Category Archives: Fishing

Burney Mountain Guest Ranch an oasis for PCT hikers

The Burney Mountain Guest Ranch is becoming a favorite stop for many Pacific Crest Trail hikers.

Main Lodge

The ranch is located just one fourth of a mile off the PCT at mile 1407.2 on the trail. It’s a great place to rest, resupply, and charge up the cell phone. Wi-Fi is available. There are laundry facilities and showers. Because it is so close to the trail, hikers can rise early, have a good breakfast and get off to an early start on their day’s hike.

Mike and Linda Morse bought the ranch in 2014. They did a lot of work renovating the lodge and cabins and installing shower and laundry facilities.

Mike and Linda Morse

Their timing was good. In December 2014, the movie Wild starring Reese Witherspoon came out. The movie is based on the 2012 memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed that reached No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

After the release of the movie, traffic on the PCT increased more than three times from 3000-4000 hikers to as high as 14,000 hikers each year.

“The world comes to us at the Burney Mountain Guest Ranch,” owner Mike Morse said.

Packs on the porch

Two weeks ago, I had given three hikers a ride out to the ranch. Today, my wife Linda and I decided to drive out to learn more about it. When we arrived we saw packs on the porch.

Three friendly hikers were resting and chatting outside: Uncle Jesse from San Francisco, Sheagol from France, and Radio from Roseburg, Oregon.

Uncle Jesse from San Francisco

All three were thru-hikers who had hiked all the way from Campo, near the Mexican border, through the desert, over the Sierras, down into the Pit River Basin.

Sheagol and Radio had begun their hikes at the same time and had seen each other early on. Radio said he hikes about 25 miles a day and had taken about 10 zeros on the way. Sheagol likes to pace herself at 30 miles a day but had taken between 20 and 30 zeros. How interesting that after more than 2 months and 1400 miles hiking they ended up sitting together on the same bench at the Burney Mountain Guest Ranch.

Sheagol from France and Radio from Roseburg, Oregon

Radio works for a winery. He had time before the harvest and life was at an impasse. He had never done long distance hiking before, but he decided that he would give the PCT a try.

He said that the experience was both an exciting adventure, meeting the challenges of the trail and seeing new things every day, but also a chance to think about his life. He said that one of the ways in which the hike affected him was that he felt more comfortable meeting people in new situations.

This prompted a discussion about anxiety and fear. Many people are plagued by anxieties and fears which are groundless. When one faces them, one finds that there is “nothing to fear.”

Then Sheagol pointed out the difference between this kind of angst and healthy fear that one feels when there is a clear and present danger or a life-threatening situation. Sheagol is an adventurous young woman who exudes a sense of confidence. She has worked numerous different jobs in France. and she flew over from France to hike the trail by herself.

Hiking the PCT there are lots of times one experiences fear resulting from clear and present danger. They said that while hiking the 600 mile stretch through the high Sierras in late June and early July, about 150 miles of it were still packed with snow. Streams and rivers were high and raging with the waters of the melting snow. In many places the trail is precipitous.

Radio told the story of one girl who was frozen with fear as she was crossing an icy fast moving creek. She came to a point where she could not move. Panic had paralyzed her. Her legs would not move. She just fell down on all fours and was in danger of being swept downstream.

Fortunately, Radio and several other hikers were there to help her to the other side where after a period of time she was able to calm down and regain her composure.

I went inside the lodge and met Mike and Linda Morse. There is a beautiful dining area, a piano, a delightful lounge area. The ranch serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Outside, there is a nice pool on the veranda with a lovely view.

Hot Coffee from Finland in the dining area

Linda and Mike talked about the operation of the ranch.

“It’s half trail angel and half business,” she said.

Supplementing the amenities at the ranch, they are also trying to develop a network of trail angels to assist the hikers in various ways such as providing rides when needed.

Linda told of a young Irish hiker who had a severe tooth ache. She arranged a dental appointment with a local dentist and gave him a ride into town to see the dentist. The young man had a root infection. The dentist was able to prescribe needed medication. Linda later received a letter from the boy’s mother in Ireland saying, “Thank you for taking care of my son.”

