One Fish

Trail Stories #2. If you can get to Monte Cristo, in the North Cascades, a mostly non-existent ghost town sometimes inaccessible to vehicles due to the bridge washing out, you can enjoy a beautiful road trip followed by some nice day-hike exploration of an old mining town that became a resort after the mines ran dry and then died. If you are an intrepid hiker with a love for strenuous schlepping, you can make your way from the remnant town up to Poodle Dog Pass (if your life is blessed by a poodle the name will surely make you smile). If you are manic, instead of hiking down to Silver Lake you can continue up up and over a rocky ridge (mind the cairns!), finally descending when you espy a pair of gemlike aquamarine basins 2,500 feet below. Ignoring or perhaps forgetting that there will be a 2,500-foot ascent in a few days, you can then enjoy a great variety of day hikes from your base camp.

Before my Twin Lakes trip, I had just recently gotten my first real job, in downtown Seattle at one of the Lesser Satans. It turns out that I often passed a North Face store between work and my commute at what was then called The Bus Tunnel. At some point, my friends “Radical”, “The Buddha”, “Snow”, and “Jack” decided, on Jack’s recommendation, to do Twin Lakes. Jack’s Suburban came into play, as it also would (as related in Everything, All at Once). Luckily, the bridge was intact, so we didn’t have to park early and pre-hike several miles to the town. Unluckily, as we were gearing up, it started to drizzle. Luckily, due to my recent enjobbedness, my frequent proximity to North Face had inspired me to acquire some excellent gear, which meant I couldn’t have cared less about the drizzle.

I continued to not care less as the drizzle enlarged into full-blown rain as we ascended to Poodle Dog, and into a downpour as we reached the aforementioned rocky ridge. As we staggered from cairn to cairn (I believe I was afflicted by both dehydration – ironic! – and altitude issues), we were  surrounded by dome shaped rock peaks off of which the storm didn’t so much cascade as explode horizontally from the mountain shoulders before curving down into a kind of radial halo-torrent. I had already emptied my water bottle, and had to resort to sucking droplets off of hemlock branches and whatnot to deal with my thirst. The storm eventually passed, and the rest of the trip was under a broken overcast, perfect hiking weather.

Among several stories that could be related here, the most memorable one involves fish. Jack had come properly equipped for his favored sport, and had established himself on the east side of the waterfall that drains the upper Twin into the lower one. Some of the rest of us were scrambling along the rocky bank on the west side of the falls. The sun was just right to penetrate the crystalline water so that we could see a school of large fish (bass?) idling at the base of the falls, perhaps enjoying enhanced oxygenation or the occasional food particle. Evidently the fish were quite ready for a bite to eat, as we found that by simply pointing at one, we could direct Jack’s aim. Even a baitless hook would trigger our indicated target into an undulating propulsion, snapping at the illusory bait, followed by panicked thrashing as it was hooked and summarily yanked towards Jack’s waiting net. In figuratively no time at all, we had the makings of a nice meal.

We fashioned a little pool by damming the runoff from one of the snow fields near camp, and resurrected the fish in it. When a fried fish was desired, we would simply haul a live one out and convert it into a fillet. Such luxury.