Return to Stiletto

We – Pasayten and I, notably known as Gnome, decided we needed to visit Stiletto Lake again this year.  It is one of the purtiest places around.  Did I ever mention that it is one of the windiest, too?

Once again, we experienced wind from all points of the compass.  Sometimes it seemed like all at the same time.  Impossible?  Our last night in camp — in the wee hours — I woke to take care of some business and Pasayten spoke from his new Zion 2P tent, “Kinda hard to sleep tonight in this wind.”

“Yep,” I said, “I’m glad I ‘battened down the hatches’, reset the tent stakes, and rerigged the guylines on my Zion 1P before i sacked out.  Even so, it is noisy!”

We thought that the wind would defeat the mosquitoes, but it seemed they know how to use our bodies as windbreaks and just hang around in the lee — wherever that might be. We were warned more than once on the hike up to Stiletto about the moskies.  We met folks heading down that advised us to camp up on the ridges where the pests weren’t quite as bad.  Half of our party did that and claimed they had just as many moskies as we, camping on the flats closer to the lake, did.

One of my friends, a retired USFS Head Ranger gentleman, posted that mosquitoes and wind don’t go together.  I corrected this assumption with a picture in which one can see tent flys flapping and steam from a boiling pot pushed nearly horizontal taken in sequence with the pic showing a cloud of buzzers buzzing around a companion’s head.

Both Pasayetn and I had headnets which meant we didn’t have to bathe in the organic repellents we carry.  I did put my spats back on to protect my exposed ankles in my camp shoes after discovering that my socks were not defending adequately.  And Pasayten — who says one cannot teach an old –uh, an old, hmm — OK, an Old Guy new tricks.  He was sipping his morning mocha-java while wearing his headnet.  And, no, he was not straining the brew — rather he had discovered his headnet to be roomy enough he could hold cup-hand and cup under the veil and sip.

Now the above may lead one to think that all we wanted to do was exit.  Not so, besides the fact that we had a new entertainer present — which lessened my role of keeping the troops amused and guessing — the fishing was pretty darn good.  At least for those willing to toss spinners rather than float dry flies.  Fly fishing requires patience many times and I congratulate Alan on his — patience.

This was my first trip with Alan “Kid Fish”- as Pasayten tagged him.  Alan is the youngest member of the OGHC – barely qualifies for membership.  Since he does carry a UL chair along with his flyfishing tackle, we voted him in.  Not sure he likes being tagged an Old Geezer, whether he wants to be one or not..

Our first sight of the lake was that open water from our side was limited by ice floating just about perfect fly-casting distance from shore.  And the Cutthroat Trout are active!  We can see them swimming about – some in groups.  Behavior that indicated to me that the spawn was on – or at least some of the trout population was making babies.  We did catch some nice trout.  No lunkers, but many big enough to warrant a pic or two.  We were all rooting for Alan to connect with some larger fish, and he did catch some on dry flies as well, though spinners were more effective.  I usually fish a fly behind a bubble in these alpine lakes, but since I saw little surface activity, and Alan was not really getting a lot of action, I opted to emulate Pasayten and toss hardware.

The ice was blown away from our shore to the far side the next day, opening more water and making casting easier.  From that point on, we had nearly the entire lake to fish as the wind kept the ice floes away from our sided of the lake.  I was getting most of the larger trout pretty far out and deep in the lake.  Those I hooked closer to shore were not as large.

Pasayten thinks his favorite black Bangtail enticed more strikes, but I know my brass & red Bolo provided me with action just about every cast.  I don’t hook as many as he does because the single hook on my Bolo is also barbless while he needs that barbed treble grappling hook to improve his average.

Hiking in, Pasayten and I managed to rest step, sit down pause, and nap our way into a new record time for the distance.  Without going into details, just know that it was a long day for us.  Now Alan, the younger, hung back and slowed down and waited and waited — all of which added to his time.  Reminded me of hiking with certain of my kids — the ones that are just about his age now. In addition to the age difference, Alan has a job that takes him outdoors and he does lots of walking.

Alan was leading when I walked around a bend in the trail and caught him waiting.  He had a funny look on his face and said, ‘Hey, you can go first.”  I say, “Why?”  He points to a pile of bear scat on the edge of the trail. I leaned over the pile and sniffed.  “Old poop. Not even steaming, though you could stick your finger in it and test the temperature. Looks like Huckleberry flavor, too.”   Chuckle, Chuckle – – –  Pasayten arrived and we reassured Alan that he could continue to lead — that if’n he met a bruin and needed to, he could easily outrun either of us, and I know i can outrun Pasayten.

