Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Along The Streams of Life

"along the streams of life there are places to rest, and you stop and enjoy them".

So I sit early in the morning in a small coffee shop in Bozeman MT.   
This is the third and last blog from Yellowstone this year.
You can smell and see smoke haze from the fires down in the park still.  Young 20 somethings with one or two children surround me in the Rockford Coffee shop with a life and vibrancy i’ve not seen in some time. You see they are living in a small town doing what they love to do, and like the others they meet here and strike up smiling conversations with, you almost get a feeling that they know something you don’t.  Like, “it’s worth it to be here no matter the cost or lifestyle changes.  But hey, don’t tell anyone cause it’s still quaint and quasi quiet here”.

I spent  last night, with my old friend Mac in Bozeman. (In this picture here is Patty from Wisconsin with Mac setting camp at Carballa's along the Yellowstone.)  Mac if you remember last years blog (in the archives) , is from the Bitterroots and was to be a caster in “A River Runs Through It”,  He’s a fishing guide and owner of rental properties and seller of Phone Book advertising. He lives like a pauper and drinks like a fish. Sleeps with a bible on his chest in the great outdoors on a cot covered with a blue tarp. We’ll we spent the evening on the hills overlooking Bozeman and watchin the sun set over the MT ranges.  Yup, there's Mac sleeping outdoors under the tarp there in this picture and using the tree for his closet to hang his wet fishin gear.. 

After a beautiful sunset we spent the rest of the night in Ted Turners Grill talking life and faith and futures with "Alta" the bartender who remembered me when I sat down and said hello..
We had ribeyes and then walked the streets till midnight talking to others who were out there just “walking or biking” in the dark. 

Let me go back to earlier in the week..  People are what life is all about. I camped next to a Jewish man from L. Island who didn’t fish a lick,  but was there for a week straight. Camping and taking his 20yr old son anywhere to fly fish 12hrs a day all week. Just to be there for his son to explore it all  and see the joy in his face every day. Overweight and not in shape, this 60 something dad huffed it day and night to let his son “shine” and experience his dreams.  So glorious.. So beautiful. So unselfish... So... God!  
I saw at the camp fire each night a joy in that dad that could not have come from anything else he'd ever do in life... 

Then I ran into and gave my camp site away to a young married couple in the Air force.
He was a P.K. and had just finished F16 school. He was granted 9 days off before deployment to the Mideast. He wants to be a  missionary pilot someday.  And there they were, with a beer and wine telling me that neither of them could tell their parents that they swore, let a lone drank or saw movies.. Yet in all that strict dysfunction, they wanted to still be missionary pilots someday.. There is it. The Power of Christ overcoming our own limitations in raising children into wacky doctrines and fear based faith.  As they would intimate, “well, we live in a world around people who are very smart and ego driven as fighter pilots. Faith is not an equation for most of the men... only their wives really are open to it. So we listen, and don’t judge, and just be who we are” God does the changing in people not us”... Woo hooo. young people with their head on straight!  By the end of two days I had them thinking and realizing that their life is their ministry, not, some future “ministry within ministry”. You can move from fighter pilot to commercial pilot or trainer and prob. impact more lives there than in any bush pilot full time gig. Make sure you’re called into things before you just do them. Do a bunch of trips for missions people in your vacation time for a few years and see how it resonates before throwing away a military career or something similar.. Oh yea, and precious wife?  An RN. ready to serve. ANYWHERE.

