Hooked

Posted October 22, 2020 – Narrated by Carmen
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“Come, fish, come. Come, fish, come. Sam’s at the gate with a frosted cake. Come, fish, come.”

      – Barney Fife, as played by Don Knotts in The Andy Griffith Show, Episode: The Jinx

I don’t fish.

On a family fishing trip I crept too close to the rushing creek. Now, some sixty-odd years later, I am alive only because Daddy could run faster than water. As he ran, he periodically threw his lanky frame down upon the soggy bank – pressing his chest against the mud so he could stretch his extra-long airplane mechanic arms down into the opaque water to fiercely claw up any fragments that felt promising.

Tree roots, clods of clay and slimy branches littered daddy’s determined path as he worked hair-on-fire down the bulging creek.

Onlookers agonized that his efforts were only a pitiful heartbreaking futility. But, at last, in one great swoop, he caught something that turned out to be my hair, and by those strands flung my gasping flailing self onto the grassy bank, kinda like a bear does a salmon.

And that was the last time they took me fishing.

Jim doesn’t fish either.

He burned out young.

On weekends, his dad woke him in the wee hours to go to the 32nd Street Pier in San Diego to catch the military fishing charter boats, The Kim or The Miss Norris, for a full day of deep-sea fishing.

And, on those annual sweltering-hot summer trips to Mississippi, Jim learned the family secrets of low-country fishing. With the right bait and ice cold beverages, a guy could catch anything. But mostly what Jim caught was chiggers and tics.

Like me, he wouldn’t have a clue what bait to use or where to cast the line, much less how to clean a fish.

For a couple of redneck kids, we are lousy anglers. But that may soon change. Learning to cut our hair during COVID has invested me with the confidence to make a big ol’ mess out of just about anything.

The Andy Griffith Show is on my mind quite a bit lately, mostly because it is still the best show ever produced for television. Late this summer, we hung out at a natural alpine lake called Fish Lake, a place with that familiar all-American Mayberry vibe.

Fish Lake is a fisherman’s oasis, renowned for its twenty, thirty and even forty-pound Mackinaw Trout, which are much easier to hook than a cell signal.

Fish Lake Lodge – Under construction from 1928 until 1933, and built of native spruce logs, the lodge measures 80 X 320 feet, and is one of the largest and most impressive log structures in the United States. Sadly, this local treasure is in a state of collapse. Hopefully, it can be saved for future generations.

Good thing we had a deck of cards and stocked up on groceries.

But the natural thing to do at Fish Lake is to fish for your dinner. I hear there is no limit on perch. Yum.

Deeper into the woods we go where safety is not necessarily in numbers and quality of life with all of the creature comforts can be life-threatening. We miss swimming pools, bandwidth, and Trader Joe’s.

At first, Covid made me feel fragile – as if I were being swept into the unknown. The process of adaptation was difficult, but Jim and I have crafted routines into our lives to make these new wide-eyed realities manageable.

As I celebrate my Beatles Birthday, I look back on my life and see how early life experiences prepared me for this moment.

Social distancing throughout a hepatitis epidemic in Italy, and maintaining civility in a public crisis during The Cuban Missile Crisis in Florida served as primers for this era. The Duck and Cover and Highways Of Agony generation is notorious for childhood hang-ups, but calmness in a national emergency should be one of our best things.

The ordeal can be harsh but good endings are worth waiting for.

Someday, this will be over, and we will be able to make trips to Canada again, and bask in the luxury parks between spells of wilderness dry-camping. Since January, level places to park the rig and partial hook-ups is fabulous, and any water source within bucket distance is gold.

We are avoiding tightly packed RV parks where most people with our list of heart conditions avoid the pools, spas, showers, toilets – almost everything they offer. These days, the pad and hook ups aren’t worth the resort price tag.

It’s the hand we’ve been dealt.

Covid kind of tipped LIB over into what some would call living rough, and believe us, it’s not for everyone. Dry-camping for months on end was never our intention, but those one-hundred bottles of reserve wine acquired on our recent tour through Lodi is a real game changer.

