Photo by Chris Hunt
By Dave Ammons
The size of the ponderosa pines in Silent Forest is testament to the vigor of mother nature. These are clearly not discontented trees, rising a hundred feet with red-barked girth that my outstretched arms cannot encircle.
The entire forest is rooted in satisfaction as it climbs the steeply sloping southern exposure of Roaring Creek Trail. Just off the trailhead the creek itself belies the solitude found once the trail meanders away from its murmuring. Especially in late spring as it is now the rush of water is a cacophony of gurgles and laughter and inviting words spilling down the mountain.
The path offers switchbacks to ease the quad-busting climb. As I continue to move further away from the road and civilization and oblivious people, my…breathing… slows. I listen as my footfalls mimic the muted conversations between tree and rock and sagebrush clinging to illogical perches in the cracks of small crags and outcrops.
The trail pushes me away from the stream to the solitude of a glen where the aspen and ponderosa stand with strength and purpose. Even as the wind slightly rustles the branches and leaves, it is a quiet place found only in the dreams of the burdened lives thousands of feet below. I sit where a break in the sun-dappled woods offers a view up valley – the meadow at Bliss Ranch holds a few deer. Further up Sleeping Elephant mountain stands resolute.
I think of my fellow warrior, Grey Sky, who once was with me at this spot and shared appreciation for the “big F-ng pondos” of Silent Forest. But I sense he connects without real commitment, a piece of him being swallowed by the next distraction before he gets too deep and unable to extricate himself from the quietude. No, warrior, you will not find a cell signal here. I only wish for you to find a sign.
I rise and walk further up.
The path again pulls me toward the stream and the stream draws me toward its play. The forces of nature have caught me in a collaborative seduction, a lascivious come-on back to the babbling brook and the treasures held in still pools. One hears it far ahead of seeing it, a clue to this fisherman to approach on a crawl. From a few yards away I belly to the bank and pause. Not even seven feet across but deep enough below to hold at least the promise of a small brook trout.
My fly has no logic, its choice based only on what might attract even a wily fish who may simply be curious at the prospect of tasting such an alien form.
Slowly, I unfurl the line without rising from my place and swing the leader over the far edge of the pool, dapping the fly on the water’s surface. The take is immediate and I slowly and protectively play the little brookie to the bank on my side. If you ever want to be truly amazed at the universe, study the markings of a brook trout – marbled shades marked by a sprinkling of red dots encircled by mystical blue halos, and an underbelly impossibly orange-ish in hue leading downward toward fins edged with white.
I wet my hands as to not wipe the slime from his skin, gently hold him to remove the hook and cup him back into the pool. No man will ever put his eyes on him again, rest assured.
The sun lifts higher, the heat drawing a few beads from my nape to tickle down my back, and I drink from a pine needle-tinted eddy of winter’s rime and mountain seep. I stand to walk back through the towers of Silent Forest satisfied that I have lived this day in God’s unwarranted favor.
Dave Ammons is a TU volunteer and a member of the Zane Grey Chapter in Arizona.