I guess I've waited long enough. Life's been busy on the work front lately, but that doesn't mean we haven't been out fishing.
How many times have you discussed the topic of bucket list destinations with a hunting or fishing friend? And how many times have you found certain places in common and said "one day" and then the conversation ends after that?
My friend Bob and I (follow along--this name might get confusing) were floating down a local river one spring afternoon and had this very same conversation. Near the top of both of our lists was a destination we both agreed on: The Bob Marshall Wilderness in northwest Montana. Without much cooperation from the trout, the conversation soon went from the casual to more serious, and before we knew it plans were being made to make it happen.
"The Bob" as it's affectionately called spans some 60 miles along the Continental Divide and consists of some 1,009,356 acres making it the fifth largest wilderness area in the lower 48 States. If you add in the other wilderness areas that it borders, it gets even bigger than that. Besides the strong population of wild West Slope Cutthroat Trout that supposedly eat dry flies with reckless abandon and the ability to legally fish for Bull Trout, part of the allure is it's remoteness: you either get in on foot, horseback or in some instances small airplanes. No roads and no motorized vehicles with some very difficult terrain in and out limit the number of people who visit here. Add to that the logistical cluster**** of getting stuff in, out, shuttling vehicles, 3 hour drives on 80 mile dirt roads, having enough food to eat and clean water to drink, taking all the right gear, high altitudes and constantly changing weather....... not to mention the Grizzly Bears that call this area home and you can see why this alone weeds out those who prefer more modern and comfortable amenities.
Did I mention this conversation took place almost three years ago and this trip was supposed to happen July of last year? One long drought and some very large fires later and our 2015 trip was called off by our outfitter 45 days before we were supposed to leave. Try explaining that one to the airlines. So dates for 2016 were rescheduled and it was put off another year.
The amount of planning for a trip like this took on a life of it's own. Since everything would have to be packed in on horses and mules, space and weight became a huge issue and a reoccuring theme. We made sure we were taking only what we needed to and had all kind of redundancies built in as plan B, C etc. Packing and unpacking our gear onto the two Watermaster Rafts we'd call home for the week built up the excitement for my son and I. This wasn't just a show up and go kind of trip--every facet had to be carefully planned out and prepared for, because once you reached the end of that 26 mile horseback ride in and were dropped off for a week on your own- - -there was no turning back.
Early on we had it in our minds we would fly out to Montana. Now, anyone who knows me knows how I pack for just a weekend trip, let alone one like this that would require the specialized gear we were required to take. It quickly became apparent that unless we chartered the whole 737 ourselves driving would be the only way we'd be able to make it with everything. As it turned out, having our trip postponed that first year became a blessing in disguise.
|Added bonus: 2 1/2 hour 'sightseeing delay'|
in Chicago on the way out
Just that easy, although dodging those damn Pokemon's that Bob's kids said were all over the road was tricky at times.
We spent several days around Divide Montana visiting my friends John and Janet and fishing the Big Hole River and some local area streams. Then it was a drive north/northwest to the Kalispell, Montana area where we would meet our outfitter the next morning and the adventure would begin for the next eight days.
|First Morning: Mantying up for the trip in|
Next: "What goes up must eventually come down"