Author Archives: Keri Vergari

Summer Over? No! I’m Not Ready … I’m in Denial

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North Fork Clearwater River … in the smoke at sunset … River on Fire

I hope you’ve been out doin stuff … We’ve been doin’ losts of fishing stuff these last months of summer and I’ve not been writin’ about doin’, oh I thought about it, but  why write if I could fish, or hike, or … but it really is fall now, isn’t it? Well, I’m not ready for summer to be over …  I’m in Denial! I’ve started praying for a long, lovely Indian Summer.

Sweetie and I have packed as much into the last months of summer and first weeks of fall as I have filled bottles and freezer bags with the abundance from our garden. Whereas the jewel filled jars of peaches and Sweetie’s tomatoes sauce, and grapes are bottled shining reminders of those summer days, I took few photographs to jog my memory of these past weeks and months, but lots and lots of memories. (uhh, like watching Wade submerge in the Owhyee, hat only floating atop the water … or me submerged LOL).

I can tell you that here out west we were still dealing with the awesome winter of 2016-17  until mid-August or so … the rivers were scoured out; river beds and banks torn asunder and high water debris in many places 10-20-30 feet above the water line. Powerful and mighty torrents of snow melt crashed through these canyons. There was little to not very good fly fishing until mid-summer, but then woah! Nelly.  We hit the road, and went into fishing mode full time. Did we catch fish? Lots of fish (catch & release folks), except for one rainbow who became dinner.

Jill & Me on the North Fork with Maggie & Mala dogs

After early August fish camp  and the total solar eclipse we really got down to summer business.  Leaving Sweetie at home working, my fishing friend Jill and I headed to the North Fork of the Clearwater River in northern Idaho for a girls only trip … for those of you who couldn’t come this year, remember the invite is open for next!

The fishing was exciting and I lost as many flies and line on BIG fish as I caught … thinking about it makes my heart pump a bit faster. The air was smokey from the huge fires that burned through Montana and Oregon all summer and though we coughed and couldn’t see stars, the smoke filter made for some beautiful sunsets.

Fun Fishing Group … Me, Tommy, Greg, George, Paul, & Jim …

Then we had more than several days on the Owyhee and more days on the South Fork of the Boise … and I came home “fished out”.  I never thought that would happen, but I was like “Nope! I’m staying home … clean the garden, mow the pasture of a backyard, bottle those peaches gathering fruit flies and…and…and…”

However, after a few weeks off, tomorrow I’m going to find a riffle or two and spend a couple of hours listening to Fall. My Sweetie has moved into hunting mode: elk, upland game, and so on and so forth…so I’ll be on my own. Which is mucho okay, as solitude rejuvenates my soul since I’m an introvert in disguise. I know, you’d never guess would you?

Today’s weather is supposed to be rainy … it’ll be a great introvert day.  Enjoy your days my friend. 

 

 

Zone of Totality …

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So there was this thing about 10 days ago that created a sensation across the states (and the world) … the total solar eclipse. Now I’m not an astronomer (I tried, but I can’t stay up all night), and it’s taken me almost my whole lifetime to learn the names of and recognize the phases of the moon. But I LOVE eclipses; total or otherwise.  I haven’t traveled across the world to watch one (or I haven’t yet), but after being an eye witness in the Zone of Totality I just might.

We’re ready … total solar eclipse 2017

Check the light, the sun is about 1/2 covered and the night wind started blowing.

When the hype started 5-6 months ago I realized that our little ‘ranch’ although not in the exact center of the path was in the zone and I immediately thought PARTY!! And what a party it was … 17 peeps made a 7 hour trek to experience totality, plus our next door neighbors (next door meaning they get in their truck to get to our place).  The hype and Facebook and twitter and newspaper articles are awash with photographs … I heard folks were disappointed they didn’t turn into vampires, at least that was one rumor floating around… yeah, well … it’s what I heard.

This is soooo cool!

So, just 2 days before the eclipse I was talking to my little sister about how I wanted to experience things and stop seeing them through my camera lens … My point was I spend too much time ‘capturing’ the moment rather than ‘living’ the moment. So, what did I do? I wasted precious time trying to ‘get a shot’ of what my eyes were seeing (which didn’t work) and I wasted time that I could have seen the stars that came out, I could have, I could have … but I didn’t. But I will when I see the next total eclipse August 12, 2045 which goes dead-center over Utah, and after all I’ll only be 91 … guess that’s something to put on my I need to see and experience again list.

