Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Last River Trip of 2014

I thought last week would be my last river trip of the year, but things worked out for me again this Tuesday. After sitting down on Monday and trying to figure out how I could make it happen, I opted for a quick trip down a stretch of river I haven't been in at least six years. Time wasn't going to be on my side. I needed to drop the kids off at 8am and get to the launch fast, or as fast as the speed limit will get me those 22 miles.
I had a full day of things that had to get done, including giving a devotional at my kids school at 12:30. (Not something I can be late for.) Then of course the afternoon was full as well. I was determined, so off I went.

I get to the launch and immediately feel my old friend, the wind, tapping me on the back. I can't always have it my way, I guess. It was 33 degrees (brrrrrr for us Texans) and a 15mph wind.

I remember this stretch of river as narrow and shallow in many parts. Similar to the other sections, but less traveled because of the work involved. But at the drop in, it's wide, deep, and filled with all types of fun cover.

The wind was pushing me around and I think I got hung on every underwater structure that was out there. At least a dozen times in the first 15 minutes. I didn't remember all that being there, but as I said, it's been years since I got the yak wet at this spot.
Within a couple hundred yards, it went from deep and wide to narrow and shallow. This was the first of many swift moving paths I would march up to get to the next fishable pool.

Once I got through that, it stayed narrow for a while, and looked like perfect fly fishing territory. Only problem is, i'm not what you would call a "pro" fly fisherman. I'm sure there's plenty of people that would drool over fishing in a straight away like that. Not me, not with that canopy of fly stealing tree limbs. It would look like a Christmas celebration with all my lures hanging from every limb like ornaments.

Of course when it does open up a bit, it's gets real, real shallow.

The next areas were beautiful and mostly calm. The wind couldn't quite get it's hands around our throat this deep in woods. It was definitely a give and take. More work, less wind. But oh, don't think for a minute it wouldn't start howling the minute I want to start casting.

The river continued it's back and forth in between different depths, never staying too long before changing again.

The water seemed to get a little more attitude the further I went. It was a chore getting in, out, in, out, and at this point I still didn't have a fish in the boat yet.

I was starting to remember why I didn't go this route very often. The temperature at this point was at 37, and my hands were getting a little numb. I had gloves for this, but the constant dragging, pulling, pushing had made them wet and a bit chilly. But I persevered and kept moving on to bigger water and bigger hopes of that prized fish.

After all the work, I continue fishing the whole way through. Then, without any rhyme or reason, I set the hook on what's possibly the biggest bass in the whole world, and then...*snap*. What in the....hey, where's my line, and where's my...ahhhh poopsicles.

It's been a long time since I snapped a rod. I guess it was just my turn. Fortunately I have two more on board, so as heartbreaking as it was, I could still continue. So after a quick eulogy for my dear departed rod, I commenced to getting around my next hurdle...a rather slippery and tree choked dam.

You might be wondering, "why bother going through all that work and now you have to portage a dam too?" Well, check out what's on the upper part of the dam. That's some prime fishing right there, that's why.

And look, I even found a friend along the way. Although he did choose to unfriend me shortly after this photo was taken.

I moved on up river, casting everywhere, determined to get some slime on the yak today. Finally, a big on. I reeled him in and measured 19 inches. Yeehaw. I start to get the camera out of my pfd pocket, but i'm having trouble. My fingers are a bit numb. So I lay that big ol' feller on my lap for two seconds and get the pocket unzipped. But while I did that, the bass had an uncontrollable urge to get back in the water. It flopped hard and as I reached to grab it, it slipped out of my hands, like a football lathered in grease. Plop. And away he went. Leaving me staring at his tail-end swimming away. I went through a few stages in a matter of seconds...denial, then anger, then more anger, then depression, and finally acceptance. As I sat there enjoying a nice pity party, I happened to see my watch. It was 11:15. Uh-oh. I gotta go, and fast. I'm nearly 2 miles up a river I have to push, pull, and fight to get back from and I need to be at the school in a little over an hour. So just as quick as the bass darted away, so did I, back to the car.

I made great time and was loaded up and back on the road by noon. It's amazing how fast you can go when you don't fish every stump and lily pad every two feet.
I got to the school in time, finished most my projects in the afternoon, and went to work for about three hours. All in all, not my best day on the water or most productive, but it was good to do a little scouting, and i'm happy with this being the close to my 2014 season.

Plus, 2015 is just a few weeks away and i'll be hitting the water in January, but it sounds so much more dramatic if I say it's the last time I can get out this year. :)

Thanks for coming along,

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Peaceful Day Off

I'm one of those people who seem to have a hundred things going at once. I'm usually getting pulled in every direction and sometimes it can be a little overwhelming. About 10% is actual work related, and the other 90% is things i'm passionate about like photo/video work, designing stuff, kayaking related things, etc. I do it to myself, so I don't complain. But out of all the things I really needed to get done yesterday, fishing wasn't on the list. So the night before I tried to figure out a game plan for the day and how I can get it all done.

