Summer Time Fishing

The summer is finally here…well kind of. Its finally sunny and warmer at least. The river is in shape and at normal summer flows. It fluctuates with irrigation but predictions charts show normal flows for the future. Snow is melting out of the highlands at a slow pace. And with more rain and cooler than average, or at least cooler than we are used to temps things are more fairly normal. It’s green, still wet, snow in places up high, and the rivers are colder than they have been at this time in a long time.

The big bugs are here. Golden stones and ants. We have summer caddis, there are pmds and Yellow Sally’s, and those pesky drakes are slowly percolating down there. Water temps have broke 50 and are holding below 55 degrees. It’s here anglers. They are eating. They are fat trout this season. Late spawning and lazy eating. With these colder temps and that big flush of water they are just full and fat. With 50 to 55 degree temps they are finally starting to eat more and more. But they are getting full and turning off periodically during the day and depending on what section you are in. It makes floating and working water more strategic for me as a guide. Timing and thr kind of water we are fishing become paramount to finding the kind of success I am after as a guide. It’s my jam. And with the new changes to the river and a different kind of summer in terms of flows, air, and water temps, and hatches experience and reading and working water is key.

Access this summer is a bitch. Not having bristol fucken sucks!!! And the County dragging its feet isn’t helping as we come into the busiest time of the season. Idiots. Outdoor recreation brings more people to and through kittitas county than anything else. Putting more effort into access and responsible management and practices with our public lands and rivers should be at the forefront of anyone who’s got any decision making power here. The Rodeo and other little events do not compare to the amount of people coming here for outdoor recreation constantly, and year round.

But I’ll work the river as best I can. This will be my last full time season here on the Yakima exclusively. I will bounce around more during the trout season next year. Guiding other rivers and states throughout the summer and focusing on the spring and fall here on the Yakima moving forward. Access and that shit is a factor for sure. But also my need for more and different.

Summer time is a wonderful time to fish here. We have lots of options. From hike in lakes, to small mountain streams and rivers, to the big water down on the Yak. Camping floats, half days, full days, multi boat floats, walk and wades are all open for booking. The big water trips get you out of the boat walking the side channels, chucking flies at the bank, swinging and nymphing runs amd boulder gardens, and getting explosive takes, high jumps, fast water runs, and barrel rolling, pucker inducing trout. You’ll see some of the coolest shit fish can do in thr summer. Some jumping 4 plus feet out of thr river! Others hitting the fastest current and peeling line 60 to 100 feet down water, only to turn around and come right back up it almost as fast. You’ll find the biggest and baddest fish eating and slurping early in the day and later into the evening.

Most days a big bug will get it done. But the summer allows for anglers to fish every kind of way you want and find fish. From streamers, to soft hackles, nymphing and big to little dries it’s all on the table. Days with me can be fast paced, filled with lots of hot swapping rigs and rods around. Try this streamer here, hey nymph this run, now chuck this big dry at that overhang. Run this little soft hackle at the tailout of that riffle, but after you’ve working the top end with the parachute mayfly dry. Here tumble this nymph through that bucket, and then work it into the boulders, now try a dry. It’s constant and it can all produce fish. Anglers can learn all sorts of ways and waters to find fish in the summer.

From the big water to the small there’s fish and ways to chase them. And summer time gives anglers lots of opportunities at fish. It’s great for beginners and seasoned anglers will get to see and fish some rad shit.

So lets go fishing. It’s summer time, the flows are wicked good, the weather is wonderful, and the season only lasts so long. July has weekend dates open: 10th, 16-17th, 24th and 30th-31st. With week days open in between. Come out for a trip. We also got bass we can chase in the Basin again now. Warm enough and they should be done spawning now.

Let’s get in anglers. I want to guide! Come on out and let’s chase some trout.

See ya riverside anglers,

Tamarack

Teanaway Night

I can smell the fresh cut alfalfa.  The pines in the air.  Someone else is driving for a change. There is unfamiliar but vibing music drowning out the sounds of the windows being down driving the Teanaway road. 

