Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Looking back on a temporary, mid-life retirement

Now that it's over, I can see clearly how good our little "sabbatical" was.

For the past three months, we've been on our version of the great Northern Rockies road trip. Three months away from work, camping and fishing, packing and unpacking, pooping in the truck bed (in the camper), hike after hike to mountain lakes, floating to unfished sections on seldom fished rivers, solar panels keeping our camera batteries charged... or so we'd planned.

For myriad reasons, we had to call some audibles. Time planned in the Yellowstone backcountry was derailed by a dog virus that prevented us from boarding Boges. Sun-dimming smoke took a toll. Off-trail hikes turned out hairy. Too many washboard roads in a stiff 1-ton pickup. Our air mattresses leaked and our dog showed his age. I maybe did too. Constant decisions with a wide-open world actually start to wear on you. We actually felt pressure to be happy.

So some planned epics became trips to catch up with friends. Quick jaunts to the local stream and back home in time to meet friends at the brewery. More than tales of crazy adventure, we sometimes opted for time with loved ones. More grins than grunts. Slowed down and happier. Truer to ourselves, with more valuable memories.

These once in a lifetime opportunities don't happen often enough.

Some select fishing memories:
Lakers and coho on down riggers on Lake Superior. North Shore trout streams. Panfish, an unknown shiny fish and one brown trout at my hometown in Minnesota. Largemouth bass on dry flies in eastern Montana. Riding our bikes to Big Spring Creek. Zillions of rising whitefish on the Marias. Floating and boating and floating. Bike shuttles. Trout in the Milk River (believe it). Our anniversary spent stripping callibaetis nymphs on Hebgen. Wind and a beautiful purebred cutthroat at Quake Lake. A hairy off-trail hike to the upper end of Cliff Lake. Wade Lake's sophisticated gulpers. Wildfire smoke. Pinedale, Wyoming and the biggest trout I've ever caught. A fantastic streamer day on a favorite river. Rowing out for several miles and losing the boat at the takeout. Lake trout on the fly. An old and lovable dog who hates floating  but toughed it out to fish with us every time. Not being afraid to change plans.

As I get back to work, I'm sad. I miss the companionship of my wife and dog. I miss the feeling of being on vacation, while fond images populate my head. I am bummed that the excitement's over, and that it's no longer there to look forward to. But I'm grateful we had the foresight, commitment and cooperation to see it through. I am so glad we did it.

I captured some inner peace that I was afraid was gone. Now we have to figure out how to do it again.

Check out a slide show of some of our fishing times:
Sabbatical fishing

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