Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Old Times

These days of August, from the 1st to the end of the month, used to be the best for fishing and camping in Oregon's high cascades. Every year, I would go to Olallie Lake, or one of the lakes nearby - every year, from 1954 to 2009. Alternatively, you could go from the north side, from the low-lying Warm Springs Indian Reservation, and drive up into the foothills, where you would end up some six miles by foot from Olallie Lake. There was no road between the two areas, but there was a trail you could follow from Trout Lake to Island Lake to Dark Lake to Long Lake and thus to the far end of Ollalie Lake. There are hundreds of lakes in the area, and, when I was very young, they were all good for fishing. There were lakes you could go to by trail, and there were lakes that few people knew about, tucked into the wilderness almost untouched by men. You had to know where they are, for they are small lakes and you could easily walk right past them, and likely end up hopelessly lost in the process. My dad showed me how to find them, how to look for the right signs, how to follow the right creek beds. In the early years, not many people went to the Olallie area, because the road was very bad and the area was primitive, undeveloped. Over the years, roads were improved, campgrounds were built, word got out, and people poured in. I remember a time - I was maybe 10 - when my brother and I and our friends went about taking down the flags the surveyors had put up - trying to protect and preserve our little Eden. We got caught, however, and bitched out good style by a big guy in a hard hat and a dribble of strawberry jelly on his chin. When more people came to Olallie, we moved up the road to Monon Lake, where there were no permanent campsites, you had to make your own, no outhouses, no faucets, no boat docks - just lake. Our spot was in a meadow, some distance from the dirt road, right on the lake shore. The water was cold, as are all lakes at 5000 feet above sea level, but great for swimming, and in the evening, you could hike to where the two opposite shores reached toward one another with outstretched, stony hands, and cast your line into the deep green divide for rainbow and brook and Kokanee trout. At nighttime, the deer would come to graze in the meadow. You could not see them, but sometimes you could see their eyes, catching the reflection of the light from our fire, and if you walked that way, they would leap back into the secreting forest with a great thumping of hooves and cracking of ground cover.

God, how I miss it all.

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