Sunday, September 20, 2009

Videos from Francis Lake

I didn't want to reformat everything on the other post, so I decided to put the video segments here.

This video is of our morning catch that we ate for breakfast. I shows our camp and some of the surrounding views. This is the same area we stayed when I was 12 years old. As a matter of fact the plants we camped over were probably fertilized by Jason Thimmes puke! The good news was that the worms, their can, and the kielbasa sausage were all gone!

Corey has just started to fly fish, so this was a great place for him to practice. I put a beetle pattern on and he went to town, catching quite a few fish. I love this video because the fish catches him by surprise. If you look closely you will see the fish has Whirling Disease. Notice its deformed body. The disease affects its spine before it calcifies, within the first year of life.

Tyler has really been enjoying his fly rod. He is getting pretty good with it and it was fun to watch him slay fish in the small stream at the head end of the cirque. Corey is so competitive that he moved too quickly and wasn't letting Tyler get any of the unfished water, so I had to get after him a little. Tyler is patient, though, and takes things in stride--definitely NOT like his dad. Tyler missed two fish in grand style in this video, it is fun to watch. I am much more like Corey. Maybe that is why my brother Adam doesn't like to fish very much! I took all the good water, leaving him with nothing.

This is Kim fly fishing for the first time since we lived in Provo, Utah, 9 years ago. She did really well once she got the hang of things again. I wish she liked to fish more! She does really well, and I'd love to take her out to do it more often. She has this SICK addiction to quilting, crafting, and other undesirable hobbies. So, if she has time to herself, it WON'T be spent fishing with me!

I love this video because it shows how much my wife has changed since we first got married. She used to go fishing with me, grab worms and take care of the fish. Now she gets grossed out, squeals, and makes me laugh the way she carries on! I sure had fun watching her and the boys catch all those fish at Francis; it was a wonderful trip!

This video is of Kim destroying the fish population in Francis Lake. It is a nice brookie that gets away after fighting Kim and Tyler for life. It is fun to watch!

I had to take a quick video before we left the basin completely. We had just topped out and we decided to take a quick rest before making the 7.5 mile decent. I had to rib Corey a little because he came prepared for absolutely NOTHING but fishing; he is definitely my son!

The Return to Francis Lake July 2009

Francis Lake Basin
When I was 12, in 1984, my dad was my scout leader. For a summer, overnight trip he took 10 or so of us 9 miles into Francis Lake. It is a glaciated lake basin at the head of Lake Creek, under the western rim of the Hurricane Divide. If it sounds magical it's because IT IS! We camped above the lake near a stream that feeds its northern end. We kept our coffee can of night crawlers fresh in the stream, along with cheese (for chili) and our kielbasa sausage (we never ate the sausage and only remembered it being in the creek when we reached the summit, a mile and a half up, on the way home. The worm can was next to the sausage).

The whole basin from the summit.
This shows twin peaks, a magmatic intrusion. A landslide has since occurred, covering the stream and blocking the canyon.

I remember the trek taking 6 hours. We actually camped along the banks of the Lostine River, near the trail head, woke up early and then headed out. We were to carry our basic gear, and Skeeter, our horse, carried food, etc. Mike Moorehead, my dad's hunting partner at the time, came along to help out.

The View From Camp. Looking up the basin.
Looking down the basin.

We reached the basin in the early afternoon and made camp. Then it was fishing time! Francis is/was well known for big brookies. I fished the lake for a short time and then headed to the outlet stream and fished the big pools below the lake. The third pool down held a fish of magical proportions. I remember it being over 20 inches--at least that is how it looked to me. I used spinners, plain and tipped with grasshoppers and night crawlers, but the big fish just followed without taking. I worked the water to a froth while trying to keep the existence of the fish unknown to the other scouts. My little brother Adam came along with our typical set up--2.5 pounds of worm on a #8 or 10 hook, and two split shot the size of cannon balls. This was standard for every stream, lake or river we fished. I had only recently discovered "more refined fishing techniques" using a spinner I had found while fishing one day. I showed Adam the fish and he pulled a typical "Adam face", bug eyed and mouth agape, with a loud, "OH MY GOSH". He immediately cast for the fish, but the bait flew way to the right, crossing the inflow. He reeled fast and hard, trying to get his bait back in to cast again, but his rod doubled over with the weight of a hard fighting, 15 or 16 inch brook trout! I threw my "refined fishing gear" into the bushes along the bank and put on 2.5 pounds of worm, a hook and two cannon ball split shot! We caught a lot of fish in the same class as his. One of our scouts finally landed a fish around 19 inches, it was noticeably smaller than the one I had watched follow my spinner.

