Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Pushing Ahead and Saying Goodbye

“I said 4 a.m. as a joke…and he didn't flinch...so...”  

So…

…we decide on 5:00 a.m., and Sanders beats me out as hard-core early riser.

I’m impressed.

The monsoon season has finally come around this year. Better late than never, as it goes with few exceptions. But there are a few, as with anything – like I’s before E’s. The world is full of exceptions -- the tax code, the online legal documents we all click yes to “agree,” and the friend I have who likes black olives except when they’re cooked into food. The wildfires have been put out, and new ones discouraged by the afternoon thunderstorms. Although, they were a Catch-22 for a while, for the first few weeks when the moisture came with fire of its own – lightning -- which ignited a few local cabins and a patch of pines just down the hill from million dollar homes at the base of my canyon. Sitting on the last ridge (or first, dependent upon your direction), they overlook the front range. At night they see pollution; during the day, too. I can only assume the reason people buy a house on that ridge is to be seen. For it certainly isn’t what I would consider a view.

David had come up with the plan a few weeks ago: a high lake, sitting at over 10,000 ft. and over 6 miles in. What do you think? he’d asked. 


That I was game, and wondered if Sanders would be too. “Ready and willing” was the reply. And that’s how we came to find ourselves in a dark trailhead parking lot on a Saturday morning -- sipping coffee, looking for headlamps, cutting up strawberries...all good to go.

I’d fished with Dave once before. Last fall. And while we had both thrown out names of long trails leading to high lakes -- in the end, we opted for something shorter (still, leading to a lake of course). Because there was that unspoken I-don’t-want-to-spend-the-entire-day-with-you-until-I-know-you’re-not-a-weirdo thing going on. Kind of like suggesting coffee on a first-date – so you can get there early, sit at a back table, and peek over a Denver Post until you determine if you want to actually meet the man or leave. (I’ve only done that once. And for the record, I didn’t leave.)

Short hikes and morning coffee. No commitment. Beautiful things for those uncertain.  

Thirteen miles is a lot of walking and talking. It’s a lot of hours and a full day. But by now, it had been determined that we were indeed all weirdoes, but of the same sort. So it was all okay.

And then also, there’s that remote possibility of getting lost – which would mean more hours. Many more. Days, perhaps. So my general rule stands that I don’t go into the backcountry with people I don’t like, or with people I don’t trust. You have to, because it really could be a matter of life or death – perhaps yours. It’s a dangerous business, stepping out there, one that tourists coming up the trail with no water or rain jacket or food don’t acknowledge.


But our small fishing party certainly did: Dave comes with a knife strapped to the outside of his pack (big enough that those not from farm country would call a machete) “for mountain lions” he said, and for cream cheese on breakfast sushi rolls, too; me with a map and compass, finding a shortcut for us on a pack trail; and Sanders with a “jet-pack” (or maybe just two rod tubes) and enough Gatorade for the entire men’s Olympic gymnastics team. And on a side note, why do men do floor routines, anyway? They shouldn’t, we determined somewhere in the 13 miles. Only rings. Only and always rings.

Now, if you haven’t hiked or run hours upon hours (or something of the like before), I can tell you that you get into a rhythm -- into a Zen I’d say, if I were hipper. You meditate on breath and footfall, wondering how muscles work. And it’s one of the rare times in life you have to truly think for yourself. Sometimes about how hungry and tired you are, or how you wish there was someone who could tell you how much longer there was to go yet; about the world’s problems, pet peeves, and silly things -- like men’s gymnastics that make you chuckle when you’re a little bit dehydrated and a little bit tired and you’re always and ever still walking a little bit uphill.

But as Dave said, holding a can of Red Bull, “I’d rather be pushing ahead than saying goodbye…do ya know what I mean?”

And we did, Sanders and I both nodding. Catching our breath.

Which is why sometimes it’s hard to actually reach the lake, to actually see the thing that you’ve been imagining for the past six miles and three hours. Because then, then you know what you’ll be missing in the end. And you know you’ll be lonesome when you go. With the flowers on the hillside blooming crazy, crickets talking back and forth in rhyme, blue river running slow and lazy…you could stay here forever. And never realize the time.