What else do you do at Grandpa’s ranch but ride the 4-wheeler

Just so you know that I did invite everyone I know and talked to in Boise and surrounding areas to come up and see the Total Eclipse … and what did I hear? “It’ll be 99.5% total here, why should I drive 2 hours north and get stuck in traffic”? What’s the difference? What’s the difference? It’s like running 26.195 miles of a marathon and stopping because 99.5% is good enough”. It’s like Neil Armstrong peeking out the window of the lunar module and saying, “this is close enough”.

In the Zone of Totality
Photograph Credit: Wyatt Taylor (yes, he’s my gson) Follow his Instagram @ High_Peaks_Adv and webpage

We were Here! We experienced the light dim to colors I’ve yet to have words to describe, to feel the temperature drop 15+ degrees and the night winds start blowing, to keep tipping solar viewing glasses up and down to see the light change, to look at the corona, to see the colors change again.  Then to watch that brilliant blast of solar light as the sun exploded into the beyond just as the moon slipped infinitesimally past  totality … it was a diamond ring.

But I missed stars! and I WANTED to see the stars. What a hard lesson that was … again.  My lesson? Be Here Now!

What an AWESOME display of the perfection of the universe and of God’s love to put the planets in such perfect alignment that on August 21, 2017 we were in the Zone of Totality … we saw & felt a Total Solar Eclipse!

The fam & friends had packed and were on the road before the end of the light show .. attempting to make it to the interstate before the throngs plugged the 2  lane running past our house.  It was a good plan, but an hour south they became part of the miles of traffic stoppage with other like-minded folks.

The total eclipse was worth it, and to add to our excitement Saturday night we had a 3 hour find Max the Schnauzer (dog with a heart condition) scavenger hunt. After many tears and recriminations he was found under a bush 100 yards from the house after a search of 90+ acres, and several miles of the rails to trails.

Idaho Eclipse Weekend Artifact; found in clothes dryer. Finder quoted saying, “I thought I said NO”.

Not to be outdone, Sunday was the evening of the RATTLESNAKE ! My theory is the old school gangsta rap they were listening to called the snake across 30 feet of burnt dirt and rocks, to hunker under the trailer & coil up next to the boombox between two girls.  Later the daughter discovered that No to a 10 year old son isn’t no to his grandpa.

Isn’t Life Grand?

Where will you be for the next Total Eclipse? https://www.greatamericaneclipse.com/future/

 

Fish Karma & Fish Dreams

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Fish Camp 2017

… yes there were thunder storms & some rain

Summer starts June 21st and ends September 22, right? Why do I think summer is over when school begins? It must be a hold over from my childhood. There’s still 6 weeks of SUMMER before fall begins, then I pray for and relish Indian Summer, and hopefully 6 more weeks of warm evenings, sun bright days, flip-flops, and my fishing waders.

You may have noticed that Wanderingkeri has been relatively unreachable this month … yep!  Fish camp and the Solar Eclipse have put August in my record book.

Wandering Keri … fishing is serious business some days!

Primo Campsite …

Fish Camp 2017 started on the 6th and we found the rivers running higher than expected, fishing much slower than expected, but friends and adventure always much better than expected. We had the primo camp space, right on the river  … a lot fewer mosquitoes than anywhere else and off the beaten track with less drive-bys searching for that weekend space. We met some folks from Utah the first night as we were enjoying our evening campfire. They’d pulled in to camp for 14 days to procure places to view the solar eclipse. When we left we bequeathed them our camp spot because though they had a green grassy meadow it swarmed with blood-sucking, flying insects which were deterred not in the least by the thick smoke from forest fires throughout the area.

My Sweetie & Best Fishing Buddy Ever!!

Half our group headed on up to Challis Idaho for the Braun Brothers Reunion music festival, but Sweetie, Jill, and I stayed to fish a few more days, I’m not really an audiophile. Greg and I did take a day driving back into Mackay Idaho for more water and to do the empty the dump stuff. It’s a beautiful little town with a big mining history, ghost towns, and the burger place we stopped at had killer-good shakes and I’ll vouch for their fish and chips.

