Friday, April 18, 2014

West Fork

Let's go for a nice walk, shall we?  An hour or two, all day if you like.  Feeling ambitious?  Well, how about grabbing the big pack and throwing in a tent too?

Jo and I got away for a few days of backpacking early last August.  We'd originally planned a longer trip.  But, as the departure date neared, we decided on a "tamer" venture.   So, off to the Red Lodge side of Beartooths we went. 

A big burn swept through the area in 2008, leaving a ghostly forest of standing dead timber. Interested in fire ecology and plant succession?  Well, this is a good place to observe the process. Dead trees are being replaced by lots of little ones.  Then there's  the namesake fireweed that blooms profusely after a fire.  Farther up the drainage, the forest is unburned, wildflower aficionados will be pleased by the riot of color that awaits in the meadows.

There's a nice trail.   It's quite popular with day hikers and backpackers alike.  You won't be wanting for company. 

Ambitious folks do a "through hike".  It's nineteen miles over the top of Sundance Pass and into the Lake Fork. We decided to stay in the West Fork.  One day, we watched a jogger traverse the switchbacks at Sundance and disappear over the top.  

We found a secluded spot in the trees and set up a base camp. A short stroll  to the creek provided nice views, a few fish,  and water for our morning coffee.  Not surprisingly, the mosquitos were kind enough to share this spot with us.

The next couple of days were spent exploring the drainage.  We hiked to several lakes. Trails led to some, but most required cross country travel, and a bit of a climb.  Toil is good.  One appreciates earned views a bit more. 

Freeze-dried backpacking food

A cutthroat trout from the Beartooth Mountains, Montana.

The fishing?  Well, it was pretty good.  The cutthroat lakes are all stocked from the air.  So, it's best to check the stocking schedules. The brook trout do just fine without any additional help. Regardless of the fishing, the trip was more than worth it just for the scenery.  It is alpine grandeur at its finest.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Bag Full of Memories

Hunger motivated a trip to the garage this afternoon. While rummaging around in the freezer I found a bag.   I unzipped it, and out wafted the aroma of early autumn.  Damp and earthy.  A heavenly paradox, considering that we're barely one hundred eighty degrees seasonally from that other equinox.

Flashback to last autumn.  It was late afternoon, we were bumping our way out of the mountains on a dirt and gravel road.  I despise road hunting.  That day I made an exception.  Jo drove slowly, we scanned the road edge for our quarry.

A ha!  There!  And then, a couple more. White.  Egg shaped.   Shaggy mane mushrooms. Finding them is almost like finding presents under the tree at Christmas.

In our neck of the woods they usually appear in early fall, usually after the first rainy or snowy cold snap in September.  Years ago I found some along the Cassiar Highway in Northern British Columbia in late July.  But then, that's cooler, wetter country.

These mushrooms don't last long, eating quality wise.  They go from their nice firm white egg shape to a black inky pile of yuck, in what seems to be hours.  Hence the name inky caps. We immediately clean enough for prompt eating.  The rest are washed, trimmed, dried off and frozen for later use.

And so, without further ado........ there's mushrooms to chop, and roux to be made.

Cream of shaggy mane tonight!

Earlier that day was spent in the high country, chasing birds and dogs.  That post can be seen here.

Thursday, April 3, 2014


While driving along the Missouri River early last June, I spied this lone angler at work. It was late afternoon.  The PMD's were just starting to hatch.  Fish were rising.

Angling nirvana.

So, I drove up the road, found an open spot.  Slipping into the water, I became part of a similar dreamy scene for passing anglers.  The fish, so close, agreeably sipped the PMD presented barely at arms length. 

Nirvana for me.


Monday, March 31, 2014

So Near.... Yet........

Blaze Mountain, Spanish Peaks, Montana

Well, I'm now about four weeks post back surgery, and quite frankly I'm going a bit stir crazy.  For someone who's always been active, the lack of mobility and inability to perform some of the simplest of tasks has been most frustrating. I never thought that putting on socks, and then shoes, would be an accomplishment.  Activity wise, I've been limited to a few daily walks totaling an hour or so.  No big deal other than it's a pittance for one used to covering miles, many of them.

In the past month, I've spent enough time on ice to prepare for the next life.  That is, assuming that I'll be reincarnated as a gutted fish destined for the  supermarket cold case.  I guess that it will just take time.

I think back to a line from an old Tom Selleck movie (The High Road to China).  In it he asked a wise old oriental man for some sage advice.  The advice was......

"The oxen are slow, but the earth is patient." 

 Can't argue with that.

I'll end with this quote from Horns in the High Country by Andy Russell (On being your own pack horse).

"It is thus that a man can reacquaint himself with old familiar ground and relive the satisfaction of traveling along the rugged flanks of the shining mountains far from the ant heaps of noise and dirt we humans call civilization."