But we do eventually, we have to (despite the perpetual six miles), and we do see the lake – the end -- windy and cold against the dramatic back of Longs Peak. The Keyhole, where a few hikers and climbers die every year. And I can’t help but think about that, and pay my respects in a way, as I look down to the water.   

Sanders leads to the west end, to the inlet (best fished at ice off the guidebook says, but isn’t it all? he grins, while making a good point.), and we work around south to a talus field that drops off deep. Where the water is eerie green with the opaqueness that strangely often comes from clarity and depth, and where there are teasing flashes of following shadows, on occasion.

Yet persistently the three of us work down the side, and repeatedly the three of us miss fish. After fish. Until finally we all finally hook up and their nonchalance is obvious – they may not be big cutthroats, but they are of full and filled out frames. The food is plentiful up here...and they are not concerned. You know, if you aren’t worried about money, you don’t pick up pennies out of sidewalk cracks. 
 

These trout can afford to let some go and so they do, rising nonchalantly to our flies – black soft-hackles, bead-head nymphs, hideously large dries. All different just to make a point posited on the hike up: that it doesn’t matter what you use, it’s all in how you use it. Like Gierach says, “The real truth is, convincing a fish to strike is like playing string with a cat: the exact size and color of the string is probably less important than how you wiggle it.” 

And so the day passes, us wiggling strings and catching a trout here and there. And eating and talking and laughing good laughs that come out among friends.

Pushing ahead until it comes time to say goodbye. Which really, it turns out, is one and the same.

Because I know.....there will be a next time.

59 comments:

  1. Super. You never get old. Love the story. Sounds like one lucky guy you met for coffee...

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    1. Jay - I hope he still thinks he is...

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  2. I still pick up the pennies... and there are several things about the Olympics that I find I have developed issues with. Don't get me started. ;-) BKB

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    1. BKB - It's a good thing I have no TV and am not watching them. I'd be hard to stop from ranting a storm. ;)

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  3. Wow, awesome post. I love how you described hiking.

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  4. Great post! It's always a little special when you know the characters and I mean characters.

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    1. Howard - I'll take characters any day. :)

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  5. What a mottley crew... How fun! I'm thinking that the way the fly wiggles has a lot more to do with catching too. Presentation takes practice, but if you can catch beautiful cutties like that...it is worth the effort!

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    1. River Damsel - It was a hoot. A great time! And the cutts are definitely worth the effort and miles!

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  6. I always enjoy reading your entries, well written, reflective and many sure to give me a chuckle ( mens floor routine ) - thank you.

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    1. Steve - I'm very glad you enjoy them! Thanks!

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  7. Gifted Writer ~ "Because I know.....there will be a next time."

    Trusting that the same promise goes for another beautifully written piece, artistry with words! Thank You :-)

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    1. Jim - The promise holds...the beauty isn't guaranteed. ;)

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  8. I still dream about Greenbacks in the shadow of Longs Peak. Pretty fish. Sweet story.

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    1. Steve - They're gorgeous, for sure. Thanks! And are you still liking that bamboo of yours?

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    2. Haven't fished it since I got home. Low water. Hot air temps. I may get out this weekend to a tailwater.

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  9. Floor exercise....hilarious. Gymnasts shouldn't have mustaches either (this applies to men and women).

    Sounds like a good day. Not that good bye would have been too good a word, but ya could just say fare thee well.

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    1. Rhythm Rider - I'm in complete agreement about mustaches. Ack. And it was a great day! Don't think twice...it's alright...

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    2. I was talking to my wife about men's floor exercise last night and she said "at least the guys don't do the ribbon dance thing." Could you imagine that?

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    3. Rhythm Rider - No! Although now I can. Geez, thanks a lot! ;-)

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  10. Again... a great post! You seem to have a way with such things!

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    1. Midgeman - Thanks! The way is just a lot of editing. ;)

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  11. Love the way you write about fishing. As though you had been flyfishing all your life. I think it is your observant nature and how well you put those observations into words....that are so relatable. That desire so common to have people see and admire is why we lucked out on our land purchase. The previous landowner's wife didn't like the fact that a house would have to be built well back from the road and hidden by trees. "What's the point if people can't see your house?", she told him. And, for the record, we are so glad you didn't leave that coffee shop.