In addition to providing services for PCT hikers, they also cater to fly fishermen and other vacationers. They offer a variety of family-friendly activities for guests, including games, horseshoes, a pool table, and a swimming pool.

Pool area with a lovely view

After chatting for a bit, Mike showed us the store they had built for the hikers. The shelves were stocked with goods that had been suggested and requested by hikers.

Store stocked with trail supples

As well as providing supplies, the store also has postal services. Hikers can have resupply packages sent to the store for them to pick up when they arrive, or they can ship packages.

Then Linda took us on a tour of the grounds and cabins. There is plenty of room for camping.

Plenty of camping area

There is a small building with laundry facilities and showers for the hikers.

As we walked, Linda explained  that the guest ranch is not for everyone. Alcoholic beverages and drugs are not allowed. She said that she has nothing against people partying but this is not the place for it. Their mission and passion is to provide guests with a welcoming, inspiring experience. There are several quiet areas set aside for reflection.

Mike and Linda are also starting a non-profit organization called Rapha Healing. Rapha is the Hebrew word for healing. Linda has a background in counseling and the mission of the organization will be to host leadership seminars and retreats for women’s groups, men’s groups, churches, and other organizations. She wants to have programs for veterans. Already they have hosted one group from Warrior Expeditions, an organization that provides veterans with everything they need to complete a long distance outdoor expedition at no cost to the veteran.

One of the cabins

She showed us two cabins, each of which have one bunk bed room

One of the bunk rooms

and one very nice private room.

One of the private rooms

So hikers have a choice of simply camping outside overnight, sleeping in a bunk, or having a nice sleep in a big bed. Rates vary and the ranch offers several PCT specials that include a meal, laundry, pool use along with whatever lodging they choose.

After the tour, my wife and I enjoyed a delicious hamburger. While I ate I had a chance to talk with Hot Coffee, a hiker from Finland. Hot Coffee had hiked the mountains in Norway, Sweden and Finland. Wanting to try a longer hike, he chose the PCT.

Beginning in the south, he hiked through the desert and then took a four day break to fly back to Finland because there was a special occasion to celebrate with his 15 year old son.

When he returned he went to Dunsmuir and hiked to Ashland, then went back to Dunsmuir and hiked south through Burney Falls Park and then to the guest ranch. He planned to continue south over Hat Creek Ridge and Lassen.

He wasn’t planning to hike the Sierras yet. His whole family was coming over to the US to visit for 10-12 days and they were going together to Washington state, where he hoped to hike in the Cascades for 2 or 3 days with his son.

When his family returned to Finland, he would continue hiking in Washington and then if he had time, return south to hike the Sierras.

Hot Coffee began his PCT adventure on April 12. He was planning to continue hiking until he had to return home on October 31.

After we finished lunch, we went out to say goodbye to the hikers on the porch and met one more hiker from Denver named Snoop.

Snoop from Denver

Friendliness, hospitality, peace and serenity in a beautiful scenic setting. The Burney Mountain Guest Ranch is indeed an inspiring oasis on the trail of life.


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Filed under Burney, Cassell, Fishing, Hiking, Pacific Crest Trail

Fisher couldn’t catch a fish – at least not yet…

After attending the Hat Creek Volunteer Fire Department Deep Pit Barbeque, Linda and I decided to detour a bit on our way home. It was late in the afternoon, so I knew that many of early morning fishermen would have ended their day, but I was curious to see how the fishing was going in Cassel.

We turned off 89 onto Cassel Road. There were lots of cars parked by the property on the right side of the road at Rising River. I expected to see a lot of people down by the water, but the river scene was quiet and beautiful.

Rising River

Rising River

On the other side of the river, Clint Eastwood’s gate was open. Linda and I  had never seen that. It’s usually locked. That side of the river was beautiful too.

Rising River upstream

Rising River upstream

We drove on into Cassel and over the bridge. Two men were fishing on the ramp on the left side of the canal inside the gate. I’d never seen that before either. Where the new fence was by the post office one boy was holding his pole up over the fence fishing.