I've always been a  hiker, backpacker, foot hunter.  Few things in life bring me the pleasure of achieving some high vantage and reclining to take in the view.  The mountains and the peak from which the photo was taken, are clearly visible from my home. It is so near, and yet so far.  My advice to all:  get out there while you are physically able.

Travel fast and light my friends.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


Streamside hammock, DePuy Spring Creek, Montana

I've been thinking a lot lately.  Mainly because I haven't been able to do much else.

One concept that has me baffled is the Big Bang Theory.  I've been trying to wrap myself around that one for a while.  All matter, you, me, your dog, cell phone, universe, multiverse, etc. came from one atom.  One big explosion.  Bang.  Here we are.  Pick a number, add a few zeros and we have recorded time. Thirteen point eight billion  years to be exact.  Why don't we just round up to a nice even fourteen bil? I can't help but wonder how that figure was arrived at? Did they carbon date a Twinkie?  One human lifetime is pretty short in the grand scheme.  Talk about insignificant, it's mind boggling.  Don't even mention dog years.

Then, while listening to NPR this morning, I couldn't help but chuckle at a few of the stories.  To wit.........

Einstein, while working on some equation to solve God knows what, put a minus where there should have been a plus.  Geez Al, what were you thinking?

Then, there was the chicken from hell.  Eleven feet tall and with a long tibia (one of the leg bones).  It meant that they could run like hell.  All I know is that I sure like chicken legs.  Just pass the hot sauce.

And, on a more serious note......A couple of years ago, we had a big runoff year in Montana.  The Missouri was running at some 20,000 cfs.  Like most numbers, it doesn't mean much unless one has a point of reference.  Lets just say that if you were wade fishing in some favorite spot, you would have needed a snorkel, a real long one at that.  Big weights on your ankles would have helped hold your position on the stream bottom too. Of course, you'd have run the risk of being hooked by some astonished angler in a drift boat, who, fishing a dropper off of some fifteen or more feet of leader, wasn't expecting to dredge up a hundred seventy pounder.

Same year, different river.  The Yellowstone too, was moving along at a pretty good clip.  It would remain high well into August. Clear, fishable water was scarce. But, with spring creeks always an option, I spent a day on DePuy's.  I'd had a productive morning. As the days in June are long, and the day pretty warm, I settled into one of the creekside hammocks for an early afternoon nap. Ahh...... nothing like a nice snooze.  Stirring, an hour or so later, I stood and noticed something in the grass.  Just a couple of feet from where I'd reclined, lay a spotted fawn.  It was there the whole time.  A small wonder.  And to think, one atom and 13.8 billion years all coalesced into this particular moment.

Where did that atom come from?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


Here's something that I've wanted to present for quite a while. I never thought that I would rely on others to provide the material for a post.  It seemed like a cop out.  But, as my fishing has ceased, and I'm in recovery mode, I thought it appropriate to put something up, lest the world think that I've slipped into the next dimension.

This is a fun video that pleases me to no end. It's not new and has been posted elsewhere.  It was produced by Detonation Studios for SIMMS and is extremely well done.  Great soundtrack too.

I've spent many days on the creek.  It will be (too) many more before I get back.  This is my happy fix for the day.  Hopefully yours too.

Pay attention to the two minute mark…… the little gal epitomizes joy.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Last Call

It was going to blow.  Real hard.  The weatherman said so.  Fifty miles an hour.  I didn't want to believe.  But, I knew better.  I needed a token fishing fix.  Even a brief appearance would suffice. Should I, or shouldn't I?  Go that is. 

So I came up with this little algorithm for helping with the decision making process.

Are you dead? 

                         Yes?   You  should have went fishing yesterday.
                          No?   Go fishing today.

There.  Go fishing.  So I went.

There was no wind discount for leaving Livingston behind. It was as advertised when I reached the creek.  Whitecaps rolled on the pond in front of the big house.  When I registered for the day, Betty chimed that the ducks were having a good day.  Looking out the window, I watched as they bobbed and disappeared among the swells.

I didn't dally this day as I usually do.  With the fire built, I strung my rod, attached the smallest of indicators and tied a little wire worm to the tippet.  I didn't bother with a dropper.  Simple was the order of the day.  Just get it in the water and down to the fish.  A short leash would do. 

The aspens swayed deeply, even their trunks bent, yielding to the gusts.  Chickadees, happy go lucky as they are, tee-heed without regard.  For them, every day is a good day.

Outside the hut, the smoke from the stovepipe was flattened to the ground.  Stringers of snow streamed from the surrounding peaks.  If it was blowing like this in the valley, the conditions up high would have been unbearable.  Today, fishing was a saner choice than mountaineering.

On such days one must pick shots.  The slightest lull is a casting opportunity.  I got my licks in and watched as the indicator twitched on the stream surface as if in pre-seizure mode.

Was that a fish?

Hesitatingly I raised the rod . There was a brief pulse, then nothing.  Yup.  That was a fish.  There were others. A couple even surrendered to the net. 

It was a short day.  I was done by one.

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