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Ronan's report

Wednesday 10th February, 2010

Saturday was another winter steelhead beatdown. Three guys fishing dawn to dusk, and not even a pull. It gets old after a while.

Sunday was a different type of exploration. It didn't seem like it had anything much to do with steelhead, or life, or love or anything like that at all at first. It was just a backcountry ski trip. But as I've realized often lately, things aren't always just what they seem.

We started our climb in some pretty dense fog, at a parking lot bustling with barking dogs, shouting kids, and the parents trying to wrangle all of the above. Following the river upstream into its canyon at the base of the volcano, we skied past what seemed like the last of the people after a while. About 10 or 15 minutes later the clouds disappeared and it all became clear.

Mount Hood. Wy'East. The highest peak in Oregon. Source of not only awe and inspiration to Portlanders on a rare sunny day in winter, but also of water-snowmelt-life to at least five steelhead rivers that I can name.

Throughout history, it seems that mountains have been the source of other things too. The source of fear. The source of legends. The source of spirituality.

From afar, a mountain can seem like such a permanent, unchanging, immovable object or force. But today the Portlanders, the Yellowstone Country transplants, were getting a close look at the other side of the mountain. Up close, up high, but barely half way between sea level and the summit, on a sunny day in winter, we saw that the mountain isn't unchanging. We saw evidence of the change. A big change from back in 2006 moved more rock, ash, and earth than a fleet of dump trucks do in a year. And we witnessed smaller changes happen every few minutes when loose snow slides and rock fell from the steepest faces. The mountain is falling apart.

Of course there is more to the whole thing than this, but I don't want to bore you with personal stories and emotional baggage. I've done enough of that lately. Many of us go to the mountains or the river to find something or feel something or for time and space to think. Since this is getting long already, and I want to get to bed, and you want to get on with your day, I'll just end this with something I was thinking about at the source. Something I read recently that seems to fit the mood.

"If you know wilderness in the way that you know love, you would be unwilling to let it go. We are talking about the body of the beloved, not real estate." - Terry Tempest Williams

Be Well & Fish On,

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