We turned right toward Cassel Forebay. A few people were fishing up by the campground. We continued toward Baum Lake to Cassel Forebay.

That’s where I met Bill Fisher. He was getting ready to load his fishing equipment into the back of his friend’s bright red pickup truck.

I pulled up and rolled down my window.

“How do you like the enhanced fencing?” I asked.

He said that this was his first time here. He had flown over from Hawaii to meet his friend Larry Thompson from Reno to come up to Cassel to fish. He asked if I fished. I told him that mostly I liked to drive around and take pictures because I write for Pit River Country.

He asked me if I would like to take a picture of the “worst fisherman in the world.” So I obliged him.

Bill Fisher from Hawaii

Bill Fisher from Hawaii

Now, this was where the story gets more interesting. Earlier in the afternoon, Bill and Larry had driven to the bridge in Cassel. It was crowded with fishermen. There was no place to fish. People were lined up and down the stream.

So apparently, people are undaunted by the new fence. Though some may be disgruntled, people adapt in various ways. Fences and regulations are one of the challenges that must be met in order to catch fish.

They came up to Cassel Forebay. Bill said that when they arrived there were 20 people fishing around the pond, both inside and outside of the fence. He and his friend Larry started out fishing on the bank by the parking area because the walkway was crowded.

They were using worms and salmon eggs for bait. They didn’t get any bites but they watched a couple up on the walkway pull out ten really big fish, probably five to seven pounders. Bill said they were pulling out a fish every two minutes.

So when the couple had caught their limit and were ready to leave, Bill and Larry went to take their spot. The man had used Powerbait. After he left, they tried their worms and salmon eggs – no bites.

Bills friend, Larry Thompson from Reno came and joined us. Bill and Larry met 43 years ago at the Marine Corps Drill Instructor School in San Diego. Both of them served as drill instructors in the Marines. Larry retired after 22 years in the Marines. Bill served 10 years in the Marines and then 12 years in the Air Force and retired as a captain. Through the years their friendship has remained intact.

“I’m going to get my picture in the newspaper!” Bill told him.

Larry was a very kind gentleman who said he had come up to Cassel numerous times. He liked to come here with his grandchildren to fish.

He was using a walker with a seat on it. One of the reasons he liked to come to Cassel was because of the easy access. However, he wasn’t disturbed by the new fences. In his opinion, it is a reasonable safety measure.

There is considerable discussion on this amongst people in the community who fish. Many people think that while it may be “reasonable” it doesn’t make sense.

Be that as it may, neither Bill nor Larry were perturbed in the least that they hadn’t caught a fish. They were enjoying the experience and the beauty.

Nor had they given up hope. They were planning on staying in Burney for two more days. The next morning they were going to get out earlier to try again.

So Sunday morning, on my way to the NorCal Road Gypsies car show, I stopped in at Burney Sporting goods. They told me that Bill Fisher and Larry Thompson had just been in to buy some green PowerBait eggs.

Then, on Monday at 11 a.m. I saw Larry parking his red truck in front of Ace Hardware. I pulled over to get an update.

Larry was all smiles. “I caught my limit!” he exclaimed.

They had gotten up at 4 a.m. and were out on the Forebay just after sunrise. Larry caught five fish and Bill caught two. Bill said that that was his personal best! Hooray!

The day before they had caught two fish using the PowerBait.

Bill also said that it was difficult for Larry to make his way through the gravel on the way to walkway and that it would be more accessible if there were a little paved pathway connecting the parking lot to the walkway.

They were planning to get up at 4 a.m. again on Tuesday for one more day of fishing.

As fate would have it, I ran into Bill and Larry again at Anna’s Country Kitchen on Tuesday morning. They had gotten out at 5:30 a.m. and were fishing just after sunrise. By 6 a.m. Bill had caught three fish. A new personal record. Before this fishing trip, he had never caught a trout.

After 6, Bill’s luck ran out and Larry’s began. By 8:30 Larry had caught 4 nice trout. This time they had a little trick. They used night crawlers, but injected the worms with a little bit of water using a syringe so that the worms would float.