The guardrail is too close to the road.  More of a hindrance than anything when towing a boat trailer. I lost an oarlock to it once. Little too close.

I’ve been okay.  In good company, guiding, and camping with close friends and others. I’ve met new people, connected with other anglers.  I’ve been stopped in camp and humbled by other anglers coming up to me.  I’ve spent time fishing for myself, and sharing the river with others…off the clock.  I’ve been shown new water. I’ve been back and shared places here in the Teanaway that I love and cherish. I’ve been invited to fish all over from others. And been put in others’ plans to fish and share rivers. It’s still overwhelming. The impact the fly fishing community has is always something I felt was home.  And having others remind me of my impact hits me every time.

I can feel the cool summer air tug at my beard. Filled with scents of peppermint and campfire. My body aches from guiding. My hands are beat up and calloused. Tanned and dry. My body is getting wiry and the aches are from the change. It feels good not to drive. The music changes to a more mellow tune. The sun gone, stars just poking out. That lime green and blue hue just on the horizon, tall trees silhouetted against the dusk. My favorite. Tis when the river finally sleeps, the night critters come out, and campers fall off to sleep. I share a fire most nights, with wonderful company and in good spirits, or deep conversation, or maybe drinking and talking fish and silly things.

The crickets sing, a generator mumbles yonder, here in the Teanaway. The fire cackles and cracks. A Rainer or two is passed around. A good conversation starts up, stars are watched, laughs and a tear here and there are shared. Connections are made over fire, a beer, a bowl, a smoke, and life happening and being here and now for it. Shit doesn’t last forever, and the world off river is kinda fucked. There’s another day of fishing on the morn, and the sun wakes us camplife and angler people up with the rest of the river and forest.

I’ll see ya riverside anglers.

Tamarack

Wade clinic June 25

I’ve got spots still open. $100 per person. Let’s learn the teanaway and fish! It’s a wade clinic so we are gonna teach bugs, wading, playing fish and access points and how to get into the fun water.

Sign up online via the trip inquiry or message me. 10 am pioneer coffee.

Tamarack

Stomping around.

I fished today, 4 different bodies of water. From 7 am to 7 pm. No fish. But it was nice to stomp around where I started fishing. I fished pretty hard for most of the day. Top water, trout flies, streamers, sink tips, double haul casts, punching flies into the toolies. No fish but it was still good to work through casts, row a bunch of water, my body needs the work out, and to get a look at some old ‘secret’ water.

Drove through my hometown, saw my higschool, my old houses, still know where all the roads on royal slope go. Side note, how in the actual fuck is there no tequila at the store in Royal City?  Luckily I found some in George. Because I have every intention of getting ripe with drunkenness.  I’ve already started. So I better get this out before it really hits.

Why?  Because I’m an adult, fishless, and sad, so it seems appropriate. Drinking makes me happy. Even alone. I drink more now, gave it up for a while when I lost weight.  So why the fuck not, it’s wet, windy, kinda cold, and I feel like a hangover will help in all honesty. I can handle hangovers. It’s a guide thing.  I got fancy and made margaritas and of course shots of tequila. Which isn’t my favorite, rum is, but tequila seemed appropriate for being back in the stomping grounds.

Driving the back roads and sliding into lakes and slews along the canals was reminiscent of my early days when I lived here and was going to school at CWU. All the spots are still there, grungy, dirty, and trash filled like always. It’s a different vibe out here. Kinda rednecky and hillbilly but I seem to fit in with that even if I’m more the hippy dirtbag troubum type.

I have kind of fallen back into that dirtbag life. Where you’re just bumming around looking for fish. The term comes from rock climbers and hikers.  The equivalent of ski bum, trout bum, dirtbag, all kind of the same thing. Those of us who forgo the regular life for awesome pow and lines, a good rock face, or a lake or trout stream. Living guide trip to guide trip, a wad of cash stashed for emergencies in a place my stoner brain forgot already. 

