"Someone from our fishing club is hosting a trip to Pickle Creek. What do you think?"
I clicked on the link, and it took me to the club's website, where I read the following:
Pickle Creek Fishout
Fish Master: Mr. Magoo
What: Kayak across Mud Bank Lake to Pickle Creek in the Sierra Nevada. 5 anglers maximum. Will require paddling or peddling 8 miles each way, followed by an uphill hike with gear half a mile to the campsite.
When: Thursday, June 25- Sunday June 28.
Type of Fishing: Classic Sierra trout stream fishing at its finest. Deep pools, riffles, and pocket water. Wet and dry fly fishing are both productive. A dry fly with a bead head dropper is the most effective set up. Or fish Mud Bank Lake using an intermediate line for cruising Rainbow and Brook Trout.
Equipment: I can accommodate 4 other people with my 2 tandem kayaks and 1 single kayak. For fishing I use a 9’ 4 weight rod with a floating line on Pickle Creek and a 5 weight or 6 weight rod for fishing Mud Bank Lake. You will also need a light weight tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad. I will provide the cooking equipment and plan to do most of the cooking.
Itinerary: Leave the Bay Area the morning of June 25. Reach Mud Bank Lake by mid-afternoon. The drive takes approximately 4 hours. Pack boats and kayak 8 miles across lake. Arrive at the mouth of Pickle Creek. Unload kayaks into backpacks and walk half a mile to the campsite. Set up camp and possibly fish in the late afternoon.
Friday and Saturday fish Pickle Creek and Mud Bank Lake. Optional hike to No One Ever Goes There Lake.
On Sunday, break camp, hike back to boats, load boats, and kayak back to vehicles, usually into a strong head wind.
Cost: $40 to have first class camping cuisine.
This is my favorite fishing spot that I want to share. I wouldn’t go there and paddle 16+ miles round trip 2 to 4 times a season if it wasn’t special.
It sounded interesting, but given the drought that continues to plague this state, I had some concerns about how much water (if any) might be present come June.
I sent Magoo an email expressing my thoughts, and he assured me that there would still be plenty of water in the creek. He also let me know that he'd be visiting the creek in early June, and said that if the water had dropped to the point where it was too warm to fish that he would cancel the trip.
I talked it over with my brother, and even though neither of us had ever met Magoo, we both signed up.
By the end of March, two other club members (who we'd never met) had also signed up: B.K. and Andre.
We all received another email from Magoo at the end of April.
He said that the hike to the campsite was actually closer to two miles, uphill, at an elevation of approximately seven thousand feet. He explained that two of his three kayaks were Hobies that were equipped with sails and outriggers, and that they would require pedaling and sailing skills as opposed to paddling. The third kayak was a traditional tandem. He said that someone would need to transport one of the kayaks to the lake, since his vehicle could only carry two. He asked if anyone had any physical handicaps or limitations, and also if anyone had any kayaking or sailing experience.
Andre was the first to respond, and in his email he boasted of his extensive kayaking and sailing experience. As for physical limitations, he admitted to being “a bit overweight” but claimed that he was now exercising on a regular basis and hoped to be down to three hundred pounds or so by the time of the trip.
The second to respond was B.K.
B.K. claimed that other than some vision problems and a bad right leg that he considered himself to be in pretty good shape for a man in his early seventies.
My brother also responded to Magoo's email, stating that he had a pickup with lumber racks that could carry one or more kayaks, and so Magoo nominated him to be the second driver.
As the weeks wore on, Magoo began to bombard us with emails regarding our upcoming trip.
Some contained photos of his previous trips to Pickle Creek. Others contained his personalized gear lists, which included helpful hints such as "Remember to bring gloves and Witch Hazel for hands! (Forgot last time!)," along with "Remember to transfer wine to plastic containers! Last trip wine bottles broke inside sleeping bag!"
Other emails shared some of his fishing tips, such as "Water is gin clear. Must use stealth. Drag free drifts are critical!!!"
And then there was an email that lectured us on the importance of safety.
”When camping in a wilderness area, getting injured is my biggest fear. I’m 60, and my balance isn’t what it used to be, so I always use trekking poles and suggest you do the same. Your safety is my first priority!!!”
Two weeks before the trip, Magoo’s emails became a bit more urgent.