They say Kevin Costner ate here …

With an adios to Jill we headed north stopping at Wally’s Cafe in Salmon for a bite … our waitress was more than excited to share with us she had served Kevin Costner lunch and that he had autographed the wall in the booth. We didn’t check out the autograph, but I did order pork chinese noodles with egg … I probably wouldn’t choose it again, but Greg’s burger looked juicy good.

Onward to Hamilton, we passed fire camps everywhere as we traveled over what’s called the Lost Trail Pass. We were thinking we might fish the East Fork of the Bitterroot river, but instead did a drive-by visit in Hamilton to say hi to our friends Klein & Dawn Houston. Our mouths were gaping in amazement at their talents … Dawn makes breathtaking quilts and Klein makes and plays wooden Indian flutes. They were preparing to exhibit in the Ravalli County fair. I’ll also have to have them give me gardening pointers as their’s was bursting with fruits & veggies …

Mala (by the door) & new buddies

Off we went, waving another farewell and headed north to Florence  … JW was Greg’s Hotshot supervisor and together there were a lot of oh my! stories. JW & Donna have this wonderful place with views that go on and on above Florence on the bluff , we had a great time, and Mala made some new friends.  Donna also makes spectacular quilts! She and Dawn have rattled me, I’m feeling like I should get my own quilt project out and finish it. (well, maybe when the leaves have fallen and the snow flies!)

We pit-stopped at the junction of highway 12 and 93 where we ran into another fire friend James Stone who was working the fire information booth.  In the middle of our chat he mentioned they were getting ready to shutdown highway 12 … I’m not even certain we said goodbye or thank you before we bolted from the store, revved the engine and blasted through the intersection hoping we wouldn’t have to drive the long way home through Missoula.  Whew! Since we weren’t stopping on the road over the pass they let us through … on the way over we didn’t see any smoke or fire, only a single helicopter  drafting from a small pond. (“Thanks Jim”)

Driving over Lolo Pass we followed the sad path  the Nez Perce took over the Bitterroot Mountains on their journey to escape the US government and my heart ached as I remembered their trail of anguish.  Later we stopped along the Lochsa River staying in a an almost deserted campground, but each space was reserved for, guess what?, the total eclipse.

The evening fishing was on the Lochsa in the Clearwater National Forest.  Greg had the fish karma, I had only fish dreams.

 

 

 

Hot Days, Cool Nights … Siesta Anyone?

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Mount Rainer in the sunshine

The past few weeks our days start early, until about noon, when the thermometer hits 100+ it’s time for me to hide out in the air conditioning until about 20:00 (that’s 8:00 pm for you non-military time folks). It’s so hot I’ve run out of adjectives … blazing hot, melting hot, boiling hot, sizzling, scorching, red hot … and if someone says, “well, it’s a dry heat at least” … as they search for a positive … I’m glad they’re positive. Sweetie hooches up in his gun shop while I spend time researching an elusive ancestor and reading … I now understand Spanish and Italian siestas and I embrace them!!

But, I’m positively breaking my live in the now philosophy and am looking forward to next week when we’ll hitch up the Mini Winnie (I’ve yet to find that perfect name for her) and head for the mountains and rivers of Eastern Idaho and Montana and wishful thinking … cooler temps? maybe?

You’d think with all these free afternoons hidden away that I’d have my traveling list written and have everything ready to go. Nope, notta even a little bit, well, except when I think about it in-between books. I suppose I’d better get out from under this siesta fogginess and make sure we don’t forget something … though one of my well-worn travel motto’s is “if we don’t have it we don’t need it”, or  if we really do need ‘it’ then “Improvise, Adapt, & Overcome” (Marines Thank you for letting me steal your unofficial motto).

It’s a celestial month, August 2017, and on the night of the 11th we’ll be in the mountains of Eastern Idaho and in the midst of the Perseid’s Meteor Shower  and although there’ll be a waning gibbous moon  I’m hoping to see more than a few “shooting stars” sitting in the darkness on that mountain side.

