Monday, October 11, 2010

fishing with us is not for the faint of heart

So I promised tales of frightful fishing fun, and today I will deliver. But let me start at the beginning-- the frightful stuff comes at the end.

We've established here that my husband is pretty much in love with fly-fishing, right? I think he wants to marry it. Anyway, it works out nicely because I like that he gets to do something that makes him so happy, I love that our family gets to spend so much time outside together, and I even happen to enjoy the fishing part myself.

So there are a billion beautiful lakes up in the Boulder Mountain (John has fished many-- I've been with him to a couple), but there is one lake in particular that is full of big, beautiful brook trout. And it is a secret. John and his buddy hired a guide to take them to it earlier this summer, and they caught some awesome fish. Since I happen to like my husband and enjoy his company I will not reveal the name of this particular lake because if I gave away this secret I am sure I would never be forgiven :). Anyway, ever since his first time to this lake, John has been itching to get me back there with him and catch a big brookie (brook trout have always been my favorite, and there are very few places that good sized brookies live). Last Friday John's classes were cancelled and we decided to make a day trip down to Boulder to catch ourselves some brook trout (which, to be honest, was code to me for: take pretty pictures and get lots of time in the car to hang out with my husband).

We didn't really think through the whole trip very well, but what's new? We did make the wise decision to leave George with my parents because it really is not a very smart place to take children. Pea Baby had to come, of course, because she is still just a wee nursling. She was a happy traveler most of the time,
(I am in l.o.v.e. with that little face in the photo on the left.)
except for when she wasn't, at which point I would see that mad little face in the baby mirror from my seat in the front (picture on the right). So I would climb into the back seat where she would squint and scream and kick (picture on the left) until I nursed her.

And I would look at John through the rearview mirror while I had my body awkwardly draped over my little sucker and chuckle about what cars passing by must think of what was going on in our backseat. (I can't be the only road-trippin', breastfeedin' mama that does this, right? Someone please tell me that they do this too.)

So even though we weren't making stops for nursing, the drive was prolonged by many stops to admire (and photograph) the incredible beauty of fall gracing the Aquarius Plateau (thank you, John, for that little tidbit of geography).

Catch your breath because here is another shot of those fluorescent yellows.

After a good 5 hours of driving we arrived at the trailhead where we would park to hike just about 2 miles into the Unnamed Lake :). Someone whose name will not be mentioned (ahem), but who had been on this trail before (cough,notme,cough) had the brilliant idea to bring the double jogger in with us. Something about the trail being a pretty good 4-wheeling trail and only having a few rocky and/or steep parts. Uh huh. So the jogging stroller was loaded up with baby and gear, and away we went. And at first, the stroller seemed like a good idea. This part of the trail was flat and paved by the 4 wheel tracks (and absolutely gorgeous, no? Do you die at those bright trees against the dark pine background like I do? This is probably my favorite picture of the whole trip-- just love J pushing the stroller looking so small amid the beautiful expanse of land and trees and sky).

Look at the colors on that mountain! I look at this picture now and sigh, thinking how naively I was enjoying this lovely hike, not knowing the trauma that the same hike coming out would bring in a few short hours :). (That is me being slightly dramatic. But only slightly.)

As we hiked out of the valleys and into the woods the terrain got pretty rocky.

And I started to giggle that we had brought a jogging stroller along. Later this same fact (that we had the stroller) would bring me to tears.

The terrain got much steeper, rockier, and narrower at some points, and I ended up holding the front of the stroller up while John lifted from the handle bar in the back because there was no way we could have ever pushed it. No pictures of these parts, folks, I was too busy carrying a gigantic stroller through boulders.

But we made it, and we were in good spirits, mostly just laughing at our (and I use the word "our" loosely here) stupidity for hiking in with a double jogger. We were happy that this is a fairly remote place and there wasn't another soul anywhere for miles to laugh at us for this folly.

And the Unnamed Lake? Oh, it was beautiful. And the colors and the light? Holy cow.

Like I said earlier, we hadn't really thought this through too well. In order to fish this lake properly you have to wade out through waist high mud/ickiness for about 20ish yards. (And just so you know, I am going to be in trouble for giving you those details, because you just know that some diehard fishermen read this blog and will be able to look at these pictures and find this lake and wade out to the right spot and catch all of the fish, ruining it for everyone else and it will be ALL MY FAULT! Ha ha, I kid John, I kid.) Where was I? Oh yes, wading through gross stuff. So we hopped into our waders, strapped Pearl into the stroller on the shore, and waded out. We had no sooner gotten to the right spot and made a few casts when Baby Girl starts announcing her boredom and hunger in the form of wails. So John waded back to shore (which, might I add, is at least a 5 minute long process because you literally have to yank your leg out of the icky mud with every step you take), strapped Pea into the Bjorn, and waded back out into the lake. See how we didn't really think this through? So much work with a baby, but we were still having fun, and what do you know, John caught a fish almost immediately when he got back out. Just so you know, it really is a big deal to catch brook trout that are over like 12 inches, so this fish right here made the whole trip worth it to John. I love Pearl just hanging out helplessly in this picture.

