Sunday, July 14, 2013
Three weeks ago today, I left Bend. Predictably, my adventure has now brought me to one of my favorite places, a home away from home, Kamloops B.C., a town that I have visited each summer since 1981. Up until a few years ago, I would bring a motley group of unusual, disparate friends here to the supermarket to buy a week's worth of provisions to pack into the "Lake" to prepare for our annual fishing trip. Then, after staying the first several days at Juniper Beach, a rustic campground along the Thompson River, which we used as our base for a few days, we would then be shuttled by hosts into the mountains to a romantic, secluded dock protruding into the azure color of Lake Hi Huim, a natural tarn wrapped by a pine forest teeming with bears, deer, and occasional moose. Full of excitement and a sense of adventure, we would be given little boats which we loaded with our belongings. Like make-believe mariners, would motor them three miles to our "hideout on a bluff" situated on Eagle Point, a spit which protruded into the water like a giant moss-covered log. Most of our days we spent fishing relentlessly and then, evenings after dinner, often past sunset at 10:30 pm, we cast our fly rods with deepest anticipation to lure large, sassy, chrome-colored trout to the bite. In the interim, we rested in the cabin, exhausted from our "toil," to the background sound of loons echoing messages of love across the water. Most important, our home had a large kitchen with an ancient wood stove, an ice box, and a large table, around which we would eat heartily and sit for hours telling tales of bravado, often exaggerated from the effect of shots from duty-free bottles of Bailey's and Wieser's Canadian Whiskey.
Of course, so much has changed over the years. I sit and stare at the screen of my laptop this Sunday and feel these special joyous memories of my life bob into my thoughts like treasured flotsam. Unfortunately, dwelling too much on past joy, often takes people down a river which makes the present feel choppy. Many of the lake trip's alumni, my best friends, are now gone, incapacitated, or have other pressing commitments. The lake has changed too. A few years ago the pine beetle devastated the surrounding forest, making the once verdant green now ugly swaths of rust brown streaks of rotting trunks of dead trees. The original species of lovely fish which hunted the waters to feast for an, even then, rare species, the travelling sedge, have also disappeared. In their wisdom to maximize the resource, the province's wildlife commission introduced a more resilient, but duller looking, generic species of trout into the lake, with the effect that the original fish hybridized and then disappeared. Even the campground, Juniper Beach on the Thompson River, where we stayed before "going in", once private, and owned by a gentle Danish lady, who each year when we arrived, gave us slices of freshly-baked pie, was bought out by the Province a number of years ago and outfitted with water, electricity,and motor home and RV hook-ups.
An adventurer makes his own opportunity and doesn't sit still and fret. There are new lakes to ply and "new fish to fry". The cloudless sky changes to rain clouds, to be sure, but it is important to remember that it clears again On that note, there are groceries to buy, supplies to be gotten, people to meet, and places to see. The day is moving on and then, before you know it, nightfall sets in.
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Little did I know that the Calgary Stampede was in full swing as I arrived in this part of Alberta. It is a huge festival. The sidewalks are crowded with families dressed up in their finest Western clothing strutting their way over to the fairgrounds. I see fancy braids, buckles, bandanas, beads and butts. Under cowboy hats tilted downwards, I see faces of people who know about horses, hay, and a "hell of a time," a world so different than my own.
I have to admit that I am feeling tired and dirty today, which is understandable since I've been on the road for over two weeks and haven't had a shower since Sunday. My beard has grown into scraggly tumbleweed. I probably appear as an old cowpoke from the bunkhouse who has spent too many years sitting evenings on cheap tavern bar stools and standing during the day in too much cow shit .
I have seen so much since I last wrote. Memories and thoughts are stacked up in me like cord wood and are ready to be burned for anyone who cares to listen. My travels have taken me through the amazing and desolate landscape of Northern Montana, where dinosaur fossils slumber beneath the surface and the "Big Sky" stretches like a magician's cloak over verdant rolling fields of grasses and wildflowers. Under thunderclouds I spent an afternoon in Browning, MT, the heart of the Blackfoot Nation and hung around the trading post. I talked with people who spoke much with their hands, laughed toothy smiles, and told me jokingly the heavy weather was sent by the spirit to scare the tourists away. Undaunted, I moved on further north and found a quiet section of Glacier National Park in a rustic campground to overnight. I knew that grizzly bears were foraging nearby since a couple who arrived shortly after me saw one in a meadow a mile away. In my imagination I referred to her as Ursula, a sow, who had lovely ears and a great digging nose. I decided not to hike until I had purchased "bear spray"-not hair spray- which of course I hoped I wouldn't ever have to use.
