By BILL YEE
Recently went to June Lake with my brothers-in-law, nephew, and wife Lisa’s cousin’s husband and their son. For many JAs, Mammoth and June Lake are family vacation destinations and a summer tradition shared by multiple generations.
It’s as much an annual tradition in Japanese American families as going to Nisei Week or playing CYC basketball.
My motivation for this trip was to experience Mammoth with not only the adults but with my four-year-old nephew Willie, for whom this was his first fishing trip!
My first experience with the Mammoth Lakes area dates back to 1984 when Lisa’s Uncle Hiro introduced me.
On that trip we fished Gull Lake in a boat but only caught one fish. Uncle Hiro told me fishing teaches patience. I had a great time as he introduced me to the area.
I had never been fishing in the Sierras and was impressed by the picture-postcard beauty of the various lakes. After that trip, I was hooked! (pun intended)
Our family has been going back as often as we can. In many of our visits we have done more fishing than catching (ha!ha!). I’ve also gone to Mammoth with our annual church get-together and have done a Boy Scout camp in Mammoth too.
Fishing provides the perfect venue to bond with extended family, friends, church members and scouts. You forget about answering that email or phone call or all the things you need to take care of in a normal day at work. There is almost a Zen quality as you cast out your first line of the day.
Nothing compares to getting up early and enjoying the sunrise on a beautiful lake as you drink a cup of coffee and watch fish jump out of the water.
You are hoping that this will be the day that you catch your limit or at least catch one fish. You may also want to catch a big one so you can get your picture in The Rafu! (ha!ha!) But it doesn’t’t really matter … it’s the quiet fellowship you share with family and friends that’s the real blessing.
The kids get to experience nature up close and personal. I think those who have gone to Mammoth have experienced a bear encounter or two and have seen all sorts of wildlife not seen in the city.
On this last trip we saw a group of deer feeding in the bushes behind us at Silver Lake. On the lake there was a family of ducks quacking as they swam by.
While fishing it’s quiet at times but you will ask the folks nearby, “Any bites?” You may yell out to a passing boat, “Catch any fish?”
Once you are addicted to fishing, which means you have caught a few fish during the years you have made the trip, you now have to buy more fishing gear. It’s like winning a jackpot in Vegas on your first visit but eventually you give it all back to the casino chasing another jackpot.
Before long, your tackle box is filled to the brim. In it you may have various lures “guaranteed” to catch fish, various varieties of Power Bait, salmon eggs, and even a box of live worms. You are obsessed with having the best rod and reel!
The food and drink always taste good in the mountains, whether you cook on your own or go into town and have that rib-sticking breakfast at The Breakfast Club.
On the way home, you have to make that stop in Bishop at Schat’s Bakery to buy bread or other goodies for family members and friends and maybe a sandwich for lunch. Always crowded but the smells are incredible.
You may also make that first trip to Manzanar, just so the kids learn a little bit of the trials and tribulations that their grandparents/great-grandparents suffered through. For those who have never been, it is definitely a worthwhile stop either on the way or the return from Mammoth.
As you come down the hill, it’s as if you left a sanctuary, where you have had a few days to decompress in the beautiful Eastern Sierras. Now it’s back to the reality of day-to day life. Uncle Hiro used to tell me that for those few days in Mammoth he would feel great but was sad as he drove down that hill toward Bishop.
Nevertheless, we are blessed that we have such a sanctuary so close to us.
Bill Yee is a retired Alhambra High School history teacher. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.