The amber of this moment: a morning on Wet Beaver Creek

I couldn’t sleep Saturday night. Laying in my bed, I tossed and turned, and tossed and turned, and tossed and turned until around 1:30, I figured if I had to be awake I might as well do something fun. I threw all my fishing gear in the car and made a bee line for the Wet Beaver Creek Wilderness.

Pulling in around 3:45 AM, my plan was to hike to all the best fishing holes in dark, set up, and start fishing right at dawn. And when I say dark…

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…I mean dark. As I reached the first (and only) hill of the day, false dawn was peeking up just over the horizon.

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This is a pretty trail, in the day light anyways. Hiking in the dark has a treadmill like quality, so I was happy to be able to turn my headlamp off as I neared the first fishing hole.

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And even happier to be to the top of that God damned hill. Not being able to exercise for six months has completely sapped my cardio, and this bunny hill of a climb had left me embarrassingly out of breath. At the bottom, I came across the first good hole.

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“The Crack,” what all the cool kids call this hole, and I have a love hate relationship. For one, it has produced a great many fish for me over the years…

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…and it can be very photogenic…

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…but it is also very popular with the 30-pack-and-a-boom-box crowd. I had the place to myself for about an hour, but then I heard the footsteps. Time to go.

Instead of taking the high route back towards the creek, I decided to be more adventurous and do a little fishyoneering back down the canyon bottom. Within a few hundred yards I came to my first obstacle:

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I fished the enormous pool for 20 minutes or so, coming up empty. After giving up I took off my pack, sealed up everything, and pushed off. The rock I had been standing on rolled out from under me, and as I fought to recover my balance my bad back seized up. I crumbled into the stream bed.

Laying there, half submerged in the stream, I had many thoughts. First, ouch. Second, good thing you put the camera away. Third, what if you had been swimming when that cramp hit? Fourth, you idiot. Fifth, ouch. Or, in the words of our patron saint Brian Nosackpo:

C’mon man. What we doin’ out here man?” 

What we doin’ out here, indeed. I dried myself off, and fished my way back to the car.

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I suppose, all things considered, this was a win. One of the things I’m supposed to be learning from this abominable injury is when to quit. This is not an easy lesson for me. In the pre-blog days I was a mileage monster, 30 mile days were the norm, and I never really worrying about what a decade of 30 mile days does to you. Though you might not buy it, there was a time when my body could do amazing things and I spent this time time asking a lot more could than should questions. Now I’m a 30 year old with a back that makes doctors audibly gasp when they see the MRIs. So it goes.

In the end, I didn’t swim the hole, or down climb whatever drops off were yet to come, or take any leaps of faith into any plunge pools. I didn’t catch the fish lurking in pools that no one ever visits, or see a stretch of stream that I have only heard from the canyon’s rim. And as I result I got to enjoy father’s day dinner with my family, walk without a cane, and go to work today. Yes, that is a win.

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Maybe.



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Max Wilson is a graduate student studying ecology at Arizona State University. He writes here at Lesser Places, has occasionally written for Backpacker.com, and even more occasionally written for scientific journals. You can follow him on twitter @maxomillions.

2 thoughts on “The amber of this moment: a morning on Wet Beaver Creek

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