Stories of (interesting, funny, bad, sad, happy, etc.) things that have happened while paddling. Post your links to your blogs as well.

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Post by mtpaddler » Thu Sep 23, 2010 11:45 am

I can’t really say that many of our previous Labor Day weekends have been memorable. I’m sure there was some camping and fishing involved and there are pictures of those past holidays buried in the archives but few will be etched in our minds like the Labor Day weekend of 2010.

It started out innocent enough; we got on the road just a little after 6:00 pm Friday night, a pretty early evening start for us, and had just reached a speed limit of 60 mph heading toward Ennis from Four Corners when the driver a little white truck decided to do a rolling stop and pulled out right in front of us. I slammed on the brakes but there was no way the freight train we presented was going to slow down enough to avoid a catastrophic impact so I whipped the rig into the oncoming double yellow line of traffic (luckily no one was coming in the opposite direction) and leaned on the horn as we flew past the oblivious driver. He must have thought we were giving him a friendly Montana salute because he returned a horn honk of his own. While not enough of a scare to warrant a stop to change our shorts, as you can imagine, it was the topic of conversation for a number of miles.

We were graced with a beautiful evening when we arrived at Beavercreek Campground above Quake Lake and the temperature was pleasant enough that we decided to have a campfire and burgers outside so while I tended to getting things ready Connie leashed up Maggie and went for a walk to stretch their legs after the drive. It probably wasn’t 15 minutes before I heard Connie screaming hysterically out of breathe as she came running back down the road that Maggie had been hurt. I’m thinking twisted leg and held the door of the camper open while she rushed her inside. Maggie was covered in blood. A campsite at the top of the hill had half a dozen dogs running loose and a Malamute had run up and grabbed her, whipping her back and forth like a rag doll. Connie was able to force the dog’s jaws open by grabbing a hold of the bottom jaw and bending the nose back and Maggie took off running as soon as she hit the ground. Connie finally caught up with her several campsites down, snatched her up and ran back to camp, quite a feat considering Connie isn’t a jogger.

Looking Maggie over trying to discover the depths of her wounds, we found two good puncture wounds and a hole in her skin about the size of a nickel; she was definitely going to need stitches. One of her eyes was hemorrhaging too. About this time the owners of the dog showed up, profusely sorry and volunteered to drive us and Maggie to the nearest vet. We headed toward West Yellowstone and cell service. We finally got several bars after topping the dam at Hebgen. West Yellowstone we learned, doesn’t have a vet so we whipped a u-ey toward Ennis and got a hold of the vet there. He informed us that we were about an hour out and he would meet us at the hospital at 10:15. His time estimate was right on the money. As it turned out, the vet clinic was run by a husband/wife team and as you can well imagine, they had varying opinions as to the correct measures to take. The wife thought that they should administer antibiotics and some pain relief, shave the injured areas for an assessment and staple up the hole in Maggie’s side. The husband was leaning more to getting Maggie to throw up her dinner, putting her under and then hitting her with antibiotics and stitching her up. He didn’t have good results with staples but the wife’s record was much better. We went with the wife. It took them about ½ hour to take care of her and when she came out she looked a lot better, just not quite as spunky as usual. They gave us some antibiotics, some pain pills, some antiseptic spray and instructions on caring for Maggie. They gave the bill of $250.00 to the dog owners. On the way back to camp, they remarked how they couldn’t understand how their mild-manner dog could do such a thing. He only kills gophers, cats, rabbits and birds he catches but never dogs. I guess no dog has been unlucky enough to wander into their yard. Even after all this, the campground host still got complaints from various campers that these people’s dogs were running loose. We never ventured toward that end of the campground again.

After a fitful night of sleep for Connie – she kept reliving the attack in her mind, we finally tried to settle down Saturday morning and do a little fishing from the kayak. We had several nice rainbows on the stringer when I hooked into one of those insane “I wanna liveâ€￾ trout we’ve come love and fear when you fish Quake. After a fairly lengthy battle with several nice line peeling runs, Connie was finally able to net the big, healthy, let’s say 18â€￾er. The next set of events takes less time than you just spent reading this line. Upon netting the trout Connie discovered the handle to her reel was tangled in the webbing. While she was contemplating that issue, the netted fish decided to do a 180 flip in the net. We were fishing the old wedding ring worm harness and the ill-timed (or was it planned?) flip imbedded the upper hook squarely in Connie’s thumb while the trailing hook was still firmly imbedded in the mouth of “I wanna liveâ€￾. With Connie screaming and the fish still flopping, I decided against finesse, firmly grabbed the hook and ripped it out of Connie’s thumb. At the same time, the fish gave one final flip out of the net, popped off the hook, bounced off the side of the kayak and landed in the water on the opposite side of that from which it was netted. We paddled away from several mystified observers and are seriously contemplating bringing along a small bat.

