All posts by Chris Cocoles

How The U.S. Government Turned Tourist-Trap Yosemite Into Ghost Town


Want to know how avoid crowds at usually congested Yosemite National Park? Wait for the United States government to shut down, wait for the park to close and dream about having Half Dome, Yosemite Falls and the winding waters of the Merced River to yourself.The Associated Press had a report from a writer who happened to be one of the few “lucky” tourists who were in Yosemite when it was about to have her gates locked.  From AP writer Tammy Webber:

By Tuesday morning, everyone awoke to learn that the government, indeed, had shut down. But the park hadn’t quite yet. Those with reservations in the park, like us, would have 48 hours to get out. We decided to make the most of it and drive to Glacier Point and do a long hike. But too late: The road to Glacier Point already was closed. Cars pulled in and stopped. People got out and started talking to each other.

A couple from Belgium were on the last stop of a three-week tour of the American West. They’d seen Bryce Canyon, the Grand Canyon and now they wanted to see Yosemite. A young girl from South Korea told me she’d come with her mother and aunt, getting up at 5 a.m. and driving all the way from San Francisco Tuesday morning. She wasn’t supposed to get into the park, but she said nobody stopped them at the entrance. They made a short loop around the valley floor, then were heading back out — bitterly disappointed.

Read more here:

Bitterly disappointed sums up a lot of our opinions on this mess we’ve gotten ourselves into.

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Adventures in Camping an Eastern Sierras Option

By Ryan Dore


Adventure in Camping offers a unique and easy way for you to enjoy your next camping experience in the Eastern Sierras. Enjoy staying at the lakes and streams where you fish.  We park vacation travel trailers in the campsite you choose. Select from the largest and newest trailer fleet in the Sierras and over 75 campgrounds in Bishop, Mammoth Lakes, Devil’s Postpile area, June Lake, and Lee Vining. That’s it; we park it for you! All trailers come fully equipped with the comforts of home, including the largest solar cell charging system available. We offer the Ultimate in Camping: a 12-foot slide-out, entertainment system with stereo and satellite TV/DVD. AIC delivers high-quality camping for the greatest value. Get exceptional customer service on your next camping trip with your family, group, or company retreat. We are ready to park your next Adventure!

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From Taxidermist to Teacher: Trinity Mountain Arts

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By Dave Newton, Trinity Mountain Arts

My fascination with wildlife came from my father and his brother. Both are outdoorsman and grew up hunting and fishing the woodlands of Michigan. Their influence launched me into a pursuit for wildlife and forever etched a legacy of love for the outdoors. To this day, I passionately invest in the art of taxidermy as a way of giving back to those who share in my obsessions for field and stream.
I am a self-taught taxidermist that learned the trade in the old fashioned way – by reading. That process taught me to persevere and complete what I started. I realized many frustrations in those early years as a teenager, but the cool thing is that it gave me a great desire to succeed. I started my first side-line business mounting birds and small animals for my high school buddies. I saved enough money to buy my first truck at the age of 18.
In 1981, I started Dave’s Taxidermy on a part-time basis, working out of my garage in the evenings. The business expanded 3 times and ultimately landed a second business in Northern California under a new name -Trinity Mountain Arts. I took a sabbatical in the early 1990’s after getting sick and hurting my back – the insult to my injuries. The dust and chemicals were negatively affecting my health and so I decided to take some time off and focus on completing my college education. After graduating from Simpson University in 1995, I started a new career in teaching. I love imparting knowledge and find it a privilege to work with young people.  I, regularly, perform taxidermy demonstrations for my students, and encourage them to take up hobbies and creative endeavors.
Trinity Mountain Arts is all about the art of taxidermy, not production. I limit my work load to allow a fair turn-around time for the customer, and provide myself with lots of room for quality attention to details on each mount. In the past I have dealt with many high-end, high production pieces like: great white sharks, 15 foot Marlin, and African collections. I limit my intake of fish and only do reproduction mounts. My specialty is in game heads, life-size mounts and rugs, and birds.
For me, it is always about the ART. There are a lot of great taxidermists out there that I admire and appreciate for their attention to detail. My goal is to always be on that level of the playing field.  From taxidermist to teacher, I am a life-long learner, always looking to improve my work.  It all boils down to PASSION! That is what keeps me loving what I do every day. With that being said, I am headed for the Trinity Alps in Northern California where I will pack in 6 miles to hunt deer and bear this weekend. Shop closed; see you when I return with a great trophy!
Editor’s note: For more information on Trinity Mountain Arts, call 530-778-0537, or go to