Then there’s Al. Well, we met the day he came to camp. Half mountain man and half Willie Nelson, he just one more “one of a kind guys”.  62yr old Vietnam Vet  with heavy combat experience, Al’s been a fishing / hunting guide on the upper Wisconsin border for 30 years.  Hands like a lumberjack, all cracked and broken, Al is just one more person of faith who just struggles with church as we know it, but Jesus?, oh yea, can’t deny the faith in Him.  His wife works for a Catholic school and they just survive it all in upper WI. We had days of great talks around the fire at night as he sipped his "honey liquor" and spoke of great hunting and fishing stories.  In the morning over coffee he'd recant the animals he's spotted earlier that morning or late the night before. We even spent a day fishing and hiking the upper Sodabutte River together. He carried about a 12lb 44magnum  revolver with 4 loads and 2 empty chambers. (didn't want to blow his foot off by accident..).
This picture of Al was after our day on the river, lying on the bank with the hoppers jumping all around, as we  had a pop and talked about how great it is to just “be here” in Yellowstone and enjoy God in it all.

Well I packed camp and moved up river and out of the park along the yellowstone to a town called “Pray” and a campsite along the river called “Paradise”. Those folks at least no how to call something properly:) 

Unlike an intersection in old Bozeman i drove by called Church and Fridley.. For those who don’t know I live in a city called Fridley.. . That was pretty funny.

Alone at Paradise, in the town of Pray on the Yellowstone I was wet fishing the banks of and getting a few Cutthroats on Royal Coachman and coachman streamers.  I got back as it was getting dark and there was a young couple. Bo and Tiffany settin up camp.

Both 28 and sleeping in  a 1972 little trailer they had purchased and rebuilt.  They looked like a country song sittin in that trailer talkin with their feet up and a cold beer.  Bo is a Personal Trainer and Physical Therapist and Tiffany, she is a business owner with an Mba in Business.  She's bought and sold 3 businesses since she was 21. Divorced and with a beautiful 4yr old boy, she's a Montana force to be dealt with. 200 years ago she would have probably owned a saloon and hoocheecoo.  What a night we had cooking and sharing stories together. Bo looks like Joe Mauer but with muscles and Tiffany looks like a 28yr old Linda Evans from Dynasty but as a champion swimsuit body building model.(for real).  This photo was literally 5min after they got up and walked out of their trailer at 7AM.  I just love when people  don't say "Well I've not done my hair and makeup.. no pictures till I'm all cleaned up".. We stayed up late and they cooked black and blue ribeyes and I cooked freeze dried soup and rice.. and hops and box cab.   We talked life and faith  for hours. Bo cringed each time faith was even mentioned in the conversations. Telling me  of wacko churches in the valley that somehow believe God will turn your teeth to gold and your fillings. Crazies as he would call them. Bo has a beautiful brother with C.P. and somehow i think down deep that’s a part of why he is going through that season of turning down the volume on God,  or at least his ability to discuss it with someone else...  The next morning Bo and I drove up into Livingston to their home
 and he got a couple sets of golf clubs and we went to the Livingston G.Club to play 9 holes along the banks of the Yellowstone River.  Such a great time with a fine young man looking to make a difference in life.  I look forward to years of online conversations with him in the future. I left he and Tiffany two cans of my MSR dual fuel and a can of pepper spray. I swore Bo thought it was Christmas early.

So I wrapped up another week of wilderness along the beautiful streams of MT/WY. from Bozeman through Paradise Valley to Gardiner and then over to the Lamar Valley.
 This year was different. Fishing was harder. Weather was from the 90's to the teens.  People seemed to be friendly,  but ready to break from the last few years of a downed economy and all the depression we've been feeling as a nation. I  also saw more Europeans and Asians than Americans this year in the park.
The wildlife? Well they are the constant residents along with the Rock walls and River swells. The tree's.. ? Well they come and go in wildfires but will be here long after I'm gone. The famous petrified tree photo I took here is one example that God has been around the planet a long long time and He aint really into carbon dating.

So below here as I drove off out of the park, the sun broke through the clouds and into rainbow colors hitting the ground as if to say. "hey look over here Craig, this would be a nice place to live".

And so I dream of gin colored streams and the smell of fresh Rosemary after the rain.  I'll remember the tug of the line and the rise on the water and all the beautiful trout that came to dance.
And in the end, along those streams in God's country i leave a apart of my heart till next year. Hoping i will find it re-connecting to this ole body once again. To perhaps re-fill it with the sounds,sights and smells of a lost paradise....  on a yellow stone.