Larry had found the process of infusing a worm amusing because he is also a nurse. After retiring from the military in the 1990’s, he had gone to the University of Texas to study nursing. Not only has he worked as a nurse in Oklahoma and Hawaii, he also spent fourteen months in the Philippines assisting in a birthing clinic.

I was amazed. I told Bill he should write a book.

The two fishermen finished their breakfast and didn’t want to keep the fish waiting. Since they hadn’t yet caught their limit they were off for one last fishing fling in Bridge Park.

On Wednesday, they will be headed back to Reno. Once there, Bill will get his truck and trailer and head to Oklahoma to visit family. On September 14, this dynamic duo will meet up again in San Diego to attend the 32nd Annual West Coast Drill Instructors Reunion.

It was an honor to meet these two wonderful men. I’m happy that they enjoyed themselves so much in Pit River Country.


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Filed under Cassell, Fishing

PG&E installs safety fencing in Cassel

PG&E has installed the first portion of new safety fencing by the Cassel bridge near the post office and at Cassel Forebay.

New fence by the Cassel bridge

New fence by the Cassel bridge

In May, PG&E announced that they would be installing 330 feet of railing and fencing near its Hat Creek hydroelectric canals and powerhouses near Cassel as well as at the McArthur Canal diversion at the Tule River fishing access point along the McArthur Swamp. The first phase of installation was completed in June.

Enhanced fencing at Cassel Forebay

Enhanced fencing at Cassel Forebay

The project is still ongoing and is expected to be completed by the end of July.

New fence across the pond at Cassel Forebay

New fence across the pond at Cassel Forebay

According to Paul Moreno, spokesman for PG&E, “This project is PG&E’s idea.  We are taking a proactive approach across our hydroelectric system in identifying areas of potential risk to operations and to the public. In areas identified, we use a suite of controls to decrease the risk.  In this case we are proactively installing railing and fencing at select points along our canals and diversions where there are steep slopes and embankments without decreasing fishing recreation.”

Fisherwoman from Redding fishing below Cassel Bridge on July 4

Fisherwoman from Redding fishing below Cassel bridge on July 4

The canal by the bridge in Cassel and Cassel Forebay are two of the most popular fishing spots in the Hat Creek area. Many people who come to fish enjoy the easy access. The areas are regularly stocked by Crystal Lake Fish Hatchery.

A hard copy version of this article also appeared in the Mountain Echo 7/19/16


Filed under Cassell, Fishing, Hat Creek, PG&E

Fishing season open in Pit River Country

April 30, opening day for the fishing season,  was a beautiful crisp Spring day. I heard that a lot of people attended the fisherman’s breakfast and that Jeff McNeil was there to play guitar and sing for the fishermen.

Linda and I decided to take a drive out to enjoy the lovely day, take pictures, and welcome the visitors to our area. On our short tour we met people from Redding, Shingletown, Santa Rosa, and Happy Valley. So many people from all over the North State love to come here to enjoy some of the best trout fishing in the country.

Fishing from a small boat on Baum Lake

Fishing from a small boat on Baum Lake

We headed to Baum Lake. The parking lot was packed. Everyone we met was super friendly, whether they had caught any fish or not. The beauty was just relaxing and intoxicating. I met a nice blonde lady from Redding who had come up with her family. Her children were down on the boat launch hoping to catch a fish.

Youngun's from Redding getting ready to throw a line in

Youngun’s from Redding getting ready to throw a line in

Pelicans and osprey were busy fishing too.

American pelicans were there

American pelicans were there


More pelicans coming in for a landing

More pelicans coming in for a landing

Out on the pier, Jenni Riddle and Dan Thomas from Shingletown were enjoying the view as their poles rested against the railing. Dan said they were just happy to enjoy a day together out of the house.

Jenni Riddle and Dan Thomas from Shingletown enjoying a day out

Jenni Riddle and Dan Thomas from Shingletown enjoying a day out

One lady paddled by fishing out of a kayak.

Fishing while kayaking

Fishing while kayaking

More people were relaxing as they fished by the picnic table.

