The Animas, a tributary of the San Juan is a sought out river for most anglers. It runs right through the heart of downtown Durango and the access is amazing.
The Animas became our "Want to go fish for an hour or two before dinner?” river. We never really planned an actual day to dedicate to it. It was more or less the “go-to” after fishing or exploring somewhere else.
For us, The Animas is totally different from anything we're used to. It's HUGE!
No trees or laurels or rhododendrons to get stuck in.
No rocks to hop across to get to the other side.
And most importantly, no people.
This crazy attraction, right downtown, was wide open.
This was no South Holston river where everyone was clambering to get "their rock" for the day.
The shear openness was astounding. The freedom in knowing you could traverse all the way to the other side, up and down as far as you can see without running into a single other soul was absolute bliss.
One evening as we set out, after a day of back country fishing, we could see a storm starting to move in. The wind picked up, the clouds turned an ominous shade of gray and in the distance, above the mountains, you could see the lightning begin. Nature's fireworks were going off all around us. We headed back to the car, standing in the middle of a river with stick that conducts electricity in the middle of a thunderstorm is never a good idea. We waited the 10 minutes it took for the storm to roll in and then quickly roll out.
The Animas gave us brown trout. Every different shade of gold and yellow and brown you can imagine, shades of gold that matched the color of the evening light.
It may have only been our evening retreat for an hour or two, but she gifted us with memories and more gold than we could ever hold on to.
If I tried to describe some of the places we were able to witness it would simply be an effort in futility. You have to see and feel these places for yourself, let them touch your heart without anyone else's interference.
After a long, hot summer at home with few adventures comparatively; I was full of excitement and apprehension to get into the backcountry. I was worried if my legs would carry my as far as I wanted to go. I was terrified that my lack of "practice" this summer would render me a failure as an angler. I hoped I would not disappoint or be considered a burden.
I spent most of the days observing. I kept hearing "Jillian, fish!" But, I just couldn't. It's not that I didn't want to catch fish, but I wanted to really experience where I was. Memorize what the water felt like in my fingers, the way the air smelled rushing through the valley, how the yellow of the flowers matched the yellow on the cutthroat and brook trout.
We came back to a few spots more than once, each time just as special as the last.
The trout, just as eager and beautiful, we came to know.
The path down and around and back up again became familiar.
Observing the flowers, and noticing where they were in their life span compared to the last time.
This is a place one cannot simply recount to another; this is a place that needs to be felt, a world that will earn a place in your heart and change your soul.
A place I will carry with me the rest of my days.
I try not to participate in many "touristy" type activities. I feel like you aren't truly experiencing the place you're visiting, but rather the place that locals want you to see. The places they will allow you to participate in, but not really the heart of the place. The heart they protect and keep for themselves, as to not tarnish it.
This year we celebrated the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. This centennial marked 100 years of protected public land. If you aren't aware of the history behind this or what a remarkable gift our public lands are, please read here.
Mesa Verde, meaning "green table," was the home to the Pueblo peoples. While I grew weary of the constant tourist and complaints from others around me about the lack of soda machines and .25 mile walks to see the dwellings, I couldn't help but think how lucky these people were. They lived and explored this land before it had been tarnished by modern day humanity. Yes, life was hard for them, but shouldn't life be hard?
The explorations that must have happened here. The greatness of nature that must have been felt everyday. To truly understand that you are but a tiny aspect in the great earth. To know what it is to survive. To comprehend the magnitude of taking a life so that you yourself may live.
All things we have so quickly forgotten and taken for granted in our modern society.
3:30 am. I was wide awake at 3:30. The anticipation of hitting the road kept me from sleeping hardly a wink that night, despite being exhausted.
My body and soul were weary from months of monotony. I was overwhelmed by the pressures of life, with not enough mountain air for my lungs, adventure under my feet and trout in my hands. The routine was slowly killing me. My exhaustion was so great that I almost couldn't muster the energy to drive 27 hours, be adventurous.
Regardless, Jacob and I packed out little Subaru full of fly rods, a few clothes, a tent and hearts full of anticipation. At 5:00 am we left our dogs and familiarity for a two week sojourn across the US to Durango, CO.
The east coast was filled with familiarity. We counted Cracker Barrels and "Adult Superstores." We noticed how after every superstore, there was a billboard explaining how disappointed God was in us and repentance was necessary. This occupied the time well.
Nashville was overwhelming. Memphis was hot. Arkansas has horrible roads. Oklahoma was flat.
Texas has the Cadillac Ranch.
New Mexico has too many "must stop" places, none of which are very exciting at all. Trust me, we stopped.
Finally we started making our way up in elevation. The boring desert turned into pillars of freshly painted mystery. The reds, oranges, purples and blues went on forever, splattered with green shrubs, joining with the sky to form a perfect piece of art. We kept climbing steadily for what seemed like an eternity and just a blink of the eye all at the same time.
Then, all of a sudden,. we had made it! Well, almost...
We had our first look at those mountains. The mountains that, little did we know, would change us.
Jacob is a fly fishing guide with a passion for conservation and brook trout. He is an accomplished rod builder and restorationist.
Jillian is an outdoor photographer and blogger, using her voice for Public Lands and Cold Water Conservation. She specializes in trying to out fish jacob whenever she puts the camera down.