Sunday, August 5, 2012

He’ll Be Comin’ Down the Mountain

Waiting for the Take
It was day four of our 10-day trip…the second full day on the ranch. We spent the morning fishing up at the highest elevation pond called “Sawmill.” This pond was full of big trout and skinny water. These spring ponds are full of vegetation…algae and “moss.” Large trout cruised in and out of an area with only inches of water above the moss. It was ambush central. Shannon, our guide, positioned me to intercept these fish…some would come within 15 feet others about 30. As long as you led the fish and didn’t line it, they would take. The problem…they dove for the moss or screamed across the pond…either way you had about a 1 in 10 shot in landing a fish.  I landed two that morning, but had at least 10 fish hooked. My biggest? A 24 inch bow with “shoulders,” but the ones that got away were much bigger. I’m still having nightmares…wet nightmares…me standing in my skivvies casting to cruising trout nightmares…trout refusing my fly and swallowing me nightmares.

Fish On!

Adam Had to "Catch" This One Twice!
Oh yeah?! You try to land a 25-inch plus trout on 5X tippet using a 5-weight rod…see if you can beat my 20% success rate…go ahead try it…I’ll go with you.

My son Aaron landed a nice one from this pond. Heck…my son Adam landed a nice one from this pond, although he pissed Shannon off because he kept dropping the fish while Shannon tried to get a picture. The ranch (and guides) wants those pictures. That’s how suckers like me get hooked...and suckers like you. I know you want to go…just say the word, I’ll go along.  I’ll even bring the beer.

Aaron and Guide John with a P-I-G Hawg!
Yo Boys...Now, This Here is a Fish!

Speaking of beer…did you know that beer would have prevented a serious injury while I was vacationing? It’s true…here is how it happened.

I Should Have Listened to the Trout and Drank Beer
Our guides dropped us off at our cabin after a full day of trout fishing and clay shooting. Since our guides were now off the clock, we offered them a cold one… small compensation for putting up with my 3 teenagers all day.  At first they were going to accept, but one of the guides remembered that he promised to pick up his daughter and said they would catch us Thursday after fishing. No problem I thought.

It was about 4pm and I was still up for something before dinner. So rather than drinking a couple of beers I asked my son Aaron if he wanted to go mountain biking.  He said yes. Had we instead drank beer, I wouldn’t have gotten on that bike.  Had I not gotten on that bike, I wouldn’t have ridden up Cross Mountain. Had I not ridden up Cross Mountain, I wouldn’t have had to ride down Cross Mountain. Had I not ridden down Cross Mountain, I wouldn’t have wrecked. Had I just stayed at the cabin and drank beer I wouldn’t have broken my collar bone. There is a moral to this story…I’ll let y’all figure out what that moral is.

So what really happened up on Cross Mountain? Depends…do you want the story I remember or the story that my son remembers? How about both?

Cross Mountain...Say a Prayer Before You Head Down

We readied the mountain bikes…good bikes that the ranch owns. Specialized rock hopper hard tail 26ers. Not quite the 29er stump jumpers my son and I own and ride regularly, but good bikes. Aaron and I are not newbies to the sport. We ride frequently, and have ridden far more knarly trails than what we ended up riding this day. This wasn’t my first rodeo. We weren’t going to ride anything we couldn’t handle.  Sure, there were no designated mountain bike trails at the ranch, but there were plenty of two track and horse trails…nothing to lead you to believe a crash was eminent.

So we headed out a valley road with nice easy climbs and descents. We had plenty of time before dinner and when I saw a switchback trail headed up Cross Mountain, I said, “Let’s see how far we can go up before I run out of breath.” The trail was wide enough that it was not very technical…except for the climb a relatively easy trail to negotiate. We made it up several switchbacks when the thin Rocky Mountain air literally sucked the oxygen out of my lungs. My legs were screaming for a break and my mouth was drier than a West Texas dust storm. So we stopped, drank some water and decided it was time to head down the trail. Here’s where the two stories diverge as if we took two different trails down the mountain.

We Headed Out this Valley Road Towards Cross Mountain

I started down the trail and noticed that the dirt was very loose, deep and difficult to keep traction.  I eased my speed through the first two switchbacks. Gravity kicked in again and as I started down the next section a black bear bolted across the trail in front of me! Just then a mountain lion lunged over top of me, across the trail chasing the bear! His back paws clipped my helmet and I started to skid. I pulled back to straighten the bike when I realized why the mountain lion was chasing the bear. They were both being chased by a Sasquatch who had an empty Jack Links package in one hand my younger son’s hat in the other (I told them not to mess with Sasquatch, no matter what the TV commercial showed!) As I straightened myself, Sasquatch stopped in front of me and I swerved to miss him and lost control of the bike. I went down hard. Ole’ Sasquatch put on the hat and just laughed. 

Ok…so maybe that’s not quite how it happened, but I use that version at the bar and there is someone that always believes it.

The truth is we started down Cross Mountain trail and we did notice some loose stuff along the way. As I headed down a straight stretch I hit some loose sand and the back wheel fished tailed. I tried to pull it back, when according to my son I hit a rock. The bike slid out from under me and gravity took care of the rest. I hit the ground hard, right shoulder first. My head hit the ground hard too and perhaps that’s why I have a different rendering of the crash. Fortunately my helmet saved me from further injury (or was it attributable to my hard head?). I sat for a moment while I assessed the damage.

Another View of Cross Mountain...If You Squint You Can See the Bear, Mountain Lion and Sasquatch!

It’s called the mountain biker inventory…when you momentarily sit after a crash determining what still works and what didn’t. I could see. I had ten fingers and toes and all my limbs still attached. There was no blood. I knew that I had either broken my collar bone or at best case dislocated the shoulder. I had some movement and didn’t feel any protrusions, but it did hurt. About that time the adrenaline really kicked in and I told my son I could ride back to the cabin. We walked the bikes down the trail to the valley road where I gingerly rode the mile back to the cabin.
My Fractured Clavicle
From there ranch staff took Julie and me to the Grand Junction ER. Grand Junction wasn’t originally on our itinerary so that was a plus in the site seeing category. X-rays revealed a pretty good break, but the doctor…knowing I was on vacation…said, “We’ll put you in a sling and on pain meds to keep you comfortable. Since you are left-handed, I don’t see why you can’t keep fly fishing while you are here, but no more biking, no horseback riding or whitewater rafting.”
And fly fish I did.

1 comment:

  1. Yes you did! And kept a great attitude too. It was a great trip, desite the accident.