Boys fishing the lake. The outlet stream.

Pool #3 below the lake.

My dad hiked to the top of the hurricane divide alone. We wanted to fish, not hike MORE. I've always regretted not going with him. He found Spot, the famous ram of the Wallowa Mountains, bedded on top of that ridge. His face was disfigured from fighting. A blow to the right side of his head had blinded him in one eye, leaving a large lump where the eye had been. His body was emaciated, and he looked to be in poor health. If I remember he was 15 years old that year. He was one of the first lambs born on the sheep range, after their reintroduction by the ODFW, and grew large. Everyone with a tag wanted a shot at him, but never got one; he is a legend of sorts. Dad got really close to him and took some outstanding photos (they are slides) with his Cannon A1. He came down the face of a large snow field that always sits on the slopes above Francis to the NE. Spot died that year along with most all of the other sheep--pneumonia from domesticated sheep got them. 6 years later we tracked big horn sheep through the same mountains, just further north, for the ODFW as part of my Eagle Scout Project.

Here is Kim enjoying the upper lake basin. She loved the wildflowers and watching her boys catch fish! The scenery wasn't bad either.

That night we ate a big pot of chili and fresh trout (char if you want to be picky). One of the other scout shared our dinner with us and puked up whole beans that night. We still talk about it as one of the highlights of the trip!

It took me almost 20 years to make it back to Francis Lake. Adam had been back numerous times without me, be we made it back together in 2003. It was a fast and furious trip of over 25 miles in 24 hours. We caught fish, but not nearly as big. It was fun, and we saw over 40 mountain goats and some sheep. The next year we headed to Chimney, Hobo, and Wood Lakes; NEVER TAKE THE "SHORT CUT" TO WOOD LAKE, AND NEVER LET YOUR LITTLE BROTHER TALK YOU INTO LEAVING YOUR 5 POUND SLEEPING BAG BEHIND FOR A LIGHT SPACE BLANKET!

I have tried for 4 years to get my two oldest sons, Tyler and Corey, into Francis, and this year I finally made it with them and my wife Kim!

Packing up at the trail head.

We left the Yukon around 3:30 in the afternoon, full of water and half and half ice cream cones from the Little Bear in Lostine, Oregon. There is a stream half way up the mountain--it is 7.5 miles up to the summit, and then 1.5 miles down to the lake basin--and it took forever to reach it. We ate super, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with mandarin oranges, gatorade, and water, at the stream, refilling our water supply, and taking a few photos, then headed for the summit.

The half way stream.

We reached the saddle right at dark and took some photos of our triumphant climb and then headed down, making camp in the dark. We ate Top Ramen noodles for dinner and turned in. A coyote came into camp just before we zipped up the tent and while we laid there I noticed Jupiter going ballistic, blinking so bright as to hurt your eyes, then falling so dim you couldn't see it.

Looking at Francis from the summit.

The next morning we fished the lake and then the lower pools like I did when I was a scout, catching half our breakfast (1st half fish, 2nd half instant oatmeal).

The morning catch, including Mr. Toad. We actually caught a bigger toad later that morning.

Then that afternoon we fished along the lake shore to the inlet and the stream in the cirque above. We spotted sheep and goats--though not many of either--high up on the Hurricane Divide, near where my dad took the last pictures of Spot, or Scar Face as he was sometimes called.

