Voices from the river

Voices from the River: Return to No Name Creek

By Chris Hunt

In early summer, No Name Creek is Irish green. It boasts a flourish of grass and bright yellow balsam root. Wild iris and sticky geraniums add color to the mix, but mostly, it’s just impossibly emerald green.

There’s a spot on a little plateau that overlooks the creek, where native Snake River fine-spotted cutthroat trout migrate up from bigger water each spring to spawn. I can park my camper on the lip of the plateau and kind stand watch over a meadow where the creek makes a wide turn. Rarely do I have to share the spot, but now and then, other campers and other anglers come to enjoy No Name Creek, too. In good water years, the migratory cutthroats will hang out all summer—the lush, green June grass makes for fat July and August grasshoppers, and those fat trout can’t resist big bugs come high summer.

The fishing might seem to be No Name’s greatest attraction, and I’d be hard-pressed to find backcountry fishing for wild, native trout that’s any better this close to home. But, in truth, it’s not so much about the fishing as it is about the place. It always seems so welcoming, so warm and receptive to a part-time visitor who has come to think of this stunning swath of public land as kind of a summer home. It’s a place I share with those close to me, because what’s home without people you love joining you around the campfire?

My dad, a former slave to corporate masters, once tried to tell me that “home is where you hang your hat.” I never bought that logic—it seemed flawed, as if we didn’t get to pick and choose where we put down roots. And that, no doubt, is what moved us from our “home” in Colorado, to the tall-pine woods of East Texas when I was a kid. He sunk down roots for us in that red Big Thicket soil, but I proved him wrong when I dug out of the heat and humidity and headed west, back to the mountains, after I graduated. “Home,” for me, wasn’t an arbitrary place—it’s where the snow lingers up high well into summer, and where clear water tumbles off the shoulders of high peaks. It’s where trout swim. It’s where wood smoke is my preferred cologne and where, on a good day, I’ll have to slow the truck down to let the moose or the elk wander across the road in front of me.

And these days, No Name Creek is as close to home as it gets for me, even if it’s just for a few months in the summer, and even if, on the rare occasion, I have to share it with others like me, who would rather wake up on a summer day to the mountain chill rather than the hum of the air conditioner.

No Name Creek isn’t really a secret place. Sacred is more like it. I’ve known about it for years, visited frequently, and chased its fish for two decades. But, lately, it calls to me. In winter, when it’s locked in snow an ice, I know it waits for me. I know, come late May or early June, I’ll show up on its banks a week or two early for the fishing, but just in time to beat back the first wave of mosquitoes while the campfire ring is properly broken in for the summer to come.

I know it will welcome me home, and put up with my incursions to the water, where it will yield native trout at a regular clip. It’ll put up with the raunchy jokes told over a summer cocktail, the trips behind the trees to get rid of those cocktails and the stays that linger for days longer than intended. No Name Creek is patient and reslient. When I arrive after weeks away, it’s tough to tell I, or any other romantic who thrives in the mountains, have ever been there before.

And at the same time, it’s always familiar. Always friendly.

It’s always home.

You want some advice on where home is? Find where your soul feels intact, where the ground feels good under your feet and where your passion for life thrives. It’s not just “where you hang your hat.” No sir. Home is where you feel complete, where life makes more sense than it does anywhere else.

Find that place, and you’ll find your home.

Chris Hunt is the national digital director for Trout Media. When he’s not camped on the banks of No Name Creek, he lives in Idaho Falls.

By Chris Hunt.