It seems like out here the flowers bloom a little brighter and the grass grows just a little bit taller…
If you’ve ever driven through Independence pass in Western Colorado, you understand how difficult it is to put the sheer magnitude of it all into words. Between towering mountains of sheer rock and swaying alpine groves, a small sliver of a road shoots through a canyon guiding travelers to and from Buena Vista and Aspen.
As our car glided over the narrow stretch of what could be loosely considered road, I couldn’t help but drift into a hypnotic state as I surveyed each mountain. Analyzing each scree slope, each bluff, each grove of Aspen trees as they danced in unison. As leaves convulsed in the wind, my mind drifted back over the long road by which we had come. Back towards the swells of the ocean underneath our skiff and the calming touch of the sunlight gently warming my shoulders.
After what felt like a few hours of staring off into the complex nature of the geography around me, the mountains began to part, and the small, yet lively town of Aspen gradually came into view. Around us, folks wearing masks and expensive dresses occupied every corner and sidewalk of the little ski-town. Smells of delicious food and sounds of exuberant conversation and laughter spilled into the car as we crawled from stoplight to stoplight. This wasn’t the place for us however, we had our sites set on Snowmass Village, where I and a few friends had taken up residency over the past 6 months. We didn’t have much time to stop anyways. We were going fishing tomorrow.
When my eyes opened to the warm Colorado sunlight the next morning, I let out an initial gasp in confusion as to where I was. It took me a moment to remember that I was back in Colorado, and for the first time in a few weeks, wasn’t waking up on a couch.
Our plan was simple. Grab some friends, some drinks, and hike up to an undisclosed high alpine lake in pursuit of some coveted Greenback Cutthroat trout. Without delay, my team and I gathered our gear (and some Tupperware for the boys who had, of course, forgotten to eat breakfast), and we were off. It didn’t take long before the road turned to gravel, and gravel turned to dust as we pulled up to the base of the hike. There, waiting for us with rods in hand, were a group of friends eagerly awaiting our arrival. A smile crept across my face as I realized I was back in the company of adventure.
The theme of the hike: Up. I would like to blame my slow speed on elevation adjustment, but truthfully it was just a bad case of having sat in a car for too long, tied in with a general lack of athleticism. However, the hike was a blast. On our breaks, Meris and I would allow ourselves to be left behind by the group as we rolled around in wildflowers and bounded ourselves to the earth under the force of our own laughter.
By the time we reached the top, our chests hurt from laughter and our legs shook under the unfamiliar demand of hiking many miles uphill (I miss the flats). As we edged the circumference of the crystal clear high alpine waters, we watched as red-bellied trout circulated the shoreline, only stopping to come up and sip an unsuspecting caddis.
As our party nestled together amongst the trees and rocks that surrounded the lake, we eagerly began to tie on our rigs. For me, it was a small elk hair caddis with a Perdigon nymph dangling just a few feet under. As I stepped up to the water’s edge, I could hear the crack of cans and rustling of sandwich paper behind me. It was clear I was up to bat, and I certainly had an eager audience.
It didn’t take many casts before an eager trout came up to demolish my caddis. With a quick set, I felt the tension of the wild fish as it thrashed in confusion. I fought it for a few seconds before the barbless hook popped out of his lip and flew into the air. With a violent splash, he jetted back into the mysterious dark blue depths of the lake. I was sad to have lost the fish, but it wasn’t long before I hooked another, this time on the bottom fly. This time, the fish was not the victor of the fight.
As the sun began to sink behind the trees, we descended back down to the cars and began to make our way back into civilization. On the ride home, Meris, company, and I laughed and reminisced on our experiences of the day as we massaged our sore joints.
Later that evening, our hiking party all met back up around a bonfire in a friend’s backyard. Underneath a cathedral of glistening stars, music and jubilee filled the air. As I looked around to see my friends entranced in the beauty of the gentle moment, I couldn’t help but allow my sense of contentment to drive yet another smile across my face.
Next to me sat Meris gently humming along to the gentle tune of the songs being sung. She was my co-pilot, my partner in crime, my adventure buddy, and soon, she’d be leaving me to head back to Texas. I felt the knot begin to form in my throat when I thought about saying goodbye, as those two words would mark the end of our adventure. However, as I looked around at my friends, some new and some old, I realized that the adventure was only just beginning.
Thank you to our family and friends for your constant support, as well as those who allowed us into your homes and on your waters to make this adventure possible.
Also, thank you to The Long Drink for helping fuel this adventure. The Long Drink is an iconic alcoholic beverage that is a top taste of Finland, it’s now available in the USA. Click here to learn more and find your closest retailer.