Fishing the upper basin. Brookies love beetle patterns, and the mayfly on my finger.

The kids, Kim and I, fly fished the upper stream, and used lures on the lake. We caught dinner and were back to the camp by 5, where we ate our catch along with the rest of the Ramen noodles--which I accidentally dumped on the ground. We picked up what we could and ate them anyway!

Fishing the lake. Me, in the upper basin.
Corey fishing the feeder The upper basin.

After breaking camp, we started our climb out around 6:30, reaching our car by 9:30 and getting home around 11 p.m. Kim and I had to run to keep up with the boys. They passed off two 10 miles hikes for their hiking merit badge. It was a great trip. The kids didn't want to leave, I think they would have lived up there had I let them. It was so much fun to take Kim, Tyler and Corey, to a place that is special to me. I think they have the same feelings about it as I do.

Tyler fishing the feeder streams in the upper basin.

Kim in some frost heaves in the upper basin. She is very patient and will let me take all the geology photos I want, even standing in as a comparison for me so the size of the objects are visible in the picture.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Isaacson Deer Season 2009

Tyler's Big Buck Story

15 September 2009

I left home at 3:15 a.m. Tyler decided to play football that day, so I was on my own. Over half his team was ineligible to play due to grades, so he made sure he was there. He played offensive tackle that day (at 83 pounds) and corner back on defense. They lost 14-0 to Green River, but Tyler was there to support his team. I am very proud of him for doing what he felt was right, even though it meant he missed the 1st day of deer season--HIS FAVORITE DAY OF THE YEAR!

I headed up the trail at 4 a.m. and was supposed to climb a ridge Adam, my brother, had seen a really nice, 26 inch, 3x4, on the week before. I got on the wrong trail--there is a split and I wasn't sure which one to take--and ended up on the opposite side of the canyon from the buck. I was QUITE lost, in that the ridge wasn't anything like I knew it to be. I stopped and checked my map, but couldn't find any of the flats or lower peaks I was climbing, IT WAS VERY FRUSTRATING. But daylight was coming on fast and it was too dark to see any of the surrounding ridges to figure out where I was, so I kept climbing. I was over 9,000 feet by the time daylight should have arrived, but daylight was behind schedule. It was heavily overcast, and the sun couldn't make it through. Fog rolled in and off me for a half an hour before daylight finally came, 30 minutes late.

I glassed the hillside above me, but didn't see any deer. I had big cliffs above me, which meant I was on the opposite side of the canyon from where I was supposed to be. I dropped down a trail, used by sheep herders, and headed up country. I just stepped out of the trees and looked above me into the next basin. There were 3 bucks up there looking down at me. I ranged them at 418 yards. I laid down and started shooting. 4 shots later the deer had moved back into the basin they were in and then out on the higher ridge. I thought I had hit one of them and tracked him along the ridge--he was hobbling up the mountain. I ranged them at 530 yards. Two shots later my buck was dead. I shot him through both front shoulders.

As I cleaned up brass, etc., I heard the sickening noise of his body breaking as he fell off a 150-200 foot cliff. It wasn't a complete vertical fall because the cliff kind of follows with the slope of the hill, but as he bounced his way down the face he broke his back, shattered a front leg, broke off his main beam tine on his right side, shattered his face (nose really), hit hard enough to tear abdominal membranes, releasing this guts into his thigh region, under the skin. His hide, off his hind quarters, was completely torn away from the meat. The fat was sticking out from under the skin and had been pulverized into a sticky mass around his tail. IT WAS REALLY A DISGUSTING MESS TO TRY AND CLEAN UP.

His sternum was either shot in half, or it also suffered a fracture, right behind the front legs. On my 4th shot at 418 yards I heard my bullet strike pay dirt, but the buck just walked out of sight. When the deer reappeared higher on the ridge, the biggest buck, with the darkest antlers, was in the back of the line, hobbling along. After anchoring him, I climbed into the higher basin and checked it for another deer before going down to take care of mine. Thankfully I didn't find anything. The report back really puzzled me until I cleaned up my deer and I notice the sternum was severed. The problem was his body was so badly beat up from the fall that I couldn't tell how it had happened. There was some blood shot flesh around the wound, so it had to have happened before he died and fell off the cliff, I'm just not sure if I hit him at 418 yards and then at 530, or it I hit him with both shots at 530 yards.