....see you in my dreams...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A River Boils Through It

A river boils through it, and it was good.  

There are things in life that just don't make sense. All those "how did that happens" and "you gotta be kidding me's" are in that group  Well 200 degree water flowing out of rocks into 40degree trout water is one of them.
You see today is Sunday. Or as my daughter would say. "Sunday in the Park with George

... Craig"
This is where I do church on Sundays out here. That im-famous place called "boiling river".  Truth is I've been here twice in 8 days to bask in all it's glory and to pray, ponder and let the waters waft over my soul. The above rock formations are Zen-ish creations by Asians who made it to this spot..  Remarkably there are more Europeans and Asians and Aussies in Yellowstone than Americans these days. That is with the exception of Fly Fisher-people.
It kinda gives the bears a better choice of meals these days, cause I think they've gotten bored with overweight Americans in RV's. The Euro crowd is slim, trim, clean, polite and speak very good english I might add. So what's not to like there. Come see the most beautiful park in the world and fall in love with America.

Now boiling river is full of trout in spite of the Spa crowd.. {sidebar} opps. an unopened cheap beer just floated by me..  Ahhh. I saved it and gave it to 4 "Canyon" workers sitting across from me smoking menthol's.  That was a no no.. beer in a river. Any River...

So as I said trout are here and the base of the river down from these hot springs has allot of green moss and plant life.  I guess the hot water breeds that.  Well, or its the suntan oil and soap people use up stream thinking it won't hurt anything.  

Now after taking the shameless self photo in the river for my loved ones you will see minutes later a beautiful Elk crosses right behind where I was sitting. This big male took his time while upstream the ladies and yearlings (about 15) crossed the river. He was downstream protecting the area. So beautiful they are.

That reminds me of the 1/2 rack of elk antlers I found; or better yet ran into in the Lamar River a few years ago. Walking waist deep in the Lamar I walked into a rack of submerged elk antlers. ya.... ouch.. Thank you for saving private ryan God. 
So water soaked and there for years, they were extremely heavy and I carried them back to my truck only to be greeted by a park ranger. With a kind smile he said "hmmm what ya got there?". Doing my Craig T best, I tried to sell him on the fact that I was saving a life by taking them away.. 
Well, like your children leavin the house with your  clothes or car keys in hand, it didn't much matter what my story was. .  Sir, he said. "you can kindly carry those back out in the sage brush a100 yards or so and let em be..  Argggg. There I was again. Sinning and breaking laws only to willingly put them back and keep telling myself "if I ever drive back here again, I'll look for em"..

Animals in Yellowstone.

I'm remembering now in the 70's I  fell down a hill here once , and was chased by a black bear. Only to scream  "in the name of Jesus stop".   Well he/she did thankfully, and I've been coming back since and hoping to avoid them by staying in the park of the park where the most reside...  hmmmm 

Scopes and Animal area 51'ers'.

Like my last post I'll say there are so many people who come with just large spotting scopes and cameras to view these animals in native habitat. Pretty amazing and people get gored and hurt every year tryin to get the "great" shot.

Where I camp in Slew Creek, there is a natural buffalo/deer/bear crossing 10ft from my tent location.
The wranglers use this path early and late in the day to take those on horseback and mule up to the highest elevations as well.  

One morning I'm having coffee.  As you see my tent on the left and that path on my right there. This big male makes his way slowly across the river and passes me while I'm drinking my french press.  So beautiful and capable of so much destruction..

I cross the same stretch to fish a half mile upstream toward the meadows and those rocks there in the stream are very slippery and easy to trip on. I'm amazed how the buffalo, elk, deer,bear and horses cross it so easily. 

 I need a wading stick and going "real" slow to cross it.

Get to the Point and (de-barb please).

