Wyoming Day 2 -- Finding the Valley


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Day 2 (Finding the Valley)
I strapped on my pack, staggered off confidently toward the first river crossing a few hundred feet away. I took a couple of quick steps into the icy water feeling exhilaration at being off and moving toward such a marvelous place. I glanced down at the light dancing on the racing water and the multiple colors of the stones on bottom shifting and flickering in the sun. I almost instantly felt a wave of vertigo caused nausea crash over me causing me to quickly stumble back to the dry land…. Gasping in fear of the crash I had almost had. I regrouped my thoughts quickly and did one of the hardest thing I had ever done… … I simply asked Monte if he could carry my pack across the river as I didn’t think I could do it myself. Naturally he was happy to help and soon ferried my pack across …… but having to admit I couldn’t do something I thought I should be able to… even from a good friend isn’t easy for me to do… … maybe age does bring some degree of maturity eventually after all. I managed to stumble across the river myself handling the crossing much better without the weight of the pack and being careful at where I looked and at what angles I watched the water. Safely on the other side, I re-strapped my pack and trudged forward on the hike. The first part of this hike was up and over the side of a mountain canyon wall and then a drop to the valley floor beyond, where we would be camping and fishing. It wasn’t a long hike but I tried to take an easier path to lessen the amount of time I would be standing on a steep slope as tipping was still a potential problem. And as usual when I try to take an easier path it always turns out to be a much tougher path and I quickly turned a thirty minute hike into an hour and thirty minute hike …… all the while listening to my friend on the radio worry about me. But eventually I made my way over the top of the mountain and saw the valley spread out below me with the meandering ribbon of water catching the sunlight and the broad Wyoming sky so open and blue it almost hurt my eyes to look at it. I desperately wanted to stop and take a picture but was worried that if I stopped to take my pack off to get my camera to take a picture I might not be able to get my pack strapped back up so I just stumbled like a drunk down the hill with the worlds biggest smile on my face …. This place was all it was hyped up to be………. And I had four days to camp and fish ahead of me.

Here is the backside of the hill leading down into the valley (pictures courtesy of Monte after I had caught up with him again and had him ferry my pack across yet another river crossing, this traveling with your own Sherpa is pretty cool, now if I can just get him to carry my pack the whole way next time)

And here is the Valley floor as we walk across it toward where we intend to camp.

And now that I could see the river and the destination, the progress was swift and comfortable and soon enough we were setting up camp on a bench nestled into the neck of the mountain just below the canyon at the top of the valley. It wasn’t the campsite I had been told to look for but it was the one that struck me as “the spot” so we settled in. I can still feel that sense of pure relief as the pack dropped from my back and I realized I had made it……….. From here I could just sit and stare at the expanse of beauty that surrounded me for four days if I wanted too….. Or needed too.

The view up the back up the valley

But I didn’t rest long before I stumbled down to pump water and to check out the real reason I was here …….. the river

Upstream from camp

Downstream toward the valley

The red rock cliffs behind camp

I lay back in the willows on the cool grass and let the sun warm my face…. I felt my blood pressure slow and my dizziness get forgotten for a moment and I simply let the world be for awhile, I dozed softly and right before I fell asleep the only thought that popped into my head was silent thought in tribute to my fellow Arkansas Razorback Hog who had done Sherpa duty to get me here………”that’ll do pig……. that’ll do”

I awoke without opening my eyes aware of and enjoying the red warmth of the sun blazing through my closed eyelids, only to open them and in my sleepy haze see the same reflection of the sun that had been in my dreams so I snapped this picture still feeling that warmth on my eyelids and in my heart and somehow I still vaguely feel it reflected in this picture even when I look at it today.

But enough of this sentimental crap it was time to string my little blonde lover, my Schaaf Creede 4wt and get to some fishing. I walked downstream as far as my thin allotment of patience would allow and tied on a yellow stimi and a grey soft hackle with a red body thinking that hopper and dropper was as likely a place to start as any. The first couple holes I fished were absolutely gorgeous but didn’t produce even a sneeze from a fish. I was beginning to get worried when a sudden slashing strike jolted the worry out of my brain but not before I had botched the hookset. But my confidence had jumped up and ten feet later I was tight lined to the first fish of the trip……….

I sat still for a minute or two as I watched him swim away partly to allow my vertigo induced dizziness to swim away as well and partly to just bask in that wonderful feeling of knowing that I had made it here and had managed to catch a fish ……… and most important to revel in the fact that I was still alive……… the fact that I wasn’t really near death paled in comparison to the fact that I had thought I might be near death……which sure makes you thank GOD for wonderful scenery, cold water and beautiful fish …….. and above all else for all of the blessings of this life.

I managed to catch a few more fish but I wasn’t wading very well and had to grab a willow branch to steady myself numerous times or just quickly take a seat on a rock to let my head settle back down, so by the time the thunderstorm that had been flirting with the head of the valley for the last few hours began to rage in earnest toward me I flashed a couple quick pictures and stumbled back to the perceived safety of the camp.

I skinned out of my waders and broke down the rod just as the thunder and lightning crackled directly overhead and dived into the warmth of my sleeping bag and had a long late afternoon nap listening to the howl of the wind, the drumming of the rain and the pop of lightning so close I could smell the burned ozone and the rolling waves of thunder so loud you felt them rumble in you chest as much as you actually heard them yet I was dry and warm ……. And slept like a baby.

We awoke long enough to grill a quick dinner in the thinning drizzle and to stay up just late enough to catch an opening in the clouds that revealed the splendor of the milky way rising out of the black shadows that were the peaks that surrounded our valley ……. Then fell back into a deep contented slumber.

Day 3 and 4 coming soon to a fly fishing board near you

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