Searching for apex predators and flyfishing in the smoke

My plans to head over to the Oregon Coast and down to Mt Shasta got derailed due to all the wildfires.  So I spent several days in the Kootenai National Forest in the remote northwest corner of Montana, home to grizzlies, wolves, and cougars… none of which I was able to see, although I did find wolf tracks and scat and saw one black bear.  Besides going on long walks and motorcycle excursions in search of these animals, I spent much of my time flyfishing in high mountain lakes.  I’m new to flyflshing and its a bit of a learning curve to get the hang of it, however I’m happy to say I landed my first 5 trout using dry flies and enjoyed a good feast with my dog.  It is quite exciting to watch the trout aggressively strike the flies as they float and shimmy on the surface.  I was a bit skeptical about the idea of fly fishing being this greater art than traditional spin casting, but I’m starting to see the light.  What I like about fly fishing it that it requires a good deal more concentration, and intimacy with the prey you seek.  You have to really study and watch the fish, observe how and what they are feeding on, and adjust tactics accordingly.  Setting the hook is also more important in flyfishing I’ve noticed.  The fly hooks are small enough that the trout can just spit them back out once they realize they’ve been duped if you fail to promptly set the hook.  A treble hook on a traditional lure makes this less imperative.  I will continue to flyfish as long as the weather allows to try and get ahead of the curve and get a good workingman’s grasp on the art.  I spend my mornings and evenings reading and doing yogic practices.  Fishing and observing wildlife is a great daytime occupation.

The amount of smoke in the air in the forest lately has been very impressive.  Sometimes you can barely see the sun.  You can both smell and taste the smoke, and see it sweeping through the air like mist.  The nights, especially during the recent new moon, were eerily pitch black.  The smoke hid all the stars.  During the daytime, everything is dreary and grey, and its hard to tell what the weather actually is, whether its about to rain or not.  Being in such a remote and wild forest haunted with predators, the smoke really set a spooky and mysterious tone, especially in the areas where previous fires had already decimated the forest.  I felt like I was in an Edgar Allen Poe story, walking through barren, burnt forests in a thick fog, seeing and hearing only the occasional raven or two observing me from the dead branches.  

Today I’m heading down to Salmon Idaho to check out Goldbug hot springs, a set of natural thermal pools up in the mountains.   There’s some good fishing in the area as well, and wolves also inhabit the place, though they are heavily hunted.  Perhaps I’ll get luckily one of these days and catch a glimpse of these sacred, mystical beasts.  From there I plan to sweep around the back side of the Grand Tetons and visit the park for a few days before journeying over to Reno for my pistol course so I can get my conceal and carry permit.  That course is the last obligation I have, the only item on my “schedule”.  I look forward to exploring the Redwoods of California and the beautiful rock formations of southern Utah after that.  Then perhaps I’ll start hunting for land and a cabin in New Mexico.  I had a meditation vision that told me that the place I seek will not be available until 11/12, so I haven’t started seeking yet.  It’s amazing how detailed and precise information can be transmitted mysteriously while in a quiet state.  I was sitting on the edge of a canyon in the Badlands in a state of deep tranquility, when suddenly I heard and innervoice that very specifically stated this information.  It also said that after that time, the place for me will be presented to me.