After wading through all the murk of coronavirus, one thing is crystal clear … we are content wherever we are as long as it is safe and we are together.

Certainly, in these disquieting times, it would be natural for us to retire the rig and move into a condo where we can experience the ebb and flow of this crisis in a mainstream way.

But, for now, we are focused on the shoreline, reaching for opportunity, discovering places like crystal clear fresh water ponds and mountain lakes which facilitate soothing activities.

“I’m not really wise. But I can be cranky”

      – Andy Griffith

Cycling, swimming, hiking, kayaking and wildlife viewing is still safe and available in thousands of publicly funded environments where social distancing is the whole point and always has been … and fishing is the key word search.

Lakes are our COVID defense plan.

It all began in Arizona with Fisher’s Landing at Martinez Lake, then Watson Lake in the Granite Dells and then, Dead Horse Ranch. Moving up through the Western Slope of Colorado we discovered one of our favorite campgrounds ever at Blue Mesa Reservoir in the Curecanti National Recreation Area.

Heading back into civilization we spent two weeks at Boyd Lake State Park in Loveland and discovered Horsetooth Reservoir in Fort Collins. I almost wept as we pulled out of Pristine Steamboat Lake at the foot of Hahn’s Peak, but quickly recovered when I spotted Crawford Reservoir from the highway – our final Colorado destination before entering Utah with a healthcare project.

A street curb, of all things – not a root, rock or stump – was the obstacle that came between Jim and his achilles tendon, the first serious injury we’ve suffered in almost five years of LIB.

If not for the excellent medical care he received in Moab and San Diego, Jim’s experience could be a cautionary tale. So, no city mouse vs. country mouse ballyhoo here. And, thank you, Medicare.

As a week-long heat wave moved into the entire western region, we drove out of Dead Horse Point State Park.

Seeking a cool, safe place to convalesce, Jim aimed about 9,000 feet high for the heart of Utah in the Wasatch Range. We passed through ranch country, farmland and pleasant well-kept Mayberryish towns …

then, we climbed melting mountains that looked good enough to eat.

Pressing our hands against the cool window glass assured us that the ascent would be rewarding.

Success!

Our beautiful alpine campsite and the crisp mountain air was sublime therapy. While the rest of Utah was a sizzlin’, we were chillin in the aspens.

From our site, less than 100 yards from the water’s edge, I rolled my kayak down to the lake for daily paddles.

A section of the Great Western ATV Trail surrounds Fish Lake (also open to hikers and horseback riding) with great views of Capitol Reef.

This was the perfect course for Jim to rehabilitate. A daily walk down the hill and back up again was not overdoing it. He couldn’t have found a better place to rest and recuperate.

The unusually dry weather prompted the forest service to post wildfire warnings. The lack of rainfall may explain why so many critter-people shared our campsite with us. A steady parade of unmasked locals kept us company throughout those restful late-summer days at Mackinaw Campground.

Two unexpected mind-blowing sights caught us by surprise. We’d never heard of Pando or Capitol Reef National Park – each, a fascinating day-trip from Fish Lake.

The Pando Aspen Clone

Question: What living organism is 80,000 years old, weighs thirteen million pounds and ranges within 106 acres?

Answer: Pando, is a clonal quaking aspen stand – called trembling aspen in Canada.

The Pando Aspen Clone is the most massive single living thing on the planet.

But due to decades of forest mismanagement, this quivering giant is in a state of deterioration. It is dying because it is not regenerating. The younger parts of the clone are being over-browsed by an abundance of herbivores and, in some areas, dehydration is a culprit too.

We’re not botanists, but it seemed obvious that saving Pando should include protections from the ongoing threat of blossoming human hormones. This mating ritual is not attractive or sustainable.

Capitol Reef

Fish Lake is located in The Fishlake National Forest, about an hour drive from Capitol Reef National Park.

If a single natural North American landscape were selected to exemplify the battle between good and evil, Capitol Reef would be a strong contender.