Then it hit heck with all that stuff, I need to get on the water. Plus I could test out a few things I need to review in the future.

So off I went. I dropped the kids off at school and headed to the river. It was a little chilly... well 40, which is chilly for Texas. I was surprised at how thick the fog was as I made the twenty mile trek to the drop in. It was a pretty cool start for a trip. I got there at 8:20 and began to unload as well as take pictures of the area blanketed in the morning fog. It didn't last too long, but made for some fun photos.

What was better than anything, was there was no wind. And around these parts, that's a very rare thing.

I slowly made my way down river, casting along the banks and trees, and pretty much just enjoying the scenery. Since I wasn't fighting the wind like I always do, I was able to play around a little more with the camera when I saw things that looked cool.

Even the deer where taking it easy. They didn't see or hear me paddle up withing 50 feet of the group, but when I tried to get the camera out of the case it spooked them. One did turn around for a quick look, and then vanished.

Once I dropped down my first hurdle, I figured it was time it get the fly rod out and test out some new poppers I built a while back. They worked great and held together through a few terrible casts, until I got my rhythm. lol

Hurdle #1

They made a nice sound as they plugged along.

 The fishing was real slow, but so was I, so it didn't really matter. I was having a great time. I was able to land four in the time I was out. Two were nice, and the other two were...well, small. I was so glad just to get on the water, catching fish was just a bonus.

 My wife told me no shave November is over, and she refused to believe me when I told her they had extended it this year. Why won't anyone believe me. I read online, so it has to be true. Anyway, this little dude had some odd spots on him. They looked as if that's how he was made, not a sickly kind of thing, but what the heck do I know.

By about 11, the sun was out and warming everything up. I started shedding layers in hopes of not sweating so much, it is December you know. The wind was still at rest. I went about everything I did very quietly, so as to not wake the sleeping 30mph breezes.

Overall, another absolutely beautiful day on the water. I was off the water and back home early afternoon as the temperatures peaked at 66 degrees. I have noticed that the more beautiful the day, the less fish I catch. But yet I leave with a more relaxed and focused mind. Whereas some days I may catch 25 fish, but fight 35mph wind and come off the water with a "yeah, it was ok" attitude. I guess i'm glad i'm not just in it for the fish.

Thanks for coming along,


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

2nd Annual Dude's Trip 2014 Part 3

 Here's Part 1 and Part 2.

We didn't get to the area where we planned to camp until nearly 8pm. It was cold, dark, and still windy in the Sacramento Mountains at 8650 ft elevation. The road trip there wasn't the most relaxing. A few leg cramps sprang up, so there were a few unscheduled stops to stretch out. We were also very hungry. So we moved on and the next stop was a restaurant just inside the village of Cloudcroft called Big Daddy's Diner. We ordered up a couple of burgers and fries and chowed down on the best grub we'd had in a long time. Granted, we were famished, crawling on hands and knees, and near death, but i'm pretty sure that would've been the best dang hamburger on any normal day as well. A real thick burger....seems to be a rare thing nowadays.
As we sat there shoveling food in our mouths, I could tell there was a shift in the original plans. I could see it taking shape. We discussed what was to happen next. We needed a place to sleep. We needed to rest our weary bones.
My son sits back, throws out a big stretch and with a halfway smile says, "Hey, did you see that motel back there?"
Yeah, I saw it, and I know what he was trying doing. He was trying to put the slightest bug in my ear. Maybe start thinking a little more about that place. Hot shower. Soft beds. Warm room. No wind.
I am hurting something awful....NO!!! i'm stronger than that. I don't give in that easy. We're outdoorsmen!!! 

 We woke up around 7am and started slowly stirring. The temperatures were in the low 30's and a slight breeze. So I checked to make sure the thermostat was still on 74 and got back in bed. :)  Don't judge me. 

 We left the motel about 9am and after a quick breakfast, headed towards our first hiking destination. We immediately knew it was going to be a tough day just getting to our car. My legs didn't want to work that well, and my calves were not showing good manners either, griping and whining with every step. We drove around a while and finally ended up at Bluff Springs. It was a beautiful place. Ahhh man, there are stairs...this is going to hurt.  

 Once we got moving around and stretched a little, things started to be less painful with each step. Remember, i'm 41 now, things take longer to heal up than they used to.
 We hiked to the top and enjoyed a large meadow lined with tall pines. We followed a stream from a waterfall back to the side of the mountain it was pouring out of. We walked all over the area and up a few mountainsides. We then headed down the Willie White spur and hiked for a few more hours. It was beautiful country and a lot less strenuous than our previous day. We didn't take the backpacks, just some water and my GPS.  

From there we headed up towards the Sunspot Observatory. We stopped a few times and walked parts of the Rim Trail, but never too far, just a mile or so then double back.  

 That's White Sands in the background. It's roughly 30 miles away. 

