John Wasilk: “I spent a day sewing my pack back together after a bear got it.”
In 1978, three 14-year-old Rancho Peñasquitos Boy Scouts from Troop 662 planned an outing of a lifetime. On their own, the boys planned a 21-day fishing trip to the Eastern Sierra. They bought supplies, food, and studied maps. “We didn’t know where we were going, other than to the June Lake Loop. Then they told their parents of their plans.
“My parents and another kid’s were supportive,” said John Wasilk as he fished the shore of Silver Lake in the June Lake area in early October — his first time back since 1985.
The other boy’s parents weren’t supportive of the soon-to-be ninth-graders' plans, so the boys created a fake itinerary of visits to San Diego-area beaches and campgrounds. Three days into the trip, the boy finally called his folks to tell them where he really was.
“The Greyhound bus dropped us off at the gas station on 395 at 2:00 a.m.,” said Wasilk. The next morning, they hiked the six miles over to Silver Lake, where they set up camp, hiding in some thick bushes.
Wasilk remembered the ranger catching them and telling them they had to leave, but only to move their stuff to behind the campground’s bathrooms. “He wanted to help us but keep an eye on us, too,” said Wasilk. The ranger didn’t charge the boys for their stay.
When they didn’t have fish to eat, the boys befriended the young girls that worked in the local pizza shop and got free pizza.
For four days, the boys backpacked and fished up in the wilderness areas around Gem, Waugh, and Thousand Island Lakes, using their scout skills along the way. “I spent a day sewing my pack back together after a bear got it,” Wasilk remembered.
“That trip defined our independence,” said Wasilk. “I don’t think kids have that kind of independence nowadays.”
After Wasilk, now living in Washington, returned to again fish Silver Lake, he said he’s going to try to get the two other guys together for a return trip next summer. At least they won’t have to endure what Wasilk says was the scariest thing about their teenaged journey — waiting at the L.A. Greyhound Bus terminal.