Come to think of it the last time I went up the path this week I hooked myself in the pointer finger with a small "Midge" dropper fly. Buried that hook all the way up to the bead head  where ya tie it on.
That did end fishing for that day as I had to but the head of the hook off, clean off all the dressings  and use a leatherman to twist and pull that hook all the way back through the finger where I could then cut the barb off and (woosh) you can pull it clean through so easily at that time.   Yup that's just what I did.

Come to Dinner Dear Deer

There was the deer at my tent eating dinner yesterday along the river when I got back from Soda Butte Creek. She didn't care a lick that I was there and just kept on eating till I got within 6ft of here to get into my tent.  One more reason you  can not leave any food or beverage or cooking utensils in your tent, or you're likely to have visitors destroy it. (Sidebar) Hey just a reminder that on blogspot you can click on any of these pictures to see native sizes. :) :) just saying.... look at the hide on that buffalo. AND you should know every photo on these journeys is done on my HTC hero 8mp phone..
The sheep are another huge attraction here for the rubberneckers. The ability to traverse these cliffs, is, amazing and they create rock slides on the park roads on a regular basis.. Not very sheepish is you ask me.

And Finally

I leave Gardiner and head to "Pray" MT over to the paradise landing where I can camp along the Yellowstone with a few other crazies.. :)

Fires in the park have created such stunning sunsets here this last week, and also messed with how clear the stars are at night. Not happy about that.. Stars at 3AM are one of my fav. attractions.

Alas, I can not finish without another pic of a fat  cutthroat on Slew Creek taken on a #8 MadamX hopper quazi terrestial pattern.. 

Next and last blog will be about some of the people I met along the way.
Below is Al. A 62yr old  Vietnam Vet., fishing/hunting guide from WI who's been comin to Slew for over 20 years on his vacations. We spent a day together on the Soda butte and here he was relaxing with an ice tea before we headed back to camp.

Till next time, Find some hot water and soak in it. It might not be where A River Boils Though it,
but it will be good.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Exploring Your Mountains & Molehills

I'm 56 today. I'm driving a FX56 Infinity and I was born in '56. Dear God: does this have any significance.
I sit in a little hole in the wall espresso shop in Gardiner MT.  I'm chattin with guy who's lived here for 30 years. He doesn't give a name, he works in mental health, he' private, but he would share that he's from St. Paul.  Something about this part of the country where everyones friendly but private is "private".

After such a remarkable times out hear the last few years, I never know what to expect, who i'll meet. Who do I get to "try" to be Jesus to. Well it's been pretty quiet this year so far.  With the exception of a few hello's and how are ya's, everyones been pretty "private".  Even the buffalo aren't talkin to me this year.  A herd of them were in my way this morning as the sun was rising and I was leavin Slough Creek for Paradise Valley and Armstrong's Ranch and Spring Creek.  Leaving a cloud of morning dust, i came over a hill to be greeted by a bunch a bison 20 or 30 in the road on their way to the river. Brakes.... thank you very much, and I'm again reminded why the speed limit in Yellowstone is 35... They ain't roads, they's critter crossings.

Traffic's slow with Wolf pack and Bear sightings now. Dozens of nature folk lined up in Birkenstocks (or whatever the new version is) with spotting scopes the size of the NFL camera men. At dawn and dusk by the dozens lined up on the roadsides randomly seeing who can spot one first in an area they've been told to look.. Kinda like Area 51 folks to me... without the tinfoil hats.

And the bison, well at 30mph driving on winding dirt roads, this was as good a "out the passenger window drive by" shot as I could get this morning.

I love buffalo, love to eat them too. Wouldn't mind a pair of boots and a belt as well. Hmmm. next year..

So I must say for the 1,000th time, there is something Godly Magical about this part of the country. My oldest fishing partner and I discuss this all the time.. What is it?  Something about feeling like you're in cowboyville or wilderness.. It aint Texas or the Boundary Waters wilderness, so that isn't it.