When we return from mystery rivers, dutch-oven dinners, concerts and the night of shooting stars, we’ll only have a few days to prep for before Solar Eclipse Party people  head our way.  Oh! I’ll need a list for that too … our 30+ people eclipse party seems small compared with the thousands upon thousands of solar eclipse seeking hordes that have rented every hotel, motel, cow pasture, campground and free open space between here and the west coast just to watch the stars come out in the middle of the day (or that’s what the solar experts are saying)! Our little “ranch” is dead-center of the solar eclipse path … That reminds me, I’d better practice my camera’s time-lapse settings (like the rest of the world is doing). I’m planning on this party to be as much fun as 4th of July last year … I hope no one is disappointed … sometimes it’s hard to beat a chart topper, but it’s definitely a bar to reach for.

Sunset in Packwood Washington

Last weekend we packed our fishing gear and headed to Washington state to fish some creeks and rivers near Mt Rainier … we weren’t disappointed. Sweetie’s daughter, new to the fly fishing addiction, caught the 2 largest trout while I not fishing at the time &  hiking in my flipflops slid right over damp moss, down slick rock and into the creek. Two lessons from that watery encounter … First, take your own advice and remember the lessons you taught the grandkids to “Don’t hike in your flipflops”, and Second, don’t put your phone in your jacket pocket when you skid into an icy cold mountain stream … can anyone say, “Hello new iphone 7”?

Hot days, cool nights and breezes through the pines … life is good!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Bears are Out Tonight

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Bear River Campground Me & Jill, the Mini Winnie & the Tiny Trailer

Last week, heading southeast to Wyoming to fish with my friend Jill, I started wondering about place names … it started when I noticed the next exit to Rattlesnake Pass. We’ve had a lot of rattlesnake sightings and funerals this summer up at the ranch and we are in hyper-watch mode. I imagined  homesteaders trailing into the desert sagebrush frightening and frightened by enough rattlesnakes that the place became a landmark. You know, turn right across Rattlesnake Pass.

If names reflect the landmarks then what do I think as I pull into the Bear River Campground, which is next to the East Bear River Campground, both of which are right on the Bear River? I’m thinking that I didn’t bring bear spray only my new little Kel Tec 22 pistol with snake shot … then to enhance my awareness of place names there were the bear warnings everywhere in the campground. Do NOT leave any food outside, nor in tents, nor in tent trailers that could attract bears. Do landmark names really reflect the truth? As I set up the Mini Winnie I wondered if it was bear proof?

Forgetting landmark names  and thinking FISH, the first morning out we headed up the Mirror Lake highway past all the private property & no trespassing signs to park in an off highway spot (remember to pick up your parking passes at the Ranger Station). Down to the river through willows and brush and trees. Jill went downstream and I went up.

Day one was eventful … I was sucked into a quicksand/mud bog hole crossing a side water stream to reach a rocky island where I went from mid-calf water to over my knee in a blink … luckily I fell into the bank, desperately holding my fly rod in one hand and some wee grasses with the other,  hoping I didn’t fall all the way in and wash downstream. Slowly I  pulled myself out of the water with a mucky sucking fuoosh as the black goop let go of my foot. All that and I didn’t catch one fish … notta … zippo.

Fire Scar Meadow …

Day two started with a beautiful hike to the East Fork Bear River through an old fire scared meadow down to the river … I caught a few fish, evaded some extremely large bovines and fell in the river (again). Yes, you heard me right … I fell in the river.

Wet wading in t-shirt, shorts, and my trusty old Asolo trekkers with my wading staff floating at my feet I caught a flash of fish out of the corner of my eye. I turned too quickly, not watching my feet placement on the slippery stones nor my wading staff floating between my feet. I turned, the staff didn’t and I went down on my butt, water to my chest and my backpack acting like a balloon on my back. Not good. After I righted myself and found my footing again I stood dripping in the still cold, winter run-off water, holding my legs still so my shorts wouldn’t touch them.

Then, planner that I am I remembered the change of clothes in my pack, just in case, because, let’s face it … I tend to slip on rocks in a rushing river. However, opening my pack it was obvious that it wasn’t waterproof. Everything was wet or wet enough that it wouldn’t have made a difference if I changed or not.

I just started fishing again (further up stream from my debacle) hoping the sun would peep between thunder storm clouds which didn’t happen, but I got a double soaking when the heavy clouds opened up  as we hiked the miles back up to the parking lot.

