Wednesday, August 6

14 Days Of Vacation

Day 17: Mossbrae Falls, CA

About fifteen years ago, my wife told me to take a short vacation. She saw I was increasingly unhappy about something. We didn't know what it was. I packed up some clothes and fly fishing gear and hit the road.

I ended up in
Dunsmuir, a tiny town surrounded by forests and streams. For three or four days I waded the Sacramento River, watched trains enter and leave the depot, ate at the steak house, basically just wandered aimlessly. There wasn't much to do at night, so I got to know the fifty-something matronly bartender at one of the two bars in town. Her name was Juanita, and on my last night she told me to stay while she closed up. When everyone had left she took me by the shoulders. "You need to stop being sad," she said. "Look around you!" She growled like a mother puma and shook me. "You don't know who I am, but someday you will. Now go live and be happy."

The next day, my last, I took a hike to Mossbrae Falls. It was hot along the train tacks, but serendipity surprised me with a sweet lunch of wild blackberries. Lizards scampered away at my approach. Overhead, a red-tailed hawk flew figure eights two miles wide. I crossed an old trestle bridge, and stopped mid-span when a train passed over it, two feet from my face, with a rumbling click-clack, click-clack, click-clack. At a hillside spring I filled my hat with icy water and shivered as I poured it over my head. Nodding red columbines laughed at me. I scrambled down the sloping grade to the stream, chastised by jays. In the sublime pristine music of the falls, I tied a nymph to my flyline and started my back cast. On the forward cast, I felt a hook in my behind.

I stood in the sun, my waders filling with cold water. I hadn't done much this trip. I hadn't caught a fish. And now Mother Nature had shown me a dozen rare treasures in one afternoon, then tweaked my nose by sticking me in the butt with my own stupidity. All I could do was laugh at myself. And so I did, for the first time in my life. I really, truly laughed at myself, the way I think few people ever do. I lifted my face to the wide world sky and laughed. I laughed. Just laughed. And Mossbrae Falls said "See?"

A few years later, I found out why I was unhappy. I realized Juanita was right in everything she said when my doctor gave me the following advice. Sometimes, he said, the universe reaches out and taps you on the shoulder. When She does, you had better stop and listen. I started listening at Mossbrae Falls.

Teasers on this trip: fly shops, Castle Crags, Mt. Lassen, Babe Ruth

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Juanita was a little savior