Fishing And Paddling In Montana

I started exploring Montana just before Labor Day weekend and soon found a serene and picturesque lake in the Flathead National Forest, Holland Lake. I appreciated how, unlike so many other lakes, this lake did not have wealthy lake houses all along its shoreline. It was a completely natural setting, apart from a humble lodge and marina. Due to the holiday weekend, there were many campers along the lake’s trails, and many paddleboarders, canoers, kayakers, all in light and merry spirits enjoying the perfect weather. For just a high northern lake, the water was quite comfortable, water you could play in all day without a shiver. I spent the weekend fishing, paddleboarding, and playing flute in the woods. I’ve become quite addicted to the trout fishing out west actually, especially here in Montana where big trout of all varieties can be found in abundance in nearly any stream. After a few days at lake Holland, I spent several more fishing the Blackfeet and Clark Fork rivers, both with flys and spinners, and I’ve enjoyed quite a few good meals on the freshest trout: rainbows, cutthroats, and brookies. Since I was so close to Glacier National Park, despite warnings I had heard about crowds, I also took the opportunity to visit the park and drive the famous “Going To The Sun Road”. I have to say, though the park was indeed breathtakingly beautiful, I’ve fallen a bit out of love with our National Parks. Too many roads, regulations, and tourists. At both Yellowstone and Glacier, you’re not allowed to take your dog on any trails, nor does a statewide fishing permit allow you to fish the parks. You have to buy a separate park license. All I really wanted to do at the parks was find a nice scenic pulloff to play my flute and drum, but every pulloff were jampacked with cars and a frenzy of people, and the roads were contstantly roaring with traffic. If you travel with a dog, it’s nearly impossible to find solitude in these parks. I camped nearly every night of this journey in national forests which I FAR prefer: way less people, roads, and regulations, only a thin network of dirt forest roads and the wide open wilderness without rangers constantly watching you. The forests have just as much scenic beauty and wildlife as the national parks, only less accomodations, people, and paved access roads, which makes them significantly better. The only drawback of the forests, especially here in Montana, is heavy logging. They “thin” the forests, saying it’s good for a whole list of bullshit reasons. In reality, logging interests just want a homogenized crop of profitable timber they can harvest in regularity. Whatever “good” the thinning does for the trees, it’s absolutely devastating to the wildlife and natural ecosystems of those areas. Some areas of the forests feel sad and desolate, more like graveyards than a vital and thriving ecosystem. Make no mistake, the US Forest Service does not serve to protect our forests, but to pimp them out to the highest bidder.

I’m currently at Sandpoint in Northern Idaho. It’s a very charming town that seems chock full of pretty women, however, I’m not really interested in towns, or even women so much on this journey, at least as much as I can help it, but my biological makeup has priorities of its own. So I’m just doing a load of laundry then heading back over to Montana’s most northwestern and least visited national forest, the Kootenai NF, home to wolves, grizzlys, and cougars. Being so northern and sparsely populated, this is probably my chance on this journey so far to encounter and view wolves, which is a prime goal of mine. Maybe I could even glimpse the northern lights, another goal. I’m gonna spend at least a week up their wandering around hoping for such an encounter. As of last night, I had intended to go visit the beautiful coast of Oregon, an old friend in Grants Pass, and then continue on to the holy and sacred Mt. Shasta. The unprecedented amount of wildfires has derailed that plan. Even the friend I intended to visit is under evacuation. I can’t even imagine how much smoke their must be in the air. In two weeks I’ve signed up for a pistol course in Reno Nevada so I can get my Arizona concealed and carry permits which reciprocates with 36 states and allows out of state applicants. I’ve noticed that gun courses all over the nation are sold out and its very hard to get a slot in one. As many have heard, gun sales this year have skyrocketed due to tyranny and riot fears, but their all clamoring as well to get their conceal and carry permits. I got the last slot in Reno, and if I miss it, I probably won’t be able to get the permit until after the election, and by then it will be too late when civil unrests sweeps across the nation with more ferocity than these wildfires. But perhaps by then a permit won’t be needed anyhow in such a brutal and lawless climate. Anywho, over the next two weeks I’m gonna fish my way down through Montana and Wyoming. In southern Wyoming, at the Red Desert, or Great Basin, I’ve been told one find stones of natural tourqoise. I definitely wanna check that out. From their I’ll get across Utah as fast as possible. That mormon compound freaks me out and the cops are crooked as sin. Then I get to look forward to the very long haul across northern Nevada to the Reno/Tahoe area. I actually enjoy that drive a lot. I love barren emptiness. It’s why I’m out here. It’s what I seek.

Lamar Valley And Beartooth Pass

I spent a couple days in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone hoping to glimpse wolves to no avail. All I glimpsed was legions of tourists and jampacked roads so I got out of there quickly via the Beartooth pass into Montana. At nearly the peak of the pass, on top of the world above 10,000 feet, I saw a beautiful fox just trotting along the road. He seemed concerned, like he was searching for something or someone he lost, but he certainly wasn’t too afraid of me and was kind enough to pose for several pictures. Now I’m in Red Lodge Montana and gonna head over to Bozeman to get an oil change and try to fix a few minor issues with my van, then back into the mountains!

