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There are a couple new personal and professional projects in the works, and we’ve been messing around with video a bit. This short piece came from a morning on the river. What do you think? Are you a fan of video storytelling? Audio? Still photos? Just words?

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BearThis guy wandered through the neighborhood two nights ago. I saw him through the window as I sat piecing fabric together. When I went outside for a closer look he turned and ran. Why do they call them black?

Crested Butte, CO, does not have home mail delivery service. Rather, everyone in town has a PO box that they can check as often, or as rarely, as it suits them. Perhaps related, the postal employees seem to be a pretty laid back, happy bunch. Their relaxed vibe became even more apparent when I found the sticker below plastered onto the old steel refrigerator at the RMBL cabin.

A calm place to write. A view that doesn’t stop. Hot water and hope. This is home for the next four days. I am deeply indebted to the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory for offering space without any expectation. This is going to be good.

 

In the first few days of August, you’ll wake up and it will feel different. You’ll search under the bed and find your slippers among the dust bunnies. You’ll still take your coffee out to the porch, but first you’ll pull on a puffy tugging the zipper up to your chin. Looking thru the steam rising off your cup you’ll think you see gold way up high on the hill, just a few early Aspens showing their color at 9,500 feet. It’s too early you’ll think, but later dripping sweat as you climb dusty single track, you get a close-up. Leaves that were green yesterday, today flutter yellow in the breeze coming off the ridge. Staring at them you know. It’s coming.

That’s the Taylor River in southwest Colorado up there. The little figure in the white hat on the left side of the frame high-sticking a 4-wt fly rod is me. The sky is that color because a thunderstorm has just passed through the valley, and while the noise and lightning are over, the clouds are still thinning causing refractions in the sun’s setting rays. Moments earlier a double rainbow filled the sky, but a unicorn never came. Only trout after trout after trout. Feasting on mayflies tied with feathers and string. It was full dark before we thought to wade back across, and then still it was one more cast. Just one more. The bats swooped around our shoulders as we slipped and slid on hidden river rocks back to the side where we’d left the keys, the car, the phones, the day behind.

ImageYesterday we floated down the river in a rubber raft. One of us rowed, one of us supervised, and two of us cast nine-foot long graphite fly rods for Rocky Mountain trout. A fierce headwind tried to steal our hats, crumple our lines and prohibit forward motion despite a steady current. Low water levels left the channel thin, filled with shallow riffles and small pockets. It was both awesome and a struggle.

With a dry fly and two droppers spaced almost two feet below, I tangled on my first cast. My third, my fourth, eighth, ninth. Unlike in Oregon, out here you can’t really drop an anchor and get sorted. Private property,  private water. There’s the chance for one, maybe two casts, then you’re sliding by onto the next stretch, the opportunity gone.

Unsnarling tippet and flies for minutes at a time I missed a lot of fishy water. I felt bad. Like I was letting the boat down. I felt an unsaid expectation that I should be fishing. A successful float was a float where fish were caught. Results driven. Not process.

There were offers to help straighten my rig, of different rods, other flies. I didn’t want them. I wanted to work it out on my own, to figure out what was going on, to look at the steep walls of The Palisade rock formations as we slid by them on river right. But there goes another fishy-looking seam, and there’s no back-up button. I wanted the whole float experience rather than the fishing experience, but under the presumed pressure I felt it wasn’t happening.

We pulled over on a small stretch of public land. I clipped my droppers. Tried to change my attitude. Let go of the pride and self consciousness. Embraced the learning curve, the wind, the commentary, and suggestions. Back in the boat, the wind kept pushing, but the tangles became a little less frequent. I looked up and around, noticed the swallows dive-bombing the water surface. It got better. It good good.

At the takeout, in the truck on the drive home, we talked about the float. About how frustrating those first few trips can be, and how it’s the same for nearly everyone. It’s a process, and at the end there are results.

Right now, I’m declaring this the summer of embracing the learning curve.

The December issue of Trail Runner is on news stands now. For the “Faces” feature, I interviewed Colorado ultra runner Brooks Williams. He’s as tough as the come. The beginning of the piece is below. For the rest check out “Embracing Adveristy” in Trail Runner.

Brooks Williams, 28, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, is hoofing his way out of the May Queen aid station on his way to the 11,071-foot summit of Sugarloaf Pass in Colorado’s 2011 Leadville Trail 100-Mile Run. It is the first major climb, less than 20 miles into the race, and Williams has just hacked up a wad of mucus that resembles an olive-green cinnamon gummy bear in both size and consistency.

The phlegm is an indicator of the infection that has permanent residence deep in his lungs. For the next 86 miles he will continue to cough up secretions, first in this gummy stage, than as something that resembles tapioca pudding, and, finally, as common, stringy snot. Despite all sounds and appearnaces, the chest-rattling hacking is good for him: some mucus in his lungs is emptying.

When he was five-and-a-half-months old, Williams was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF), a chronic life-threatening respiratory and digestive disease…