This cracks me up looking at it now because all I can see is how uncomfortable she must have been-- I am sure her little hands and ankles were freezing, her rotund little body squished into the Bjorn, not to mention that the top part of the Bjorn had popped up making it so that her whole face was covered. I love her little eyes trying to peek over the top and look at the fish.

Needless to say, as soon as I took those pictures I unloaded Pearl from John and waded with her back to shore so I could feed her. Her feet took a few dips into the lake as I tried to keep my balance through the mud and hold her high enough. Like I said, we must not have really been thinking.

After I fed her and played with her she was happy, so I put her back in her stroller so I could take a few pictures. A couple of her,

but mostly I wanted a few of John doing what he loves in that beautiful place.



I really enjoy fishing, like I said, but I also enjoy not fishing. I like hanging out on the shores of lakes or the banks of rivers, letting John do his thing and just relishing in watching this man that I love do something that he loves. So I really would have been happy to go at this point. It was slowly turning to dusk and we did not want to be hiking out in the dark, so I really didn't mind not fishing any more. But my husband would not hear of that, and it was clear in no uncertain terms that he was coming in to stay with the baby so that I could go out and fish. And what can I say, I am an obedient wife (ha!).

It was getting darker and darker by the minute though, and I was getting pretty nervous about not leaving with enough daylight left for the hike out. So John said to make a few more casts while he loaded up Pearl and our gear and then we would go. I kid you not, on the cast after my "one last cast," the cast where I just threw the line out there so that I could reel it back in, I felt a fish hit the fly. I set the hook and felt the fish on. I was like, "You have got to be kidding me, I don't have time to catch a fish now!" John had to frantically throw (okay, not really throw) Pearl into the stroller, jump back into his waders, and get out to me with the net so that I could land the fish. This process took a l o n g time. Way too long. By the time I got the fish in, and we got the fly out of his mouth and got him unstuck from the net (of course that would happen since we were in a huge hurry), it had been more than 20 minutes and Pearl was screaming at us from the shore. We snapped a couple of obligatory photos, and it was exciting because I had never caught a brook trout even close to that big, but it was also dark, as you can see.

Usually we release the fish, but like I said, this guy had been through the ringer, so we had to keep him. We took another photo once we were on shore, and about three minutes after this picture was taken I sort of had a meltdown.

We were frantically trying to throw everything into the stroller and calm our exhausted, wailing baby down when we both heard a very LOUD, scary rumbling in the woods just 20 feet or so away from where we were on the shore. I looked at John and said, "John, are there bears here?" He looked at me, then back to the spot where the creature in the woods was, and calmly said, "Yes, but they won't bother us." Um, you guys, I sort of lost it. Not out loud, and not crazily, but I honestly panicked inside. It was totally dark, we did not have a flashlight, we had a screaming baby, we had to hike out through rocks and boulders while carrying a jogging stroller in the dark, we were exhausted and hadn't eaten enough or had enough water, and did I mention it was totally dark?! And that WE WERE GOING TO BE ATTACKED BY BEARS? I could have handled everything else okay, and I have never been one to really be spooked by the thought of bears, but for some reason the combination of dark, baby, stroller, rocks, and BEARS absolutely terrified me. It is not an exaggeration when I say that I have not ever felt fear like that for my safety before. I just kept thinking of us coming upon a bear in the dark and scaring it and it killing me, my baby, and my husband, leaving my poor son without a family. I was picturing me tipping the stroller upside down on top of Pearl and me and trying to hold it over us while a bear was trying to rip it off so he could eat us. Really you guys, I am normally pretty levelheaded. I do not freak out easily. You should know that by now. And that why my reaction to this situation totally terrified me. I was sure we were going to be attacked and left for dead. And this was all in the three minutes of time where we had heard the bear (which technically may not have been a bear, but I just knew it was :)) and started to walk.

