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Camping & Fishing With Sally in Tioga Pass

Five days of camping in the Tioga Pass area gave Sally and myself plenty of time to wander, fishing some of the high lakes and creeks in the area. We had some bites. Some were from mosquitoes and some were from the fish!

Where: Hoover Wilderness, Inyo National Forest
Elevation Range: 9,552′ – 10,286′
Date: July 15 – 19, 2019
Maps: Falls Ridge and June Lake Topogs
Dog Hike? Yes

Sally and I just came back from spending 5 days camping at the Junction Campground in the Inyo National Forest at the intersection of Hwy 120 and Saddlebag Lake Road. The campground is at 9,600′ elevation and is pretty small, only 13 campsites and 1 of them is set aside for handicapped accessibility. Don’t bring a rig over 40′ long because it won’t fit. While I was there, I saw a guy who didn’t believe the sign and I helped him back his rig back out on a curving 1 land driveway. Only 4 of the sites will fit a small RV or camper.Each site has a table, fire ring, and a food storage locker. There are no water spigots so you need to bring your own water. 2 vault toilets support the campground and there is no cell service. Just my kind of place! If you are daytripping it, there is a small parking just before the bridge you cross to the campground.

I usually camp up at Saddlebag Lake Campground but it isn’t open yet due to the big snow that they received this winter . . . but soon.

The first day, Sally and I walked the 2 ½ miles up Saddlebag Lake Road to try our luck at fishing. As I walked up the road, I checked out Lee Vining Creek to my west, which runs out of Saddlebag Lake, because I intended on fishing that creek down.

I had visited Saddlebag Lake (elevation 10,066′) a few times since winter, watching the snow begin to melt the lake. I didn’t know what to expect this time though. Saddlebag Lake Resort was clear of snow and there just a smidge left on the entrance to the campground. The Resort won’t be open this year but the latest information that I have seen from the new owners Tioga Pass Resort, are trying to get the water taxi up and running later this summer. The campground is planned to open up soon. . . unless something weird happens.

Saddlebag Lake Resort July 16, 2019

Saddlebag Lake Campground Entrance July 16, 2019

 

 

Sally and I worked our way down to some rocks that I like to fish off of. Still a bit of snow!

It is hard to beat those morning reflections on Saddlebag Lake.

Now fishing with Sally isn’t always the easiest. She doesn’t have the most patience if I am not catching fish. She watches my line and every time I reel in or cast out, she is watching and sometimes crying with excitement. AND, if I do land a fish, she is so excited to check it out and about all I can do is to grab the fish and keep her away. She has never stolen one of my fish but I wouldn’t put it past her. She definitely wants to check it out closer. If I have a stringer with some fish in the water, she is constantly going to check them out.

But we had no luck at Saddlebag Lake, not even a nibble.

It was time to head over to Lee Vining Creek and fish back down. That creek was running pretty fast and is lined with willows. These willow shrubs are only about 1 to 2 feet tall, but line the creek in a way that it is easy to get your line tangled up in them, making it a challenge to fish. Again no fish.

On our second day, Sally and I headed up the Bennettville Trail along Mine Creek. I hike up in this area a few times during the summer but had never fished Spuller Lake. Here is the detail about this hike:

Distance: 5.97 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Range: 9,552′ – 10,286′
Date: July 17, 2019

I had no idea if fish were even in Spuller Lake but that was going to give it a try. We hiked passed the old town of Bennettville, then the trail took us by several beautiful small lakes with clear reflections.

Shell Lake (elevation 9,883′)

Shell Lake

Fantail Lake (elevation 9,905′)

Fantail Lake

Fantail Lake

The trail climbed and I could look back at the creek that I planned on fishing.

I had some small patches of snow along the trail since I started the hike at the campground but the snow drifts became a little larger. I did my best to walk around them but the approach to Spuller Lake pretty much had me using the suncupped snow as the easiest way to get to the lake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I arrived at Spuller Lake (elevation 10,279′), the lake was still about half iced over. Beautiful! In Peter Browning’s book, Yosemite Place Names, he shares the following about how Spuller Lake received its name:

Everett Spuller named this lake for himself in 1932. “Al (Gardisky) did not know a lake was there, and I was the first one ever to plant it.”

Everett Louis Spuller was born 1890 in Oakland a Pastor and on the 1930 census, he was living in Ripon but voting and other census show him living in Stockton and Modesto. He could have been visiting Albert J. Gardisky, born 1878, who was a miner who had come to the area around 1914. Gardisky had built a cabin at what later became the Tioga Pass Resort that year, later adding a store, lodge and cabins for rent. He lived at the resort called Camp Tioga until 1935, then Lee Vining. And it is said that in 1932, Mrs. Everett Spuller named Gardisky Lake after Albert J. Gardisky,

But an interesting bit of information is that Everett Louis’s son was Glenn Everett Spuller, born 1919 Modesto, who wrote for the Sacramento Bee and other outdoor magazines. He wrote fishing and hunting articles. He passed away in 2002 and you can read his obituary here. He would have been about 13 years old in 1932, pretty young to have planted the lake, but William H. Bruskey who rediscovered the Sheepherder Mine that would become Dana City was only 14 years old when that event occurred. If anyone can share more information between the Spuller’s and Gardisky’s, I would love for you to contact me.

