Wednesday November 17, 2004: Apache Lake Resort boat ramp 6:36p.m.
Sunshine and Tyler dropped me here at about 3p.m. I took a short walk (approx. ½ mile) and set up camp right by the ramp. My plan is to scout the area for a couple of days and then load the canoe and move camp to a more secluded spot. For now, I'll enjoy a few of the amenities the resort has to offer, like showers and toilets. I have to be back here to meet Sunshine and family for Thanksgiving. I'll ferry them to my camp in the canoe.
I met some guys who’ve been here fishing for the last couple of days and haven’t caught anything. They tell me the bass don’t start hitting well here until December, but I’m looking for food not trophies and not just flipping spinner baits after bass, so I’m not too discouraged.
Preliminary scouting reveals that with a little effort firewood shouldn’t be a problem. There are many mesquite thickets and much deadfall. I dined this evening on the abundant windfall Jojoba nuts. Note to self: collect a couple pounds of these before the rodents beat me to it. I’ve also found hackberries to be in season, dry and tough, but sweet.
It’s been a beautiful, mostly clear day. The high was supposed to reach 80. I’m guessing 60-65 now with a slight breeze.
Thursday November 18, 2004, 10:45 pm
Spectacular meteor showers to the Northwest during the last two nights. I just saw a ringtail cat. I canoed about 6 miles today (round trip). I visited Saguaro Point, Fox Point, Haystack, Ash Creek, Horsetail Bay and 3 Bar Point. All to the west of my camp near Crabtree wash. I fished the entire time using rubber worms, minnows, diving plugs, spinners, salmon eggs, salty grubs, et,al. I threw everything I had at 'em to no avail. I didn’t even get a nibble.
When I returned, I hiked up to the resort and called my friend Frank in Payson and told him where I’m camped. He told me that my friend Pat, from Chevellon, will be following him down and they will be meeting me Monday. I guess I'll stay here by the marina until then so they can easily find me. I hope Dee and Mikey are coming also.
There were four grapefruits at the base of the tree behind my tent when I got here and I had one for breakfast. Lunch was Jojoba nuts. In the evening a young couple I met invited me to share their campfire and we had mesquite-roasted bratwurst for dinner. They also had Beck’s Dark beer and a doobie!
Friday November 19, 2004, 6:21 a.m.
I awoke today just before dawn to the hooting of an owl in a eucalyptus tree above me and chest pains on the right side of my body. (The owl is traditionally a portent of death or extreme change). Last time I had an owl in camp, Maya, my faithful companion of 13 years was dying. I pay attention to the owls, man. Upon rising I determined that my pain is of muscular origin, from rowing against the wind and current all day yesterday. The owl was simply a neighbor saying good-morning. I also saw a ringtail cat at about 1a.m. while out for a moonlight hike and resin toke. I’m going to give my aching ribs a break and stay out of the canoe today.
Well, I couldn’t stay off the lake. I rowed down to Needle Cove, again caught nothing. I’m starting to wonder if there’s even fish in this lake. I’ve seen huge bass skeletons on shore, but not only have I not had a nibble, I haven’t seen or heard of anybody catching anything. I haven’t even seen any minnows or crawdads. Frank can really fish. He’ll catch ‘em if anyone does. Brunch: Jojoba nuts and coffee. Dinner: the last of my grits.
Saturday November 20, 2004
I grabbed a piece of steak out of the dumpster at the resort last night and fished with it. I got 2 bites but didn’t catch anything. I’m going to row west and shoot me something today. Breakfast: grapefruit and coffee.
Now to digress a bit, which I’ll probably do a lot. I get overwhelmed sometimes with the awesomeness of what I’m doing. I feel like I’m the richest man in America. I mean wow! Just look at my front yard! Sure am hungry though, and the jojoba are starting to upset my stomach. They are very high in tannins.
I wore myself out rowing against the wind again . I talked to Dave today. He owns Apache Lake Resort and Marina. He says there hasn't been a fish caught for a while. Didn’t shoot any varmints as I found a tub of worms, but I still haven’t got anything. Horrible stink turtles are stripping my hook without even ringing the bell. I caught one, but it smelled so doggone bad, I couldn't fathom eating it. Dinner: 3 small pancakes and coffee. Ran out of flour. I have one grapefruit left. Not looking good for Apache Lake. The Forest Service fishing report said Apache had the best fishing of the three lakes, but they were obviously wrong.
I wish I'd stayed on the Verde again this Winter. I not only survive there, but thrive. No matter. It’s best I start out with the hard part anyway. Quite cloudy out tonight.
Took a late night hike and surprised a couple of fellas at the cove on the other side of the marina. When I turned the corner on them, they turned off their flashlights and hustled off in different directions. One was a guy I've seen pushing a broom at the resort. If they were getting high, I wish they hadn't been spooked. I'm almost out of resin and my pipes are pretty clean.