I took him apart a piece at time, never really gutting him. I was done cleaning him up and had my backpack ready to go at 11:30 a.m. Adam was hunting to my SE, and he radioed me just before I headed down. He was too far away to see with my 12X binoculars, but I could clearly see the saddle he was sitting in. My truck was over 2000 feet below me and, following my round about path, 3 miles away. I made it there by 1:30 p.m.

18 September 2009

Tyler and I left home at 4:00 a.m. We had a half an hour ride, then a 2 hour hike to our 8500 foot bench 2 miles in, and 1500 feet higher. The first 1.2 miles is pretty easy going, its the last .8 miles, and 1000 feet that hurts. We spotted a small buck, right at daylight, 245 yards away. Tyler passed him up, hoping for a nicer buck. I spotted him a good one a few minutes later, and due to the openness of the basin, and the bucks 700 foot vantage point above us, we had to take a round about path to within 412 yards of where he was. When we got there 35 minutes later, he was gone. We laid around shaded by big Red Fir trees till around 1 p.m., napping and waiting for the buck to feed back out, but he never did. So we packed up and headed to the upper end of the basin, hoping to top out and follow the ridge line around, hunting the basins on either side of the mountain, as we worked our way down, and then home. But, this country is WAY bigger than you can believe, and when we topped out, it was obvious we didn't have enough time in the day to make our way around. So we started to hunt down the top of the ridge the buck had been on. We spotted a doe, bedded in the shade under trees, above where the buck had been. We spooked another doe out of her bed when I took a bad path through trees, making about as much noise as you could possibly make walking through the forest. Just below her we found a little pocket on the back side of the ridge that looked just like where we should find that buck. Instead we found a pair of fawns. We were about to turn back, but I decided to go a little further into the pocket. Tyler saw him first, a nice buck jumping out of his bed and headed into the trees. I handed Tyler the rifle. The buck crossed an opening below us, maybe 40 yards long. It was the only path he could have taken that would give us a shot. Tyler jumped off the rock we were on, clearing his shot path of trees, pulled up and fired just as the buck bailed off the far side. At the shot I saw his body flinch, and I yelled, "I think you got him". We headed down the mountain, across the flat, to where he disappeared. I sent Tyler down off the left, and I went over the top of the point. The buck was laying 35 yards off the top, piled up in brush and small trees! To say our celebration was LOUD and EXCITING would be an understatement!

The lightening storm hit an hour later, just as we were finishing up taking care of him. We spent 45 minutes crouched in openings 100 yards off the top, waiting for death, and literally praying it would not come. Lightening and thunder were simultaneous; we endured almost a constant pounding of thunder as lightening flashed above us for 25 minutes. The rain wasn't bad where we were, but down in the canyon below it really came down.
Tyler has killed two 4-points in 2 years. This buck is 21.5 inches wide and almost 18 inches tall. He isn't proud of his kill at ALL!

This is only Tyler's 2nd year of hunting. He already has two four point bucks, a cow elk and two doe antelope. He has an elk tag and two more doe antelope tags to fill this year. We hope to get him a bull elk, if possible. We talked about running shots just a few days ago. He has been practicing with his scoped rifle, getting a fast sight picture. Our talk and his practice allowed him to make a fairly difficult shot, especially for a young hunter on this deer. As you can tell, I'm not very proud of my son! He's a great young man!

Here are two pictures of Tyler's and my bucks in the backyard. It is important to notice that mine is really a 4x4, not a 3x4, and MINE is bigger!

Jared had to get in on the picture action. All he wanted to do was hold Tyler's deer head and help skin it. He isn't excited to be 12 at all!