Spuller Lake

Spuller Lake

But there were scads of little mosquitoes. I had sprayed down when I left camp and these little guys hovered around me as I watched the lake to see if I could spot any fish activity. Pretty soon I could see fish surface feeding, probably on those mosquitoes. So I rigged up my pole and cast a few, hoping to catch some descendants that Everett Spuller planted there long ago, but no fish bites. There were plenty of mosquito bites though. But not to worry, I had my Plan B.

It was time to fish Mine Creek back down. I had watched it as I hiked up to Spuller and saw several spots where the willow patches weren’t too bad. It looked promising.

I caught about 8 fish as I worked my way down to Fantail Lake. I had good luck working the short rapid runs, catching many 6 inch Brook Trout that I returned to the creek to get bigger. But I did keep a couple of 8 inch Brook Trout. Not a bad day and since I hadn’t even fished half the creek, I looked forward to returning the next day.

On our third day, Sally and I quickly headed up to the spot where we stopped the prior day and within an hour had caught my limit of 7 and 8 inch Brook Trout, which I kept.

There was plenty of the creek that we still hadn’t fished, so I look forward to returning and fishing this pretty little creek some more.

5 days of camping, 3 days of fishing with a bunch of reading and relaxing thrown in. Sally and I had a fun week.

Doarama:

What is a Doarama?  It is a video playback of the GPS track overlaid on a 3 dimensional interactive map. If you “grab” the map, you can tilt it or spin it and look at it from different viewing angles. With the rabbit and turtle buttons, you can also speed it up, slow it down or pause it.

Hiking From Junction Campground To Spuller Lake Doarama

Map and Profile:

Junction Campground Map (Courtesy Inyo National Forest)

Spuller Lake Topographic Map

Spuller Lake Profile

Dog Hike?

Sally and I headed back to our campsite and I took care of the fish and I checked out Sally’s feet better. That rocky country can be tough on a dogs feet and I brought Sally’s boots with me but she didn’t need them.

This hike can be a good dog hike if your dog is up to it. The rocky terrain is very rough on a dog’s feet and I packed Sally’s boots just in case she got a sore spot on her paw or sliced her foot on one of those sharp rocks. Even if you think your dog’s feet are toughened up enough for this hike, you can have surprises so please be prepared. Sally hiked for 3 1/2 days on this trip. This is a good hike for Sally. There aren’t any rattlesnakes or poison oak and there is plenty of good, fresh drinking water for her all along the way. That means I don’t have to pack her water and that is a good thing! Sally has never had any problems drinking the water out of these higher elevations but some dogs may not be as easy as Sally on this issue. I think you need to know your dog and you may need to carry some water for them. This area also has bubonic plague and if you dog gets a hold of a critter such as a squirrel or mouse, this could be something to watch for after a trip in this area.

Here is some information from Inyo National Forest regarding their dog rules:

Traditionally, National Forests have welcomed dogs. However there are a few rules that apply to assure that you and other National Forest visitors have an enjoyable outdoor recreation experience. If you are camping with your pet, please practice the following:

  • Leave vicious or unusually noisy dogs at home.
  • During the day keep your dog on a leash no more than 6 feet long, or otherwise restrict its freedom to roam at will.
  • At night keep your dogs and other pets inside an enclosed vehicle or in a tent.
  • Developed campgrounds are for people, not animals. Please do not bring more than two dogs or other pet to any one campsite.

General rules for dogs within the Inyo National Forest:

  • Dogs are allowed for trips staying in the National Forest. Pet food must be stored the same as required for your food.
  • Dogs are prohibited, as are any other pets, on trips visiting the wilderness of Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
  • Pets need to be on leash or under verbal command. Do not allow pets to chase or harass wildlife.

Sources:

Junction Campground Inyo National Forest

Browning, Peter, Yosemite Place Names, Great West Books, Lafayette, CA, 1988

Glenn Everett Puller Obituary Herald and News

Hoover Wilderness

Inyo National Forest Policies and Rules

Inyo National Forest Hiking and Camping with Dogs

Prior Blogs in the Area:

Camping and Fishing with Sally at Saddlebag Lake August 7, 2017

Hiking with Sally from Saddlebag Lake through Twenty Lakes Basin August 15, 2017

Hiking with Sally in the 20 Lakes Basin July 12, 2016

Hiking with Sally up to the Hess Mine in the Tioga Pass Area October 26 2016

Hiking with Sally on the 20 Lakes Basin Loop August 22, 2013

About Candace Gregory

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