Relaxing and fishing from the picnic table

Relaxing and fishing from the picnic table

Linda and I headed up the dirt road across from Baum Lake toward Cassel. Midway we detoured to the high end of Cassel Forebay to check it out. Lots of people were lined up to fish.

Cassel Forebay between Cassel and Baum Lake

Cassel Forebay between Cassel and Baum Lake

We chatted for awhile with a woman from Santa Rosa who had come up to fish and camp at the PG&E campground further up the road. As we talked, Glenn and Angie Riley from Happy Valley up the trail with a nice string of native fish. Four rainbow trout and one nice big brown, all ranging from 14 to 16 inches

Glenn and Angie Reilly from Happy Valley with five nice native trout

Glenn and Angie Reilly from Happy Valley with five nice native trout

They said they were going to smoke them.

Fishermen are happy to be out in nature catching fish. Linda and I enjoy being in the beauty catching our photographs.

We headed on through the campground to the bridge by Cassel. More fishermen lined both sides of the bridge.

Cassel Forebay down by the bridge

Cassel Forebay down by the bridge

Well, that was a fun little drive. Time to head back to Burney.

Mt. Burney from Cassel Road

Mt. Burney from Cassel Road

Isn’t it wonderful to live in a place so blessed with natural resources and awesome beauty?


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Filed under Baum Lake, Burney, Fishing, Hat Creek

Friends Family and Fall Fishing

Autumn has arrived. The days are shorter and the temperatures are cooler. This is prime time for fishing the waters of the Pit River Basin including Hat Creek, Baum Lake, Burney Creek, and the Pit River.

2 Fishermen on Hat Creek

The temperature of the water in upper Hat Creek remains cool year round. The water in Lake Britton, Fall River, Ahjumawi State Park, and Baum Lake, however, rises in the hot months of the summer. During the warm season the bass in Lake Britton and the waters of the Ahjumawi stay in the deep cooler water or swim in the shady areas by the shore protected by logs where they are more difficult to catch. Now, as the water cools, the fish are rising in the open cooler waters.

In the streams, the trout being planted by Crystal Lake Hatchery are more mature and larger and the fishing areas have fewer fishermen because the hunting season has begun.

I stopped by Burney Sporting Goods and talked with Pat Taylor. He said that trout fishing in Hat Creek was good. Several people had caught six and seven pound trout on Hat Creek. Taylor said that the fishing in Lake Britton was fair to good. He also said that people had been catching crappie.

On Saturday, October 3, I drove to the West Fork of Hat Creek in Cassel. Crystal Lake Hatchery had planted the creek on Friday. Upstream from the bridge I met Bob Lee, and avid fisherman who had come up with two friends from Susanville.

Bob Lee From Susanville

Bob Lee from Susanville

Lee said that this is his favorite spot to fish. Usually, he comes up every year on the first weekend in October with his younger cousin. This year his cousin couldn’t come so he brought two friends.

Lee loves the outdoors and hunting and fishing. He has five children. Though his 13-month old has not yet been able to fish, he has already bought her a fishing rod. His three year old son already fishes. Next week he hopes to go to Colorado with his 15-year old daughter to hunt. His daughter got an elk tag and a deer tag and is looking forward to the opportunity to hunt with her great grandfather who lives in Colorado and hopefully get her first elk.

Lee was really excited to be out because he hadn’t been able to fish since June 19 due to a heart attack.  His enthusiasm was rewarded. Almost every time he threw his line out he got a bite. The first few took the bait. He loaded the hook with PowerBait and tossed it in. As we talked, he suddenly shouted, “I got one!”

Reeling it in

Reeling it in

He gently brought the fish in and removed the hook from the lip and held it up for me to catch a photo.

Lee with fish

Lee with fish

That was only the first. A few minutes later he landed another. Lee had arrived only a few minutes before I came and in the short time I had been there had caught two nice rainbow trout.

Meanwhile down toward the bridge another family had arrived.  I walked down and met Ben and Raquel Searcy from San Jose. They had brought their two six-year-old twins Manuel and Samuel, and their eight-year old daughter Annmarie up for the weekend to fish. Manuel and Annemarie were very happy to show me the fish they had just caught.

