Launching on the Swan, back when rowboats were enough.

Launching on the Swan, back when rowboats were enough.

I had just hung up the phone after negotiating a day on the river with my old friend Erwin when the phone rang. It was Erwin again.

“Did we decide who’s bringing the boat tomorrow?” he asked.

“No. I guess I didn’t even think about it.”

“Well do you have a boat we can use?”

Erwin and I owned this boat together 40 years ago. Notice the fancy seating.

Erwin and I owned this boat together 40 years ago. Notice the fancy seating.

I could see out the living room window from where I stood and my pickup was there with my son Sander’s fly fishing skiff sitting proudly on the attached trailer.

“Yes, I have a boat,” I replied.

“A drift boat?”

“Yes, Sander’s skiff is here. He’ll let me use it.”

I couldn’t help thinking that Erwin was getting a little picky about boats. There was a time when any floatable craft was acceptable. These days, when the water levels warrant, Erwin prefers the stability and comfort of a hard-bottomed riverboat to a raft. I do too.

It is about this time of year that boats become a topic of discussion and the focus of daydreams for me and many of my friends. With the heart of floating season looming in the weeks and months ahead, there is often a lot of activity in the boat business, buying, selling, upgrading, and adding to the fleet.

As I write these words, pal Slats is thinking about his next boat. He just sold his most recent drift boat and he’s in the market for something in more versatile raft. He almost bought on he found on Craigslist last week, but it was sold out from under him. He claims that the seller agreed to wait a day until Slats had a look at it. But money talks.

I’m always looking, and dreaming a bit, but right now I am happy with a good raft rigged for fishing. My pals have plenty in the hard boat department, and son Sander doesn’t complain too much if I borrow his once in a while.

Even so, just as I know Slats is suffering from a fairly serious case of boat lust right now, I can feel it sneaking in on me, too.

The boys were supposed to be hunting ducks that day. The Sportspal disappeared from its hiding place in 2014.

The boys were supposed to be hunting ducks that day. The Sportspal disappeared from its hiding place in 2014.

 

BOAT LUST is a disease folks. Modern science has not determined whether its causes are genetic or environmental, but all who study it agree that once B.L. takes hold, there is little a victim can do but ride it out or knuckle under.

I don't know how this speedboat got in here.

I don’t know how this speedboat got in here.

B.L. is characterized by an intense desire to have a boat. Not just any old boat will do. In fact, most victims, myself included, already have a boat or two at their disposal while the overwhelming urge to have another boat clutches at the chest. The disease creates a strong feeling in the victim that all future happiness is dependent upon owning and operating a new boat.

We called this the "Lead Sled," slow but sure.

We called this the “Lead Sled,” slow but sure.

The obstacles to owning the boat in question are usually significant. The first one is always money.

An easy way to spot a B.L. sufferer is to take a quick look in the back yard or garage. There you will see things like canoes up on sawhorses, usually more than one, or boat trailers and raft frames heaped unceremoniously about. Scattered around in the garage you will find oars and paddles, an outboard motor or two, and life jackets of all kinds hanging from nails and rafters. If the stuff looks like it hasn’t been used lately, look around some more. There is sure to be new gear around.

That’s because B.L. usually strikes people who use boats regularly. The particular strain of lust I am referring to involves fishing boats. I don’t know about B.L. as it pertains to ski boats or sailboats, or even white watercraft generally, but it is safe to assume that it has plenty of victims in those areas as well.

I have suffered from B.L. all my life. I have always been around boats. One boat that came into this world the same year I did, an aluminum and wood model, still bangs its way over the sandbars of the Swan River every year with me at the controls. It is a 1947 model Larsen rowboat, crafted from heavy aircraft aluminum stockpiled at the end of WWII.

Still my favorite boat of all time-67 years old and still afloat.

Still my favorite boat of all time-67 years old and still afloat.

So it’s not as though there hasn’t always been a boat available at almost any time in my life, except when I was marooned at various Marine bases or stuck in a dorm in the middle of Minnesota cornfields at St. Olaf College. If I had looked around hard enough, I would have found boats in those places, too.

Early on though, I recognized a need for specialized craft. The first manifestations were crude log rafts, lashed together on the shores of mountain lakes with lengths of the heavy old phone wire left along mountain trails when lookouts were abandoned. With the advent of cheap inflatables it was a long procession of canvas and rubber concoctions.

