28 August 2012

Exit, Phase Four: (End of) Traveling

One more road trip before the settling process, this time with a high concentration of rivers and streams, all due north by northwest. A quick stop to witness Titus Andronicus's reign of terror (and lamentable tragedy) and it was back to the homeland. The trip was about bodies of water, a brother I hadn't seen in too long a time, and the chance to spend some time alone in the mountains. These are the eyes of my eyes.

Middle Fork John Day River: Small streams, happy native trout. Originating in Oregon's Blue Mountains, the John Day River and it's branches add up to the third longest free-flowing river in the continuous United States.

Desolation Creek: Also in the Blue Mountains, Desolation Creek teams up with the North Fork of the John Day River around the hamlet of Dale. I almost passed this one by as the heat of the day was oppressive and at times the creek was barely a trickle. But I grabbed a beer, caught a couple Redband trout (a subspecies of the Rainbow trout), and walked the creek until I found this hole:

Most of the creek wasn't deep enough to support a population of large fish. This hole, though, was deep enough to drown in and as I stood on its banks I watched a group of about six of the largest fish I've ever seen outside of an aquarium. Most of them must have been Brown trout as they huddled together and never left the bottom. There was at least one Chinook or Steelhead salmon in there, however, and it was quite clearly in charge. Much bigger, much blacker than the trout, the salmon pushed others out of the way for food and every once in a while surfaced for a fly with a slow rolling movement that resembled something more akin to the Loch Ness Monster than any other cold-blooded, aquatic, vertebrate.

The beast was impressive and neither it nor the trout wanted anything to do with anything I threw at them. Silly human. Fair enough, watching something so ancient and beautiful was a humbling privilege. As Cormac McCarthy wrote: "In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery."

North Fork John Day River: Water as warm as a bath. Welcome mountain whitefish.

Here I paused for a quick civilization break and a half day's trip to the source of countless rivers and streams.

A kinder, gentler, moonlighting Titus:

Then back to the road and back to the water.

Bumping Lake.

Upper Naches River: clear, cold, fast, and seemingly devoid of fish. Why? I inquired but was given no answer. A friend of the devil is a friend of mine.

The trip ended where it began, back in northeastern Oregon among small streams and giant Ponderosa Pines. Dry country with very little water.

Allen Creek: Yes, there are fish in there. I'm less surprised by big fish that live in big streams than I am small fish that are able to eke a living from the smallest, most delicate, most fragile of ecosystems.

Out of the trees and into the desert. A nail in a tire and rescued by Les Schwab. Born and raised on the Oregon Trail. The end of traveling. Time to work. I will be happy to close my eyes on new places, or half close 'em with new faces.

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