Sunday November 21, 2004, 11:30 a.m.
About 10p.m. last night I put my rain tarp up, and that was just in time. It’s been raining on and off all day. I just talked to Sunshine and she did an interview about me with News Zap or Newzap or something like that. We think it’s an online newspaper. She’s supposed to take a picture of me for them on Thursday when she comes.
The receptionist at the resort just told me they had a fishing tournament yesterday. I guess, out of 17 boats, only one caught a single fish. Game and Fish blames an algae bloom, (see westernbass.com). I gave up today and had lunch at the Apache Lake Resort. A double swiss burger with French fries and an apple pie ala mode.
Latest report had the dead fish at Apache the result of both the algae bloom and runoff from fires. I asked Sunshine to check Game and Fish to see of the other lakes in the chain (i.e. Roosevelt, Canyon, and Saguaro) have suffered similar fates. If so, she’s going to check with the Cave Creek ranger station and try to get me an extended pass for Bartlett Lake.
I just talked to a guy who works here and he told me they opened the turbines at Roosevelt and that let a bunch of fire retardant flow down and it killed all the lakes. Also, he said there was a type of algae that got in from India somehow. I’ve heard a lot of reports about these airplane contrails and seen a lot of them here. On a clear day with no wind, I’ve seen them settle down as a mist, creating a fog through the entire valley. My local sources tell me they’ve seen smallmouth bass with open sores.
Another theory is that the crawdad population was wiped out and being the major food source for the bass, they starved. Fishing reports in the Arizona Republic and on the internet say the fishing through here is good. I don’t know where they get their information. The locals know better. It would seem they are trying to hide something. I’ve noticed that people cover things up for 3 reasons: Legal, political, or commercial. It’s 7:00 and the rain continues. I hope it’s done by tomorrow when my friends arrive.
Monday November 22, 2004, 10:25a.m.
And then the wind changed direction.
Its coming from the west now and that end of my tent is bent to the ground.
My rain fly ripped and one of my poles snapped. I repaired it with a hose clamp. The radio says it’s snowing in L.A. and Vegas. Feels like the temperature just dropped 10 degrees. The radio says its 49 degrees in phoenix with rain on and off today and tonight. That means it's much colder here.
Frank showed up, but nobody else wanted to come out in this cold rain. He started a fire using wet ground score willow during a downpour and then told me he had dry firewood but wanted to see if he could do it. We smoked some of his grass and drank a few beers and climbed a spur of Crabtree Wash to watch the fire. Then we went to the bar and had a few beers then I had a Martini and very strong White Russian.. Bad move on the white Russian after no food all day. I was up heaving out the tent most of the night.
Tuesday November 23, 2004, 5:15 p.m.
I awoke at 8a.m. and hiked up to Frank’s camp, only to find that he cleared out early. I hope he and his dog are okay. It’s not like him just to disappear like that.
Apache Lake and Resort is owned by the Schuster family and boasts 3 separate motel structures, a marina, boat shop, boat rental dock, several boat ramps, camping, RV sites, restrooms, showers, restaurant, grocery, bar, tetherball courts, horseshoe pits, ping-pong tables, volleyball court, sheriff’s station, and heliport. The lake itself boasts largemouth, smallmouth, and yellow bass; as well as rainbow trout, crappie, sunfish, bluegill, channel, flathead, and bullhead catfish, walleye and carp. (See Sunday’s entry) The elevation here is 1,900 feet, and claims 17 miles of shoreline encompassing 2,568 surface acres of water. Although the lake is situated within Tonto National Forest and administered by the Forest Service, it is owned y the Air Force. The maximum water depth is 253 feet. More information is available by calling (602)467-2511 or (928)467-2511. The resort website is www.apachelake.com.
No rain today, although there has been a great deal of thunder. As I sit here in the lobby of the resort (batteries are dead in my flashlight, so I am taking advantage of the electricity). Several people have walked past complaining of the cold. A Phoenix radio station is calling for temperatures in the high 30’s overnight in “outlying areas”. Lunch today was a cheeseburger and fries. Dinner: coffee. I catfished with night crawlers from 1:00 to 4:00, but gave it up when I didn’t even get a nibble in three hours. Earlier I hiked out a ways and did some target practice with my 22-revolver. Tomorrow, Sunshine, Tyler, and Gavin will be here and they’re thinking of buying a flatbed bass boat that’s for sale down by my camp. It’s probably the ugliest boat I’ve ever seen, but it’s priced reasonably and comes with an outboard and trolling motors.
