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Camping in the Big Horn Mountain range.

primitive tent camping and fishing for trout.

Camping in the Big Horn National Forest mountain range - 2002.     I wasn't really a "trout guy" until I moved to Wyoming. After four years of struggling in vain to get a handle on this elusive fish, I'm still not qualified to call myself a trout guy. Not a bona fide trout guy anyway. I'm a work in progress.

    I started camping in my early twenties primarily as a means of turning a one-day fishing trip into a three-day fishing trip. There are two ways you can do that. You can rent a hotel/motel room for three days near (hopefully) the spot you want to fish, or you can camp out for three days. Camping out puts you closer to the fish, plus you get to build big fires, drink all night and get naked if you want. It's definitely cheaper and a hell of a lot more fun.

Meadowlark Lake. We had excellent luck trout fishing here for several years.     Meadowlark Lake in the Big Horn Mountains is one of the few lakes I generally did pretty well on as far as trout fishing was concerned. It's located a few miles from the spot we usually camped at in the Big Horn National Mountain range in Wyoming. On a typical morning we'd hit the lake around 6:00 a.m. and have our limit of Rainbow Trout caught before noon. We caught them on night crawler halves on #6 hooks anywhere from twenty to sixty feet off the bank with a bobber set to dangle the worm about four feet deep in the water.

Rainbow Trout caught on night crawlers at Meadowlark Lake in the Big Horn Mountains.     There are few things better than eating fresh caught trout cooked over an open campfire in the middle of the woods when you've already been there for several days. It's not just good food. It's food that you've caught and prepared yourself. Maybe it's a guy thing and I certainly can't speak for anyone else, but it's a pretty satisfying feeling for me. Proof that I can at least feed myself in the wilderness, that I can survive, even if it's only for that day. It reminds me of the training you hear about those special forces guys getting. The Navy Seals and the Army Rangers and probably a couple of other groups we never seem to hear about and that don't officially exist. The elite bad boys. Tough with a capital "T". They can drop one of those guys off in the middle of the desert, butt naked and armed with only a pocketknife and a piece of string. Two weeks later he'll come strolling back into camp fully clothed and ten pounds heavier. They don't train those guys just to kill. They train them to survive, and to do so under the most adverse of conditions. Without getting off on a Special Forces tangent, let's just say I have a lot of respect for those guys. The training they go through is brutal, deadly even. Those that survive it can truly claim qualification.

Trout fishing on Meadowlark Lake in the Big Horn Mountains.     I think the further you are away from civilization, the greater this sense of satisfaction is. And that's what it is for me when you really break it all down. It's a feeling of contentment... maybe a touch of relief. Gratitude toward the earth for providing. A small sense of pride that in some small way and at least for a moment I have peacefully and cooperatively co-existed with my environment. I didn't try to batter it down to suit my own liking or alter it to fit my tastes. The footprint I left on my surroundings was small and disappeared the instant I did. I left no marks, no trace that I was there for others to see. The only thing I didn't do was plant a tree, although we almost took one home.

Bear trying to get something going while Linda gets ready to cook the trout.     Camping helps me realign my priorities. The way it does this is by making me feel small. It didn't always do this. Like I said, I only started going camping to stretch out fishing trips. The benefits to my emotional health wouldn't become evident until I got older and more appreciative of the things around me. Camping makes me realize how big this planet really is and how small I am in comparison. There are fewer rules when you're camping, but those rules are hard and fast. Stay protected from exposure and find enough food to avoid starvation. Do that and you survive. Don't do that and you might die, or at least tuck your tail and limp back home. I'm not a "survivalist" camper by any means. I take enough food with me that it doesn't matter if I catch fish or not. I don't have to get my water out of a stream or river (although I have many times), and I light my campfires with a bic lighter or matches from a waterproof case. If I need to, I can get in my truck and leave so there isn't any "do or die" urgency when I go camping. I think it's the illusion that there could be that I tap into, an aspect that's more basic and even primal and that "sees" the importance of something for what it really is. In ordinary life I'm faced with thousands of decisions every day. Most of them are trivial and deal with inconsequential stuff but they occupy a great deal of my time. Camping eliminates the need to deal with 75% of those decisions and allows me to concentrate on larger pictures. That's what I mean by helping me realign my priorities. "Back to earth" in a very literal way...

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