That dreaded, annoying sound started pinging at 4:30 in the morning. That awful repetitive sound that wakes you from your sleep, getting you on your way. I hate that sound. It was 4:30 in the morning when Jacob and I crowded into our little Subaru and headed west.
We didn't know what to expect, we didn't understand what we were in for. More than anything we didn't know the impact this trip would have. All we knew was that it was 4:30 in the morning and we were headed to Durango for the next two weeks.
We've always been "backcountry" fishermen. Sure the big trout are exciting, but I'd rather catch the little guys any day of the week. And so, we sought them out in Colorado, just as we do at home. One of these smaller, wild streams we were able to fish was Lime Creek.
It's not a particularly "special" section of water. It's not one of those sacred "no name" creeks that we all have. People spoke openly about it at the fly shops and we saw a few people out and about during our days spent there. So, I don't think I'm breaking any code by talking about it.
You can read my full post on Lime Creek, here.
In the weeks and months that followed I was convinced that this little body of water had changed me. I was more sure of that than anything. This creek was the catalyst to a total and complete life change.
I quit my job, because it was no longer enhancing me, but rather making me worse.
I gave away, threw away, donated anything that I didn't feel served me anymore.
I began to spend more time worried about everything and less time worried about myself.
I've recently discovered that Lime Creek didn't change me, who I am, but it did change my perception, of everything.
On our way back east we stopped in Lexington, Kentucky to visit Jacob's mentor. He gifted us a book, Lime Creek Odyssey, by Steven J Meyers.
(you can read more about Steven Meyers, here)
In a way, that book impacted me just as much as the actual place. To say it has become one of my favorite books is an understatement. I've read the book about six times by now, sometimes reading from cover to cover other times jumping chapters, reading my favorites first.
There are two reasons I've latched on to this book the way I have. One, it reminds me of that creek any time it starts to get foggy. Two, it reminds me that my odyssey on this creek is not unique, nor is it necessary to revisit this place to have another one, perhaps life itself is an extended odyssey. And more importantly, life in your own backyard.
Oddly enough, my favorite part of the book is the Introduction, what I found to be the intention for the rest of the book. It's an intention that I now try to set for myself daily, almost a mantra if you will. It begins by questioning The Odyssey, the differences and parallels between Homer and Penelope, while also introducing the geography and history of this sublime little creek.
"It seems appropriate for me to wander this little valley while others, more heroic, journey to Nepal, the Arctic, the tropical rain forest. This personal odyssey of place, this exploration of a mountain stream, is also a journey in the discovery of self, and a search for an appropriate definitions of man's place in the broader reality of nature. I stay at home, like Penelope, believing that ones home is the proper place for such an odyssey."
- Lime Creek Odyssey
The book moves beautifully from hiking Engineer Mountain to fishing the creek itself, moving through life, being human, and even death.
If you've never been to this special place, that's ok, the book is still very much worth the read and should be found on any fly angler's bookshelf.
I'm glad that a vacation landed me and my fly rod in Lime Creek.
I'm glad that a copy of Lime Creek Odyssey fell into my lap.
And, I'm glad to have gone on my own odyssey, small and unheroic as it may be.
"I have been in Lime Creek long enough now to have seen a child born while I hiked it's woods, to have seen a loved one die while I fished its waters. I have seen a generation pass and another begin to flower. I know the creek will outlast me and my memory. I know further that there will come a time when all human impact on the creek will be gone. For now, however, we share a place in nature. And I have named that place with my names."
- Lime Creek Odyssey
Here's a recent essay written by the author, highlighting Lime Creek Odyssey, conservation, and the responsibility we have to our home.
"Sometimes all it takes is a tiny shift of perspecitive to see something familiar in a totally new light."
When I removed my Chacos for the first time in two weeks and washed the last remains of Colorado away in the cheap motel bathroom I felt my heart break, truly break for the first time in a long while.
A few months ago Jacob and I left our beloved Blue Ridge Mountains for a two-week adventure across the country to Colorado. This was supposed to just be an adventure, a vacation, an escape from the world for a little while. It turned out to be so much more for me. We spent the days fishing and the nights drinking local beer. We said "hello" and "goodbye" to more brook trout and cutthroat than I can count. We met people and had conversations I'll never forget.
But what happened to my soul far surpassed those brief encounters. There is a beauty there unlike anything I'd ever seen. A freedom that hit my heart like a shock. It made me start to question existence and life and all of those persistent existential problems. I started to remember every John Muir quote, thought, and it finally made sense. I understood it. It only took one brief second, standing on the side of a mountain and taking a moment to look at the country I was standing in. From then on, the rest of the trip, I couldn't focus on anything but soaking in all the beauty.
So, that's where the questions come in. Have I been so busy all these years with a “goal”, with stress, with a distraction that I wasn't truly seeing everything that's around me? Have I actually been missing out all these years? Seeing the beauty, but never actually absorbing it? Society has conditioned us into believing you must travel a certain path, with a certain “job,” a certain “title,” and a certain amount of “income.” When we don’t meet those societal expectations, we’re told that we have failed at life. I have spent all of my thirty years agreeing with that, making myself completely mad trying to be and have and do what I was “supposed” to. I never paid attention to what I wanted to do, only about hitting that mark that would somehow earn me a place at the successful table.
The drive home was absolutely depressing. Loathing the impeding normalcy that was to follow. The routine.
Honestly, I'm sick of "being an adult." I'm sick of getting up everyday with no purpose or passion.
Colorado changed me. I pray for the better. To be braver, to pursue my passion, to not fear to fail.
Because I may fail. I may return to the "real world," tail between my legs in shame searching out a 9-5 once again.
But for now, I think I may just want to try being a trout bum for a while.
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.