And it's big country, too. Tall. Empty.
It's a haul from the house. A couple hours, at least, although, when you explain that to a 10-year-old boy, it's easier to just hand him a smart phone loaded full of videogames and simply say, "Oh ... 45 minutes."
|One family checks out another.|
Damn it to Hell.
As we make the turn at the far side of the desert and start to drive upriver, anticipation sets it. It's another 50 miles yet, but this is the final leg. This is where water starts to show up, where green pastures take over from dry sage and a taupe landscape. This is where, on a clear day, I can see the mouth of the canyon we'll pass through, and where the desert ends and mountains begin.
"How much longer, Dad?"
"Oh, about 45 minutes, I guess."
About halfway up the road, I pull the truck over. The daughter perks up in the back seat. I open the door and step out onto the lonely road. We're so far from anything that, save for a breath of warm wind, there is no sound. Nothing.
She steps around to the driver's side of the truck. I hand her the keys. She has to practice, and this is as good a place as any. I settle into the passenger side and watch as she adjust her mirrors and buckles up. My wife climbs into the back seat with her son, who, other than uttering one simple phrase--"Try not to kill us all, Delaney"--barely notices the interruption.
But she's cautious, and she's in no hurry.
"Are we almost there?" comes the exasperated question from the back seat.
"About 45 minutes," my daughter says quietly to her brother. She smiles.
Soon, we leave the pavement, and she pulls over, not quite comfortable on the soft gravel. I retake the wheel and guide us through the mouth of the canyon, slowing only to look at the river as it passes beneath the road.
"Looks good," I say. "Really good."
|Fishing in tall country.|
In minutes, the wife and the daughter have Tenkara rods stretched and lined, and they're walking through the lodgepoles to the water. The boy waits patiently for me to string up the little 3-weight. The black box rests harmlessly on the back seat, its battery dead from two hours of Temple Run. The "45-minute" endurance test is over, and I can see life behind those brown eyes of his.
"Here you go, Chief," I say, handing him the rod. He straightens his hat, adjusts his too-big-for-his-face sunglasses and wanders down a game trail to the river, which is, at this altitude, just a small, high-country creek.
Through the trees, I catch glimpses of the family casting to wild trout, connecting often and laughing as they go. These aren't big fish, but they're willing and they're hitting dry flies. And they sport colors only found in wild, backcountry trout.
The mountains tower over the water, which runs freely along its ancient course on a warm, July day. There is no snow. There is no wind. My family walks in cold water beneath a cloudless blue sky, tight to wild fish in a wild place.
Yeah, there's still snow on the ground. A lot of it.
But it won't last. It will melt and drain into the rivers, even in the high country, where untamed fish rest in cold, deep pools covered over by ice and snow. There, they waiting patiently for the thaw and the next dry fly cast by someone who took the time to drive all the way to the end of the road, but no further.