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    1. Hart - I think it's how I lucked out on mine, too...all tucked away in a canyon instead of high on top. Thanks as always for your very kind words. And I'm so glad I didn't leave, too...

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  12. Another excellent tale, I always feel like I'm breathlessly trying to keep up with your hike when you write about them. Those lakes and streams must make a welcome sight when they come into view.

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    1. Dave - Indeed they're welcomed...but at the same time, I do very much enjoy the journey there!

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  13. Beautiful recollection and insights. I can't wait to do some catching up!

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  14. I haven't hiked one single high mountain lake this summer. I need to change that. Glad I got to read your adventure though.


    btw, don't forget about the men's pommel horse. lol

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    1. Master of Kung Fu and Jelly Making - Oh yes, you better fix that quick smack. Fall is coming! And many thanks for reminding me about the pommel horse. ;-)

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  15. If you only know how much I don't like getting up in the morning...I just didn't want to be the one that appeared weak about not meeting at 4.

    Thanks for a fantastic day, I had a ton of fun hanging out with both you and David. The fish were a bonus, especially in this case. It was great to be on the trail with both of you!

    Cheers

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    1. Sanders - Ha! Well, you certainly impressed me with your readiness for 4 a.m. We must share a trail and water soon again...until then, keep your lines tight. But not too tight, of course. ;)

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  16. Erin- "You meditate on breath and footfall, wondering how muscles work. And it's one of the rare times where you truly have to think for yourself." This is good, and it strikes me as very "hip". For it's real and has been pondered and absorbed. Maybe Zen is over used. But I like what you're saying and have cherished some of those times too.

    Another nice story. Pretty scenery and fish. Setting a very vivid stage, leading me through it, thinking about the stuff you say.

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    1. Scott - You get to the heart of it. The meat. Thank you so much...for reading, commenting, and thinking the way you do!

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  17. ...it had been determined that we were indeed all weirdoes, but of the same sort. So it was all okay.

    I can't speak of David, but the description fits Sanders for sure, and you. Weirdoes, but in all the best ways.

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    1. Mike - Weidoes of the best sort! I dare say you would fit in rather nicely with us. :)

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    2. I accept that with humility and will consider it an invitation that I'd hope to take advantage of sooner rather than later. I have been threatening to drag Sanders out again...

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  18. Short hikes and morning coffee. Love it.

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    1. Brk Trt - Thanks! Very glad of it.

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  19. I miss the Rockies. Thank you for taking me back, Erin.

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    1. Gin Clear - Thank you for reading along...

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  20. And what do people from farm country call a lake like that?

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    1. Clif G - Irrigation water?

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    2. Maybe, but I don't really think there is a word.

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  21. Erin.

    I've not been by of late,sorry.

    As expected a wonderful post full of colour and interest thanks.

    Kind Wishes.

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    1. fishermanrichard - Thanks for stopping back by to read...the time is much appreciated!

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  22. There is always a next time with good friends Erin, that's why what we do is so special.

    Lovely as ever.

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    1. Tom - You are so very, very right!

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  23. This was a fun read today while sitting near a lake and watching Tegan play. Yes, there is a next time with good friends.:)) ...and why are men doing floor routines in the Olympics??

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    1. mia - I'm still pondering that last bit...and confused, not owning a TV or having watched any part of the Olympics this year. If I find out, I'll ket you know. ;-) And here's to next times and good friends, eh? Cheers.

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  24. The very best of Awesome! Coming to CO. soon near the Basalt Area and if I wasn't already dreaming about those high country Cutts, I sure as the hell will be now. Thanks for making the next 3 weeks almost unbearable. Kidding of course,but seriously I can't wait to get back and pitch some little hoppers out!

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    1. Fly Waters Edge, Kevin - Grand! You'll have a great time, and here's hoping your wait-time goes quickly!

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  25. I feel like a movie preview guy when I say words like "stunning" or "sensational". I know "gripping" is also one of those words, but that's a good fit! Had one heck of an amazing time!

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    1. backcountryfishnerd - No words could do justice to the day...as you said, one heck of an amazing time! Thanks for it!

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  26. Replies
    1. Seth - It was a great day, for sure!

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