Story last updated at 6/25/2014 - 2:14 pm
Everywhere has its best spots. It could be a restaurant, hotel or something outdoors.
They get that way thanks to discovery, then verification by others - but not too many. Overuse begets ruin, just as curiosity begets exploration.
In the context of the outdoors, it's so much easier to go to a new best spot with someone else. Otherwise, you're by yourself and the possibility of failure increases.
Plus, no one wants to waste the good portion of a day finding something not worth visiting again.
That leads to self-scolding. Had you been a little less Lewis and Clark you could have been hiking, camping or catching fish in great familiar spots. Instead, you just forged through heavy brush, following a trail made by things that don't believe in catch-and-release fishing and don't hike for the view.
Sometimes, though, it pays off big time.
All that said, on Monday I went to a river I usually ignore. The next group of buddies I have coming up from California have already been here more than once, so I wouldn't want them to get bored and return to their wives and kids with the same stale tales of Alaska. (See sarcasm, noun, from the late Latin sarcasmus.)
I drove a half-mile past a conspicuous pull out on a gravel spur road that marks the most-used trail on the river. The plan was to be closer to the mouth and to hike up the river so I could become better acquainted with its curves.
There was no real entry point into the woods, so I made one, then ambled down the slope through brush littered with deer pellets and bear scat.
From what I could tell, I was maybe 20 yards from the river when the landscape flattened into a soup of downed hemlock trees drowning in stagnant water and garnished with huge skunk cabbage. I walked on a log as far as I could, but inevitably had to enter the bog.
The tangle of branches made the going difficult. I sloshed forward until I reached a wall of hat-high salmonberry bushes. With the sound of the river, I easily could have startled the creator of one of the fresh piles of processed plant life I saw on the hike down, so I pulled out my phone and started playing some country music to announce my arrival. I know a black bear wouldn't care, but it made me feel more safe.
I broke through, stumbling down an embankment hidden by growth. The water was thin and even. I started upriver, occasionally rolling out a haphazard cast, but saw no fishy spots.
After an hour, my scouting mission was over. I was at the downriver end of the popular spot. Everyone was right. The best spot well-marked. I used the worn path to get me back to the road, then walked to my truck. I headed out in search of a better new.
More gravel roads took me to another pullout in a different drainage. I saw no trail and followed a creek past a massive buck in the making to a clearing with outstanding fishing which was also perfect for camping. There were signs someone else had been there, but not many.
The morning defeat was ignored in the brilliance of this find. I imagined my tent there, lit from the inside by a lantern, creating an orange dome on an otherwise dark spit under one of those pure Alaskan nights. A camping photo in a Cabela's catalog. Yes I would fish, cook and camp here. Not tonight, but soon.
It took me two spots, but I had found a new place to lead my former colleagues. I won't say much more, because they tend to start reading my columns right before they head up.
I can't promise the buck, but I know for sure, this spot is worth it.