Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Before Breakfast

Source: gadgetreview.com
Wha...?  Oh.  Again?

Looks like I made it through another night.  Fingers fumble with the buzzing iPhone, trying to restore silence.  Establish context through mental cobwebs: daylight, 5:30 A.M., I'm in the forward bed of the camper Mobile Hotel®.  Conclusion: I made plans to fish this morning.  Re-evaluating the plan: struggling to be awake, sore, stiff.

I don't wanna get up.

Much easier to just drop the eyelids and put the mind back in neutral.

Don't be an idiot.  Coffee fixes many morning ills. Sit up and scoot!  Trout don't just catch themselves.

Yes, Master.  As you wish.  You're a real &$$#@!%, you know?

I slide my feet over the side of the bed and prop my self up.  Now comes the fun part.  It's a smaller fifth-wheel RV, so there isn't room to stand beside the bed.  I must scoot myself to the foot of the bed in order to stand and wobble for balance.  It's a three-foot chasm of struggle.  Parkinson's Disease somehow robs me of both strength and multi-limb coordination in the wee hours of daylight.  I push, lift, scoot, twist, push.  How the hell did I gain 40 pounds overnight?  Never mind.  Your feet are on the floor and you didn't fall down.  Congrats.  Where are my meds?

Pit stop in the bathroom then a large tablet of the magic stuff that makes it possible to live "somewhat normally" with Parkinson's: carbodopa/levodopa.  (Fun fact: as I sit here writing this, I am unable to recall the brand name of this cocktail I've been taking for four years.  It's common for me these days, not being able to recall stuff that I know I know.)  This particular pill has an extra fun ingredient: entacapone.  It's a catechol-O-methyltransferase (aka COMT) inhibitor, that's supposed to slow the breakdown of dopamine in my brain.  (Memory malfunction, and yet I managed to recall all of this useless trivia.)  Down the hatch with a small cup of water.  Here's to three more hours of your good health, starting in an hour or so.  Fill the Keurig and start the automated process of producing 10 fluid ounces of cerebral lubricant.  Red indicator light goes blinky-blinky, indicating the process is under way.  Only then can I ask myself the most important question of the day:  where are my pants?

I am patient with myself in the mornings.  It takes me an hour to dress, scrub my face, and sip the liquid happiness, the elixir of life that is morning's first cup o' joe.  Based on previous experience, I make one more trip to the 'loo before stepping outside.  It's breathtaking.  (The stepping outside part, not the 'loo...)  Blue overhead and calm.  The digital thermometer said 52 F, but I realize immediately I will not need a second layer.  Insert feet into waders.  The right foot is doing it's thing.  My kids have nicknamed it: The Floppy Fish Foot.  It flops and wiggles like the 10-inch brown trout that escaped my hands into the bankside grass last weekend.  The boot laces are still soaked.  Suspender straps go awkwardly over shoulders and I reach for my new blue friend.  She's 8-foot-6, beautiful, and already rigged with an orange scud.  My my, how she glows in the sunlight.  Sling pack and trucker hat complete the package and I'm dressed to kill catch-and-release.

I walk west down the crushed limestone road through the campground.  The sun is still well below the tree canopy along the creek, so most of the camp sites are shaded and soaked from yesterday's showers and thunder.  A few good-mornings and fishing inquiries are exchanged with other early risers. Then my boots are muddy on a trail upstream.  It's my first trip upstream from the campground this year.  If I planned correctly, I have just enough time to hike to the headwaters and fish my way back.

A quarter mile in, my right calf tightens.  Soreness becomes dull pain, followed by cramping.  The tissues on top of my right foot get into the act.  And then my right thigh can't resist harmonizing.  Anyone else?  C'mon!  One more and we'll have an annoying barbershop quartet of leg pain.  It's another quarter mile before I'm able to "walk it off," slowing my pace.  In the middle of this, I need to cross the creek.  It's running high and fast from rain earlier in the week, bolstered by yesterday's extra, sometimes heavy, precipitation.  In this case, "running high" means over the calf instead of above the ankle.  Two years ago I didn't even blink crossing here because balance was less of an issue.  Now...?  Deploy countermeasures!  The wading staff comes out of its sheath at my right hip.  Pull, snap, ready.  Two points of contact at all times through the swift water.  I step up onto the opposite bank and wonder why I haven't used this little gift sooner.  Within 15 seconds I have it folded and back into the sheath. Not using this thing while wading would be an at of negligence.  In hindsight, I ask myself why I didn't raise the staff and try parting the waters...

I climb a stile over barbed wire and arrive at a small clearing.  I caught my first Minnesota Driftless trout from this hole.  It looks much better than last fall.  In-stream plant growth had altered the current, silting and stagnating a deep, clear pool that once held 20+ brown trout at any given time.  Though my goal is far upstream, I am unable to resist making a few casts.  Back cast tangle.  More tangling in the bank grass.  "Wind knot."  Snag.  Okay, idiot, the Universe is trying to tell you something: this is not where you're supposed to be right now.  Move along.

Man is in the meadow.
Click any photo to enlarge.
I have permission to be on this land, so I take a shortcut around one of the difficult easement sections.  The oxbow meadow opens up and I smile.  The leg pain is gone and two-thirds of my upstream hike is behind me. I follow most of the oxbows, scanning the likely holes to target on my walk back.  The water is still stained, visibility less than a foot, and most of the narrow creek channel is more than 2 feet deep through this section.

A short time later I reach the veil.  The source of Forestville Creek is shrouded and held in shadow by an overhanging curtain of vegetation.  I anxiously snap the wading staff together and ford the creek, ducking under the shroud.  My eyes need time to adjust, gradually revealing lush limestone walls and a chilly haze.  The creek tumbles down a wide rocky slope and merges where I'm standing.  The water gushes from a cave at the bottom of the wall.

I've been here a few times before with the family.  This time, I wander up and perch near the mouth of the spring.  The ferns put me in another mental place and the white noise of the emerging and falling water empties my mind for a few simple moments.

Yep, I get to fish this creek every weekend from early May to mid-June.  I hope to be able to make this hike for at least the next three years.  Speaking of hope, there are trout out there.  Again unable to control my impulse, I toss a scud into the emerging water a few times.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  Nothing expected, no disappointment.  I turn and wade back down the trickling slope, loving my wading staff more with each step.

Peering out through the emerald veil
I wander from the wild woods back into the domesticated greenery of the campground.  The dreamlike state fades but the serenity stays.  Time to teach my son to make pancakes on the Camp Chef griddle, standing less than 20 feet from the same creek.  But, first-things first: fresh sliced shoulder bacon from the local butcher shop.  Then, Amish maple syrup.  The real deal.

How was your Saturday morning?


  1. Wonderful post Chris.
    You and I both put that 1st cup of java as one of life's true beautiful moments.

    1. One cup of java is both comforting and medicinal for me, according to my local neurologist. She says that the caffeine is a mild muscle relaxer and coffee contains other organic compounds that are beneficial for memory and cognition. In moderation, of course, of which I'm not a fan. :)

  2. Not being a coffee drinker (yeah, I know...weird)the best part of waking up isn't Folgers in your cup. It's that first realization that you made it through another night. The second for me is a Diet Mt. Dew, then not falling in the water.

    1. Not weird. Sounds to me like you're doing everything you can to preserve your time with us in this world, including drinking embalming fluid...

      "It's that first realization that you made it through another night."

      Yep, yesterday was so much fun, let's do it again! This time with FEELING, and a smile.

  3. Chris
    I have to admit I was never much of a coffee drinker; winter is when I drink a cup once in while with sugar and cream, never black. Thanks for sharing