I do feel like I’ve taken a few steps back. Like a time warp. I was doing this gig in 2019 when my life fell apart before and after my divorce. Recent events kind of put me back in this space. Life off river falls apart we revert back to what we know. It’s not totally bad, just not what was planned.  I adjust, pivot, move forward. That’s all I can do.

Trips will help. Give purpose to this lifestyle. Otherwise I’m just a fishy hobo. And I’m looking forward to things picking back up work wise. I know the river will drop. Slugging around the lakes today made me appreciate the Yak a little more even if she’s being a spiteful bitch right now. I get company finally! This last week alone has kind of sucked if I’m honest. I do need people and I think I’m ready. At least in a fishing, camping, outside capacity. A few minutes in civilization like the store or gas gets me anxious. And I did notice a few people in my hometown do the double take with me. I can’t go anywhere close. When I head to Montana next month for fishing and then Canada I will be unknown and that has its appeal.

Today I also drove a lot. Fucken gas. Which I do hate, but at 50 mph on back roads to and from water is my groove. I get time to think, cry, laugh, and harness my chi so to speak when I drive. A habit from guiding, the to and from drive of trips is a lot of contemplation time. Today I thought of all the places in Washington I have fished. Fucken damn near all the good ones. From the OP to the Spokane. From Ross Lake to the Klickitat, and lots in between. Lakes, creeks, seeps, rivers, canals, slews, puddles, it’s a lot. And being back over here for guiding makes me realize I have got to get out of here. Not permanently, but I can’t do full time here in Washington anymore. Nothing is holding me here now. My anchors have all been cut free. Some more forcefully and suddenly than others. But I’m in the wind now.

South, no more snow. No more winters sitting doing nothing except Netflix, booze, weed, and flies being tied. No more hibernation. It makes me cranky and hibernation alone seems frightening. So I’ve gotta keep moving. So South, that’s what we are working towards. Another boat, different fish, warmer weather, maybe a shorter beard, I don’t like humidity, and the opportunity to learn something new and completely different than anything I’ve ever done. I don’t mind being out of my comfort zone. Fuck I don’t think I have one save for on the water. And I definitely feel suddenly forced into a very uncomfortable place. I want to control being out of that zone. I want to be the reason I’m there. Me. Not tragedy, trauma, and shock being the culprits. That’s a change I need and seek.

Working trout in other places also has its appeal. And my distaste for working for others has waned since my experience on the St. Joe. Finding trout fishing in places where there is more opportunity and yes…better fishing; like Idaho and Montana is also being chased. It’s time. I need to guide other places. Experience more. I want it. And with no anchors I can float that way.

Out of the comfort zone. I want challenge. Water that is new, water that makes me pucker, I want to meet new and more people through angling. Fully embracing the community I hold so dear. I want to be that troutbum guide. I’ll always guide the Yakima. Especially in the fall, but I want 250 to 270 guided days a year anglers. The other days are for me to fish.

And I want to fish, trout but also weird places like Costa Rica, for whatever, Iceland, I’d love to go back to Alaska, for a week that’s long enough, I’d love to catch an Arimpima in the jungles of Brazil, a shark, and God do I wanna personally fish for Bulltrout and Redfish. I love bull trout. Went to Canada years ago just for a shot at a 40 incher. I got it. And then some. To have the opportunity to do that again this year, and more to come is something I want. And Redfish, never have I caught them, but the bass angler in me wants some of that shit. They get big, they eat the fuck out of flies, and they have a cool spot on their tail I want to see up close. I’m a sucker for spotted tails.

And I want to always improve my casting. It’s a constant thing. Some people are born good casters or it is effortless for them…I am not that person. It is always work for me and I am consistently tuning and learning my cast personally. I am a born oarsman, not angler. I made myself into a good angler, rowing is what comes naturally and effortlessly for me and I’ve made peace with that. Changing up what you fish for and actually getting chances to fish help make you a better caster.