Pasayten and I finally reach Twisp Pass.  I admit at this time that it would’ve been wiser to take a breather back down the trail where Pasayten wanted to, which gets me an “I told you so” look.  We both need a snack, a breather, and a nap.  Meanwhile Alan has been here for a while and done those things he needed to do while waiting, lie moved his resting spot from sunshine to shade after roasting a bit, and he is anxious to get to the lake and Go Fishing!  Hmm, I used to be like that.  Right now I just want to get to the lake alive.

Pasayten points Alan in the right direction and away he goes!  We follow after a welcome respite and restoration that kept us going until we crossed the outlet creek below the last uphill grunt to Stiletto.  I pointed out a shady hummock to rest against and we did another, and hopefully our last, reclined rest before reaching where we want to camp.  No sooner had we settled in than two women came cruising along, nimbly crossed the creek, and headed on up to the lake basin.  I turn to Pasayten and say, “We used to – – -”  His snores punctuated that comment and i rested my eyes too for a bit.

Our arrival was greeted with relief by Alan.  Maybe he was getting worried about us?  I mean we were only about four rest stops, three sit-downs, and a couple of naps behind him.  After he got here and set up his camp on the rocky ridge to the west and fished and fretted a bit (I think) about us.  Nice to know he cares, or at least was worried that he might have to carry us out of here.

Our group of three became four with the arrival of Neil, a neighbor of Alan’s.  He too is younger.  Said he left the trailhead about noon which I figure was about when Pasayten and I were enjoying our second or third nap along the trail.  Seems to me about the time Neil appeared so did the billy goat, but the actual sequence of events gets blurry as I was trying to hear, and understand, everything Neil was saying.  It is good manners to pay attention to new acquaintances.  I also note here that seldom have I met anyone who actually talks more than I do.  Almost never have I encountered one who has more stories to share, and tales too – tall and true.  I was hard put to get even short stories in sideways.

This trip to Stiletto Lake was very different from my and Pasayten’s last visit – the only real constant was the wind.  Did I mention how windy it was at this camp?

Always interesting to watch other backpackers traits, systems, and habits.  I have become used to Pasayten’s way.  Neil exhibited similar actions. He seems to need a lot more space to operate in than Pasayten, who does keep his clutter closer to hand.  I know that he does this so that he seldom has to exit his chair.

We did have a great trip.  Alan & Neil took off to visit the old lookout ruins.  Pasayten and I fished and napped and fished some more.  We also sat and watched the clouds drift by, the sunshine sparkling off the water, and generally just enjoyed the peace and quiet.

We all sat and watched Mr. Bily Goat descend from high up on the rocky cliffs across the lake.  An Osprey visited the lake basin – that seemed really neat since Psayten and I carry Osprey packs.  I was watching the bird soar around the lake, alight across the lake and take off to soar again,  I am very familiar with this typical hunting behavior from living alongside the Twisp River for decades.  We often have Ospreys and Eagles seeking a meal from the river by our home.  This Osprey seemed to be soaring very high when it folded it’s wings back, suddenly dropped like missile onto the lake’s surface, and came away with a shiny trout in its talons.

Final morning Mr. Billy is joined by two nanny goats, two yearlings, and a kid,  We had goats to watch everywhere around usPasayten and I packed up.  Pasayten gave Alan a new nickname – we now call him “Goat Whisperer”.  He and Neil will follow us down the trail after a bit.  Alan would like to fish some more and Neil is no hurry.

Heading out down the Twisp Pass trail, I am determined not to twist or tweak any body part.  I let Pasayten set the pace fro a while, but drop back and move slower on the trail sections that are hidden by overgrowth and the loose rocky sections.  Not sure why, but every time I’ve hiked this trail, I have promised myself I would not do it again.  Still, here I am. The hardest sections for me are the ones where the foliage hangs over the trail and there are unseen big rocks to step over and unseen steps down.  Constantly brushing aside the, uh, brush is tiring, but allows me to see where I am stepping.

When we arrived to park the rig and head up the trail, the trailhead road was closed.  We parked near the entrance to the End of the Road Campground.  From there it is a steep hike to start off with — or finish up on.  But we get it done and e though I really did maintain a slower pace, we arrive at the trailhead in less than half the time needed to get to Stiletto Lake.