Anyone who has ever enjoyed a great weekend fishing trip will know what I’m talking about with the title of this entry. You’ve returned home from a weekend that was months in the planning and thus filled with extreme anticipation. Expectations were handily exceeded, and everything about the trip was an adventure. But now it’s over and you’re emotionally spent, because it was that great of a trip.
In this instance, the trip was the second annual Clearwater River trip with a group of college buddies. The trip this year was expanded to include additional characters and the result was something that I never thought possible after last year, when the bar was set pretty high: it was even better this year. Not only was the day of fishing exceptional, there was more to the trip that made it extra special. It was a trip that very well might not have happened.
In the days leading up to the departure date, Mother Nature dealt a blow that attempted to alter my plans. The Pacific Northwest became the recipient of a winter storm beat down that, while arriving later than usual, came with a near knockout punch. A few inches of snow fell, then more. Schools were closed for 4 days. The snow shovel became a familiar daily tool. The Honda Rancher with the plow blade saw active duty for several days in a row, ensuring that we and our neighbors could escape the grips of a fairly steep road that was entrenched in snow; snow that has a certain high-level of water content that resembles concrete when it accumulates on the ground. One neighbor was so appreciative after I cleared their driveway for the second time that they brought me $20 for gas and a bottle of wine. I’d have preferred an 18 pack of PBR, but I appreciated the thoughtful gesture all the same.
Over the course of the week, tree branches and whole trees came down. Across power lines. Just not our power lines. Hundreds of thousands of homes in the region were without power, but somehow we dodged a bullet of sorts (knock on wood). With the fishing trip weighing heavily on my mind, I watched the weather forecast with great interest. Depending on the news source the worst was either behind us or it wasn’t. Being a man who is not one to shirk my responsibilities, I informed Mrs. UA that I would not go on the Clearwater trip if the power was out. No man worth his salt would leave behind to those he loves just to venture off on a fishing trip. There are things more important than fishing. On the day before our scheduled departure, with the worst of the storm hopefully behind us, I was confident that we would not lose power. Then came the sucker punch: freezing rain which added to the weight of 8-10 inches of already heavy snow. And so at midnight on Thursday, the house went dark. When we awoke on Friday morning (the day of departure for the Clearwater) the house was chillier than normal. There were no telltale flashing digital clocks to indicate that the power was back on. I immediately went into survival mode: the first order of business was to get the generator hooked up and running, followed by the coffee maker.
In the next few hours, our emergency heat source slowly took the chill off the house, bringing the inside temperature up to a cozy 67 degrees (fahrenheit). There were two, 5 gallon containers of gas to keep the generator in business for at least a couple days, but later that day I would send my son, Schpanky, to the neighboring town to secure another several gallons of fuel for good measure. The refrigerator would run to insure that food was not spoiled. The well would continue to pump water so that nobody would fall victim to dehydration. The septic system would remain functional so that toilets could continue to be used. If the power were to remain out of service for a few more days we they would be all right.
And so I loaded my gear into the back of Lenrod’s Suburban and off we went on our long, adventurous drive to Idaho. We would encounter considerably more snow and freezing rain as we made the 370 mile trip across the state. We would arrive 2 hours later than intended, but we would arrive safely. There would be much rejoicing and celebration as old friends were reunited and glasses were raised in many toasts. There would be stories told, behavior unbecoming middle-aged men engaged in, and many fish caught. There would be serious fun had, and there would be a perilous return journey over a mountain pass still gripped in a winter storm. I would return to a home that was back on the power grid, with a cooler full of meat to feed my family during the remaining months of winter that lie ahead. After all, I am not one to take my responsibilities lightly.
Upon waking to this particular Monday, I feel physically fine but emotionally I am drained. A week of invigorating weather, during which I felt very much alive, has given way to a bland feeling that accompanies the calm after the storm. School is back in session and Mrs. UA is back at work. The ATV is tucked away in the garage and the snow shovel has been traded for the poop scooper. A memorable fishing trip is now but a memory. It feels too calm, and as I reflect on the drama of the past week that peaked with a great fishing trip, it could be easy to be left feeling a bit gloomy, as if there’s nothing left to look forward to. But a quick glance in the mirror reminds me otherwise: I still have the continuing progress of the beard to keep me going.