Those are the things that go through the mind of a this guide driving around and fishing anyway. And I’ll take those thoughts opposed to the others that want to creep in currently. It’ll be good to guide and fish with others. It’s not the easiest thing to fish and row from the boat all the time. And this activity of chasing fish with flies is wonderful solo…but honestly and I’ve been doing this for almost 2 decades now…its designed to be experienced with others and shared.

Just like life. We are meant to be social, have partners, pairs, sometimes the same for our lives, sometimes not. Fly fishing and at least my life are sometimes too similar that it frightens me. And I won’t lie, lately and at other points in my life, I have felt like the solitary bulltrout, ranging far and wide, hunting, feeding, and always seeking out another. If I was a trout…it wouldn’t be a cutthroat, my favorite fish, I’d be a bulltrout. And that’s both sad and awesome in its own way. Booze kicked in.

See ya on the water anglers,

Tamarack

The Basin

This post is gonna get a little personal. Fair warning.

It’s been 2 weeks but it feels like a month. Time is not the same, a concoction of trauma, shock, and no bearing from the river, no hatches to time my day, no sun hitting the water telling me what time it is, no clients to tell me what day it is. I get hit with waves, I still look at my phone anticipating a text or message, I cry a lot. I spent time alone in the mountains trying.  Didn’t work. Too many memories that are fresh. Plus rain.

I have her ashes now. Some kind of closure I reckon. Gives me the opportunity to share the places I ramble with her.  We had done a lot and planned to do more. I still get a little bit of that I suppose.

I’m still numb, but I put on a good face.  I must give props and gratitude to my fellow guides and anglers who allowed me to just bum it in the shops, not ask questions, let me tie flies, talk shop, and try and move through the day like me. J Michelle and Gabe you did a lot for me today with or without knowing.

I need to get back to work. I’m swimming in myself without it. And its a maelstrom in here and I don’t have the right boat for it.

The river mirrors what’s going on internally and I can’t look at it any…more. Maybe when it calms so will I. Here at the lakes of my early days, in the twilight, the sky lime, blue, and orange, stars peeking, I feel the river pull me less. It is still there, its incessant tumbling, roiling, and whitewater noise humming in my head…but too far away to draw me into those depths.

It’s warm here, it’s not raining, the breeze is blowing the right way so you don’t smell cow shit.  Just the lakes and sage. The bats frolic and flutter about chasing the tricos, caddis, and skeeters.  Frogs croaking and the toollies whispering against the wind.  The lake is rippled and the three quarter moon bright; casting faint shadows and reflecting off the ever moving lake surface. It glints and glitters, the campfires little pops of light around the banks. A party down yonder with Latin music playing politely, I recall the tunes from my youth. 

Sad doesn’t really work as a descriptive word but I can’t find a better one despite my love of words.  Under it all I do feel that ambition to chase fish though. It’s there trying to break through, but I’m only letting it bubble up one…bubble…at a time. It’s there though, and my boat knows it. 

She has always had words with me. She talks. 12 years with a boat and all the places and miles we’ve done together we have full on conversations. She remembers clients and fish, people and experiences, my alter ego in a sense, the part of me no one gets to know save for a few who’ve heard our chats, and her. They talked, she understood. 

The boat knows and it senses what I’m doing to that drive and need to fish. She knows I can’t sit still.  The boat talks shit when I miss fish, gets angry when she isn’t in the water but getting driven around, the boat knows and she is pushy. I named the boat The Subtle Tale but she is anything but. Here on the lakes she knows what I want. I want bass.  Good ones.  I want to cast and cast, strip and pull, set and hook, land and smile. She knows.  Her ass will be cawing at me at sunup telling me there are fish waiting. Maybe those Muskie in the lake just over the low ridge, or those stinky stalked trout in the lakes I sit between. Even if it’s windy she says we go, we have an anchor and you know the coves and edges the wind doesn’t effect the cast no matter which way it comes from. You know Nate.  And the boat is that part of me. I’ve put myself into this boat. Blood, sweat, tears, broken rods, lost and landed fish, all the people we’ve shared experiences with, I am my boat and she is me.

