Joe Dillon’s Early History: Part 3A Glimpse into a Bigger World

March 26, 2024

Sunset over a mountain lake

Elite World

As the summer before my freshman year in high school progressed, I slowly got to know the other swim teachers.  As I have shared, I was already honored and thrilled to be invited to work for Clyde Devine teaching people to swim.  But I began to realize I was entering a much more special and elite world than even I suspected.

Universities logos

Let me begin to give you some idea of the caliber of the guys I was working with. Denny is a good example. Denny was a high school All American swimmer at Sequoia high school where Clyde was a full-time biology teacher. Denny was not only a champion swimmer, he was also an Honor student. He had been awarded a full-ride scholarship to Yale University. At the end of the summer, he would be traveling east to join one of the elite swim programs in the country coached by Bob Kiphuth, coach of 4 National Championship teams at one of our country’s elite universities.

Denny, as it turned out, would graduate Phi Beta Kappa from Yale and go on to Oxford University as a Rhodes scholar.

As I mentioned, Clyde had 3 sons. His middle son Tony, 18 years old, would start Notre Dame University in the fall on a full-ride diving scholarship.

Fred, maybe the best diver of the group, was already a National Champion diver about to start his junior year at Ohio State University.

Ted was an unusual combination: an All American swimmer and a high school All American football player. Ted played tailback for Sequoia and was such a versatile football player that in a couple of games he scored every point for his Championship team. Ted was on his way to Arizona State University where, it turned out, he would be the first string middle linebacker there.

Public swimming poolClyde’s oldest boy Mike played football at the University of Washington. His youngest son Denny was just one year ahead of me in high school.

Jim played water polo and swam at Stanford University and would later go to Stanford Law School.  His brother Bob swam and played water polo at the University of the Pacific.  Both brothers made the United States Olympic water polo team.

Led by 6 foot 6, silver-haired, deeply-tanned Clyde Devine himself, they were all great guys, fun to work with, and terrific swim teachers.

I worked 6 days a week teaching swimming and life guarded on Sundays. The only time I missed work was one week in late summer when my Dad took me and my younger brother back packing.

We left on a Friday night right after my Dad got home from work. We drove across the San Mateo bridge and headed east to Yosemite National Park. Entering the park, we bypassed the valley and drove up to Tuolumne Meadows at over 8,000 feet altitude.

Late when we arrived, it was cold when we got out of the car.

Ireland Lake

The warmth of the sun woke us the next morning. Dad fixed a breakfast of Spam and eggs. We packed up and started our hike. None of us were in great shape, so we took it slow. Our goal was Ireland Lake over 11 miles away at 11,500 feet.

Rushing river in pine forestThe hike gradually got steeper and steeper and the altitude became more and more of a factor. The air was fresh and cool, the forest lush and green. We crossed many rushing streams fed by melting snow from the mountains above us. The water was so cold your hand ached when you filled your canteen. I had never tasted such amazing water, crystal clear.

We took many breaks and were about 2/3 of the way up the mountains as it began to get dark. When the sun dropped below the mountain, the temperature plummeted.  We camped near a roaring snow-melt creek.  Dad built a fire. We ate then scrambled into our sleeping bags to get warm.

Map of Eastern SierraExhausted, we were all soon asleep.

First Light

Awake at first light, we huddled in our sleeping bags until the rising morning sun reached us. After breakfast, we began the steepest part of the climb. Above the tree line, we climbed the switch-backing trail. Around noon, we came over a rocky, grassy crest, and a sparkling, pristine alpine lake surrounded by snow on the back side against the mountain leapt into view. Mt. Amelia Earhart towered above the 11,500 foot surface of Ireland Lake. A stunning, magnificent setting, I was hooked.

The trout fishing was amazing.  We caught a foot-long Brown Brook Trout on nearly every try. You’d cast your lure out into the lake and slowly reel it in. As the lure approached the shore, a trout would bolt up out of the deep blue of the lake water and hit the lure.

That night, we cooked our freshly caught trout over the fire my Dad had built and roasted marshmallows. A crystal clear night, the sky was a mass of stars. I had never seen so many stars. And shooting stars surged across the sky every couple of minutes.

Within a day or two, Dad ran out of cigarettes. By the end of the week, he was a different guy: happy, relaxed and full of positive energy. I had never seen my Dad like this. He was fun.

Mountaintop view

All week we drank lots of pristine pure water, ate lots of trout, hiked all around the alpine lake area and got lots of sleep. One day I hiked to the top of Mt Amelia Earhart. I could see over 30 alpine lakes.We were a different family when we hiked out at the end of the week. I had never had so much fun with my family. I also realized, we had not seen anyone else the entire week. Ireland Lake had been a peak experience for me and I looked forward to many more mountain hikes. The Eastern Sierra is a magnificent outdoor experience.  

Thank you for listening.
As always, I wish you and your family the very best of health.