Dad has always been proud of the spot.
“It’s the best hole on the creek,” he has said many times about the spot down the hill from his house.
That’s something of a guess. Dad hasn’t explored the entire creek, a tributary to Oregon’s South Umpqua River that runs for probably 15 miles from its headwaters on BLM land to the river.
While it may not actually be the best hole, it’s a good one, twisting through rocks for 40 feet with depths reaching 4 feet even when the creek is low.
For the 35 years my parents have lived on the property, the spot has been a fun swimming hole for us kids and then our kids. We’ve caught little wild cutthroat trout from the spot though we don’t really fish there anymore.
A couple of weeks ago, during a visit, I headed down to the hole feeling disappointment.
I was carrying a hammer, some nails and two “No Trespassing” signs.
After 35 years of trusting neighbors, Dad had decided to post his section of creek.
Dad has always been pretty old school about land access.
He grew up in South Dakota in the 40s and 50s, and it’s probably safe to say no one even knew what a yellow “posted” sign was. Dad and his father and brothers and their friends fished for walleyes in potholes, hunted ducks and geese on marshes and pursued pheasants on giant swaths of cut cornfields — pretty much all of it on private land.
His family owned some land, too. No doubt it got hunted by others. That was fine. It was just the way it was.
Last summer Dad was headed to the creek when he heard happy voices. A young mother and three kids were splashing in the hole. They had walked upstream from a house a half-mile downstream.
As he watched the family Dad smiled. He and Mom had been quite isolated since the COVID pandemic began and seeing the kids having fun took him back to the days when his own kids and grandkids splashed carefree in the chilly water.
He told the mother as much. “I’m glad you all are having fun. In the future can you give me a quick heads up when you’re coming up?”
The mother agreed.
A few days later they were back. There had been no call.
“Please just call me,” Dad said.
They came back again the next week. They didn’t call.
That lack of courtesy gnawed at Dad. How hard is it to make a 30-second call?
Over the winter he did some reading about trespassing laws, liability and such. It made him nervous. He started worrying about what might happen if one of the kids got hurt. He talked to his neighbor across the creek. They agreed to put up “No Trespassing” signs, a task that fell to me during my late spring visit.
One of the signs is nailed to a locust tree that leans over the creek right at the deepest spot in the swimming hole.
It is impossible to miss.
I hate it.
The hole has always been so inviting and welcoming. That piece of garish yellow plastic changes that. That’s the point, I realize, but it still makes me sad.
Mark Taylor is Trout Unlimited‘s eastern communications director. A native of Myrtle Creek, Ore., he now lives in the heart of Blue Ridge brook trout country, in Roanoke, Va.