by Jim Dickens, a pretend explorer
A Different Canyon Experience
By Jim Dickens
According to world renowned Dr. Atun Gwande, as people go past 50, they in general begin to shrink their networks until at the end it is immediate family. That always seemed a little sad and being aware of that fact, I tend to guard against it. I have had the good fortune to expand my network through participation as the fund raising chair in the local chapter of Trout Unlimited. I got invited by a few of them to join a fishing trip down the Gunnison river through the Gunnison National Conservation Area. Since they were five great guys and in the interest of preventing network atrophy, I said yes after gaining permission from Lori.
I picked up my trusty Honda Ridgeline which languished successfully in the Montrose airport parking lot for twenty days. The tires were full and the battery remain charged. Team mate John and I drove off and joined the rest of the group.
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a lesser known but impressive canyon with walls over 2000 feet. With steep canyon walls there are only a couple of places where you can access the river. So the trip is floating and fishing from rafts and camping for three days and two nights. It begins with a 1.5 mile rocky steep downhill hike hucking your personal gear for the next three days. Dave recently had broken his hip in a biking accident and got doctor’s clearance just before the trip to make the hike. His hiking sticks came in handy and he made it down without incident.
I thought since it was September 2 and late in the season that the snow melt that feeds the river would have abated and the river would be easy to navigate. Well the river flows were low but it provided even trickier navigation problems. Previously covered rocks were now exposed making the river a tight obstacle course. We had some tense moments. My raft hung up in the rapids and started to capsize at one point and we snapped an oar in a rapid limiting our ability to maneuver until we made calmer waters. All that aside the potentially oppressive heat was absent and the fishing was excellent.
I should at this point mention that the trip was fully supported. The hardships mentioned above were much less frightening because we were being led and coddled by expert rafters, fishing guides, cooks and camp hands. As long as we were attentive and coachable things went smoothly. We were rowed and the camps were set up so we could extend fishing and the cooking was first class in a tremendous setting.
The first two days of fishing the expedition leader was also my fishing guide and he barked instruction frequently. Once I got past the tone I realized the words were supportive and instructional. Once I started obeying the instruction the frequency slowed. It turned in to one of my best learning experiences. I won’t go into fishing here. If you feel so inclined look for a future post or skip the future post if you don’t.
A favorite part of the trip was the night. There was little noise and light polution. The night was cool but not cold and bug free. Many of us slept under a set of magnificent starts, planets and satellites. The only sleep disruptions were the full moon in our eyes and a troop of ring tail cats investigating for scraps.
After the float, we stayed at the Almont Restaurant and Lodge in Almont, CO for a couple of days. When we went to fish the Taylor Fork of the Gunnsion river we realized that it was Labor Day and everyone else was too. It forced us stretch out the Ridgeline’s legs over 50 miles of dirt road into the high country to the Taylor Fork headwaters. We ran into another crowd up there but they were having a retreat and no one was fishing. So despite them driving loud, dust spewing motorcycles, ATV,s and 4 wheel drives we at least had a good length of stream to fish. When I returned to civilization an month and a half later, I realized John and I had fished in the middle of a Proud Boys retreat. Hmmm……..
I have to mention that the group was very laid back for a bunch of detail oriented fishermen who were either ex or current business executives. I thought we all got along very well. I would take a trip with them again anytime. Next post will be about getting to Idaho for another get together.