Sunday, August 2, 2015

Another Yellowstone Adventure

Caution: There are a lot of pictures in this post, more so than writing. So, if you came for rapier wit and blossoming prose you may be disappointed...

Part of me misses those lazy days of summer, where my young mind strained to think of activities to fight the boredom. I remember telling my mother "I'm sooooo bored." She would quickly respond with a generous list of chores and productive activities.  I eventually learned not to ask. 

Now I find myself on the parenting end of that situation and I know firsthand the exasperation such a comment can induce in a busy adult. If there were one word to summer-ize this time of year, it would be "insanity." The beautiful weather and surrounding country demand to be enjoyed. It is easy to lose sleep.  Fish, hike, camp, cook, date, harvest, play, serve, exercise, spend time with family, travel, and swim are only a handful of the things we try to fit into our summers. There is simply not enough time to enjoy all that this time of year has to offer and as an adult all this leisure time has to be squeezed in between work and other responsibilities. When you have limited time it can be tough choosing among so many satisfying options.  If I had a choice I still would take the pronounced four seasons over a mild weather that lasts all year, despite the frantic planning the summer induces. The 2-3 months of summer now feel like a few weeks; much shorter than it used to feel. But I think the lessened time leads to a greater enjoyment and satisfaction. Having so many demands on my time makes me appreciate more, savor more, and even anticipate more the times I get to break away.

Yellowstone

More than once I considered cancelling our plans to escape and hike into 7 Mile Hole for a day.  Things were feeling crazy and I could tell Bita was pretty stressed out. I'm not sure how it is for other parents but there always seems to be a certain degree of anxiety that accompanies the thought of leaving our kids for more than a few hours.  The plan was to head up to a campground outside the park, right after I got off of work. Not knowing when I would be off could have meant leaving town around 9pm, which seemed a bit late to be heading out on a camping trip.

Amazingly I made it home by 5pm, but with my uncanny ability to control time (read: my horrific inability to be on time for most things) we made it out the door and through the grocery store around 9pm. Honestly I didn't mind leaving so late in the day. I find driving at night relaxing, especially after a long day at work. We decided to camp a bit farther from the park than most people would, so we could avoid a full campground, and we pulled into the site around 11pm. We quickly set up in the dark and then enjoyed the stars for a bit before settling in for the night. I stayed up a bit longer than the others to snap some photos of the beautiful night sky.





The initial plan, at least what I had in my mind, was to get up very early, eat on the go, and be at the trailhead as the sun was coming up.  At least, that was what the angler in me wanted to do. Bita and I were the only two who were going to be fishing, and she is not nearly as driven by the idea of fishing as I am, so I decided to take it easy for the sake of my three companions. We awoke to the wonderful sounds of nature, and a soft glow produced by the rising sun and morning mist. After packing up the tents we cooked up a delicious premixed omelet and then hit the road. 

Mary just saying good morning



As I enjoyed the beautiful scenery the other three whipped up our lunches for the days hike, during which Nik and I had a pretty amusing argument as to whether it was Bobby Mcferrin or Bob Marley who sang "Don't Worry, Be Happy."  It turns out both Nik and I were right. For the record I was rooting for the former artist.


After fighting hordes of tourists and their leisurely traffic, we made it to the trailhead. We geared up quickly and began the 5-ish mile hike into this small corner of paradise.  The first 3.5 miles provide a mellow meander along the rim of the canyon.  It makes for some stunning scenery. The last 1.5 miles you drop roughly 1200' to the base of the canyon. That is the most intense part of the hike and a bit of a journey coming back out.











The trail ends by running perpendicular into the Yellowstone River, and presents the hiker with crystal clear water surrounded by colorful canyon walls. Once at the end we rested in the shade, cooled our feet off in the river, and munched on some food. As we sat there the beautiful water was just too tempting and I had to rig up.

We made it

Bita cooling her feet after the hike in





I fished the whole time we were down there and Bita joined me just about an hour into the fishing. She did great once she got the hang of casting the short distances.  Sometimes it's hard to cast shorter than it is to cast longer. Once she got the hang of things again she began picking up fish without any help from me.  I loved watching her enjoy the takes and fighting fish.  She's a trooper to not only put up with my fishing, but to try and find some joy in it herself when it wouldn't be her first choice of recreational options.