Known both as Robber’s Roost and The Land of The Sleeping Rainbow, the 100 mile Waterpocket Fold or Wrinkle On The Earth gave our eyes a good run in the park. Around every bend was a scene from a film or a theme from a book like Madelyn L’Engles A Wrinkle in Time.

The dramatic extrusions …

and psychedelic strata …

and wind erosions which, at first glance, look like Babylonian relief carvings …

really messed with our minds, arousing mystical thoughts and that creepy sensation of being the subject of display before a phantom audience.

“All I’m saying is that there are some things beyond the ken of mortal man that shouldn’t be tampered with. We don’t know everything, Andy. There’s plenty going on right now in the Twilight Zone that we don’t know anything about and I think we oughta stay clear.”

      – Barney Fife, The Andy Griffith Show, Episode: The Haunted House

We drove The Beast along the scenic drive at 20 mph, listening to baroque music as we toured this ideal location for a sci-fi film about a secret base of operations where a team of inter-galactic peace keepers fight an evil regime (Has that been done?). And we munched through a year-old sleeve of roasted peanuts I found in the glove compartment and rehashed all of the “why are we here” questions.

But we didn’t come up with anything new, and all those peanuts just made us thirsty and all that thinking just made us hungry.

After exiting the park, Jim pulled off and Yelped with his usual expert confidence and announced that dinner would be “a special surprise.” But as we passed burger joint after pizza joint after burger joint, I lost confidence and suspected he’d accidentally yelped “Capitol Hill, Washington.”

But, Holy Mother of Capitol Reef! What a rewarding dinner to follow that long, hot, dusty drive through the middle of nowhere.

Full to the gills, we journeyed home, arriving before sunset as evidence of deer fatalities seemed common on that winding highway.

Our last night on Fish Lake went as expected. The sun crested over the mountain with a splash of tangerine sky and shortly thereafter a shoal of stars emerged from the depths as the mouth-watering fragrance of fresh fish braising in butter and garlic over hot coals ghosted aimlessly through the trees.

And, as usual, I opened the discussion about our lack of a rod and reel and how I’d like to start fishing. I tempted Jim with recipes … “Steamed perch on rice … Grilled trout and kale … Jerk-spiced salmon wrapped in banana leaves … “

“It’s time to stop making excuses” I said, ” We should take advantage of those free and discounted fishing licenses many states offer to seniors.” But Jim countered that it might be a big hassle since we pass through dozens of states a year.

“Well, maybe our LIB family can inspire us and share ideas … about what equipment we need, how to store it, how to plan seasonal fishing trips and secure permission and licenses? Wouldn’t that be awesome!?”

“Sure, Jim said, “Til’ then, there’s always chicken.”

If you want to see our exact route, click here.

*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.


44 thoughts on “Hooked

  1. What a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing your amazing journey for us to enjoy. Your ability to capture your adventure in words and photos is phenomenal.

  2. Well Happy Birthday Carmen. The travels sure brought you to a birthday to celebrate. Hopefully you will get your reel & rod for fishing. Just how can you miss out on those wonderful FISH!!!! Good Luck

  3. Molly and I stopped at Hunt and Gather on our trip through Southern Utah. Best meal of the whole trip. Kudos to them for offering deliciousness to my vegan daughter! The resident kitties were very friendly too.

    1. Hey Morgan, we didn’t see the kitties but there were plenty of birds nesting about the property. We need to meet up in red rock country sometime. Did you camp in the National Park?

      xoxo,

      Carmen

  4. We were just in Capitol Reef nine days ago! Stayed to the east of the Park in Hanksville. Did the scenic drive, a few hikes, and had delicious cherry pie!! Hope you two are well!

    1. Hey David!

      Sorry we missed you. I see your Grand Teton hosting adventure is behind you. Did you see leaf color in Capitol Reef?

      We saw the pie place but skipped it – also the museum. The CR campground looked very nice and not crowded at all – and, I suppose there are bus tours when a pandemic is not in progress. Jim’s foot was in no condition to hike – nevertheless, it was all very fascinating and we were happy with the scenic drive.