Evening found us up at Lily Lake, named for the thousands of lily pads that clog about 1/3 of it  and it was a beautiful spot (to lose a lot of flies) … I’ve not fished lakes with a fly rod much. Score: Lily Lake Trees about 10, Fish 1 and Me? Zero.

Bear River off the Mirror Lake Highway, Wyoming

Our last day I headed back up river while Jill packed up her tiny trailer. After catching a few fish and enjoying a sunny morning I headed back to the truck … when I arrived Jill was waiting and watching the river. She worried I had fallen in and drowned myself … she was checking the river to see if I floated passed. Day Three … I did NOT fall in the river. I count that a plus.

If you’re looking for a quiet night and pleasant camping, and aren’t pulling a gargantuan sized trailer the Wyoming side of the Mirror Lake Highway is a nice, peaceful place to stay and it’s away from the heavily packed campgrounds on the west side of the mountains … I highly recommend giving it a try.

Though the fishing could have been better the camping was great, we didn’t get many thunder storms and there was plenty of firewood to be picked up from old slash piles. But, we didn’t press our luck and play no bears are out tonight … we just watched the fire burn to coals and listened to the river’s song.

Next trip, Sweetie and I are heading to Washington state to fish near Mt. Rainier with his daughter & son-in-law where I’m hoping to catch a few more fish and NOT fall in the river.

Until next time friends, tight lines and blue skies.

Chills, a Nudge & Footsteps

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Hyrum C & Isabella Murdock Nicol Homestead Uintah  County, Utah. Settled 1906

Five years ago I was in Duchesne (pronounced Do-Shane) Utah over the 4th of July on a fire assignment … before in-briefing I spent a couple of hours in the county records office researching the homestead my great grandparents had near there. I was able to get a copy of the ledger page showing the final patent they received and the sale of the homestead. Just before we left for another assignment, a few friends and I drove up Sower’s Canyon and found the old place which is now inside the Uintah-Ouray Reservation. We took pictures, Dick made a video and at home I found a photo of my great-grandfather and grandfather outside the door of that cabin. It gave me the chills.

Well, lately the “Indian Ranch” has come to mind more than a few times; I don’t know why, but I have learned that when something comes to mind without a reason it’s something I should pay attention to. The attention I’ve been paying to the nudge has lead me to read old newspapers, searching for my great-grandfather’s name. Eureka! There were more than a few articles and advertisements found; one or two with my great-grandmother’s name also. So I’m on a hunt. For what, I’m not sure, but I’m certain in time it will be revealed.

In the meantime I had a wander through old newspapers. They’re fascinating, filling the bulletin board of a frontier and homesteader’s life: Who is traveling, who is sick, who changed jobs, who built a barn, bought a cow or a horse, put up fence in record time, or bought a murder house cheap. The insights into the world of frontier homestead towns and people had me thinking of the hard life and many sacrifices they made to build a country from nothing but raw materials and their hands. A big box store wan’t around the corner to pick up an extra board, saw blade, or food. They cut the trees, forged the iron, plowed the fields and built canals and dams in the desert to water those fields, their cattle, their gardens and themselves. They were no strangers to government greed and graft, religious contention, migration and immigration problems, financial market fluctuations, divorce, and violence.  I highly recommend a perusal through the Utah Digital Newspapers project if you have Utah ancestors or even just want to peer back in time.

So as I sit here, hooched up in my air conditioned room, on a comfy couch, sipping a smoothie after an early morning golf game peeking into the windows of my ancestors lives and I’ve decided I’m grateful that it’s not the time I was called to live in … because I know that I’m soft, and expect water from the tap, commodities in the store just down the street, instant communication, and stuff to do, places to go, access to everything I could ever want or need at my finger tips and once ordered they’ll show up on the doorstep tomorrow.

I also realize I live under the same sun, watch the same moon and stars each night, and by walking (figuratively or not) their trails and holy places, I follow their footsteps and I’m grateful for the realization and knowledge that I am part of an eternal chain of life; mother and father to child, as far back as life itself.  Now it is I  who is great-grandmother and I ask myself, what story will I leave behind? Where are the prints of my footsteps heading?