Thursday, September 12, 2013

Beyond Hope

Cabinet Mountains Rise From Lake Pend Oreille
This is What Hope Looks Like
Crossing the Clark Fork Beyond Hope
Not on Solid Ground
Cattle Guard That Fooled the Dogs
One Way to Cross a Cattle Guard
Consoling our German Engineering
Mystified By Cable
Mystified by Trout
The Cabinet Gorge
A Great Blue Heron
Moon, Where Are we Going?
Osprey at Sunset
What a Nest!
Better Shot Next Time
Today I was driven beyond hope.

What I mean is, Todd drove the Blue Goose with me riding shotgun and the dogs twittering in the backseat, and we drove a few miles beyond Hope, ID. Our favorite water to fish, the Pack River which runs behind our house beyond our pond and ridge, empties into a delta at the most northern point of Lake Pend Oreille. It's a huge lake with mountains that seem to rise out of it like stone monarchs resting on the water. The Priest River empties into its western edge and all that the Clark For River brings from Montana dumps into a driftwood delta at its eastern edge. Just beyond Hope.

We rumble through Hope, a cluster of houses clinging to a hillside, and summer condos and marinas hugging the lake-shore. There's a floating restaurant surrounded by sailboat masts and docks. On the edge of town is a historical sign that describes the first trading post built in the area back in 1809 when this beautiful bowl of water and peaks was claimed by the Canadian fur companies. Maybe the early traders felt hopeful that this was a place of bounty. Today, we're hopeful for new creeks to fish, armed with our $10 Kanisku Forest Service Map.

Beyond Hope is another tiny town named for the river--Clark Fork. At Clark Fork we cross an iron bridge that spans the massive river, looking west at the blue waters, sky and mountains. You can truly see Hope from here, in the distance and feel it in your soul. It's one of those breathless vistas that you want to share with the world. Imagine being the first explorer to discover the Grand Canyon. You'd want everyone to come see it as it defies word description and visual depiction. This is my Grand Canyon in hues of blue.

Todd turns opposite the way I direct him to go. He's set on finding the fishing holes the guys at Big R told him about. I'm set on climbing those mountains to look over the like. The dogs are panting and just want to run. Finally we wind through enough gravel road with divots missing as if some crazy giant golfer passed this way swinging at pale rocks. Grenny and Bobo clamber out of the Blue Goose and run with joyous expressions.

Normally fine examples of German engineering, our two GSPs prove that their paws are faster than their brains today. Ahead is a narrow bridge with caution signs marking each edge.  It turns out that the bridge is actually a cattle guard made up of narrow slats to dissuade animals—namely range cattle—from crossing. There is a perfectly dry stream  and easy access down and up for animals. But our big brown German engineered dog evidently thinks he can walk on steel slats. He can’t.

Bobo gets stuck, too, but we manage to free the dogs, who are confused but unharmed, and I get stuck in the role of playing guard to the cattle guard while Todd explores the creeks we can hear rushing through willows and over rocks. Grendel goes around, well actually he takes off up the dry rocky stream bed, but Bobo is determined to go across. Finally Todd arrives to carry his speckled GSP princess in his arms.

But the obstacles do not end there. Todd decides to walk down an overgrown trail with a cable strung across to prevent any off-road adventures. It’s meant to block vehicles, but it seems to work on Grendel, too. As Todd strings his fly pole on the other side of the cable, Grenny hops from front paw to front paw in a dance to figure out the cable. Finally, he plunges into the ferns and brush to the right to get around the on founding rope of steel. But he drowns in the ferns that are taller than he and for several minutes he runs panicked circles within the water of underbrush as if unable to get out of a pool.

Todd and I both laugh. We had no idea our brilliant GSP could be so un-brilliant. At last Grenny bursts out of the ferns, but still on the wrong side of the cable. Bobo slips under it, I step over and finally, Grenny jumps it. I once thought my dogs might like agility; now I’m not so sure they could hack it. After we watch the trout frustrate Todd with nibbles and near-bites, the dogs and I head back to the truck where I simply lift the cable so both dogs can easily go under it. Maybe I don’t need a dog fence back at the ranch; I could simply ring my yard with a single cable and install a few cattle guards.

Fishing and dogs may seem beyond hope, but the view of the Cabinet Gorge as we drive out of the canyon is restorative. The Clark Fork River has carved the Cabinet Mountains in half, tumbling over rock and pushing tons of sand towards Lake Pend Oreille. Like the Californians who build mini-estates along its remote banks and otherwise simple towns, migratory birds snatch up prime real estate. Elmira Pond is quaint compared to what this gorge, river, delta and lake has to offer.

Like a pterodactyl circling another age, the silhouette of a blue heron bobs above the valley as we drive out of the canyon. Another joins it in bobbing silent flight. With wing spans up to seven feet, these birds are huge. We pause long enough to watch the pair dip into aspen trees to roost for the night.

Todd has one more creek to investigate, so down the gorge we go on a paved county road. We must be near one of the electric damns as suddenly huge power lines emerge from the river direction to follow the road we are on. Coal on train tracks, damns on rivers, and yet the sun and wind roam free in northern Idaho.

It’s amazing to see how adaptable ospreys are to power towers. We’ve seen at least six of their nests and now one even sports an osprey. We stop in the middle of the road like a couple of Grand Canyon tourists snapping shots. The osprey watches us and I’m so grateful to get to see one up close before they head south. Back into the truck and we search for the creek we cannot find. The quarter moon hangs over the mountains and isn’t telling us where to look.

Coming back we catch the osprey against the mountain sunset and resume our role as tourists stopped in the road. We eat salmon sandwiches and Washington grown honey-crisp apples, as the sun colors the sky and blackens the mountains to soot. Heading past Hope once again, I see a perfect shot with the sky like sherbet over water like polished steel. But it’s too dark, Todd is driving too fast. I shoot anyhow.

Having hope is not about getting the perfect shot, but trying until the next time, believing there will always be a next time.

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