Friday, July 11, 2014

Challenges Pending

I head out this afternoon for the annual fishing trip in Montana. Historically we have gone either in March or in late May. The past few years it has been cold, wet, painful, but good fishing. This year we made the decision to give July a try. The only main concern with July is river flows.  We had been once before in late June and experienced record-breaking flows of 15,000+cfs, which resulted in missed boat ramps, people falling in the river, and many fewer fish caught especially by the less experienced anglers.

We've been watching the river flows for a while now and I was really surprised back in June that the flows were WAY below historical norms, exactly when I would expect them to be going up. It gave me some mild concerns and seeing the trend in flow now verifies my concern. Flows have more than doubled in the past couple weeks and are now up to 7000cfs.  

At this level I'm not too concerned. We've fished it successfully in the 6000cfs range before. The trend, however, is a bit worrying. Will it stop at 7000cfs?? Or in the next couple days is it going to jump to 10,000+cfs?? If it does we're going to be in some trouble. We can still catch some fish, but after the year with record breaking flows all the fly shops added a disclaimer to their boat rentals stating that they won't rent boats above 10,000cfs.

I sure hope the flow stabilizes or moves slightly in the other direction.  If not, the next week may be less full of fishing and more full of swimming and world up soccer watching. Let's hope it's all fishing, and lights out fishing to boot.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Travel Day 7: Waterfalls!

It's sort of weird and pathetic that I flew over 5000 miles to see some waterfalls.  For those of you who don't know, Portland has about one million waterfalls, and hiking in the Columbia River Gorge to see waterfalls is a pretty popular weekend activity. So what do I do with one of my weekend days off in Germany? Go for a hike to see waterfalls. Call me uncreative.

I saw some signs for waterfalls and hiking just outside the mountain town I was playing around in and headed that way. It was the same area as the fortress I visited the day before. When I arrived I took a quick look at the map but was instantly confused. There were apparently quite a lot of trails available and the map was zoomed out just a little too much. It might be tough to make out in the picture, but all the little red lines are trails.

Fortunately, though, the waterfalls had their own 10K loop that was very well marked so off I went. the first couple miles were gradually uphill and followed a small creek that stair-stepped it's way down the gentle slope. I stopped a number of times to probe the water with my eyes and see if there were any living things below. I didn't see any but that wasn't surprising because it was probably too small to support fish.

A short mile or two later on I arrived at waterfall number one. It was nothing spectacular but I did find it neat how the cliff seemed to be growing out from edge where the water was. I'm not sure if it was all vegetation or if minerals were actually depositing and creating a solid rock structure outward, but it was really cool to see what appeared to be the opposite of erosion.

Up top of this first waterfall was a small cafe serving coffee, ice cream and a few other novelties.  I grabbed a cup of coffee and sat by the river for a bit. There were also a couple families having BBQs over fire pits in the area which looked like a great way to spend a sunday. After drinking my coffee it was on to the next site. 

From here the trail went up some steeper hills to the plateaus a few hundred feet above the valley and offered some really excellent views. There were a number of viewpoints along the way and they pretty much all offered a panoramic view of the hills and valleys and farmland below. It was pretty impressive. It was also impressive that I peed off the edge of a hundred plus high foot cliff! Yes, I'm still a child.

Eventually I reached the second waterfall, which I thought was significantly more impressive than the first. There were a few signs around and unfortunately my German isn't good enough to really get a grasp of what they said, but the area sure looked like it had been some sort of old ancient mining area or something. The waterfall actually stemmed from a creek that appeared to be diverted into three different paths that looked like they were man-made aqueducts.

Unfortunately pictures really don't do this place justice.  It was super tranquil and also amazingly impressive and I think it was better to not know the story behind it. That way I was able to ponder and fabricate my own, certainly more impressive story behind the place. Like it was a hidden magical wizard's garden. Or it's where the dwarves entered the mountain to dig up their gold and gems until they dug too deep and awoke the Balrog leading to their demise. Or maybe it's just an amazing natural occurrence where the mineral-saturated water majestically creates it's own aqueduct, builds upon itself year after year, and saturates and feeds the ground around it to spur the growth of colorful wild flowers.

I'm not sure what the truth is because my skills in High School German class were never great and have since lapsed to be even worse, but it was a pretty awesome place. I just wish I had had more time to find more of these places in the area, but I didn't. After this hike and all of what I saw it was off to the airport to head up to Hanover for a few days of work before heading over to the home office in England for a couple more days.

Oh, and happy July-4 today! This is obviously written up and posted a number of days after the fact.