I was holding the front of the stroller while John held the back, my forearms were already burning from the weight of it, and we had two miles to go through rocks and bear-infested woods in the pitch black. I put down the stroller and totally started to cry, which again, is SO not like me. John gave me a quick hug, reassured me that we would be fine, and we resumed our walking. It quickly became apparent that carrying the stroller like that in the dark would not be an option. Pearl was still crying and needed to be held, and we could not safely move together holding the stroller since we couldn't see. So I strapped Pearl into the Bjorn and John secured our stuff in the stroller, and then turned it around and pulled it backwards behind him. We did not move very fast through the rocky places, and my heart was beating so fast that I could feel it pounding against my baby every time I stepped. We said a prayer and just kept hiking. I stayed calm outwardly because I knew we just needed to keep moving, but I really was scared out of my mind the whole time we were hiking. John told me that I had no reason to be scared of bears, but somehow I wasn't reassured by him because he kept randomly barking like a dog into the woods "just in case." He said we needed to make plenty of noise so that we didn't surprise a bear and then they would leave us alone. So along with the periodic barking, he sang. The whole way out I listened to my heartbeat and my husband breathlessly sing hymns (which was no small feat-- he was dragging a heavy stroller up steep, rocky terrain, and singing the whole time). I had my cell phone, so I held it out in front of us and pushed a button every 20 seconds or so to keep it lit up so we could at least see a tiny bit.

I wanted to cry when we saw the car. I really had wondered if we would make it. I don't know why I had been so scared, but it made for some sweet relief when I sat down in the car and shut the door. We said a prayer of gratitude and my heart slowly returned to a normal rate. I don't know if this was a sign of my terror or what, but for some reason I was absolutely freezing the entire car ride home. The heater was on and John was sweaty, but I could not warm up. For five hours (which, if you do the math, means that we didn't get home until after 3:30 AM, by the way). It was weird. We were able to laugh about how crazy the whole thing had been, and I am happy I caught a big brook trout, but I can't honestly say that it was worth the trauma.

If John reads this (and he probably will because I will show it to him), he will feel like I have made this more dramatic than it was and might also feel like it makes him sound like a foolish, unprepared jerk. Neither of those things are true. I really haven't overdramatized how I felt. I was truly terrified-- probably the most scared I have ever been as far as my well-being and the well-being of my family is concerned. Maybe I had reason to be, maybe I didn't, but for whatever reason, I was really scared.

But this wasn't John's fault. I did not blame him or feel mad at him at all for this situation. If I wouldn't have hooked that darn fish this whole ordeal wouldn't have happened. It sort of is his fault though because he said that Pearl and him said a little prayer from the shore of the lake that I would catch a fish right before I did, so I guess I can blame him for that :). But you can bet that we will always hike with a flashlight from now on (something we should have thought of, but didn't), and I would actually like to always bring bear spray along with us as well.

Oh, I forgot to mention that I fell. Twice. Really hard. I was holding Pearl, so I couldn't catch myself and I just totally ate it. One of the times I fell forward onto my knee, and the other time my feet completely just got swooped out from under me on a slope and I landed on the upper thigh/hip of my left side. It hurt really bad, but it was actually kind of a relief to think about how bad my legs hurt rather than how scared I was that a bear was going to eat me :). I got some awesome bruises and scrapes, unfortunately not all of them are in places that would be kosher to photograph and post on a blog :). But here is one, just to give you an idea. You can't tell what size it is since there is nothing to compare it to, but this one was just a little smaller than a CD at its biggest.

So there you have it. A frightful fishing tale. I'd like to say that it will be the last, but who am I kidding?

I have a funny story that I need to write down about George in all of this, but I am not going to do it tonight. Just reminding myself to do it later.


Katie said...

Lucy says, "I like that cute baby, Pearl. I really like her hat."

Anonymous said...

My dear Lizzie,

I only wish that while Dad and I settled down comfortably in the motor home with Georgie boy and the little girls we would have known to seriously pray for your safe return. We even may have technically prayed for the three of you, but I KNOW we didn't pray about a trek through the dark bear infested woods at midnight. I am glad for one more good story to add to your family history, but maybe don't add any more. I didn't like the last one where you were high centered and stuck through the night on a dark and scary road, with a baby boy...maybe flashlights and a not crazed fisherman in your party would be helpful. Ben could come, he values his life.

Jenny said...

That is quite a fish tale! I am guessing that guardian angels were involved:). Great fish. That would be fun to catch. Would you consider just going to the hatchery next time? I didn't think so:). I live hearing your family adventures. You are one brave mom!

Angie said...

Oh my. I have to give you two thumbs up for being so supportive...even after the fact! :) What a great story to have survived though!

Teacher Mama said...

So glad you didn't die. A little mad at my brother. BTW, George was absolutely darling today. :)

Mama Janet said...

Well, Lisa told me the story first and after listening horrified, she said "Mom don't get mad at John" So, I have waited for a week and I'm still revising my comments to him. I think it will be something like: J o h n Wrinkled face, painful stare, mouth slightly parted...???? can't say I wouldn't love him to have a safe job and hobbies. My heart goes out to you Liz, and beautiful Pearl. Scarry.I'm glad you're safe and can rack this up to experience and memoroes! Whew! I'll be the first to provide a flashlight to the gear!