The first was a red and white striped “two-man” model ordered from a catalog. It’s maiden voyage was down an irrigation ditch in Billings, with a portage required every hundred yards or so when the water squeezed into a culvert for a street crossing. Then came the yellow “rubber duckies”.

Those “duckies” became the stuff of barter. As long as they still held air, they were like currency. One big old “duck” for two smaller, newer ones, for example. Or maybe it was two small ones for a battered canoe. Once I even lost one to Erwin in a cribbage game.

Brother Steve at the oars. I traded this boat to DelRay for a boat to be named later.

Brother Steve at the oars. I traded this boat to DelRay for a boat to be named later.

But usually there was a reason for any alteration of the fleet. There was a particular stretch of water, or certain water conditions, or some new comfort consideration like a place to sit, that made a new boat ideal.            With time, of course, the shortcomings of each new boat became evident. It might be tippy, or cramped, or sluggish in fast water. There was always something. So the fleet grew and changed quite often.

As Erwin has said at least 1,000 times, ” You can never have too many floatable craft.”

Not a single one in my crowd of outdoor pals disputes that. I certainly don’t, but I also know that monetary considerations sometimes interfere. Things like food, clothing and shelter are necessary for the family, for example. And that’s why, over the years, I have had to fight B.L. when it comes along. That’s why I never got a Barnegat Bay Sneak Box for duck hunting. That’s why I never got one of those folding boats to take along on trips like a piece of luggage. And that’s why I didn’t have a drift boat for a long, long time, even though I was filled with lust.

Slats and Ruth once owned this boat.

Slats and Ruth once owned this boat.

That was going on long before drift boats became as common as magpies in Missoula. People would stop to watch when one floated by on a river, noting the graceful, pointy ended, flat-bottomed design that have long since become standard among the ever growing army of fishing guides on all of Montana’s rivers. They are easy to handle, roomy, comfortable and provide a nice stable place to stand and cast. And they are often beautifully crafted. I never knew what I was missing until the day I finally asked Stuart Williams to build me one.

For years, I had been shopping; making some calls; memorizing brochures; contemplating the accessories; and I had tried out a couple. Erwin and I carefully looked over several production models complete with waterproof dry boxes, swivel seats, handy foot-release anchor systems, the works.

One of the unwritten laws relating to dealing with BL is that a friend should generally never try to talk a friend out of buying a boat when the moment of truth arrives. A new boat, you see, is a joy to be shared by many. And, if I can convince Erwin or Slats or Homer to buy a particular boat, well then I won’t have to buy one for a while.

Brother Val enjoying the front seat of the Stuart Williams drift boat.

Brother Val enjoying the front seat of the Stuart Williams drift boat.

The thing about B.L. is that if you can get over the first few weeks, it goes away for a year or so. Once the fishing gets really good, you don’t worry about boats. You just use what you have and get out on the water as often as you can. But you never quite forget that it’s out there, waiting to strike when the time is again right.

After all, it is a well-known fact that you never outgrow your need for boats.

 

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“I am glad that I shall never be young without wild country to be young in. Of what avail are forty freedoms without a blank spot on the map?”

For some reason, of all the wise and wonderful things that Aldo Leopold had to say in “A Sand County Almanac”, those are the words that have stuck with me over the years.

I knew right away what he was talking about.

Each April, when Earth Day and Earth Week roll around, and, not by accident, I suspect, we also note with some gratitude the birthday of the visionary naturalist John Muir, Leopold’s words stir dreams and memories of wild places and the adventures found and shared there over more decades than I care to acknowledge sometimes.

Growing up in a place like Montana, it would be impossible to avoid, in some way or another, being touched or influenced by the wild land that surrounds us. Whether we spend all our waking moments scheming about where and when the next adventure in the hills or on the river is going to take place, or whether we bide all of our time in town and perhaps never even sling on a pack and start up a trail, our lives are affected by the natural world that surrounds us. On a piece of ground as vast and varied and sparsely populated as Montana is, there’s no way around it.