Magoo: "Does anyone have an extra backpacking stove?"
Me: "I've got one that I can bring."
Magoo: "Great. What about pots?"
Me: "I've a couple of pots I can bring as well."
Magoo: "Great. What about a water filter?"
Me: "I've got a Steripen."
Magoo: "I don't know what that is, but great. By the way, I only have 3 PFD's"
Me: "I've got one, as does my brother, so that should be enough."
Magoo: "Great. Do you happen to have a grill?"
Me: "I've got a grill I can bring."
On the evening I received this last email, I freshened my drink and thought, This guy seems to be in way over his head, so I'm just going to pack as though I'm going on a solo trip. If I end up bringing stuff I don't need, I can always carry it back.
Five days before we were scheduled to leave, we all received the following email from Magoo.
This might not be news to you but Barbie joined our club and saw the notice about the Pickle Creek trip and sent me an email asking if she could come. I agreed, explaining that she'd need to paddle another single kayak I have. She said yes so I'm glad that she can join our trip. She has worked in a kayak store so they are not new to her. She is a little rusty fly fishing, but I know we can all help her get back up to speed. I'm sure she'll provide for some stimulating fire side conversation w/ her oceanography study. An area of interest to me and in the news w/ global warming.
So we are 6. Joe will ride with his brother carrying 2 kayaks and I will take the other 3 in my 4 Runner. I have a cargo carrier that goes in the trailer hitch that will carry plenty.
Then two days before departure, we received this.
Has anyone heard from Andre? I tried calling him and just emailed him. It will make a difference if he isn’t coming. I just realized that I haven’t heard from him since April.
We'll be meeting at Joe's brother's house at 9:30 AM on Thursday. We won't be stopping for lunch, so please purchase something to eat on the way beforehand.
Please bring pieces of nylon cord to tie stuff down on the kayak and your packs. You don’t know it yet, but you’ll probably be carrying a chair or table on your pack. Your rod cases can be lashed to your back too. You want your hands free.
If you have a hydration pack, can you freeze the bladder tonight? That’s way I can use it to keep some food cold. I’ll have some extra water to drink on the boats.
Also, if anyone has an Ace Bandage, please bring it."
On departure day I was up at 5:30 AM. I’d loaded my backpack the night before, so I spent the morning working in my yard.
At 9:00 AM my brother came by and picked me up and said, "Magoo called me and said he's running late."
My brother had already picked up some sandwiches for us, and strapped to his truck's lumber racks were a single kayak and four outriggers, which he and Magoo had loaded the night before.
When we got to his house, I grabbed a beer out of his fridge and sat down in his driveway.
Barbie and B.K. pulled up at 9:30 AM.
Andre was a no show.
One hour, ten minutes, and three beers later, Magoo finally showed up.
Barbie and B.K. had already placed their packs into the back of my brother's truck, so they climbed into Magoo's SUV thinking that he was ready to hit the road, but that was not the case.
Instead, Magoo got out of his vehicle and spent another fifteen minutes or so messing around with the gear, transferring shit from his SUV to my brother's truck and vice versa.
I turned to my brother and said, “What the fuck is he doing?”
My brother just shook his head and said, “No idea man. No idea.”
Magoo then walked over to us and said, "I didn't have a chance to pick up lunch, so can you follow me over to the taqueria? I need to grab a burrito."
There went another twenty minutes, and so it wasn’t until the crack of 11:15 AM that we finally got under way.
Then at noon my brother received a call from Magoo.
He put it on the speaker phone in his truck, and I heard Magoo say "I like to stop for gas in the town up ahead. Meet me at the ARCO station."
I looked at my brother and said, "How are you doing for gas?"
"I filled up this morning, so I've still got plenty. Kind of odd that he wants to stop so soon."
We exited the highway and followed him down a frontage road to the station.
At least twenty cars were lined up out into the street, waiting to get to the pumps, and Magoo pulled right in behind them.
Across the street I noticed a station with no lines selling gas for five cents a gallon more than the ARCO, but Magoo and all the others idling in the street obviously felt that their time was less valuable than saving a buck or two on a tank of gas.
We lost another twenty minutes waiting for him to refuel.
An hour later, Magoo pulled over and had B.K get behind the wheel. I later asked B.K. about it, and he said, “Magoo told me he needed to meditate for awhile and and asked me to drive.”