We walked around at the observatory for an hour or so. We've been there many times in the past and they have a really nice self guided tour that takes you through a big portion of the grounds and some nice scenic overlooks. We headed back down to Cloudcroft around 4pm, and from there decided to go down to Alamogordo for supper. That's a nice drive down. There are a lot of things to doin Alamogordo as well. They have a zoo, an awesome Space Museum, , and of course, White Sands National Monument. Here's one thing we won't be doing....
These fellas on the way down thanks. 

Overall the trip was another awesome experience. I pushed myself further than I have in awhile, and had a great time doing it. There were times on the trip that I will never forget. I don't know if my son will want to keep doing this through the years, but he does now, so i'm running with it for as long as I can. 

 Now it's back to the planning phase for a bunch of family trips we're wanting to do. And maybe start looking at next year's Dude's Trip too.  :)

Thanks for coming along,

back to Part 1

back to Part 2 


2nd Annual Dude's Trip 2014 Part 2

Here is Part 1.

  We got up and had a little breakfast. Lots of folks up and tearing down their tents. I knew it would be better to break camp at that point, but I really didn't want to spend the time and wanted to get up that mountain. We knew we wouldn't be back before the noon checkout, so we opted to pay a little extra to stay at the site. Fortunately we had everything ready to go from last night. So we grabbed our packs and headed for the trail head. It was 7:25am and away we went. 

The way up was difficult to say the least. I had heard all the stories about how hard it would be, and wouldn't you know it, they were right. It was tough going. The trail was well marked and maintained. It was rocky, steep, and had an endless supply of switchbacks. It became an ongoing joke to call out switchback, then we would both repeat it at the same time. It was fun the first 10, not so much the next 10, and even less the next 10. But regardless of the "not so" fun factor, we hollered it out with equal enthusiasm each time. 

 We were about halfway to the top. We had passed a few folks coming down that spent the night at the campground a mile below the peak and got passed by a few who had more endurance than I had. Pretty soon we were around the first mountain and headed to a much windier trail. It made it hard to figure out how to dress. We layered, but it got hot, then turn a corner and the wind would chill you to the bone. They say the wind can get up to 100mph on the peak, and it can get pretty bad along the trail as well. Still, we were heading up, slowly.

We had to take numerous breaks along the way. Just to catch our breath or to let my heart slow down to were I was. 

 We knew we were getting close when the bridge came into view. They claim it's the highest bridge in Texas at 8093ft. 

It seemed the closer we got, the narrower the trail was getting. 

After another hour or so, we looked up from another switchback, and there it was, the top of Texas. We finally made it. It was in sight and within grasp. We made the final push with excitement. The last few steps were an amazing feeling. We were there. After four and a half hours, we felt a feeling that was hard to describe. Exhaustion and the pain was pushed aside. A fist bump, a hug, and a whole lot of smiles were in order. Then we stood in awe of such a beautiful view.

Here is the info on the monument that sits on the peak as per wikipedia...A stainless steel pyramid marks the summit. It was erected by American Airlines in 1958 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Butterfield Overland Mail, a stagecoach route that passed south of the mountain. One side of the pyramid has the American Airlines logo. The second side displays a U.S. Postal Service tribute to the Pony Express Riders of the Butterfield Stage. The third side displays a compass with the logo of the Boy Scouts of America. A summit register contained in a metal ammunition box is located at the base of the pyramid.

I don't think i've ever seen so far, and all in a 360 degree view.  

The back of El Capitan.  

As amazing as the views were, the wind was coming in with force. It was cold up top. Colder than I thought it would be. It was kinda funny that I wore pretty much what I would on a regular cooler temp kayak trip. My Mad River Canoe wind/spray jacket, polar buff, costa sunglasses, and all the layering. Only thing missing was my life jacket and waders, which would have been cumbersome on the trail. :)

The Lost Kayaker
 We signed the log, and after about 30 minutes of a freezing 30mph wind relentlessly pushing us around, we decided to head back down to stay on schedule and not get back too late.

Just a few yards below the peak.

The way back down was pretty uneventful. It went fast but was still very difficult. After the first mile, my calves were screaming at me. After another mile, here comes the blisters. I'm glad we had good trekking poles. They really helped on the way back to relieve a little stress off our knees. We got back to the campground at 3pm. Seven and half hours after we started, we were back at camp. Totally exhausted and feeling ever muscle in my body starting a revolution, we begin to tear down and pack up. We were glad we were back, and glad we can mark this one down in the books as one of the most amazing adventures we have done to date. All that, and I got to do it with my son. I told him one day maybe he can make that trek again with his son/daughter. He said, "You better believe it. That was awesome. You'll be coming too though." I told him we'll have to see about that when the time comes, and if i'm not still sore from this time.
We finished up and off we went for the two and a half hour drive to the Lincoln National Forest, our third leg of the trip. 

Guadalupe Mountains National Park 2014

 Continue to Part 3

Back to Part 1