      BTW, thank you for the RV weather reports on Facebook! Connectivity in mountain areas is so sketchy, we took an almost 3 month break from news, FB and … now, I see I missed your birthday. A Birthday Month! We still have a few more days to party.

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      Carmen and Jim

    1. I hope you do too, Benjie. What a gorgeous and fascinating area. I hear this time is the best time to see it – however there is a snow storm expected in a few days.

      Safe and Happy Travels,

      LIB

    1. Good to hear from you, Beth. I am hoping to take your advice this year. I wonder if fishing from my kayak is possible? I need to do some research on that.

      Thank you for your encouragement!

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      LIB

  5. Oh no, I forgot to sing “When I’m 64” to you when I called you earlier. I hope Jim remembered.
    You are right, seniors should get to buy a fishing license that covers all states. But I think most states have day or week permits. And licenses are usually sold at most of the gas and convenience stores around any state or federal fishing areas.
    Stay safe and get here soon. Lots of pretty leaves already. Deb

    1. That’s okay, Sis. Jim played it for me when I got out of bed and we danced to it. Honestly, never thought I’d make it – but that’s me.

      I had no idea that short-term temporary licenses are available (but that makes sense) or that licenses can be acquired at commercial establishments. That’s cool. I thought it would be an online purchase or that I would have to go to the office of fish and game. Thanks! Maybe I will start in Tennessee.

      Can’t wait to see you!

      xoxo,

      Carmen

  6. Thanks for a fabulous tour. Utah offers some of the most amazing and unique scenery. We never get enough of that state and we used to live in Colorado. We spent our Covid summer on private lakefront property and my husband went fishing regularly. Fortunately, brother-in-law had all the gear including a boat. Freshly caught fish is delicious especially when pan fried in butter in a cast iron skillet.

    1. Hey Ingrid!

      Thanks for being with us.

      Yes, Utah scenery is magnificent.

      Sounds like you had a wonderful, safe, outdoor situation this summer, near family and fishing. I would call that a covid coup. Good for you.

      I will pick up an iron skillet when I get the rod and reel.

      Thank you!

      Safe and Happy Travels,

      LIB

    1. Thank you for the birthday wishes, Sabrina! and there are still a few days left in the month to celebrate.

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      LIB

  7. Capital Reef was AWSOME last January. Beautiful area.

    Did you see the petroglyphs from the early inhabitants or listen to the recording you can play that explains who later settled the area? It was at the small open garage near the visitor center. Moving all the way out there to plant fruit trees. Wow. That was quite the community at one time.

    Love this: “After wading through all the murk of coronavirus, one thing is crystal clear … we are content wherever we are as long as it is safe and we are together.”

    Fishing tackle idea. Rod storage on underside if truck cap. Clip style. Keeps them safe and ready when you see a place along the road worthy of wetting a line. Tackle box also within easy reach. If they are hard to dig out, you probably won’t bother.

    Safe travels. As always, thanks for sharing your journey.

    1. Hey Dean!

      Fabulous storage idea! Thank you. I can see it already. Shopping must be done!

      Yes, we walked out on the viewing deck to see the petroglyphs. I took some photos but similar photos are all over the internet. It’s too bad, the graffiti on the glyphs, but people will be people in any era.

      Jim’s foot was still in the tender stage of healing, so we pretty much stayed in the truck. However, now that I think back – it would have great to have an audio tour while we were driving – like this one:

      https://www.justahead.com/tours/capitol-reef-national-park/

      But the views were so gripping that we might not have heard a word. We just opened the window, drove slowly as I took photos. Fabulous day. We love scenic drives – especially those designed for sightseeing with low speed lints and regular pull-offs – makes for a great Sunday drive on any day of the week.

      Thanks so much for being with us, Dean. You are great company.

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      LIB

  8. I think you were at Capitol Reef around the same time we were in Utah so we may have passed close to each other at some point. The landscape and scenery there is spectacular isn’t it? We’re in Arizona now, getting settled into an RV park for the winter while our new house is being built. We want to be close by so we can spy on the construction and make sure things are done right! Another great post from you with some really wonderful photos. Very enjoyable. Thanks for sharing your adventures. Glad Jim has at last been able to ditch The Boot!