One of the doubles of the day

Fish-Flopping like a BOOOSSSSS






The fishing was not as good as it had been on the last trip. The water was a full foot lower than when I was there last, and even then I was told it was low. Despite the circumstances, the fishing was fantastic. We threw mostly chubbies to mimic both golden and regular stones. Watching fish come up from the depths through the clear/greenish water, to slowly sip a large foam dryfly is a hoot. I also threw a small sculpin pattern that picked up fish even faster, but eventually went back to the dry for the enjoyable takes.



Bita did a bit of bank dancing...

If you look closely you can see the rising fish, just below the fly.


The love of my life

After fishing for a few hours the clouds started rolling in and the sky began to dim.  We thought it wise to hit the trail. A little over halfway out we spotted a small blackbear on the path.  We had our bearspray safety's off and passed cautiously, making plenty of noise. It moved over to let us pass and then proceeded to slowly follow us about 15 yards away, with a curious air, stopping here and there to look for bugs in the decaying trees.  The dusky light made it difficult to get a clear picture. It was almost pitch black as we were nearing the last leg of the hike out.  We couldn't have timed it better.


We quickly threw our gear in the van and headed to a nearby lodge for some supper.  After enjoying some hearty burgers we hit the road, once again in the darkness of night, headed home to our showers and comfy beds.


As I crawled into bed about 2am, sore, stiff, and dead tired I thought to myself how great it had been to get out and I felt a bit bad for all the people who don't take the time or make the effort to see such beautiful places.  I thought about how grateful I was to have spent the time there with my wonderful wife, her sister and her sister's husband. As I began drifting into sleep I thought about what a whirlwind trip it had been and how I would do it again in a heartbeat. Now I just need to find some more time. As busy and hectic as things get, I just can't help it, I love this insanity we call summer.



Wednesday, June 17, 2015

"Vole-Vasion": Year of the Mouse 2.0

All the ingredients are there.  It could be good.

A couple weeks ago I found myself perusing the local newspaper during a slow moment at work.  While scanning for a captivating headline I happened upon an article titled "Vole-Vasion." It was in the farm and ranch section. Words like "plaque," "mild winter," and "epidemic" were used to describe the current rise in vole population. If you are a farmer, rancher, or like having a yard less holy than a priest, this is bad news.  As I read through the article I couldn't help but think of the implications on the mousing expeditions yet to come throughout the rapidly approaching summer.  The gist of the article was that voles (and I am assuming mice fit into the same category) were already a big problem going into our previous fall season and Idaho never really got the hard freeze it is so accustomed to. The harsh cold usually kills and slows rodent populations.  The result was the already burgeoning vole population from the previous fall has exploded.  The population supposedly grows and shrinks with a regularity like a pendulum swinging back and forth.  It's a 10-12 year cycle and we happen to be on a peak.  Bad news for the green thumbs and country folk who like their lawns less pitted but such good news for an angler wanting to chuck a fly that resembles a little furry mammal.

It was with these high hopes that we hit the road about 9:30 in the pm.  It was a cloudless and dark night.  Cruising down the empty highway we spied the intermittent critter scooting across the road. "Why did the mouse cross the road?"  Who knows, but there were a ton of them!  All the mice on the road bolstered my confidence in hitting the water.  After parking we climbed out of the car to cool air and a star-filled sky.  The milky way is so stunning on moonless nights, especially when you get away from civilization.  We quickly rigged up and hit the water.  First cast, SPLOOSH!  The characteristic toilet-bowl-flush/water-exploding sound gets the adrenaline going! It was a swing and a miss, but it still instilled confidence.  The night was spent with far more misses than hits, but there were so many explosions it was a hoot.  The Artimouse worked stripped and dead drifted. These browns tore line from the reel like crazy.  One even gave me a line burn. Mousing is so addicting!

I had taken a break from fishing and social media over the past month. It was a fitting trip to resume angling. The article had it right.  It's like Mars Attacks, only with mice/voles.  The implication?  This summer could be epic.