The Call of the Wild had been singing to me lately – as it does when some time has passed since my last Adventure. The wanderlust part of my soul heeded the call, and I found myself assembling the gear for a visit to my favorite little alpine lake this past Saturday evening.
While no lakes are secret in the day and age of satellite imagery, there are still many less-visited little gems nestled in basins and snugged up against ridge lines of the Central Oregon Cascades. These idyllic spots typically have no official trail to their shores, rather access is only granted to those whom heed The Call of … well you get it.
The destination for my trip was going to be one of these little lakes – a special solitude-rich spot where I’ve had some of my most magical moments in the high country chasing trout. A sampling of those moments include:
- Fishing through a late fall storm, with Sampson at my side, watching the bobber scream away from the surface cast after cast. After. Cast.
- Encountering my first black bear in the state of Oregon. I was floating in my tube, without a care in sight, when I heard a noise from the far shore. The bear splashed into the water, then sauntered away into the woods. I don’t think it even knew I was there.
- And that moment of discovery. That is the magic. When you step off the trail and into the unknown. And you find that spot.
Mixing it up
My gear was packed, a PBnJ bagel was made, and my alarm was set – though I knew well that it wouldn’t be needed. Because on the eve of an Adventure, sleep is most elusive for me.
Sunday morning in the dark I scribbled out a note to Becky of my planned route, and headed out to the door to gather the final piece of critical gear needed for any solo adventure like this: McDonalds Breakfast.
The coffee was hot, and I have no idea how or why, but I find it rather tasty – and it kept me warm against the cold temps outside. After bumping along over 5 miles of horrid washboard road, and crawling around tight rock-studded corners – I arrived at the “trail head” to the spot.
After lacing up the boots, and throwing the pack on my back, I for some unknown reason decided to mix it up and stash my keys in my shorts pocket instead of stashing them near the truck. So I zipped them away in the pocket, and head off to the North.
When traveling off-piste in the Oregon Cascades, one encounters mostly four types of terrain in my experience:
- Grassy meadows, filled with faeries. I’ve yet to find these.
- Swamps with special types of mud that render boots a hazard rather then a traction device.
- Never-ending piles of scree/pumice/sketchy-razor-sharp volcanic rock.
- Un-navigable mazes of beetle-kill blow down.
This trail is compromised mostly of the later, and I imagine that while doing limbo through one of these piles of blowdown trees is when the keys to the truck fell out of a hole in that secured zipper pocket.
I don’t know if the hole was there before, or if it ripped open as I trashed through some brush… but it didn’t matter much because when I arrived at the lake, the keys were gone.
Fishing is Life
When life throws a curve ball like this, we find ourselves presented with one of life’s great gifts – the power of choice. How wonderful is that to have a fresh problem dropped in your lap, far from the tendrils of cell service.
I had been tracking my route in to the lake, because I never seem to take the same route twice and I like to collect data. So I thought about tracing back along the track and looking for the keys.
I also considered the spare key I zip tied to the frame of the truck. That saved my bacon one time before, perhaps it was still there, waiting to save the day.
Ultimately, I decided to go fishing, because like football – Fishing is Life.
Make Space For the Magic
Indeed I could have allowed my mind to get wrapped up in the worry of the situation, but instead I opted to be present to where I was, and enjoy the adventure. Like many times before, this great little spot provided some wonderful memories, and a few really nice fish.
Rebecca’s Rescue Service
While I wish I could have floated away the entire day on the lake, I most definitely did not want to assume the best outcome of the lost keys. So I decided to hike back to the truck and not try and find the keys the entire time. It was most definitely a needle/haystack sort of problem, and instead I was hoping the hole was already in my pocket, and they fell out close to the truck.
And upon arriving back at the truck, all hopes were quickly dashed of an easy outcome. My quick exploration up the initial route yielded no keys, and within 100 yards of the truck, my path entered a dried swamp with knee-high grass. I didn’t have time to sink into a search – I wanted to get out to cell phone service well ahead of dark so Becky wouldn’t launch a search for me.
And of course the spare key was no longer to be found. Likely the zip tie became brittle and it floated away to a gutter months ago. My only last option was to start to hike.
And hike I did. Back down that bumpy washboard road. And the smoke rolled in to keep me company around mile 2. Five miles later my phone displayed a “1X” connection. I couldn’t send texts, but I was able to call Becky, and let her know I was okay and that I needed some help.
She arrived about an hour later with some ice cold water and a spare set of keys. I’m so fortunate to have someone to watch out for me in this adventure of life ❤️.
Lessons From The Trail
This little adventure was the kind that had a happy ending. Indeed my legs were a bit stiff at the desk Monday, but my soul was satiated by the wonderful adventure. But I most definitely learned a few things and am making some changes to my requisite adventure gear… because sometimes you need a little bit more then an egg McMuffin to ensure a successful trip.
- I’m going to go back to always stashing keys near the rig. Maybe not the best thing to put out there on the inter webs, but it just makes so much sense to me. Would love to hear other opinions though.
- I purchased a Garmin GPS with inReach satellite communication. I’ve been on the fence about this for years, but this whole episode would have been pretty easier with communications. And traveling like this in the backcountry solo, I could easily get into trouble and need help and cell service is not guaranteed.
- When confronted with a problem, it often helps to still go fish. Duh.
And of course, start planning the next Adventure.