Enchanted Bighorn Canyon And A Touch Of Yellowstone

I spent a few days in the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, at the base of the Bighorn Mountains to the west. The canyon is known to be one of the more dramatic canyons in the US for its sheer vertiical cliffs a half-mile high and it did not dissappoint. As some of you know and as I have stated previously, I’m a bit of a mystic, prone to visions and able to perceive subtle energies. Of all the places I’ve visited thus far on this journey, Bighorn Canyon certainly had the most mojo, though it may be a bit cursed actually. This canyon was the previous tribal lands of the Crow indians who were rudely and violently displaced. In talking to a elder local who has visited this canyon since he was a boy, he told me of several bizarre tragedies that have taken place there over the years, and he actually seemed concerned that I was visiting the canyon alone. One of the tragedies involved a uranium miner whose heavy tractor broke off the cliff edge plunging them both into the merciless depths below. Another involved a surveyor for the dam project who unfortunately met a grizzly bear in one of the canyons and only his bones remained to tell the tale. To confirm these darker energies, in a meditation one morning, my spirit was jolted by the sudden vision of a native violently murdering a white explorer by shoving a double bladed knife into his skull. The whole time I camped in the canyon there were strong and menacing winds and ominous thunder. I do feel there is a bit of lingering violent energy haunting the canyon, but it is not all bad. The canyon is also home to wild horses. In another vision I saw a spirit horse with two buffalo horns protruding from the side of its head present itself to me from atop the ridge of a hill. Many of the petroglyphs I shared in my last post showed double-horned spirits worshipped by the ancients. All in all, these things are hard to interpret, but lets just say that I feel Bighorn Canyon is home to spirits, some good, some bitter and malevolent. Either way, I love it. The entire landscape of the canyon was like something out of a classic western movie. The spaces were vast, mysterious, haunting, and quiet. I would have loved to stay longer, but there was no camping with shade and I had to look out for the wellbeing of my dog, plus the ceaseless winds weren’t so conducive to inwardness and meditation. I really look forward to returning to the canyon later in the season to further explore both the terrain and the mystical energy that dwells within it.

After visiting Bighorn Canyon, I decided to pass through the charming town of Cody Wyoming, then on to Yellowstone National Park. Because of COVID this year, I knew ahead of time that the park was actually jampacked, more than the usual mess. A lot of people decided to handle the quarantine and mask mandates by jumping in their RV’s and heading to the freer more open spaces of the West, myself being among these. Knowing this ahead of time, I really only wanted to quickly brush through the less populated northern end of the park where the biggest populations of wolves are known to inhabit, and then head further north into Montana via the legendary and picturesque Beartooth Pass. I’m currently still close to Yellowstone, writing this from a cafe with WIFI in Gardiner MT, just outside the Mammoth Springs gate. I haven’t seen any wolves yet, but I’m gonna go give it one more try tonight before heading up the Beartooth Pass in the morning to explore some of the many open spaces and National Forests in Montana. Tonight I plan to stay awake a bit later than usual and go on a night hike to see if I can get the wolves to respond to my Indian flutes with at least a howl or two. Peace and love.

Decompressing in the Bighorns and soaking in Thermopolis Hot Springs.

I’ve spent the past two weeks in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming, my time divided evenly between two different campspots, one in the north end of the forest, and one in the south end.  The north end seem to attract an older, more rural set of outdoor enthusiasts who spent most of their time flyfishing, exploring ORV trails on side-by-sides, and plinking with rifles.   The south end seemed to attract a younger set of backpackers and climbers since the main attractions of the south end were the Cloud Peaks Wilderness area, that didn’t allow motorized vehicles of any sort, and Ten Sleep canyon, which is a bit of a climbing Mecca.   I preferred the quiet wilderness of the south end, plus, the fishing was much better: bigger, hungrier trout.  My days are simple, quiet, and reflective.  I start each morning with meditation, chanting, and reading sacred literature at my campsite, then explore around a bit in the afternoon, either on my motorcycle or on foot with my dog, Kody.  As the day cools off, I do a little trout fishing to pull dinner out of a nearby stream, and then close out the day with another round of meditation, and watching one episode of Maverick in my van to lull myself to sleep.  

