three of our High Country Fly Fishing trip began with Vernon
cooking up a hearty breakfast of pancakes, sausage, and some
real fine cowboy coffee, and, as we sat down to eat, a few
of us decided on a risky proposition. Ben, Don, Vernon and
I were going to take the chance that the new bridge was crossable
at Elbow Creek and head to the high country for our shot at
a trophy Golden. The rest were going to try and get into the
big rainbows on Neil and possibly hike on back to Trapper
for an afternoon excursion.
Once we had gathered up a few items that
we thought would be helpful and had them loaded on Melvin,
we were off to see what the day had in store for us. The trip
to Elbow was going to take about 2-½ hours and could
possibly be a wasted trip if the bridge was impassable. Of
course, no trip is wasted in the high country with the awesome
scenery around every tree. But we were certainly not sure
of the progress made at Elbow Creek, and it was likely we
would be turning right back around.
The anticipation was about to kill me as
we neared the bridge. As we made the last corner we could
see that the crew had the bridge completely decked, partially
railed, and one of the approaches was finished. They were
working on the final approach which lacked about 2 feet of
fill and only five gallon buckets to do the work. The young
kids that were working had definitely worked up a sweat. As
we climbed off our mules to ask them about the possibility
of crossing, they picked up the pace and said they could have
us across the bridge within an hour.
At this point we were on Cloud 9 knowing
that we were going to make it to Elbow, so we tied up the
critters and grabbed on to some buckets and started hauling
dirt. It takes longer than you think to fill in 2 feet of
dirt 5 gallons at a time. But within an hour we were back
on the mules to make the maiden voyage across the new bridge
Creek, a story I am sure I will be able to share with my kids
and grandkids someday.
It wasn't long and we had arrived at Elbow Lake
blowing up the one float tube we had brought along and stripping
line from our fly rods. It was almost as fulfilling to take
in the awesome scenery as it was to be fishing at that elevation,
and certainly a place I would like to return sometime in the
near future. Of course I have already mentioned earlier that
I am a very amateur fisherman and the goldens certainly had
no fear of me ruining their day. So, after two hours of beating
the water and trolling with some sink tip, I had to give it
Between four of us we never even had a bite
and a big thundercloud was moving in fast. If any of you have
ever been to Elbow Lake, you know that there is not a tree
within an hour's ride of that lake, and it looked like we
were going to get wet. The dreary 2-½ hours back were
quite cold since I had not been a very good Boy Scout and
come prepared. But the two things that kept our spirits up
were Ben's constant call out of "It's 65 and Sunny",
and the attire that Vernon had picked for the trip. He is
the only person I have ever seen wear thigh length cutoffs,
a t-shirt covered by a yellow cowboy raincoat while riding
a big buckskin mule. It was quite a humorous site to say the
our trip back I still had enough movement left in my legs
and fingers to gather up some snow from a snow bank and pack
it into my saddle bags just for Larry and his Margaritas.
He owes me big time because I never felt my fingers again
for the rest of the day. As we rolled on into camp, we were
nothing short of soaked and miserable. One of those trips
that you wonder why you ever made the effort. But just as
we figured, the sun came out as soon as we put our mules away
and just in time to dry us out before night fall came. Of
course we shared our stories of the day's events around the
campfire that night and settled in for a little rest before
we packed up in the morning.
Morning came sooner than we would have liked
but amazingly enough I had the feeling back in my fingers.
We certainly had time to get 30 more minutes of fishing before
breakfast would be ready so we headed on down to the lake.
After breakfast it was back to work and even Melvin wasn't
enthused about the idea of us loading him up one more time.
In fact he gave everyone a little show which is always entertaining
especially when nobody gets hurt, which just happened to be
the case this time.
By noon we were loaded up and heading down
the trail. Things were going pretty smooth
as we approached Trapper Lake, and then all of a sudden
you guessed it, we had a wreck. In fact, it was such a serious
wreck I don't care to ever have to go through that experience
ever again, and feel very fortunate that we came through it
as well as we did.
What had happened was an event that everyone
fears. A rope under the tail of any critter will quite often
turn into a bad situation and that is exactly what had happened
to Calvin. As he was coming down a real steep spot in the
trail his pack string picked a different path than Gus, who
he was riding. As the slack came out of the lead rope old
Gus started to feel a little uncomfortable and took off down
the hill with a serious of jumps that would have qualified
him for the National Finals Rodeo. What came about next was
a tree that stood right in the path of the bucking mule which
caused him to drop his head and take a sharp right hand turn.
You can imagine how hard it must have been to ride Gus for
those 3 or 4 jumps at a 20% grade, but it was impossible to
stay on that 4 legged runaway when he made that turn. Calvin
ended up upside down with his back flat against the tree trunk
and nothing to break his fall.
were running everywhere and guys were hollering, but Calvin
was not moving. I baled off my mule and ran back up the hill
actually fearing what I was going to find. Fortunately by
the time I reached Calvin he had rolled around enough to get
away from the tree, but he was hurt. At this point everyone
was a little shook up from the event including all the mules,
so as I sat there trying to figure out what was hurting and
what had happened, I sent the remainder of the crew on down
the trail until they could find an open meadow where we could
was able to get to his feet after a few minutes and we eased
him down the trail to where everyone else was waiting. It
was pretty obvious that it was going to take him some time
until he was going to get back on a mule, so we decided that
Charlie and I would stay back with Calvin and the rest would
head on out. We had a couple of cell phones with us and the
longer we waited with our friend the worse he was feeling.
Charlie finally told me to call for help because he was certain
that Calvin was in no shape to ride out. Within a couple of
hours we had a Helicopter land in the meadow down below us
and shuttle him to the Pinedale Clinic and then by ambulance
on to Jackson.
and I loaded back up for the three-hour ride out. When we
made it to the trailhead we joined up with the rest of our
gang and had a word of prayer for our injured friend. By morning
the report was a broken collar bone and a few fractured ribs,
a better report than we had expected, and Calvin was going
to be fine. In fact, Calvin was released a day later, and
was headed back home, but not to sleep in his bed for at least
are all thankful that this little episode turned out well
in the end and are all looking forward to make this fishing
trip an annual event. Of course, Calvin has requested a new
mule to carry him up the hill next time. I am certainly looking
forward to our next trip too so I can out fish my father-in-law
when we venture yet another time off the paved road.
here for Part I of this story
feel free to e-mail me or give me a call if you or anyone
you know might be interested in opportunities here in Pinedale
or just wanting to spend some time in the area. I am happy
to make myself available to show you around our little town
and probably even a little bit of off the paved road.
about Pinedale and area real estate?
E-mail me: email@example.com
Or visit our Pinedale Properties Inc web site: www.pinedaleproperties.com
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