That was the last stop we made, and approximately two hours later, we finally reached the lake.
The Hobie kayaks had sails and outriggers and pedal drives that all needed to be installed and/or assembled, and no one other than Magoo had any experience setting them up. We all offered to help, but Magoo insisted on doing everything himself.
Even though he claimed that he’d owned and operated these kayaks for years, the way he stumbled around scratching his head gave the impression that he’d very little experience with these things, and we spent well over an hour standing on the beach while he ever so slowly got everything ready.
Once he’d finished with the boats, we quickly loaded them with our gear, thinking that we were finally about to hit the water.
We were wrong.
Magoo now removed his completely empty backpack from his SUV, along with two shopping bags full of clothes and gear, and then dumped it all on the beach. Then he stared at the mess for a moment or two and began mumbling, "Hmmmm... What to bring. What to bring."
I pulled my brother aside and said, "Are you fucking kidding me? He doesn't even have his backpack ready?"
My brother just shrugged, so I went for a walk while the others stood there and watched Magoo pack.
When we finally finally got on the water, Barbie was in the Hobie solo, my brother and Magoo were in the Hobie tandem, and I was in the front half of the Wilderness Systems Northstar tandem, with B.K. behind me.
B.K had a lot of trouble getting into our kayak, so I held the boat steady and let him get settled in first. Once he gave me the thumbs up, I shoved us off the beach, jumped into my seat, and began paddling, and then watched as we immediately veered to the left, away from the rest of the group.
"What's going on back there B.K.?"
"Well, my right leg doesn't work so well, and I can't seem to figure out this rudder system."
“Do you want me to take the back?”
“No, I think I can manage it”
We paddled in circles for a bit while he swore at the rudder, but eventually we managed to steer the boat in the general direction we were supposed to be heading.
B.K. never did figure out how to properly work the rudder, so we ended up pin-balled our way down the lake, turning only when we were close to beaching the boat onto the shore, and it probably added another four miles of paddling to our trip.
The only time we came close to hitting anything was while navigating through Kyner Forest.
Eventually, we all made it to the opposite end of the lake.
We beached our boat next to Magoo and stepped out into ankle deep mud.
B.K. took two steps up the beach and lost his shoe in the muck but managed to recover it. Then we unloaded the boats and divvied up all of the extra shit Magoo had brought.
I’d weighed my pack before I left (forty pounds) and wasn’t too keen on carrying anything else.
At the beach I picked up Barbie’s pack and realized she was carrying ten to fifteen pounds more than I was, and my eyes widened as I watched her add another ten pounds of Magoo’s shit to her pack.
My brother took a table and one of the shopping bags, while B.K. took the chairs and Magoo’s tent, so I took all of the odds and ends that were left, including Magoo’s lightweight backpacking shovel, which we never used.
With my pack now fully loaded, I wrapped my knees in preparation for the hike ahead.
We were now quickly losing daylight, and by the time we reached the trees, it was dark.
B.K. didn’t have a headlamp, and his flashlight was buried somewhere deep inside his pack, so Barbie would trot out ahead of him and then turn around and light up the path so that he could see where he was going.
I brought up the rear.
Before long the trail disappeared, and we were completely lost.
It was while B.K. was trying to negotiate a large boulder that I heard a loud crack, and I thought, “That didn’t sound good.”
B.K. then turned around and held up half of his broken cane.
I shoved the pieces into a pouch on the back of his pack and gave him one of my trekking poles, along with some of my water.
Magoo now led us up the side of a mountain, and we were bushwhacking through some really nasty terrain.
A tree branch caught the cord B.K. had used to tie down the tent and chairs, and suddenly he started dropping gear everywhere behind him. I could tell he was beat, so I picked up the chairs and carried them with my free hand, and tucked the tent under my arm.
For at least two hours we continued to wander, seemingly aimlessly, until we eventually heard Magoo yell, “I found it!”
We all staggered into camp and dropped our packs, and while the others started setting up their tents, I went and searched for a decent pair of trees that would support my hammock.
Once the hammock was up, I found the liter of booze I’d packed and sucked down a quarter of it while Magoo made sandwiches.
I glanced at my watch and took note of the time (12:15 AM), and then took another sip of booze and wondered what in the hell I’d gotten myself into.
(To be continued...)