fruitless bass fishing in Illinois.
Plus, I think the kids had a really good time there.