The following story was submitted by John Paul.
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED APRIL 2013
They say a picture is worth a thousand words but sometimes there are experiences when words, no matter how many, can convey a single moment. I had some of those experiences this weekend. And though I am catching running water, I am compelled to share a few of these moments with you.
Modern life has a way of keeping us busy with what seems like important things. There never seems enough time. I had to go up north to take care of matters in the San Luis Valley of Southern Colorado. I am a local from Albuquerque, perplexed by the pace of modern life and just as hustled and bustled as I was in Chicago, never knowing the word chill. However, I was looking forward to this day trip for the drive alone.
I have always loved this drive, especially just beyond Espanola. There a stretch of road runs parallel to the Rio Grande and ascends towards a high alpine valley that extends from Taos, New Mexico to Salida, Colorado.
From this stretch of road I have watched bald eagles fly the Rio Grande and marveled at the river’s strength and beauty, cutting through the high arching canyon walls. When an early morning or late afternoon sun strikes those walls they are a site to behold contrasting against the river’s deep greens and blues.
Nearing the top of this canyon your eyes catch a solitary cottonwood tree standing with a few mailboxes and nothing but sky behind it. You then level out and before you is a vast plain extending forever. It’s the kind of place where you can sit for hours and watch dust devils traverse its expanse. Here, to the left, the Great Spirit reached down and with both hands rent the land in two, creating the Rio Grand Gorge. On the right side of this expanse are the magnificent Sangre de Christos Mountains extending into Colorado. Nestled at the foot of the first 10K footer is the town of Taos.
I love this part of northern New Mexico; it’s quite beautiful from the road as you head up past Lama and Questa. But a road is a road is a road and lord knows I have been on so many of them. Roads can be quite deceptive, just like a map. One begins to mistake the road for the territory as you wiz by all the marvelous expansive beauty. However, from the road one never sees the truth fading away, just behind you, moments away, until you get off the road and start walking the trails. Time slows down at that moment and nature will not let you breathe, let alone see, until you have adjusted to her speed.
Along the way I had earmarked part of the Red River just above the Rio Grand Gorge to explore as a potential site for Fenn’s treasure. This was to be a preliminary investigation; after all I am a busy person with bills and taxes to pay!
But I was unprepared for the treasures I was about to discover there. I had never been to the Red River hatcheries. I didn’t even know it was there. I can’t tell you how many times I have whizzed by the HWY-515 entrance just off of 522 and not seen it.
I knew that the confluence of the Red River and the Rio Grande was a place to photograph and had planned, as a photographer, to eventually make my way there. It wasn’t until the chase that I discovered the entrance to the hatchery. Looking at it from Google earth I thought – now there is a place where one can drive their car and quietly secret away half a million dollars or so in gold.
This was to be a preliminary exploration as I have many sites that I want to explore and figure it will take several trips to provide due diligence with any of them. I had no expectation of finding a treasure that day. And, perhaps that made all the difference. My pace was slower as I had provided enough time in my busy day trip to just hang out there and walk along the river’s edge.
One of the first things I noticed crossing the bridge to the hatcheries was a flagpole with the New Mexico flag bright yellow with its red zia emblem ablaze! I looked quickly down but saw no speckles of glinting bronze or gold in the water below. I went across the bridge to use the washroom and that is when I saw them. Aha! Fenn’s secret fishing hole! I had never seen so many Rainbows in one place. Fenn’s rainbow . . . hmmm. Then i thought – this is the kind of place that would be dear to a fly fisherman’s heart. A place dedicated to keep the thrill of the chase alive for all fishermen in this state.
It wasn’t until I began to explore along the swiftly flowing river currents that i really knew what that meant. Here was indeed a wonderful magical secluded place, with the river beckoning me to follow its trail. Every turn and eddy and rock became a new place to explore. It is difficult to explain but the river has a sound that is quite special to hear.
It opened inside of me the days long ago when as a young tyke I had spent all day fishing along the river’s shore with my Grand Dad in Bandelier, Texas. It’s all suburbs now but at that time it was the boonies. The town was a dirt crossroad with a filling station and small store. I remember a large open metal container filled with ice and water flowing inside. It was nearly as tall as me. Inside was a treasure trove of cold pop one could chose from to quench their thirst.
What a wonderful enchanted time that was and what a wonderful sound to hear again, the river’s gentle song. I followed along the river and fell in love with this place. If I had had a bedroll with me nothing would have been better than pitching camp right there along the river’s edge.
Along the way my eyes began to open. I noticed which bugs were crawling along the river’s shore and which ones were skirting across the top of its side waters. Now those were the kind of flies I’d need to fish this stream. I would tie that fly, right there on the spot and fish all day! Along the way I noticed something glistening on the banks in the sun. I looked down and it was an earring. I picked it up and continued along.
Further down stream a woman was sitting at a picnic table with her friend who was fishing. I asked if she had lost an earring and she happily replied yes. I produced the gem and it was hers. I then walked further along the stream and noticed a small hook on a large rock. I embedded it into the side of a weathered tree trunk.
To my surprise time had moved along quite a bit, though I had not even noticed it. The trail had extended further than the 500 feet I had planned to explore. Sadly, it seemed my initial exploration was done. I then headed on up north to wild horse mesa in southern Colorado to take care of business. While up there a little wild pony came up to me to say hello. Looking at the blaze on the pony’s forehead I looked quickly down and saw my feet. I thought, how fortunate and lucky a person I must be. Life truly is the treasure.