Sunday morning broke calm and sunny. We ate a quick breakfast of oatmeal and peaches and decided to forego the usual morning coffee thereby avoiding numerous shore-side bathroom breaks. We fished until around 11:30 when the wind started to pick up and headed for shore. Others who were familiar with just how quickly events can turn also headed for terra firma but there were a few who decided to continue fishing just a little longer and were eventually overcome by strong wind and waves and battled to get to the safety of solid land. They would be in for a 4 hour wait until the winds died down enough for a tough row or paddle the mile and a half back to the boat launch. Around 4:00 with the winds settling and Connie and the dog napping, I thought it might be a good time for me to do a little solo kayak trip up to the Madison River inlet. Climbing into the kayak, I noticed the clouds to the west had a weird gold hue to them and thought, “Maybe its sunlight filtering through the bottom of the clouds and it’ll turn into a beautiful eveningâ€￾. By the time I reached the east end of Quake the wind had started to pick up – and then it started to rain. I wasn’t worried because I had on my raincoat and hat and my legs were covered so everything was good. The force of the wind continued to increase making headway extremely difficult. Not to worry – I was heading with the direction of the river current. I noticed my hands started getting cold and looked up to discover I was in the middle of a blizzard of grapple snow pellets. By the time I got back to my landing area, everything in the kayak was covered with a layer snow and soaked with rain. I was so exhausted by my paddling ordeal that I didn’t realize that my legs had fallen asleep and when I went to step onto shore they collapsed under me and I stumbled backwards into the lake, filling my boots with water. I stashed the kayak where it wouldn’t blow away and battled my way through chest-high willows to the trail back up to the camper. I was soaked from the waist down but the uphill climb back to camp kept me warm. Connie was happy to see my paddle flashing through the trees as I walked up the trail. Just a few minutes earlier the view to the lake had been obscured by flying snow. She had to lower the awning over the front door of the camper to keep it from collapsing under the weight of the rain-soaked snow. As is often the case with extreme weather, by the time I had changed my clothes and warmed up, the sun came out revealing beautiful snow-capped peaks. I had to go out and took several pictures of our first snow. Gotta love Mother Nature. Red beans and rice with Louisiana hotlinks made for the perfect “warm ya upâ€￾ dinner. I could have used some Scotch.

The storm passed in the night but left behind a nice breeze. The morning paddle back to the boat launch was pleasant but a bit of a workout. I did manage to hook and land a nice brown but by the time I had him on the stringer I’d lost 75 yards of forward progress. I didn’t remove my rod from the water, but for the rest of the trip I silently hoped I wouldn’t catch another fish. I didn’t. After lunch we decided to drown some worms and settled in at Connie’s “spotâ€￾. She found this “spotâ€￾ earlier in the summer and for reasons we’ve yet to discover if you put a worm in the “spotâ€￾, you catch huge trout. The “spotâ€￾ is only an area about 15 ft x 15 ft. Any distance, however small, to the side or front or back, and you could be sitting there all day – while hitting the mark can have you limited out in two hours – and the fish are huge. What distinguishes the “spotâ€￾ from other parts of the featureless lake surface is a stump barely visible under the water’s surface. People generally avoid obstacles like that when they notice them. We caught 6 fish that afternoon (5 : 1 only because Connie let me toss my rig in the “spotâ€￾ while I cleaned the rest of the fish). We watched a belly-boater launch his craft while his wife watched; he promptly caught a fish, showed the wife and then threw it back. His plan, we learned later, was to catch fish for dinner. That was the last fish he caught; he was forced to watch Connie haul in pigs (just like me).

And so our Labor Day weekend ended. On a side note – Maggie got her staples removed September 21, and is doing fine. She’s lost her curiosity of big dogs and sees them as a threat. We’ll have to see how that works out.

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Post by Pearly » Thu Sep 23, 2010 7:38 pm

Fantastic account of a series of unfortunate events! Sound like you had quite an adventure - almost make a movie out of that one! Any photo's?

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Post by mtpaddler » Fri Sep 24, 2010 3:22 pm

I don't belong to an on-line photo service and can't link any photos. Not sure any are worth looking at -- couldn't get into the creative mood.

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Post by JCOOLEY » Fri Sep 24, 2010 3:30 pm

You can sign up for a Flickr account. It is free for up to 200 pics. You can post to the Advanced Elements group.

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