I’m sitting in my boat instead of a camp chair writing this because I’m always more comfortable in here.  My hands only ever content with oars in them, this is the only place I can sit in one place for hours these days. It grounds me in the fluid motion of water, makes me one with whatever we find ourselves floating.  Water no longer scares me, only excites me, and that drive is there, I lost my fear of water long ago after being made to feel small by it.  I’ve embraced it, tis why I row, I snorkel, I fish.  Water is home, no matter where it be.  The boat and I have floated and fished all kinds of water, big and small, foreboding and butt hole puckering, calm and delightful, miles upon miles in too many rivers and places to name. It’s what I know and love.

Here in the Basin, not the Yakima or Teanaway is where the boat and I slide back into things. Neither the Yak or I am ready for the river, despite the boats’ pleas to hit that big ass water because we both know we could. No. Here where it all started for me; this is where we find it again. Be on water first and off last. From dawn till dusk, plant myself in the boat all fucking day and sit still for once. Well…as much as my boat and I sit still in the water.

Tie in the boat, eat in the boat, fuck take a ciesta in the boat. I’ve made myself stay put here. Put trips on the schedule for the next 2 weeks. Thank you to everyone that is coming out. I need this and have a few days to put myself through it before guiding. The weather gets nice, it will be warm, fish will eat, and I will find myself guiding again.

The evening sets in, the lake still glints in the moonlight. Ushering me to my tent, my boat whispering sleep Nate, you must be up before the fish. I listen hesitantly, but I do what I’m told, slowly. Okay boat, let me finish this smoke and ponder a moment longer as I look at the lake and I will adhere. Fish to be chased on the morn.

Goodnight anglers

Tamarack

Anxious isn’t a strong enough word.

I can’t sit still. It’s bad, and I’m gonna just be open and honest here anglers. Shit isn’t good.  I’m exhausted with answering the question, “How are you doing?”  Not fucken good.  I’m not trying to be an ass or anything but that’s the answer and it will be for a while.

Rivers are blown, it won’t stop raining, everything from my beard to my feet, tent to my boat is soaked.  It’s like I’m on the peninsula. I hate the OP anglers. I fished the lake, figured it out, got bored, caught a few, ended up with the shanks in my hook set and missed too many fish because my mind isn’t in it. Plus it would not stop fucking raining!I don’t need to fish…I need to guide.

And yes I need to get back to work before anyone asks any question about it. I’m only good at one fucking thing in this world and that’s guiding. I made myself into a good one, one of the best if you ask around, hated and loved by many.  I know this about myself, I’ve earned it through hard work and growing a good guide program with my business. So yes I want to get back to it.  It’s literally…all I’ve got fucking left.

I’ll heal, and that takes time. So I’m going to and need to be allowed to heal my way. That way is through sharing trout, river, the craft of fly fishing, knowledge, and running my boat down river shooting that shit into my veins 2 anglers at a time.  I need to be in that rythym, that groove, where river, anglers, guide, boat, and trout all vibing and clicking into place. I need to have the opportunity to make it happen, to be the cause of it, to feel its effect.

I need to slip into that place where I don’t see the river but I see the flow, the seams, the depths, the changes, the way the fly moves, the time of the drift, knowing when the fish is going to eat, calling it, counting it down, plugging anglers into it with me. I need it or I’m going to fucking explode.

How do you help?  You let me do my job. Give me a challenge, let me teach, let me learn, let me listen, observe, and dive in. I’ve tried a lot of things in my adult life, guiding is it.  There’s no questions about it for myself, I am a fly fishing guide…that’s it. And I don’t care what species, if it will eat a fly I will chase it, learn it, and teach it. I’ve chased damn near every cold freshwater species and most cold saltwater species, knocked a few warm freshwater species off the list and I will not spend another winter here.  There are saltwater species down south that are calling. I am answering. So I need to work because gas ain’t cheap and a new saltwater skiff is gonna need a good chunk of cash.