It’s so nice not having internet service up in the mountains.  There’s nothing to fill my mind but the excellent books I’m reading, the soothing sounds of nature and occassional glimpses of wildlife.  So far on this trip I’ve read Edward Abbey’s “Desert Solitaire” and “The Monkey Wrench Gang”, and am currently reading John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden”.  I find that when you starve the senses of worldly distractions, a simple novel becomes a paradise of dreams and imagination to escape into.  Reading is one of the things I enjoy most on this journey… that and fishing.  I practically grew up waste deep in water, fishing nearly everyday of my life between the ages of 12 and 19.  Then I became a vegitarian and felt it was no longer proper to inflict suffering on fish for my own sport.  Now I’m a pescatarian, and I only picked up a pole again on this trip.  I have to say, it’s like rediscovering a part of myself.  It’s amazing how quickly my skills, instincts, and passion for the sport have come back.  And I can see why I was so “hooked” on fishing when I was younger.  It quiets my mind and fills me with peace nearly as much as meditation.  As a general rule, a committed yogi shouldn’t eat fish or harm any other creature.  However, last year when all this “White Wolf” energy arose in me, something wild inside me really came to life and seemed to demand I begin consuming fish again, as if the Wolf spirit I was channeling required it.  I trust my instincts, and so I have been cutting the heads off the fish I catch, running a knife up their belly, removing their innards, tossing them in a pan, and then devouring them.  It’s a good practice for me; it gets me out of my contrived pacifism and puts me a little more in touch with the fierce and unflinching realities of Nature.  It is refreshing and reassuring to see that I can fill my belly drawing from the abundance of nature without having to participate in commerce.  It’ makes me feel free, and wild.  I also have been drinking pure, fresh, water from mountain springs and eating wildflowers.  

Now I’m down off the mountain in Thermoplis Wyoming, at the “world’s largest mineral hot springs”.  I needed a couple days to fill my fridge, do some laundry, and soak my bones.  I didn’t know what to expect from this town but I am pleasantly surprised.  The state park is very accomodating, the town has a quaint charm and a touch of culture, and the people are quite friendly and straightforward. Straightforward… that’s the word I would used to describe the Wyomingers I’ve met thus far.  If you yourself are straightforward you’ll get a long just fine.  It doesn’t seem to matter if you are an outsider from a different culture; if you are just authentic, humble, open, and honest, and love the outdoors, you’ll fit right in.  

I’ve decided after all that I will make my way towards the ancient and powerful spiritual center of Mount Shasta California to continue my sadhana until it gets too cold, but I’m gonna take my time getting there.  I measure my time now mostly in terms of water tank refills.  My van only holds ten gallons of fresh water, and used sparingly, I can stretch that for 5 or 6 days.  I’m not out here to be running around all over creation and spending a lot of money.  I’m here to be sitting quiet in nature and focusing on inner things.  I plan to take the northern route to Shasta, stopping through the Lamar valley in Yellowstone to try and see wolves, then up the Bear Tooth pass into Montana, across Idaho, cutting the corner of Washington, and down the Oregon coast to Shasta.  It will probably take me several weeks before I arrive there, because I plan to spend a water tank’s length of time at several beautiful spots connecting the dots between here and there.  

That’s all for now.  Here’s some pics of some moose I saw in the Bighorns, Lake Helena in the Cloud Peaks Wilderness, some 11,000 year old petroglyphs near Thermopolis, and a selfie.  Peace and love.

A meeting with climbing/caving legend Jan Conn

I had the honor and pleasure of getting to meet and play music for Jan Conn today, a true living legend in the climbing/caving world, a pioneer both of first ascents around the nation, as well as in ethics, ideology, and lifestyle. She’s been “on the road” following her bliss and passions since Jack Kerouac was a baby. I met her in the same tiny shack she’s been living in in the Black Hills without electricity or running water since the 40’s. Very few Americans have a lived a freer, more fulfilled and fearless life than Jan. She is 96 and still splits her own wood and lives self-sufficiently in the forest. For the phase of life I am entering, I could hardly think of a greater inspiration and role model. See this wikipedia article for more information on Jan and her life.

