fishing for words

(and tossing out random thoughts)


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why I blog (or, what’s in it for me?)

This post brought to you by the writing prompt
Why We Blog about our Outdoor Life
from the Outdoor Blogger Network (OBN)

blog: (n) web log, a shared on-line journal where people can post diary entries about their personal experiences and hobbies, with postings usually in chronological order.

For me, writing is work. Blogging is for fun.

I began my career in writing 25 years ago, long before the words “web” and “log” merged to create the everyday term. My livelihood revolves around news and analysis, and I still enjoy it after all these years. My blog is a personal extension of what I do.

It seems that I began to flirt with the idea of writing during my middle school years. The lack of social interaction that comes with being a nerd left plenty of time for other things. So, I spent time in front of an IBM Selectric typewriter, pounding out stories based on the fictional futures of classmates. The choice of a journalism class as an elective during my sophomore year in college brought me to the attention of the school newspaper advisor and, without thought to the dismal pay that comes with trying to make a living writing, I soon declared my major to be journalism.

Since my college education included a few elective computer science classes mixed in with Journalism 101 and Mass Media Law, within a few years I had become the go-to guy in our small office for software installation (Remember DOS?) or computer repair. Soon I was tapped to design and launch our first website.

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The boys, August 1997, Eagle Lake

My web log grew out of HTML knowledge gained on the job. That first personal website wasn’t in a format that today would be recognized as a blog; nor was it easy to use. It consisted of hand-coded HTML. Any new “posting” required new code, whether it was a simple trip report, a photo gallery or even a link. (Though I launched this website in 1995 — hosted on AOL — the earliest post included on this blog is from August 1997.)

Perhaps it started with a preoccupation as to whether or not I could produce and maintain a personal website, but the struggle to determine content led to the idea of a virtual logbook through which I could share my adventures — the most exciting of which were out of doors — with family and friends.

Laziness also may have been a factor motivating the creation of this website. Back then, sending out an email to a number of recipients wasn’t difficult but email applications wouldn’t allow photos to be inserted in the email body. Everything was an attachment. Without captions or associated text, there was no context for photos. There was also the little matter of Internet dial-up service topping out 14.4Kbps. A website partially solved these problems. My first entry described one of the first camping trips with my kids in the Lake Tahoe area. Flash forward a few years and you’ve got blogging applications that allow everyone into the pool.

The reason I blog, however, has grown beyond a simple recounting of experiences. It’s taken on a more personal aspect. I still write to share experiences, thoughts and photos with family and friends, but after so many years writing and editing dry analytical niche newsletters, my blog has become an outlet.

Here I can experiment with attempts at humor and storytelling. Here I can fail in a most public manner and just as easily deliver the goods in anonymity. At times I curse writer’s block (or the fact that I apparently don’t fly fish enough to provide blog fodder during the lean winter months). Other times prose flows easily.

There’s a vanity inherent in the act of writing, and blogging is much the same. But it offers rewards. Comments, positive or negative, suggest that people other than my parents, siblings and spouse actually read what I write and that my words occasionally spark thoughts. It’s also been a catalyst for friendship and camaraderie, both virtually and in person.

Has my bog changed what I do besides devoting time to its care and feeding? Yes, in many ways. Perhaps most important, it’s knowing that I may blog about an experience that constantly reminds me to truly live in and savor those moments spent doing what I enjoy, so that later I can share the details.

It’s said that secretly all writers want to live forever. Barring that, they hope that their words will live forever. Seems we all got our wish with this little thing called the Internet…and the blogs that live within it.

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thanks to dad, we were lucky to simply survive experience the great outdoors

This post brought to you by a writing prompt from the Outdoor Blogger Network


I’ve been a dad for more years than you’d think and with that has come amazement that the number of candles on my birthday cakes made it to double digits.

Sure, everyone my age grew up without seat belts, car seats, and medications without child-proof lids. Many of my contemporaries rode bikes without helmets, ate sandwiches made with white bread and drank drinks made with real sugar.