So I chase bass, and Muskie, trout in lakes, carp in puddles, and fucken what have you until the damn river drops. Then I’m gonna fish the absolute fuck out of the river and yes we’re gonna fish the Teanaway too.  It’ll be tough for me at first but that water is mine…and I mean that.  It’s mine. I’ve spent more time up there than most if not all. Because I’m the one up there so I’d see you and I don’t. I’ve spent years working, and waiting for that river to be what it is today.  Since I first laid fly fishing eyes on it in 2004, to when I watched it wither and die in 2015, to now when it’s healthy and working like it should.  Nothing and I mean nothing, will keep me from that water. And that’s more to say to myself than anyone reading this.

Will I always guide the Yakima?  The short answer is yes.  All season long moving forward…probably not.  Washington isn’t the best place for a guide with the Yakima River being basically the last place to actually chase river fish in the state that’s worth a damn. I’ve guided other places, and can’t seem to break into more days here.  It will be my last full time season on the Yakima. I will be chasing work down south. After guide offers during this past winter in other states and turning them down because I was planning a different life for myself…those offers won’t be sidelined next time and I will seek them out moving forward.

You want to help? Know an outfitter that could use a guide like me?  Send them my way or vice versa. That will help.  The Yakima cannot sustain or satiate my desire to guide and chase fish. And burnout is a real thing. I’ve done 56 days already this season.  And June is a bust so we’ve got July August, September, and October to get it done.  There’s roughly 140 to 160 guideable days left of the season and I want them all. 200 days is probably out but we can get fucking close. That’s how you can help.

Those that have guided with me for years know how I am. This has been coming. After covid and everything else, it’s time.

Am I okay?  No, but that will change. Let it be and let me guide. If not on this blasted river then on my stomping grounds in the Basin for bass and other fish.  Or in Montana, or Idaho, Canada, Alaska, Mexico, Iceland, Texas, Florida, Louisiana, I don’t fucking care just let me guide.

That’s where I’m at.  My off river life is off river and non-existent right now. There is only water. I can’t sit still because of it. There’s no river to fish so all I am is anxious.  And anxious isn’t a strong enough word. Stir crazy doesn’t even begin to describe it. I am lost. And I need water under me to have a bearing.

Am I as angry as the river torrent?  Yes.  Sad and melancholy like the skies.  Yes.  Furious and aflame like my campfires. Yes. I sleep less, and wake with the sun, can’t stay down, my body wants me up, my arms and back want to feel the weight and pull of my oars. My legs want to burn against the current. My eyes want to be tired and overworked, fingers numb and pricked by hooks, knuckles beaten and bloody, palms calloused and rough, skin scorched, my voice hoarse, my sanity lost in fly fishing. I want my cast dialed in and perfect, no matter the rod, presentations precise, timing immaculate, I want to be in the groove, the funk, plugged in, dialed up, got the chops, getting it, sending it, roping ’em, tagging, bagging, cashing checks. Lost in the absolute fuck of fly fishing. That is all I know and all I want to do.

Anxious isn’t a strong enough word. I need to be in that place so I don’t go anywhere else. Put me there, put myself there, get there.

I ramble anglers. On to the next place to chase fish and fall into that groove.

Tamarack

See ya on the water anglers,

Bass fishing it is.

Shits blown until maybe the 20th. Probably until July. So we are pivoting and headed to the Basin to guide lakes for bass, Muskie and trout.

I’ll reach out to those on the calendar about options.

I’m headed there Sunday or Monday to set camp and get cracking. If you’d like to fish and book a guide trip you know what to do.

See ya out there anglers.

Tamarack

Bass fishing it is.

Shits blown until maybe the 20th. Probably until July. So we are pivoting and headed to the Basin to guide lakes for bass, Muskie and trout.

I’ll reach out to those on the calendar about options.

I’m headed there Sunday or Monday to set camp and get cracking. If you’d like to fish and book a guide trip you know what to do.