First thing I had to do was update my wardrobe!

My first stop westward was the western wear section of the famous Wall Drug in Wall, SD, at the entrance to the Badlands. I figured a new phase of life and a new journey deserved an outfit to get started. I really just wanted to shed my old skin and put on a new one suitable to the environment and the adventure ahead.

This isn’t the first time I decided to live in a van and drift around the west. After my freshman year of college, I dropped out and did the same for awhile, though in a far less fancy van. Then too, my first stop was in Wall SD, and me and the pretty girl I was traveling with at the time went to a local bar. Wall was a far dustier, lonesome, outpost back then. In the bar we met two authentic cowboys who had been out on an elk hunt to return home TWO WEEKS later than they had told their wives! So they decided to handle the situation by getting deeply drunk first before facing the wrath of their worried and neglected wives. In the high spirits that they were, they kept buying me and my girl drinks and we all got drunk together. Shortly thereafter, a sheriff walks into the bar, points at me and says, “Boy. Come here.”

The dude looked and sounded just like Sam Elliot. He couldn’t have been a more idealized version of the “western sheriff.” I was nervous at the summons, but quite surprised by what he had to say. “I want you to drive these two men home. They’re too drunk to drive.”

I cautiously replied, “Uh, but, I’ve been drinking too.”

“Yeah, well you may be drunk, but you aren’t as drunk as those two, and I’m the only sheriff in this town.”

So I drive their truck with a dead elk in the back and the two cowboys as passengers out some dusty road into the prairie with my girl following behind in our van. A few miles out, the cowboys tell me, “Just pull over here. Let’s drink a few more beers and then we can take it from here.” No sooner than we were halfway through our first beer, the same sheriff pulls up, points at me again, and repeats, “Boy. Come here.”

Now I was really nervous, feeling I had somehow disobeyed his command. Approaching his car window, he simply pointed to the northern horizon with a big grin on his face and said, “Look. Aurora Borealis!” He pointed to the slight green hue where the sky met the land and then said “Have a good night!” and drove on.

We all laughed a laugh of relief and amusement at the funny encounter, then one of the cowboys pulled out a big buck knife and dug into the dead elk’s mouth in the back of the truck, pulling out one of the beast’s ivory teeth to give me as a parting gift before they made their way home. That was my first experience in the wild west. I’ll never forget that kind-hearted sheriff or those cowboys, nor such a unique and bizarre experience. I hope to have many more. I feel at home out here, my heart breathes easy, and I’m so happy to be back.

Sturgis, and another addition to the wardrobe!

The controversial, COVID-era, Sturgis motorcycle rally poured over into the town of Custer where I was holed-up to work on this website. I couldn’t resist the temptation to pick up a badass, tassled, biker vest and have a wolf patch sewed on the back by the junkie onhand seamstress.

Although such a large public gathering is controversial while the pandemic still lingers, I fully support their right to gather, face down fear, live their lives in pursuit of happiness, and celebrate freedom. Every biker I’ve met here has been very cool and authentic and I have much admiration for their way of life. Once I settle down again, one of the first things I’m gonna do is buy a hog. My little Kawasaki 250 isn’t quite cutting it here, lol.

Buckman And Bighorn!

One of the main reasons I’m taking a break from music is to be able to direct more time and energy to writing. I’ve always felt my life will never be complete without writing a few novels. Despite what some may expect, I don’t want to write ultra deep, philosophical prose. I’ve always been a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie stories, lighter-toned mysterious that hold human nature under a magnifying glass with interesting plot twists. One of the first friends I’ve made out here in the West is this dude William Buckman. He was born and raised in Sundance, Wyoming, served as a park cop for several years, and now is a climbing guide at Devil’s Tower. I just thought he had a really classic western name, and is a pretty classic western dude himself, and then we realized that it pairs hilarioulsy with my new moniker, “Bighorn”. And thus an idea was born. I’m totally for real. I’m gonna get started writing classic, pulp-fiction, western, adventure/mystery novels. Get ready for the continuing tales of Buckman and Bighorn! Cover design by yours truly.

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