Multi-Generational Camping

Uncle Brian and Pops taking Tom’s son on a short hike into the small aspen forest along Cave Creek, upstream from Cave Lake. It was breezy and the aspen leaves were performing their ceremonial twisting in the wind, which resulted in a rustling sound. My grandson asked, “Pops, what’s that sound?” I explained that aspen trees were referred to as “quaking” aspens because their flat, broad leaves are attached to long, narrow stems such that they twist in the wind making a quaking or cracking sound. Did you know that aspen stands like these are often created by stems arising from long lateral roots? The result is many genetically identical trees, which in aggregate are called a “clone.” There appears to be some disagreement over which state has the largest clone aspen stand, but one such clone in Utah’s Fishlake National Forrest covers 106 acres and contains an estimated 47,000 stems (see The Gazette article on Utah’s claim).

I know several grandparents who have experienced camping with their children and grandchildren. All of them expressed the joy of passing on the liberating experience of camping to their descendants, whose opportunities for learning appreciation and reverence for nature continue to diminish over time. Getting out of our urban cities to dwell in nature for a few days seems to free our souls. We leave behind our to-do lists and the technology that drives so much or our waking hours, replacing it with the freedom to soak in a deep, satisfying peace. We are released from our daily routines, free to explore and discover without restrictive agendas governing our daily lives.

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Cave Lake State Park, outside the City of Ely, White Pine County, Nevada

A hawk (I believe a Harris’ hawk) perches on rabbitbrush to survey his domain. This picture was taken near Cave Creek, the southeastern inlet of Cave Lake that gives Cave Lake State Park its name.

My daughter was promised a camping trip before she returned for her school’s fall semester. As the Dog Days of summer began to sap everyone’s energy, I was reminded that “back to school” was but two weeks away. I quickly began planning a short, overnight camping trip.

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Illipah Reservoir & Cave Lake – White Pine Co.

 A fine 16-inch Illipah rainbow trout.

To those of you who read my blog for the fishing, my apologies for my slight diversion today.  But I have to say that God knew what he was doing when he gave man a helper (Genesis 2:18).

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Cave Lake & Illipah Reservoir, White Pine County

Moon rising over Cave Lake about 8:30 pm

I don’t usually look forward to trout fishing in mid-summer. Trout can be lethargic as temperatures rise, and when algae grows in lower elevation reservoirs it can diminish the oxygen levels which can lead to increased mortality even when practicing catch and release. The warm weather also drops water levels causing them to be skittish. Moving up to the alpine levels can solve those issues as summer comes late at 9,000 feet and higher. But other than very few exceptions like Kolob Reservoir, large fish aren’t often found in the creeks and reservoirs of the high mountains in central Nevada and southern Utah. And then there’s the general unpleasantness of traveling across the desert in 110 degrees or more in order to reach cooler climates; even in a relatively new car the excessive heat can cause one to pause about faulty thermostats and split hoses. Still, the Las Vegas mid-summer heat was getting the best of me. Escaping to higher, cooler ground was appealing even if the fishing might be slower and the trout smaller.

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Illipah Reservoir & Cave Lake, White Pine County

Clouds over the Moorman Ridge to the east of Illipah Reservoir.

The summer heat was starting to wane and I was yearning to return to Cave Lake to work on the brown trout that inhabit the inlet waters of the lake. I enjoy a challenge, and when Brian and I visited Cave Lake four weeks ago I wasn’t able to give the task my full attention. I was coaching Brian through his first fly fishing trip but found the slurping brown trout inhabiting the shallows to be a nagging distraction. I caught a few browns that day, one reaching about thirteen inches. I saw larger trout, but I either put them down with sloppy casting or didn’t offer a fly they wanted. Even though it wasn’t quite fall weather yet, I wanted to return and try for a few of the larger brown trout.

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Cave Lake, White Pine Co., Nevada

Fishing Cave Lake inlet with 10,000 foot Schell Creek range in background

The dog days of August foretell not only the approaching school year but the end of the sweltering Las Vegas heat. Although I must say, from my perspective, this has not been a typically hot summer (maybe I just tolerate it better as I age). Still, getting away for a little fishing in northeastern Nevada surely bolsters my sufferance for 110 degree temperatures.

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Illipah Reservoir – Cave Lake State Park

Leaving Cave Lake State Park driving south toward the Ward Mountain Range in the background.

Right as school let out for summer break, Denise and I received our first foster home placement. Although we were licensed since last October, we had only provided a few respite periods for another foster couple we know. This placement was the real deal, a sibling pair: a 21/2 year old girl and a 14 month old boy. Ironically, we know their biological family indirectly, which creates some complications. The little girl has severe emotional disabilities, reactive attachment disorder they label it. Needless to say, this was a long, exhausting summer. I had not been fishing since Cold Springs at Wayne Kirch in early May. I had wanted to go in June before the summer heat reached its apex, but I just couldn’t bring myself to leave Denise with these two children, both still in diapers and devoid of any appreciation and respect for boundaries. By the time September arrived I could not contain myself any longer, and so I planned a two-day overnight trip.

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Ely, NV – Comins & Cave Lakes

Brian happy to try fishing Comins Reservoir.

It has been a long, dry summer as far as fishing is concerned. I had planned earlier trips, but work and life in general got in the way. But then a window of opportunity appeared at work, and Brian, armed with his new learners permit, was anxious to drive the highway (Nevada law requires him to log 50 hours of driving before he can get his permit, which factors to about 2 hours a week to be ready on his 16th birthday).

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Ely, NV – Illipah & Cave Lakes

Sixteen-inch Illipah rainbow

I had been awaiting the arrival of spring weather, and for that lull in the budget season between the March Budget Workshop and the May Budget Hearing, to set up the first fishing trip of the year. I decided to avoid Cumins at this time since the big ‘bows are in spawning mode and not actively feeding. Rather, I decided to return to Illipah Reservoir just off Highway 50 (known as the Loneliest Highway). I got on the road about 10:30 am and arrived at Illipah about 2:30 pm.

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Cave Lake State Park – Ely, NV

Tom, me, and Doug in front of the Cave Lake boat dock – June 2000.

My brother Neal is responsible for my development as an outdoorsman. I suspect the seeds were planted as a boy growing up in Hooksett, New Hampshire, but someone needed to water them. In my early teens he took me on my first fishing trip to Kingston Canyon south of Austin, Nevada. He gave me a cheap, ultra-light spinning rod, lures, and a canvas creel and set me loose after just a few minutes of instruction. Neal was never long on patience, and he never really offered to teach me the art of fly fishing. In college I bought several books on fly fishing, and after years of dreaming about it I finally taught myself.

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