Manuel and Annemarie Searcy

Manuel and Annemarie Searcy

I could see that the fish were plentiful. I was also infected by the pride and joy the children felt showing their catch as well as the happiness that their parents experienced. The sky was a clear deep blue. The air was crisp and fresh. The landscape was intoxicating. Everyone was happy. It was a taste of heaven.

I decided to drive farther up Hat Creek to see how things were. I stopped in at the Rancheria RV Park and talked with the owner, Busy Ryman. She said she hadn’t heard about any six or seven pounders but that some fishermen had caught five pounders recently. At Rim Rock Ranch in Old Station I received a similar report.

I stopped in at Bridge Park and met Dan Calestini from Dixon, California. Calestini works in the Vacaville area and has some family in Fall River Mills. Whenever he can get off early Friday evening, he grabs his fishing pole and comes up to Pit River country to visit and fish. Bridge Park on Hat Creek is one of his favorite spots. On this weekend he had brought his granddaughter Clara. They had come fishing with his nephew and his grandson, William Klatt, from Fall River Mills.

I asked how the fishing was and he called out, “William! Show the man your fish.”

William raced and proudly displayed two fish. One he had caught using salmon eggs and nightcrawlers. The other his uncle had caught. Once again I felt the glee.

Dan Calestini with his grandchildren William and Clara

Dan Calestini with his grandchildren and fish

Beaming as he talked about his family and fishing Calestini said,  “There’s nothing like this, being with family outdoors in such a beautiful place. There is something spiritual about it.”

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Filed under Baum Lake, Burney, Fishing, Hat Creek, Lake Britton, Old Station, Pit River, Rancheria RV Park

Roy Carver on fishing and old times

Roy asked me over again to talk some about fishing and how things have changed. He fixed a nice peach cobbler to share with Linda and I. After a while sitting in the kitchen, we moved to the living room for our conversation.

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Filed under Burney, Fishing, Pit River, Pit River Area History, Wildlife

Late afternoon fishing at Bridge Park

Driving back from Reno, about 4 p.m. on Saturday August 30, I decided to pull off of Hwy 89 into Bridge Park on Hat Creek for a little break. The park was quiet. There was one truck there but no one was present. I stretched my legs over by the creek and sat down at one of the picnic tables. The water was as clear as glass. As I looked more closely through the stream, I thought I saw a trout flash by.

Bridge Park is serene. If you look below the bridge you see white water. The flow just below the bridge is deep enough to swim in. Further down the logs that have fallen across the stream create a wondrous patchwork of eddies, dips, and swirls dotted by small islands of luscious tall green grass.

There is a nice trail for hikers and fishermen downstream from the park area. As it descends the stream is lined by ponderosa, cedar, and aspen. The changing light gives the scene a magical aspect accented by the music of the water and the wind. A perfect place to pause, before driving on.

As I was about to depart, I heard voices. Across the highway there is a campground. Three young men and one young woman from the campground were walking up the highway and crossing the bridge. They had come up from Reno to camp and fish. One of them, Jason was swinging a nice 13 inch brook trout on a line. He had just caught it and now they were going to try their luck by the bridge.

Jason showing his catch

Jason showing his catch

Since they had come up from Reno, I asked them if they had ever gone up Red Rock Road between Hallelujah Junction and Doyle to see the red rocks. The young lady told me they knew the road but there were no red rocks.

Red Rocks by Red Rock Road

Red Rocks by Red Rock Road

Linda and I had just been there and I told her we had seen some gorgeous rock formations there.

Red, green brown and white rocks

Red, green, brown and white rocks

Meanwhile, Jason’s two other friends were busy getting their lines in the water, hoping that they too would land a nice trout.

Fishing below the bridge

Fishing below the bridge

As we were talking, two more cars full of people drove up and began unloading their fishing gear.

Young man from Reno fishing Hat Creek

Young man from Reno fishing Hat Creek

The park was now full of folks who had come to enjoy the late afternoon and evening fishing at Bridge Park on Hat Creek.


Filed under Fishing, Hat Creek