I have run out of time to continue writing. I must leave Calgary now and drive many miles or resign myself to find some campground nearby replete with RVs, trailers, and noisy people. I am at the northern and eastern end of my journey and, by heading west, I am on my way back toward my journey's end . After noticing the names of Red Deer and Saskatchewan on a road sign, I felt drawn to abandon all reason and give into the lure of turning East and exploring further. After much consideration I thought better of it. My mother advised me to eat smaller portions and claimed the food tasted better. With her words forever hanging around my neck like a mezzuzah, I may already be stuffed. It is time to digest this sumptious meal and head home.
Sunday, July 7, 2013
It is Sunday and I have been on the road for two weeks. I have camped out every night in a variety of improved, unimproved and improvised campsites. I have experienced a variety of weather, from near freezing temperature, annoying heat, pounding rain with thunderstorms, and, of course, the howling bellicose wind, hammering the sides of my tent. It may sound like I've been roughing it but, in comparision to historical descriptions that I have read on signboards along my route of early pioneers who rode on horseback or wagon, I am living a life of pleasure and ease.
I am writing today from a Safeway Starbucks in Bozeman, Montana, where I have stopped to buy supplies for my trip north to Alberta. Since my last post I toured parts of the northwestern portion of the Grand Tetons, visited Yellowstone Park and fished a breathtaking stretch of the Madison River near Ennis, Montana. At almost every turn, I have seen the grandeur of amazing vistas of mountains or rivers, or the vast stretches of wide open plains and sky. As I ride along, I experience a sense of elation, peace and awe. These feelings squash, for the most part, the little pests of loneliness, insecurity, and doubt which have been too often the uninvited ants at my life's picnic.
On the surface of a cool, crystal clear river with its water teeming with life among its smooth rocks, I, a well-tied, colorful fly, bob along downstream. With all such adventures, there is always the risk the capricious trout emerges for its tasty meal. That's the way it is. In the meantime, I am flowing with a full-bearded head, feelers extended, tanned-colored wings and legs, and weighted with impressions to share.
Thursday, July 4, 2013
This morning I took down my tent and left the rustic campground where I had been staying. Earlier in the week I had followed a dirt road into the Wind River Wilderness of the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming. This route followed the rushing, and sometimes slow, meandering Green River to its source, a large emerald-colored lake. On a bluff overlooking the water, the Forest Service established a site for backpackers and outdoors enthusiasts to overnight. I chose a site in it which came equipped with a special metal box in which to securely place a cooler. This apparatus is necessary to discourage eager-food-sniffing grizzly bears from joining the party. Shortly after arriving as dusk was falling, I examined the lake. It lay nestled beneath groves of pines and firs, verdant meadows of wildflowers and huge towering basalt peaks, which were still streaked with snow. Like a speck in a serene ever-changing kaleidiescope of reflected color, I placed myself on its water in my pontoon boat and fished for wild rainbow and German brown trout.
The following day I decided to venture out alone on an extended day hike to a remote spot in the back country, to a place where a large feeder stream had chiseled its way through a large rocky outcropping to create a natural bridge. The "moderate in difficulty" trail crisscrossed so many different environments, including spots where I had to wade across crystal clear streams to continue my way. I walked over 12 miles through the most pastoral countryside I had ever hiked and returned completely pooped. I thought often of my son Adam who had given me a quality backpack for my birthday and heard his admonishments to drink lots of water from its built-in pouch. Also I heard the approving voice of my friend Bill, the relentless backpacker, whose example encouraged me onward, and would have approved of my performance. Most of all, I listened to my inner voice of determination, along with all the sounds of birds, wind, rushing or gurgling waters. I wanted to achieve this at my age. This was my time.
Now I am back in civilization in Jackson, a thriving tourist resort on steroids. I am back from what may be the apex of this adventure and I feel joyful. Yet new challenges lie ahead. I need to buy supplies and find a place to stay tonight. It is 4th of July weekend and camping grounds are full. It is time for me to move on, test my fate, and continue to celebrate my independence.