See ya out there anglers.

Tamarack

Red Mountain

Before I was a fly fishing guide I was a back country hiking, ski, paddling, mountaineering, climbing, shoeing, outdoor survival, kind of guide. I did a lot. One of the things I did was hike…thousands of miles. So much so I got a trail name from PCT hikers which is the origins of Tamarack.

At 2 years in I had hiked 2700 miles and over 300,000 feet of elevation gain.  One summer I hiked the same 10 peaks, twice…totalling 200 miles of trial and 100,000 feet of elevation. All with minimum 20lbs packed most of the time more. How do you think I started losing weight.  Not just rowing. I was a mountain goat. I ate miles and miles of trail up. Saw all I could and all that the forests could offer. I had the privilege of 3 permits for The Enchantments, once with clients, once with my exwife, and once solo. I have summit all but Little Annapurna, I was sick the day of the ascent, and Witches Tower…because fuck that spire. I have been to Mt. Stuart’s 9,453 ft summit 2 times. Once up the Cascade Coulier and a wicked night in the bivy solo.  And I technical climbed the other side with friends. Both times spectacular and formidable. I tried for Rainer twice. Never made it. An avalanche 3 years into it all changed my perspective and desire to conquer mountains and ski lines…permanently.

But there is one mountain out of them all…that I touched the summit more times than any. Red Mountain. Not the tallest or the hardest. Save for a section of 2000ft elevation gain in just over a mile, a false summit, and a blasted creek that always ran through the trail roughly 800 ft from the summit always making me lose the trail.  Some 20 times I made Reds summit. It sits over 6000 ft in the air. Scraggly and pitchy,  with a few crags, lots of scree, and red dirt and rocks that give the lone peak it’s namesake. If you are driving up Lake Cle Elum it is the Red Peak that sits at the head of the lake. Welcoming you into the folds of the mountains, leading the way, ushering you into its embrace.

From it’s summit you can see the entire area. The river below, Ellensburg in the distance on a clear day, just barely, the towns of Cle Elum and Roslyb hidden in the foothills. I have seen more amazing things while making the trek towards the sky on Red Mountain. Before a rock slide took it out there was a spring with a mossy tarn, a place where fairies and otherworldly critters of the imagination would be at home. Pica and eagles would welcome you on your way. There is a section of old growth that is from another age with trunks wider than any tree I’ve seen in the whole ranger district. A secret place with trees older than people being here save for the Sahpatin and Yakama natives that were once in the foothills.

I saw the largest elk of my life on Red Mountain. More points to his rack than I want to admit. Gnarly, almost grotesque, his perplexed look at my human form as if he’d never seen my kind before. Hurrying his herd into the old growth out of site. Still to this day one of the most amazing wildlife encounters I’ve ever had.  A lake sits on the back side of the mountain on your way. Small, creek, seep, and spring fed tucked back in the scraggly overgrown trees.  Little Joe Lake if I recall.  A large lonely male black bear used to call it home when I would frequent. I threw him an apple from across the lake when we met each other one morning. He cautiously pawing it before devouring it and skittering off.  I saw him half a dozen times on my trips up there. Always weary when I was in his woods. Only a passerby to and from with awe when he would show himself. Always a privilege.

I loved the hike. Doable in a day, did it twice in one day. Also a trail to hike up and over and down the other side. A short but steep hike. 7 to 8 miles to the summit. Rising from just under 3000 feet to almost 7000 feet. Only a handful of peaks here crest 7000 feet besides The Enchantments. But once up Asgard Pass the upper area of The Enchantments is already above 5000 ft. Air is thinner. More goats. But also more people. I never saw another soul on Red Mountain. Tis why I loved it.