    1. Hey Steve! Watching your new house be constructed is a great way to get through the winter. We, too, are in Arizona waiting out the snowstorm that is supposed to blast through here on Monday and Tuesday. But right now the weather is perfect – mid 70’s. When it clears up we’ll continue heading east.

      Sorry we missed you in CR, but we’re in Arizona quite often, so I’m sure we will meet up for Happy Hour one of these days soon.

      Safe and Happy Home Construction!

      Carmen & Jim

  9. Another wonderful post. I love the contrast between the mountain scenery (love love Aspens – especially when morons haven’t written all over them) and the red rock desert of Capitol Reef. We are headed that way (maybe) in Spring and it looks like that restaurant is right down the street from our campground (yes, I checked, because duck… hello!!!!).

    I had to wear a boot for a little over a week and was thoroughly fed up with it by the end. I can only imagine how satisfying it was for Jim to trash his. Glad it’s healed up pretty well and you guys, obviously, haven’t missed many steps.

    Stay well!

    1. Ugh. The boot was a mess. Sorry you are in the club. Whoever designed that thing is a very rich sadist.

      Yes, THOUSANDS of Aspens defiled up there by the blades of hormonal kids. I heard a stranger gasp in awe, “Look at that one. 1924!” like it was a sacred relic. How did she know? It’s at eye level like all the others and it looks like all the others. It could be fake news. But obviously there’s a long and revered local history of carving stuff on the trees up there. They should build a huge work of public art from thick local timbers and let the kids use that and fine them for hurting the poor trees.

      And there I go trying to solve the worlds problems again.

      I think it is playfully called “Duck Two Ways” because of the clever (cleaver?) presentation, a tribute to the landscape, as is the vegetarian dish shaped like the dome rock. Service was great, too.

      We will say well! And, please, you two don’t take any chances either.

      Safe and Happy Travels! Hugs to Thor.

      Carmen & Jim

  10. Happy birthday Carmen, seems we are on the same date.
    I‘m with you, fishing is not for everyone. I tried it once long ago, just hung out a line with a hook from a boat when sailing on the Baltic Sea. A kind of Wels catfish bit, me and the other members of the crew were unable to remove the hook or to kill the fish. It left memories of guilt and shame. Don’t want to do it ever again.
    A wonderful description of Capitol Reef NP, one stone formation looked to me like a cobra ready to bite. It’s the one in your picture directly over the citation „ All I’m saying is that there are some things beyond the ken of mortal man that shouldn’t be tampered with.“, you have to look from the side.
    Stay well and happy travels
    Claudia

    1. Claudia! Happy Birthday to you, too!

      Your fish story is touching. I am so sorry and I feel your pain. Hugs.

      Jim had a regrettable experience, similar to yours, when he was target shooting and accidentally shot a turtle. Mortally wounded, it dove for safety into the pond, leaving a pool of blood. After that, he put down the gun and never shot a thing again.

      I do not believe that humans are born hunters because most of us prefer someone else to do that work for us.

      Having a heart for beasts and wildlife is the purest note in all of humanity. Giving thanks to the soul of the animal one hunts, kills and eats is deeply embedded in all religions. If we refuse to honor and love the beast who feeds us, then we are incomplete – a part of our soul (the Thou, as Buber would say) has already been hunted down, killed and devoured. The spiritual as well as the physical travels a circular journey – the “heart to the world …”

      Most of the places I hope to fish are stocked ponds, rivers and lakes which are overcrowded on certain seasons of the year and fishing is actually beneficial for the environment. Harvesting a fish will be an entirely new experience and I pray it goes smoothly, though I realize it may be a disaster and turn me off on the entire experience.

      When I go kayaking I clean along the shoreline, pick up fishing debris – line and bobbers mostly, but also broken pieces of styrofoam coolers and beer cans. I always carry scissors because I never know when I will encounter a bird tangled fishing line. This rescue and clean-up work is my thank you to the fish and to the birds that I devour.