Personally, I’m more amazed that I and my siblings survived family vacations in the great outdoors.

I can’t figure out if dad was fearless, just wasn’t being smart or placed such importance on exposing his kids to the outdoors that the risks outweighed the rewards. Maybe it was the fact that we didn’t have innumerable television documentaries underscoring man’s inability to win in a one-on-one battle with nature. Whatever the reason, we were lucky.

There are photos that I won’t share here of me in diapers, in the wilds of Yosemite Valley. That might have been where it all began, but the memories are foggy.

Tuolumne Meadows Campsite

Where we camped for many years, long ago...

What I do remember are the multiple summers we spent in Tuolumne Meadows. At 8,600 feet elevation the weather was changeable. This made day hikes, already an adventure thanks to steep elevation gains and decomposing granite, unpredictable.

While there’s debate among my family as to the name of the lake that was the destination on one ill-fated hike, it’s clear that dad had pushed the limits on that cold and overcast day. With the distance of the hike limited by the length of my youngest brother’s legs, I’m guessing the hike in took no more than a couple of hours. Much of the trail wound in and around trees before rising and emerging onto a wide meadow. Crossing the meadow put us on the shore of a lake nestled up against granite peaks. Back then we carried spin fishing gear, and it wasn’t more than a few casts before a trout made one of the most dramatic, leaping strikes to swallow dad’s Mepps Agila. Small as the fish was, dad stumbled back in his surprise at the strike.

Just about then or shortly thereafter (my memory was muddled by the excitement), the gray of the sky gave way to small granules of something best described as light hail or heavy snow. Not being as keen on fishing, my sister and brother were huddle with mom near what little shelter was offered by a wind-stunted tree. “Jerry,” my mom said, “I think it’s time to go.” Nearly 40 years later I can understand that when fishing, time flies by but those same minutes are painfully slow to pass when you’re shivering in the high country and miles from the remotest fingers of civilization. Grudgingly, dad decided it was better to leave the fish for the sake of his children and, perhaps, his marriage.

The first time we pitched a tent at the Tuolumne Meadows Campground, where, by the way, there are no public showers; my dad’s solution was to take advantage of what nature had to offer. He proudly explained to us that we’d be using biodegradable soap. (It was a novelty back in the 1970s.) Our water source would be the oh-so convenient Tuolumne River. A river that originates from two forks — the Dana Fork and the Lyell Fork — both of which originate from the huge snowpack in the high peaks of the Sierra Nevada. There’s something about bathing in water that only 24 hours ago was in its frozen form. Yet another time we dodged hypothermia.

Then there were the bears. We knew they were there. We saw them occasionally during the day. It’s the times we didn’t see them that still give me chills. There were mornings we’d wake up and dad would show us the bear tracks through our camp; tracks that weren’t there yesterday and must have been made during the night, when I stepped out of the tent for a trip to the bathroom and could have become a tasty midnight snack for one of Yogi’s cousins.

Sierra Cup

The fateful faithful Sierra cup.

Those mornings dad would tempt fate yet again by preparing breakfast on the flattop griddles that years ago were standard equipment in every national and state park campsite. These griddles were nothing more than flat plates of steel welded to a grill, on top of a three-sided steel box, and naturally were exposed to the elements all year long, accumulating sap, rust and the occasional animal or bird dropping. Dad’s ritual involved stoking the wood underneath the grill with the idea of sterilizing it, then throw on bacon to lube it up before tossing on eggs and toast. While it’s entirely possible he did manage to sterilize the griddle, I can help but wonder if some of the “seasoning” entailed small bits of rust and other things.

In that vein, I also remember being so proud of our Sierra cups. My brother and I would loop them under our belts, and like little men, dip them into the clear streams to quench our thirst. Try that nowadays without worrying.

These are only snapshots of my childhood adventures in the wilderness, and there are other, less dangerous memories of other hikes, more fishing and just being a kid in the great outdoors. Those I’ll save for another time.

I was lucky to spend so much time in the great outdoors. All of these adventures never fail to bring a smile to my face.