Who would not stop to make a ring around this magnificent pine tree? (Thank you Kristi DuBoise)

Who would not stop to make a ring around this magnificent pine tree? (Thank you Kristi DuBoise)

I know of few people in this part of the world, city-bound or not, who would not stop in their tracks on a street corner to look up in wonder at a skein of honking geese passing overhead, or crane their necks in a speeding car to catch a glimpse of an osprey nest or a red-tailed hawk soaring, or stop for a while to look at a herd of elk grazing the slopes above town. It is, after all, that natural world that has for generations shaped our communities, our economies, our social lives, our leisure, a healthy hunk of our political discourse, and our imaginations. And it is that beautiful, wild, natural world around us that has set us apart from much of the rest of this country and all those who so rarely have the opportunity to escape the concrete jungles and asphalt deserts of the built world.

For those of us lucky enough to have been born here, and for those fortunate enough to have found a home in this place later in life, the land has provided us all generously with adventure, joy, awe, solace and mystery.

If you did grow up here, it is easy to hark back to the “good old days” and rue the changes that have come to the land. Perhaps you remember when the rivers weren’t crowded and a simple knock on the door could get you permission to hunt or fish almost anywhere. Back then, you could camp where you pleased, you could cook over an open fire any old place, you could keep a limit of trout without an iota of guilt, and you really could find a good chicken-fried steak with cream gravy in almost any cafe in the state.

If you came more recently, the “good old days” may be the days before fishing outfitters began to show up west of the Continental Divide, or the days before local columnists committed sacrilege and actually mentioned the “skwala hatch”, destroying a well-kept secret and causing crowds of fly casters to rush to the heretofore uncrowded rivers. Or perhaps the line between the “good” past and the “not so good” present is delineated by the time between when you built your house on the hill and the date someone else built one on the hill above you.

Whatever the case, it is easy, now, to look out over our towns and our river valleys, our mountains and our state, and despair at all that we have lost, or are about to lose. The faces of our communities, and the lands that surround them are changing at a dizzying rate. Sometimes the whole landscape seems to be nothing but twenty-acre ranchettes and streamside palaces. The demands we make of our natural surroundings are increasing while the capacity of nature to meet those demands dwindles. It is real easy to think that the sky is falling, and there is nothing we can do about it.

When I start thinking that way, I have to stop to reflect for a moment on all that has happened since that first Earth Day was celebrated these 45 years ago now, that demonstrate our growing awareness of how fragile and vital that wildness that sustains us really is and the determination of so many to safeguard To do that, of course, I have to ignore, for the moment, the growing threats to the health and welfare of the natural world that appear from all fronts and proliferate like a cancer across the globe. That’s just for a moment, I hope you understand.

For that moment, I want to think about the people in our community and the people all over the world who so long ago realized that we humans were changing and contributing enormously to the degradation of the natural world upon which all life depends. And in coming to that realization, conservation moved from the shadows to the sunlight as a global imperative, and though we humans stumble and backslide and lose ground, the struggle to protect the natural world of which we are a part and on which we are totally dependent goes on every day in small ways and large.

All connected by the water

All connected by the water

And we can see the fruits of those labors and efforts at conservation everywhere we choose to look in Montana. Sometimes it is only the lack of change we need to notice, like the absence of the Allen Spur dam once proposed for the Yellowstone River. Or the continued absence of the long proposed and monumentally ill-conceived Tongue River Railroad knifing through the family farms and ranches of the Tongue River Valley, one of the last places where a little bit of the old West still exists in Montana amid a rich and beautiful landscape. The fact that there is no dam on the Yellowstone is due in large part to the efforts of people who recognized what could be lost and were determined to prevent it. The same goes for the Tongue River Railroad so far, but that shadow still hovers threateningly over southeastern Montana.

Closer to home, we see two great rivers once ravaged by the hand of man and the effects of hard rock mining and other careless and short-sighted uses of the land, now being brought back to life by the determined efforts of people and groups who would not be denied in their efforts.

The Big Blackfoot River has risen from the near-dead because of the hard work of so many groups that have rallied to the cause and it now serves as model for community conservation efforts. If memory serves, that effort all began with the formation of the Big Blackfoot Chapter of Trout Unlimited and now has grown beyond that and has resulted in the highly-regarded collaborative organization known as the Blackfoot Challenge.

One of the benefits of healthy rivers, Slat's birthday trout!

One of the benefits of healthy rivers, Slats’ birthday trout!

Not too long ago, the Clark Fork River ran red with toxic sediment and flowed virtually lifeless to its confluence with the Big Blackfoot at the site of the former Milltown Dam. That dam is only a memory now, and every day, that river inches closer and closer to the healthy cold-water fishery it once was. The first group that comes to mind when one considers the slow and steady resurrection of the Clark Fork is the Clark Fork Coalition.

