September 12th, 2012

Having traveled all over the world all my life to many beautiful places, I’m often reminded of how beautiful and diverse the United States of America is.

Today, Gen Yeager and I helped with some fish planting in the High Sierras. We did 2 of the 3 flights – each lasting 1.5 -3.5 hours.

We saw rivers pouring over cliffs, and…well…infinity lakes. We flew around them figuring out safe plans of attack and flight

We had to:

fly over the ridge,

drop down low,

lower 1-3 of the tanks full of tiny golden trout,

slow waaaaaaaay down just over each lake and,

just at the right moment, press the button that would drop 1000 tiny golden trout.

then immediately pull up or turn to fly down a valley so as not to slam into the side of the mountains.

Sometimes we could turn and watch the little fish reach the lake: glistening little sparklets of white light.

I had visions of little fish screaming as they were dropped from the plane:

“WAIT! I’m not evolved! Not a bird yet – no wings! Hey! Aaaaaaaaaah!”

And others screaming: “FREEEEEEEDOM from the bonds of the hatchery….weeeeeee!”

And at the last minute, holding their little noses as they dropped into the lake.

If we missed, we’d have left lots of little golden trout petriglyphs and fossils.

We figured the very few  (one-three) left in the tanks in the plane we could  make petites fritteurs poissons (small fried fish – one eats the whole thing, crunchy, tasty, moist) – one of General Yeager’s favorite dishes from his days near Arcachon, France in the ’50s.

The pilots made it look easy but this was altitude flying, close to the mountain cliffs, gaining and losing altitude – as much as 500-1000′, sometimes with turbulence.

Mono Lake, Half Dome, Tahoe, Emerald Bay, glaciers, John Muir Trail, so many, many lakes tucked away hidden just round or over ridges. Some were brilliant blue, some dark blue, others light blue, some a combination.

General Yeager gave us a running commentary from his years of fishing and huntin’ in the Sierras starting in 1945. Each year he’d spend 30 days walking across the Sierras.

I had the good fortune to spend 2 weeks with General Yeager in the High Sierras twice. I remember dropping an “atta boy” on the ground, picking it up, and wiping it on my pants before I popped it in my mouth.

General Yeager was by now laughing with great mirth. It dawned on me why. We had been camping for a week – and it was questionable as to which was less dirty – my pants or the ground.  (“Atta boys” were butterscotch candy or chocolate hard candy given out after a particularly grueling hike).

One of the most stunning commentary was Gen Yeager did landing tests of the C-130 on a mesa. The mesa looked like a postage stamp- can all of us were trying to envision trying to land a large C-130 on a postage stamp.

The pilots (who are good pilots) and I were lost in our thoughts trying to imagine landing that huge plane on the postage stamp. The pilots were all wonderful – clearly enjoying their work. They worked well together, were fun and very kind to us.

I flew some – heavier aircraft than I am used to – and much faster – so had to make smaller corrections to stay on top of the direction and altitude.

Sierraville, Downieville, Mammoth….we covered a lot of ground and planted a huge population of fish.

General Yeager, as he looked out at the fish reaching the lake, said: Do you notice all the bears trailing us? Waving for us to come back?


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