California DFW checkpoints

By Chris Cocoles on Oct. 2, 2013

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife set up checkpoints on the first day of deer season in the Eastern Sierras last month. Here are some of the results of the operation:

Approximately 2,000 vehicles were contacted. Of those, 262 vehicles submitted to an inspection. A total of four violations were found, including three deer tagging violations, and one angler was found to have an overlimit of trout (32 trout). Several hunters were warned for not fully filling out their Deer Harvest Report Cards.

Average screening took less than 20 seconds per vehicle and the average inspection took about two minutes and 30 seconds per vehicle. If violations were found, the occupants were detained and issued citations.

I think the idea brings arguments for and against. Of course, like sobriety checkpoints to try and catch drunk drivers, it’s good to know that those hunters and anglers who committed violations were caught and properly punished. But I’m sure many of those who always do everything by the book don’t like being subject to an inquiry. But frankly, it’s something that sober drivers must deal with on those Saturday night checkpoints, so hunters and anglers who have done nothing wrong just need to show some patience and then move on. And I do applaud Fish and Wildlife officers for being proactive.

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Apply for Southern California special hunts

From the California Department of Fish and Wildlife:

Applications for the 2013 California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) special hunts in Southern California are now available online at

Apprentice pheasant hunts will be offered at Rancho Jamul Ecological Reserve in San Diego County and at Peace Valley near Gorman in Los Angeles County.

The program consists of two types of hunts: Family hunts that can accommodate 18 hunters, and youth hunts that can accommodate 12 hunters for each of the sessions.

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Dana Point halibut derby starts Tuesday

The Dana Wharf Halibut Derby kicks off on Wednesday and continues through March 31, 2014.

Here is a little info on how to participate, from the above linked release:


  1. Halibut Drift Days 
    These are special extended halibut drift trips that will specifically drift for halibut.
    7:00am – 4:00pm – Limited load to 25 passengers.
    $64 per person, $5 entry included in price.
    Buy tickets online at Zerve here!
  2. Enter on any open party ½ or ¾  day trip!
    Cost is $5 and will be taken at time of check-in. Entry must be paid for before boat departs. An entry is only valid for the day it is purchased. To enter on a different day, an addition entry ticket must be purchased.


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Troutfest coming to Big Bear Lake

Big Bear Lake, one of the playgrounds for Southern California residents looking for a mountain retreat, hosts its ninth annual TroutFest Derby from Oct. 5-6. Alan Sharp of Big Bear Marina (909-866-3218; says up to 1,000 anglers will be competing for trophies and merchandise.

“Of each angler’s entry fee, $15 of that goes toward fish plants. We’ll be putting in big plants for that,” Sharp said. “Plus Big Bear Municipal Water District has been rearing fish in pens that have been there since last October so they’re acclimated to the lake and growing big and fat. They’ll be  released, and then we’ll restock those pens to rear fish for next year’s event.”

Sharp said TroutFest is the biggest of three derbies the lake has throughout the year.
Here’s a look at some of last year’s TroutFest scenes.

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Lottery for apprentice wild birds in SLO County


The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is holding a lottery for apprentice wild bird quail hunts on the Chimineas Unit of the Carrizo Plains Ecological Reserve in San Luis Obispo County. These opportunities are designed for intermediate apprentice hunters who have some bird hunting experience.

The hunts will be held on Oct. 26 and 27, 2013 and guided by volunteers from the Arroyo Grande and Santa Maria Valley sportsmen’s associations. Ten permits will be drawn for each day of the hunt. All applicants will need to possess a valid junior hunting license at the time of the drawing.


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Caples Lake pics

Here are some recent catches from Caples Lake Resort.

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(On the left) “Mike Harris is back with another 3-pound rainbow, caught off the dam on Tuesday with a mouse tail.”

(On the right) Dan Foley and his two boys Seth (left) and Caleb went out on Tuesday of this week. Dan says they were trolling PowerBait “Mice Tails” on the surface near Woods Creek inlet when they caught this mess of fish.”