Well that was fun!
The boy and I managed to get a bundle of firsts recorded into the books this weekend.
First cutthroat trout brought to hand, 9-10" beautiful male in full spawning regalia. Big fella, given such small water!
First two-legged visitors into our little basecamp valle after the thaw, by our studied observations. Seems ours were the first bootprints of the season to travel that trail, leaving us a bit in awe thinking back on the mountain men of yesteryear.
That right there was worth the trip!
Saturday was consumed with hiking, blister-making (about the size of a silver dollar on left heel, thanks for asking), exploring, fishing (stellar), fish catching (tough), meadow napping (successful!), treasure hunting for antlers (zilch), stalking elk (bingo!).
Chasing elk proved great fun- we managed to stalk within maybe 50 yards of a young bull + 2 cows before giving ourselves away. Spooked a coupla other groups running hither, yon before the sun set. Counted 4-5 others who'd seen their last winter. Testament to winter's harsh snows, or the mountain lion's stealth? Who's to say, but I did not let the boy stray out of sight, believe you me.
Dinner brought to you by those fine chefs at Mountain Home. Campfire, stories and stargazing followed before calling it a day.
Sunday we packed light to really cover some ground exploring new trails, creeks, environs. Streams were just past peaking in runoff, still overrunning their grassy banks, the waters simply beyond frigid. Lots of snowbanks still on north slopes, in the shade, blocking the trail in many places.
Some banks were still over the boy's head- postholing proved a royal pain in a coupla notable stretches. Creek crossings were an adventure unto themselves, the waters threatening to impart instant migraine from the moment of immersion. Not at all hard to believe given the fact most all of it was snow, like, just 10 minutes before!
The Rio Grande Cutthroat trout proved obstinate beyond our comprehension, mostly immune to temptation. First dries: humpy, guide saver, royal wulff, ant; then nymphs: copper john, flashbackpheasanttail, beadheadgoldribbedharesear, black juju baetis. Shoot! Given that arsenal, if you aint catchin, they aint bitin'! We caught just enough to give you a glimpse of the small streams' potential at the height of the season. Hooo boy, we'll be back!
With the catching proving so tough, we spent a good amount of our travels on trail improvement, serendipitously as it turned out. On the edge of another of those gorgeous parks, I pointed out one particular stretch of embedded trail that served to channel runoff a good ways along, the water rutting the trail a bit before finding it's way over the bench and on down the slope. I gave the boy a rundown on some of the trail building and maint techniques employed to prevent erosion, concluding with an eye-widening demo how those ubiquitous waterbars worked.
It was with some amusement I witnessed the lightbulb light up right then and there at 9,000ft, in the middle of god's green acres: bling! At the boy's insistence, we spent the better part of our trip back to basecamp draining trails for those that will follow this summer. Hands cramped, blistered, no matter- 'Look what we've done Dad- helped all those hikers coming here this summer! Cool, huh?' 'Cool beans is right, kiddo.' Guess we'll need to add a small entrenching tool to ole Dad's load next trip, sigh. Who am I kidding, tell the truth, I couldn't be more pleased. And proud!
Not that the weekend didn't have it's share of shakedown cruise casulties. To Mrs Wulff's consternation, they enumerate as follows:
- (1) pair of sunglasses, polarized, small. In photo #43, they can be seen planted squarely in proper position shading the boy's eyes. Photo #47, taken a mere 100 yards away, no sunglasses. Somewhere between photos 43 and 47 lies......Oblivion. Huh. (Approximate number of uses of said sunglasses before falling into Oblivion: hmmmm, maybe five, six? Sigh, such is life with kids, aye Dads?)
- (1) red shoe. Fault lies with me, a (twice) bad tie-off to boy's pack. The loss noticed only when I went to step over its mate, trailside, on the hike back out. Fearing the wrath of She Who Stands With A Fist, I wisely retraced the trail just traveled. Which proved fruitless- one red shoe vanished into The Wild. Huh, say hi to the sunglasses for me. Honey, the boy's gonna need new camp shoes!
- This one actually made me laff out loud: Our first and biggest fish of the trip just hooked up. Go to pass the boy the rod for his to play, and off pops the reel, rolling on down the bank spewing line as Okuma makes a break for it. We manage to hand play the fish to hand amidst laughter, snap a few photos before searching for runaway reel. Found, I try to reseat the reel only to find the seat epoxy has given way, the loose reel seat threatening to follow the reel down into the weeds. Mind you, we spent the rest of the trip waving a big stick sans reel, the reel neatly tucked into a shirt pocket or belt. Would've paid good money to have someone witness that scene: coupla tinhorns spooking fish all over hill and dale, all rigged up with their fly reel tucked in the others pocket. Good lord man, and just why is that kid wearing only one red shoe!