Since my batteries are wiped out in my radio, I went over to the tables by where I had seen the ring-tailed cat hoping for another glimpse of it. If I couldn’t fish, at least I might see some wildlife. That’s when I noticed the guys sneaking around, following me. It’s disquieting having people lurking about bushes, whispering in the dark. I don't know if they are security, or those dudes I surprised the other night. They eventually left. One guy, on foot with a dog, the other on a quad and I waited around maybe for another hour, but I think the dog spoiled any chances I may have had of seeing the ring-tail tonight. I wonder if those guys were nosing around Frank’s camp and that’s why he left early. I wonder if they think I’m casing the joint, always hanging around the lobby taking notes on my clipboard around closing time. I also tend to use the restroom up there, rather than the one near my camp. It’s cleaner and warm.
Wednesday, November 24, 2004, 4:45p.m.
Some guy who I've seen around here in a white pickup with a short wheel-base and no bed just backed up to the rocks by my camp and stared me down in his rearview mirror. I smiled and waved, and he pointed at me with a scowl. I guess I get the message. He’s walking purposefully toward my tent. I’m in my tent writing. I’m going to call Sunshine and see if she’s on her way as soon as he leaves.
I was unable to reach Sunshine on her phone. They must be on their way.
A little later
I hiked to the resort and back about a dozen times, hoping to see Sunshine driving in. They finally showed and I suggested we load my camp and move to Roosevelt Lake in hopes the fish are alive there. They brought a full thanksgiving dinner with all the fixin's for tomorrow. Yippee! I haven't had a Thanksgiving dinner for years.
Thursday November 25, 2004, Thanksgiving Day Roosevelt Lake. 2:00? (Tyler says 12:50)
Walnut Canyon game enclosure is 1 mile west of Bachelor Cove camping area (our camp). It’s part of research being conducted on the 3 Bar Wildlife area by the Arizona Game and Fish department in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service. Within the enclosure the department is studying the population dynamics, habitat requirements, and pathology of mule deer and javelina.
Tyler used his 4 wheel drive to “flex his man muscle” upon the dynamics, habitat requirements and pathology of the many mud puddles.
Roosevelt lake (named for Teddy, not Franklin), was once the largest man-made lake in the world. It covers more than 17,000 acres. The lake is formed by the junction of the Salt River and Tonto Creek. As I’ve mentioned our first camp here is called Bachelor’s Cove, and is a fee site. $4.00 for tent camping. Fortunately for me, many of the campgrounds require the fee for parking, not camping. So, when the Dvorak’s leave, I won’t have to pay.
Bachelor’s Cove reminds me of Bartlett Flats, lots of RV’s and boats, and you can launch right from your camp. Last night was pretty cold and dewy. I’d say it’s in the mid to high 70’s now. I’m in shorts and a t-shirt now. We drove to the Punkin Center for gas (13 miles north). Regular was $2.04 and Tyler called that reasonable. I guess I’ve been in the woods awhile because it doesn’t seem reasonable to me.
Local vegetation includes saguaro, barrel, pincushion, and prickly pear cacti, as well as Palo Verde. Some mesquite and salt cedar trees, Jojoba, desert broom, and cockleburs. Firewood is scarce, but we scored somebody’s old stash on a jeep trail. I’ve also seen grackles, ducks, doves, and egrets. Geese are plentiful.
Breakfast: blueberry pancakes and coffee with real maple syrup and butter. Lunch: chips and soda. Dinner: Smoked turkey, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes. I ate more today than I have all week. I may not need that extra belt hole after all. Wait! There’s pie! We drove up to Tonto cliff dwellings after dinner, but it’s gated and closes at 5p.m. (ruins close at 4p.m.). so, we went further east about ½ mile and did some more 4-wheeling. About 1 ½ miles up a wash we passed an old windmill and then got high-centered on a rock. All we had was a scissor jack, a tripod, and the kid’s compound bow I found when I met the White wolf years ago. I gave it to Tyler for Gavin when he's old enough.
The boulder was fortunately a sedimentary conglomerate. Had it been gneiss we’d have been in trouble, but despite its enormity it was light enough to dig and crumble a bit and muscle out with our legs. We’re back at the fire now. Tyler’s playing guitar and I’m thinking about that pie…coffee’s ready. Fishing report is better here. Folks are catching bass, smallmouth and cat. More importantly, the folks nearest us are using soft rubber bait not live bait, so that means I can catch’em.
We met some great folks who spend Thanksgiving here every year. I played guitar and sang for beers and had great fun. I ran out of songs I would normally think were appropriate for families, but the kids were asleep and they insisted I continue although I warned them all I had left were bluer or drug related tunes. I was a hit. They all sang along with the choruses of “The Ballad of Verde Hot Springs” and “Drinking after Midnight”.
Before I forget, I promised Frank I'd post this in case anybody is reading: “The Oxbow in Payson is the funnest place in town.”
Note: I believe The Oxbow is no longer open (2014)