You can see Davis Peak yonder across the rivers north. It’s scarred and scorched sides from a wildfire older than me still showing. It fills in more every season. Spires of granite towering over the forests to the north west looking towards Big Bear Mountain. The more recent scabs on Jolly Mountain to the east. The open and forbidding North West face of Mt. Stuart, it was on the summit of Red Mountain that I felt the first urge to climb Stuart. Wanting to be higher, the highest peak I could see…I wanted it. I would sit on Red Mountain’s summit for hours, sometimes I would bivy in its shadow just at the tree line, amongst the larches. I was there during the first snowfall of an early winter, almost slipping to my death down the slick scree beds, the 3rd time my ice axe saved my life. It was one of the last mountains I hiked after my avalanche, it ushered me into the mountains and bid me farewell when my desire and need for mountains was quelled.

I am camping in her shadow today. I can see the waterfalls I would walk through and drink from, still heavy from the locked in snow under the dense forest that covers the mountains mid section. Old trees, tall trees, ones to hard to get to so never logged. Terrain that is to hard to hunt in, camp on, or frequent. Only a handful of people I knew during the time I was chasing mountains had hiked Red Mountain. The trail was not maintained, had fall overs, was grown over and washed away in many places. I did most of the maintence on it during 2 years. Mostly for myself apparently.

I look at the summit now and have no desire to be on it. But it reminds me and I reminisce about my time in it’s embrace. Of everything I’ve hiked it will always be the mountain that I have the most and fondest memories of hiking. Never with anyone. I only ever hiked there solo. Never wanting to share it. It was always mine. The things I saw, felt, smelled, heard…my experiences. To create similar experiences alone now…is something I know I am capable of, but heavy in the heart to trek forward with. Lonely as the mountain and I were, it was always the 2 of us. I have rivers and trout now. And other waters and fish to find and chase, experience alone or with others…in time.

In the shadow of Red Mountain…I feel calm and peace, foreboding stoicism, solid and unmoveable.

Tamarack

Rage River

The fire from last night still burns at my face. My skin still hot to the touch. I still smell it’s smoke in my hair and beard. Lingering, reminding.

The lake has done its job and I feel the urge to ramble on. The fishing slow but there were a few to hand. Needed and wanted. Striking camp I look at the ring that held the fire on the prior eve. It’s smolder gone, cold ash it’s remnants. May I not rage in its absence.

The woods usher me out of the mountains. And I see the river. It is high. The turmoil and torment of its flows familiar to me. How can such a cold and ever moving thing have more rage than the flames I gazed into the night before? But it does.

More powerful than it’s heated opposite, the river rages onward, carrying all that come into its grasp further downward. Sinking, spinning, rolling, rapidly through the cold green water down the current ocean bound eventually. Washing all in its path, cleansing through its angry rage.

I see the Yakima, higher than she has been in a decade! Her banks swollen, roads washed away, yards flooded, trees snapped and pulled down yonder. She is angry, the fire last night does not compare in any sense. The largest and hottest of wildfires does not compare to the flow I bare witness to. Able to quench and quell the rage filled flames that try to burn the world, if only she could escape her dams and banks.

Rage river, with your torrent of current. Make a new path, without care or concern, flow the direction you choose, carve, weather, wear down the rocks, sand, dirt, and earth that hold you. Charge ever forward, surge with might and ferocity… rage…river…rage and let me drink it in.

I stand knee deep in its frigid embrace and welcome the numbness that works its tendrils through my nerves. Stinging and burning with icy fingers, reminding me I am here and offering me a fraction of the rage within the river.

This water I can navigate, I can understand, feel its movements, unlock its language, unlike the fire. Even at this humongous flow I can still decipher her thoughts and feelings….angry, cold, spiteful, unrelenting, revenge filled, tormenting, tortured…all encompassing rage. Or are those mine? The river and I speak similarly and familiarly. So rage river…and let me feel it…hit my chest and make me breath deep against the cold. My heart races and my blood quickens, trying to battle against the chill. But it is wanted and I beg for it. Slow me down, make me view time differently. Take away the feelings and add them to yourself. Cleanse with your rage…so that I may feel it leave me.

Rage river…so that I may simmer. Rage…river…and take mine away.

Tamarack