      I saw the angle of that rock you speak of, the one that looked like a cobra. But Jim was driving and by the time I could focus on it, it had become The Munch Scream.

      A very entertaining rock, indeed.

      Always wonderful to hear from you, Claudia – especially around our birthday.

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      Carmen

  11. What a fabulous post. Love it. We were at Capital Reef Fall 2019 and loved it. Got one of those great pies. So beautiful there. We carry our fishing poles in tubes made for fishing equipment mounted on the underside our camper shell. Two holders: one for poles and another for the reels. My bucket list includes learning to fly fish. I love to fish. Learned from my dad. Hope you had the happiest of birthdays. Thanks for sharing your lovely life and journey with us!

    Judy

    1. Hey Judy!

      Okay, now we know that we really blew it by skipping the pie.

      Next time, pie.

      Tubes? That sounds perfect. I guess that equipment is for sale at sporting goods stores?

      I would love to take fly-fishing lessons with you!

      – Carmen

  12. So rather than carrying tackle and rods, alot of places also rent rods for the specific fishing in the area. You can also get a local guide who will fish with you via even kayak. As for fishing licenses usually seniors are at an extreamly reduced price if not free. You can generally just buy 3 to 5 days if the seniors price is more. Go the local guide route till you get the hang of it. My hubs and I used to competition fish here in FL and nothing like getting hooked up! There is even a ladies school here to teach ladies fishing techniques, safety, and real how too. Let me know if your intrested in that. I can refer you and or join you when your round to it. Another great adventure from y’all!

    1. Whoa! This is the information I was hoping for, Rosmarie!

      I remember seeing guides advertised in upstate NY – but it makes sense that guides can be found almost anywhere. In fact, I just looked up the Hiwassee and Ocoee Rivers – near where we will be in a couple of weeks – and within moments found info to hire a guide for drift fishing. Thanks!

      The ladies fishing school sounds perfect! We are heading down south for winter. Please email any info you have for that at livinginbeauty.net@gmail.com

      Thank you so much!

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      LIB

  13. Hi Jim, Katie Wiest here (LEAD team member) now relocated to Park City, UT. If you are back in this area , give us a shout and we can have dinner and cocktails.

    1. Katie, so fantastic to hear from you. I didn’t know you were no longer at Qualcomm in San Diego. Carmen has relatives living near Salt Lake City, so at some point we will be going out that way. If it works out, I will reach out to you. We have a ‘wish list’ map that I put people, campgrounds, scenic drives, great locations, etc on and I will put you on the map so we know when we come near you. I enjoyed our year at LEAD San Diego and have fond memories of our classmates. What a fun year that was! Hard to believe we were the class of 2012, 8 years ago! Glad you found our blog! We sure are having a blast traveling this amazing continent. No plans to stop, unless our health gets in the way. Stay safe out there! Jim

  14. Happy birthday, Carmen.

    Loved the post. I would love to see Utah and the surrounding area in the not-too-distant future but since we just moved to a lake, so hubby can fish, it will have to wait a bit. Lola, the FC, is headed to storage until we make the trek down to Florida in February. In the meantime, we will continue to enjoy the virtual trip thanks to you and Jim.

  15. Hey Kathy! Thank you for the birthday greetings. It was great. Hey, you, Steve and Lola will love Fish Lake. There are many places to camp and I like the system of the park where you can reserve a spot but if you don’t like the spot they have many first-come-first-serve to choose from. We plan to be in the Deep South for most of the winter. Email us if you think you are nearby.

    Thanks for being with us, and safe and happy travels!

    LIB

  16. Wow, you’ve packed a lot in this post, Carmen! From your scary experience as a child to the beauty of this country. Stunning photos. Capitol Reef was a pleasant surprise to us as well. We saw it on the map when crossing southern Utah one year and decided to stop for a day. Cool to drive through the canyon with all the red rocks in our van. A great photo op! 🙂

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