Yesterday after the rain up in Slough Creek, the smell of sage and rosemary  was so overpowering that I told God someone was cooking up my Oyster Stew recipe near by.  In the Midwest we love the smell of fresh cut grass or in the farms cut hay, but out here.. a bit of rain and it smells like a kitchen.. and that aint all bad friends, cause you know I love the kitchen.

I love my little  REI tent there  sitting in Slough. I do however realize now at 56 that getting on my knees to climb in and out of it is not as easy as it was at 26.

But at night with the rain cover off and high 30s for a  temp that ole sleeping bag feels really nice, and the 360 view out of a mesh tent is beyond epic. I think it's the one thing I dream about all year besides trout. Staring at the sky at 4AM  and seeing something unlike anything I've ever seen before never, never gets old. Getting up at 4AM to wizz does..  It's ok to laugh here my friends.

Today was fishing Armstrong creek.  A world class private stretch of water in paradise valley MT.
Now,  for most the businesses of the world you get a street address. Armstrong's... nope. If you want us, you'll find us. just turn at the International Harvester.

If you can't remember that, you've not smart enough to fish our waters. And besides, we don't want your money just to trash our property. Kinda nice that this ole working ranch has kept it's charm and character. 1/2 a dozen dogs around. Peacocks, horses and critter and snakes everywhere. I turned this morning to stare a deer in the eye who was taking a drink next to me in the stream.  Then there was one of the owners dogs "a beagle" who decided I was his friend today. At one point he came out of the woods and crept up mid stream behind me only to walk right through my excess fly line while I'm casting and catch his legs in it and snap off my leader.  I'm still wondering if he knew what he was doing, cause i wouldn't give him any of my breakfast hours earlier from my cook stove on the back of my truck.  Either way, like the bears, he lives there and I'm the guest.

Hey, what do you dream about. What do you do that helps take away all the stress in your life albeit for a moment?  Well if you don't know, go explore and find out. If you do, don't let life rob you of experiencing it as often as possible.

I come back to Slough as often as possible so I can see just a couple views. This photo is a bend in the river half way through the first meadow. Big trout live in this pool. I usually get one or two, release them and move on. but the view is breathtaking and you don't know at any moment if you'll encounter large wildlife.. (I'll leave it at that). There is a large rock formation to the right of this photo  and a few years ago at dust as i was leaving to get out of there before dark, I swore there was a large black bear there watching me.  Yup pepper spray was in my hand and I was singing and ringing my bell as i hightailed it out of there.  Fear is an intoxicating thing. You hate it, but you love the adrenaline. Like horror movies, I don't like em but I do understand the fear  rush some folks get in them.

So it's the end of day two, the Sun's going down in Gardiner, and I have quite a drive to get back to my little tent in the sky.

Gotta get a spoon (forgot one) and look for fire wood on the way home so I can have "dinner by fire" before the evening light show begins after midnight.  I'll be back into a  small town espresso or (expresso for midwesterners) shop.

So what do have for dinner. Pasta Primavera again, Curry Lentil Soup, Yakisoba, Chardonnay, Zin, Sharp Smoked Cheddar and Grapes, dark chocolate and french press.. Hmmm.  two out a three aint bad.  Hey did you all really think I was going into the wilderness to each pine cones and trout.  Well, God Bless Freeze Dried Foods and a 16oz propane cook stove.

 Tonight I sleep in. Tomorrow I spend some quiet time listening and not talking.

Life is full of surprises. The choices we make choose the rides we will ride each day.

For all the good choices we make, we pray to keep pride from killing us.

For all the bad choices we make, we pray for the ability to survive them and win next time.

And then there is reality. Guess what... you'll most likely keep making bad choices more than good ones.  And at the end of the day, the cross is there. A reminder that no matter where you find yourself, Mountains or Valleys, He is there... waiting to hear from you and to whisper in your ear.. I love as much today as yesterday.
So today, don't make mountains out of your molehills. The further you step back from them the smaller they get.

Oh yea, couldn't finish this post without one Cutthroat photo from Slough Creek :)