A Memorial Day tradition around Laramie is the opening of the highway over the top of the Snowy Range. Another tradition has been to ski Medicine Bow Peak once Highway 130 is plowed and open to the public. On Monday, Marty, aka The Ph.D. of Ski, and I did just that again in what has become an annual event. Marty is an accomplished ski mountaineer and has the Haute Route in the Alps under his belt. According to his uncalibrated altimeter, we climbed between 1,200 and 1,500 vertical feet and reached the 11,500-foot mark on the mountain. The weather was windy once we topped the first part of the ascent and wind chills dropped steadily as we moved farther up the mountain. At the top, we huddled behind some rocks to eat candy bars and rest. (I enjoyed my first dark chocolate Snickers.) The snow was rather hard and crunchy for this time of year, so we stayed at the summit for about a half an hour, hoping the snow would soften for our descent. As usual on Memorial Day, I silently dedicated my run to my grandfather Earl and uncle Bob, both WWII veterans who have passed on to that big, untracked powderfield. Our run was better than expected and improved the farther we got down the mountain as the snow warmed up and softened. It was only my second telemark day of the year, and my first few turns were tentative as I got a feel for the conditions. Marty was on AT gear and linked near-perfect PSIA carved turns all the way down the mountain. We celebrated the climb and descent with another tradition - burgers and beer at the Beartree Cafe in Centennial.
Flyfishing has been a challenge so far this spring thanks to Mother Nature. She must be angry at fishermen, for some reason. Weekends generally were crummy. Weekdays weren't much nicer. Wind is the major culprit. We experienced many days of sustained winds in the 30mph range with gusts into the 40 mph velocity. Lately, several days produced gusts of more than 60 mph. Along with the wind comes the wind chill, which drops tolerable spring temperatures into the chilly range. When you're around water, or wading in it, the wind chill feels even colder. Trying to cast in those conditions is practically impossible, even if you can get the wind at your back. Fortunately, at one local lake, you don't have to cast far to get into fish. Earlier in the spring at this lake, I was wearing chest waders to get farther out into the water with my casts. I caught a few fish, but not many. When I told Sam about it, he said that I was wading right where the fish were cruising close to the dam. He never wades at this lake and always does well fishing from shore. So I changed tactics and became a landlubber. It worked a lot better than wading. My best outing there was nine chunky rainbows in several hours of afternoon fishing. Many fish hit just slightly more than a rod-length from shore. Another benefit of shore fishing is that you can sit down and relax while waiting for the next strike. It's also a lot easier to drink beer when you're not wading chestdeep in cold water.
The last two weeks were frustrating for E Dub. He finished grading his classes immediately after they ended on April 30. Then he hurriedly prepped his summer classes that begin May 17. He planned to spend the two weeks in between spring and summer semesters fishing every day. It was not to be, thanks to the wildly windy Wyoming weather in the first half of May. Snow, rain, cold temperatures and, mostly, high winds in the 30-50 mph range marked nearly each day of the month so far.
So it was with great relief that E Dub woke up early Sunday to sunshine, rolled out of bed, patched a leak in his pontoon boat, tied a couple flies and headed to a nearby lake. No rain, no snow, temps in the low 60s and a manageable breeze made this the nicest day in a long time. And the trout cooperated, as well. On his first cast, E Dub landed a rainbow in the 19-inch range, and the action continued hot and heavy for the first hour. It slowed afterwards as the wind picked up. But by the end of four hours, E Dub had landed about 17 trout, caught his first cutthroat of the year, and found he had successfully patched the hole in his pontoon. Of course, now that he will be teaching seven hours a day for the next three weeks, the weather forecast calls for sun and warmth into the foreseeable future.
Eric is retired and living in Laramie, Wyo. He taught journalism in the University of Wyoming's Communication and Journalism Department for 26 years. Before that, he worked at the Bozeman (Mont.) Daily Chronicle for 11 years.