After midnight we would finish packing. Little dialog was exchanged between us after along day and knowing what lie ahead. Before departing we would stick a pair of twenties in the ash tray to cover food and gas during our travels. Such was life back then.
My partner invariably began the drive behind the wheel. His stints were always short lived. An hour or two would pass before he would be humped over the steering column, eyes a gaze barely pushing 40 in a 65. I’d put in a dip, pour a cup of coffee and take over. Sometime during the day he would comment on his state of refreshment. I never quite had that same sense, finding a mid day nap my only option for eluding the numbness that grew as the day lingered.
An hour into it our journey took us north, leaving the blue highway behind for two lanes our headlights the only luminance penetrating the sudden blackness. Through some of the west’s heartland we slowly progressed; agricultural lands dotted with cattle and neatly rowed crops lay juxtaposed yet hidden in the night. Periodically a lone light would signify an approaching farm. On nights it would rain, our travels became treacherously slow.
Sometime in the early hours of morning dawns first light would expose the Teton’s rising majestically on the horizon signifying that our drive was nearing its end. The fertile valleys were lined with rows of neatly sown crops interrupted by a smattering of small towns. Climbing from the valley floor to the caldera the landscape changed from fields to one pitted with sage, pine, aspen and varieties of wildflowers.
After camp was set, and fresh coffee was made before heading out to fish. By the time we’d reached the worn turn out, morning’s sun had removed any chill from the air. Methodically we would change; donning waders and assembling rods, attaching reels, carefully stringing the line, each lost in our own sequence of readiness. Spinners gather overhead; an orgy that plays out daily on rivers during the season. Eventually we would make the long hike through dense fields of Sage, Lupine, Larkspur and Mules Ear. For the first time since leaving there’s a sense of alertness knowing we’d soon be soothed by flowing waters and casting to rising trout.
Several decades ago “The Drive” lingered for seven laborious hours. Today, it takes a little over four, if one is motivated. Like this drive much has changed in our world. In some respects our chaotic and shortened world leaves me yearning for that period in time when life passed at a much more leisurely pace, yet one now can leave this polluted and burgeoning city behind to fly fish on some of the worlds most prolific waters all that much quicker. A trade off that I struggle to find consolation in knowing the affects continued growth will have on the west and those waters and landscapes were I seek solace. Unfortunately those who pursue such rabid development as sung by Jerry Jeff Walker "…have never seen the northern lights, never seen the hawk on the wing, and never seen the spring in the Great Divide…".