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Tuesday, August 01, 2006


I used to do this a lot: pack the boat into the back of the Saturn wagon and head for a lake in either the Three Sisters Wilderness or the Waldo Wilderness, which are close by. I would pack the boat in on a pack frame that I built for it, and go trout fishing all day, then head out and drive home. Generally the trout were cooperative.

Last weekend, I revisited the idea, and drove to a trailhead where most take the right fork and I take the left fork, traveling to a 12-acre lake where I seldom meet anyone.

It's a place that pretty much requires a float tube or something, as there is only one spot where you can cast from shore.

But after my arrival at nine in the morning, just as I was about to put in, two young men with big coolers appeared, headed for that spot. I thought, "uh-oh, no fish today."

Sure enough: I couldn't drift over the deep end of the lake, because they were futilely casting in that direction, and, because they wouldn't hide after casting, all the fish spooked toward the shallow end and wouldn't try anything I offered them.

Meanwhile, the young men, with crew cuts, tattoos, three-day-old beards, Confederate t-shirts, and cigarettes, began working their coolers pretty hard. Whenever I glanced over their way, one or the other of them was --um -- watering the bushes. In plain sight, ish. They went through two six-packs by two o'clock in the afternoon.

Now, I am pretty clearly the grandmotherly type, even though I tote around a kayak in the backwoods, but eventually it dawned on me that I was alone in that section of the wilderness with two rambunctious drunks, miles from my car.

In the past, this would not have phased me much, but, then, in the past, I had large, powerful arms, a broad, hairy chest, and a beard like Rasputin's. Nowadays, from a distance (not up close, really) I'm not a bad-looking female. Sure, I carry pepper spray, but ... the smart thing to do, and in town I'm better at remembering this, is not to put yourself where you need it.

So I drifted into the shade of some mountain hemlocks, in a patch of water-lilies, and tried to wait them out at a safe distance, counting dragon-flies, water-striders, darning-needles, and the close-mouthed trout that occasionally swam by.

Nothing doing. These guys were not not getting a bite, and were desperate for something to show for their day, and had settled in to drink and cast right through sunset.

At about four, a prissy-looking gentleman in L.L. Bean shorts, packing a float tube and a fortune in fly fishing gear showed up. Saved!!!! I paddled over to the landing and packed up the boat, chatting with him over my shoulder, and was gone down the trail in three minutes.

Now. I'm sure nothing crossed the lads' minds of the sort that had alarmed me, but, you see, it was brought home to me that my circumstances have drastically changed, and I should be considering how to deal with that. I may have to begin inviting others along.

That introduces another, albeit less vexing, set of issues.

For thirty years, it would have been somewhat improper for me to invite women, because I was technically a married male.

So now I'm a "partnered" female. Well, it's still a bit odd to do that ...

Or I could invite men. The last time I went camping with a guy, in the Wallowas, I was already a girl; our spouses certainly trusted us, but we felt -- well -- a bit odd.

Beloved could go, but she doesn't fish and the mosquitoes really like her. A lot.

I'm going to have to re-arrange my itineraries, I think. Kayak -- yes. Fishing rod -- no. Invite families and women friends.

And avoid the mosquito belt.


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