One of the other benefits .Ahhh...there he goes.

One of the other benefits .Ahhh…there he goes.

And here in our town, all one has to do is step outside and look toward the slopes around town or the river corridors through town to see and appreciate what people have had the vision and foresight to protect. The open slopes of Mount Jumbo, Mount Sentinel, the South Hills and parts of the North Hills are testimony to the vision and commitment of the people of Missoula through the work of the Five Valleys Land Trust and other groups to assure that generations to come will continue to reap the benefits of ready access to the beauty and wonder of the natural world around them.

 

When I think about that landscape that huddles around our town, Missoula, I often think about a letter I got from friend Janet many years ago during the community-wide effort to acquire and protect Mount Jumbo. That was at a time when people still sent little notes to each other once in a while, complete with a stamp and everything, She wrote: “Every time I go to these hills, I find evidence of God’s grace whether it be in the joyful song of the returning meadowlark, the shiny, yellow sweetness of the first buttercups, or the spectacular view of the other grand mountains that surround Missoula.”

When I remember her words, I am reminded of the fact that Janet, and hundreds of other people around our community and state are working tirelessly to protect those “blank spots on the map”, the waters that run through them, and the plants and animals that live upon them, that have given shape and substance to all of our lives.

In the forward to “A Sand County Almanac”, Leopold suggests, “There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.” I don’t believe that. I think we all need a little wilderness in our lives, and in our souls.

I feel the same way.

Earth Week, and every other week, too, are good times to remember that.

 

 

Last week, many of you reported to me that you did not find the weekly offering in your email. Others pointed out that it was no longer possible to subscribe to this blog quickly, easily, and in a way that even we senior citizens could understand. That problem should be corrected this week, and if all goes according to plan, we will be moving along into the fullness of spring with sails billowing.

 

Meanwhile, several friends have been sending along photos to tantalize, tease, and tickle me, and I hope you, too.

 

Don’t ask me how this came to pass, but if you happened to be on Mount Sentinel, and visiting the “M” on the Saturday afternoon before Easter, you might have seen my son Sander and fiancée Grace hoisting this box over their heads in victory. It had something to do with Tony Hawk, skateboards, and a treasure hunt. That’s all I know.

Sander and Grace find treasure at the "M"

Sander and Grace find treasure at the “M”

 

Friend Bruce, despite his Bobcat proclivities passed along a photo that suggests a much more sensitive side, one that betrays a true sense of the beauty of nature, now coming awake on a hillside or along a trail near you.

Bruce called it "Bass Creek"s Version of a tulip."

Bruce called it “Bass Creek”s Version of a tulip.”

 

Any hike with Patrice when the first colors are showing up on the slopes means there will be lots of stopping to get a closer look, and to feel just a touch of awe.IMG_0903

 

Wandering the Mt Jumbo saddle with an eye toward the little things that are happening on the ground, Nancy might have looked right past this arrangement of stones had she not stepped back for a moment to take a look at the big picture of nature. The message, of course is simple, and eternal.

The message is universal

The message is universal

 

By the way, you can find that missing blog from last week on the blog page just before this one, that’s right, go to Montana, an Embarrassment of Riches if you aren’t already there. It’s the one titled “Shuttle”.  And this week’s blog is in the mail right now, too!

 

 

 

Homer's Spring Gift

Homer’s Spring Gift

Homer announced spring to some of his friends last week by sending along a photo of the first blooming Douglasia of 2015.

 

In my neighborhood a gang of roguish flickers announced it every morning this week by launching into their prolonged rat-a-tat-tat stylings on the flashing of nearby chimneys.

 

And the wood ticks announced it to me by apparently falling out of the sky as if they were the 82nd Airborne over Normandy while I was on one of my frequent constitutional strolls on Mount Sentinel. At least it seemed that way to me afterwards when ticks began appear as they explored their way out of the collar or sleeves of my shirt, or I happened to feel one exiting the very thin forest of hair above my ears.

 

Only one managed to embed itself in my flesh, just below my right knee, as it turned out. Being an old hand at ticks and a former Boy Scout, I knew what I had to do. Using a lighter from my camping gear, I gave the nasty little bugger a quick searing, just to prompt a little bit of interest in finding a new place to hang around. Then, as it backed out of my skin a little bit, its tiny legs churning for traction, I used tweezers to complete the extraction. I must have gotten the whole thing, because it was still squirming. Yes, I know that is probably not the recommended method for tick extraction. It’s just my method, and it’s almost a springtime tradition for me.

 

Another spring ritual for me is the first ascent of Mount Jumbo after it has been open to public again after the long winter months when the elk and their wild friends have the place to themselves.

 

It was just a coincidence that I ran into my old friend Pete when I arrived at the Cherry Street Trailhead. He was going up the mountain, too, and he suggested that I could join him if liked, but he was probably going up a different way than I would and he was on something of a mission.

 

Pete, you see, is a botanist of substantial repute, and he has been keeping track of the phenology of wildflowers on Mount Jumbo since 1995.

 

“I make two or three trips a week up here now, and keep a record of when different things bloom. I take the same route every day,” he said.

 

I have hiked with Pete in many places over the years, from the Tongue River Breaks to the Scapegoat Wilderness, and I know that these days, I can’t keep up with him. He moves in long, easy strides. I trudge. So I thanked him but declined the offer and took a different route. He was far above me on the south slope when he moved out of sight a while later.

 

As I expected, we met up again as I approached the top and he was on his way down. This time, once I caught my breath, we stopped and chatted for a while, doing a little reminiscing, talking about the weed control efforts on the mountain, and just taking in the late afternoon of the spring day.

 

While we were standing there, I remembered that I had once written a column about a hike up Jumbo with Pete.

“It must have been 20 years ago,” I said.

“Funny, I don’t remember that one,” he replied.

“Will, I think I’m going to try to find it. Maybe I can resurrect it. It might be fun to include in my blog.”

 

We talked a while longer and then parted ways. By the time I got home and sat down at my computer, Pete had already forwarded me a copy of an article he had co-authored for the Journal of Arid Environments about the flowers on Mount Jumbo. It’s titled “Precipitation and temperature are associated with advanced flowering phenology in a semi-arid grassland.”

 

That prompted me to immediately begin the search for the old column about our hike up the mountain. It turned out to be much longer ago than I had imagined. The story of our hike appeared in the Missoulian in April of 1987. Here it is:

 

******

 

‘Now we’re starting to get into some decent stuff.”

It was early summer and my friend Pete, the ecologist, was talking. We were rummaging around a rock pile not far above the “L” on Mount Jumbo. The “stuff” he was talking about was the vegetation clinging to the steep hillside. He had warned me away from the poison ivy I was about to plunge my fist into and then gestured toward the shrubbery sprouting on the downhill side of the rocks.

“Mock orange,” he said, and looked up significantly, as though I should make some connection. Taking in my blank response he elaborated.

“It was first reported right here. Well, not right here exactly, but in Hellgate Canyon. Lewis and Clark discovered it right down the slope and around the corner to the east. They sent a specimen back to the Academy of Science in Philadelphia.”

Pete rattled off the scientific name, Philadelphus lewisii, and then mentioned the name of the plant curator at the Academy of Science. Frederick Pursh, was the fellow who did all the identification work on all of the carefully pressed and preserved plants once they arrived at the herbarium in Philadelphia.

It was fascinating.

No, really, I mean it! It was just one of many bits of information Pete passed on to me that morning, but with the historical slant, it was likely to be one I would retain.

Pictures from the turn of the century suggest a scattering of ponderosa pine and not much more on Mount Jumbo. Fires had historically swept over the grassy slopes of the mountain, maintaining what I think is called a ponderosa pine savannah.

No more. The hand of man has changed all that. Fire suppression and, now, weed infestations have changed the look of that mountain drastically in the last hundred years.

But there is still plenty to see and learn up there.

I am ashamed to admit that I have never done my homework when it comes to learning the names of plants. Over the years I have enjoyed the luxury of hunting, fishing or hiking companions who knew all that stuff, so all I had to do was ask. With such ready information, there was no need to clutter my own mind by memorizing things. It was a free ride.

Of course when a stranger occasions to ask me about some vegetative oddity, it always makes for an awkward situation.

“I don’t know, but my friend Pete does. I’ll ask him about it next time I see him and drop you a card with the results.”

And that’s how I happened to be up on Jumbo with Pete that day so long ago now. Of course most of the mountain was private property back then, even the place where the “L” was located, so I guess we were technically trespassing. But we weren’t really thinking much about that.

I’ve been out with Pete many times before and since, in lots of other places around the state, so I should have known what to expect. But I had forgotten how an ecologist looks at things. And I had forgotten how much there was to know.

When Pete referred to “decent stuff,” he was talking about native plants, and places where they occur without much disturbance from things like grazing and nasty weeds. Such places are all too few for Pete’s taste.

From my perspective, the entire walk was filled with “decent stuff,” simply because of the wealth of information Pete provided as we trudged up the hill. Near the bottom he pointed out a biscuit root, one of several kinds we would encounter.

“We’ll probably see the one called ‘cous’ a little higher up. It’s an important part of the grizzly diet,” he had announced.

Sure enough, a while later we did see it, but not before Pete got down on all fours, pointed to a little plant that looked a lot like marijuana and launched into a sermon.

“Here we have the weed of the future. It’s called sulfur cinquefoil and very little is known about it.”

On close examination, it was apparent that the little weed was very well established on the lower slopes of Jumbo, and appeared to be competing quite well with such better known villains as knapweed and leafy spurge.

According to Pete, people weren’t paying much attention to this new weed. Research should be done to learn its ecology and susceptibility to grazing so something can be done to stop its spread, he said. The weed clearly had him concerned.

Although the importance of what he was saying registered with me, I found it more interesting than threatening. It was just one of many little things I learned that morning.

For instance, I never figured good old Indian paintbrush to be a parasite. That’s right, its roots attach to other plants and steal nutrients. I don’t think Pete would lie about that. It will never be the same innocuous little wild flower to me again.

Then there was the knee-high, stalky stuff called “puccoon” that Pete pointed out was mentioned in Wallace Stegner’s “Angle of Repose.” I read right past it when I read the book but the reference now securely establishes it in my memory bank. Since the book happens to be one I read every few years, I will now be able to visualize the stuff when I come upon it, and I will remember the day Pete showed it to me.

In those few hours, I put together quite a list. Here are just some of the plants to be found on bare looking, bland old Mount Jumbo: larkspur, stoneseed, four kinds of biscuit root, yarrow, currant, choke cherry, service berry, hawthorne, alum root, bluebunch wheatgrass, fuzzy tongue, bastard toadflax, blue bells, blue-eyed mary, forget-me-not, oyster root, prairie star, rough fescue, dense clubmoss, cutleaf fleabane, Idaho fescue, pussy toes, and last, but not least, a little flower called prairie smoke. I cannot describe it adequately, except to say that the name is apt, and a close look at the flower conjured up for me images of blazing sunsets, coyote howls and elk whistles. It is my new favorite flower.

******

The mountain has changed quite a bit since then. For one thing, the city of Missoula owns it now. And despite the predictable disagreement about some of the management decisions that have resulted from public ownership, it is being managed, with lots of attention on those weeds. I don’t know if Pete’s dire prediction about sulfur cinquefoil has come to pass. And to my way of thinking it is good that we are at last moving ahead with some coordinated weed-control efforts

I will always remember some of what I saw that day with Pete, and maybe I’ll be able to answer an occasional question I couldn’t have before, but mostly I was reminded then, and again today of how much there is to learn about where we live.

And, of course, I am reminded of how good it is to have friends like Pete and Homer to brighten up a spring day with some time together on a mountain or a picture of a wildflower.

 

When I announced in my Missoulian column that I would be doing my weekly epistle in a blog rather than in the newspaper, dear friend Bull warned me that it would be a slippery slope if I started fudging once in a while and didn’t get the blog posted on my usual Thursday publication day.

“It’s like exercise. Once you let yourself slip a little bit, you might just keep on slipping,” he warned in his most fatherly tone.

So, here I am, just a couple of months into this venture and still trying to get some of the kinks out, and I am taking a chance that a slight delay in posting this week’s blog will not be the end of me. You see, conditions seem suddenly perfect for a little trip over the mountains to the West of us where it might be possible to find a steelhead that is looking for trouble. My pals Erwin, Sleepy, and Slats are all going along to make sure I keep things on the up and up.

Being able to respond to an outdoor opportunity on short notice is one of the benefits of retirement you know. Besides, I look at it as work trip anyway. I’m just gathering material.

As soon as I get  home later this week you’ll get the whole story.  I mean that, Bull, really.

Erwin sent me this picture so I will know what we are looking for.

Erwin sent me this picture so I will know what we are looking for.