September 16th, 2002

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By Cary Morlan, Moses Lake, WA (linemender)

My brother Mike and I always looked forward to our summer camping trip with Dad. It was an opportunity to discover new things about the great outdoors and to enjoy some quality time with our Father. Dad was a typical type A personality and it was always a chore to get him to slow down for anything. If he wasn't working, he was doing odd jobs around the house, or if most of his 'honeydos' were finished he would be working on any number of activities he had going. He seemed to have an abundance of fix-it projects for various friends, family, and neighbors, and was never wanting for anything to do. He found great pleasure in being busy. I would venture to say that is one of the reasons camping with Dad was such a treat. After the camp is set up there is not much to do except enjoy the surroundings, or so one would think.

In the early sixties I was 13 and my brother Mike was all of 11. We were once again camping with Dad in the Wenatchee National Forest. Up the Entiat River, we were ensconced in a cozy little campground known as Cottonwood. Our camping party included my Dad and step-mom Dolores, their friends Stan and Francis, our sisters Kim, Lynn, Sally Joe, and my brother Mike and I.

Camping did give Dad a chance to enjoy his surroundings and the company of family and friends, but even during the conversational moments around the campfire he would be busily whittling away at a prime piece of wood.

Dad enjoyed hiking and there were an abundance of trails to choose from in the Entiat River Valley. On this particular morning Dad, Stan, Mike and I embarked on a 4 mile trek to Myrtle Lake. The first couple of miles were a gradual incline and as we neared the lake the climb increased as switchbacks carried us up the mountains. By the time we emerged from the forest to bask in the sun and the pristine beauty that is a high mountain lake, we were all bathed in dust and perspiration.

We walked out on a logjam and gazed into what seemed to be a bottomless azure abyss that beckoned us all to refresh ourselves in the pure mountain waters. It was Dad who suggested we go swimming. It was I who stated the obvious, that we had brought no swimsuits. It was Stan who in all his wisdom informed us that had God wanted us to have swimsuits; he would have "growed 'em" on us. Mike and I grinned at each other as Dad and Stan stripped down to their birthday suits and jumped into the lake. They were treading water and espousing the wonderfully cooling effects of the water, all the while urging us to take the leap. As Mike and I donned our God given swimsuits and joined the fray, Dad and Stan were scurrying out of the water as fast as they could manage. Upon hitting the water we became aware of the reason for their impatience. Never in my life have I encountered a bath so frigid. While Mike and I flogged our way to the logs to escape hypothermia, Dad and Stan belly laughed at our surprise. We even found it a bit laughable ourselves once we thawed out.

After getting our breath back and getting dressed we embarked on the trip back to camp feeling refreshed and in high spirits. Dad and Stan meandered down the trail sharing stories and enjoying the fact that the rest of trip was downhill. Mike and I were energized and anxious to get back to camp to whet the appetite we had been cultivating for the last few hours.

Now the obvious way back to camp was to follow the trail that crisscrossed the side of the mountain through the forest. We knew we were supposed to stay on the trail but our exuberance overcame our common sense and the warnings of our Father. About half way down each switchback was a side trail that was a shortcut down to the next switchback. They were steeper than the normal trail and provide a slide of sorts. We began descending the hillside via the shortcuts and consequently left Dad and Stan in the dust so to speak. After more shortcuts than we could keep track of, we found ourselves at the foot of the mountain standing knee deep in a creek. Yes, we were up the creek with absolutely no idea of where the trail was.

We hollered for Dad and Stan and received no reply. Still not worried, and invincible as we were, we just followed the creek downstream as we had been taught, assuming it would lead us to the trail. When no trail appeared, and still having heard no replies to our increasingly frantic appeals for assistance, we changed direction and started walking east through the woods, aware that our campground should be in that direction. The mild trepidation soon bordered on full-blown fear. We were starting to anticipate our pictures on the front page as TWO BROTHERS MISSING IN WILDERNESS. It was then that Mike and his keen sense of vision spotted an old burnt stump he remembered as being next to the trail. We dashed over to our new-found beacon and beheld the most glorious of paths.

As we ditty bopped back to the campground our short term memory failed to let us dwell on the crisis we had just eluded. Our thoughts were focused on how far ahead of Dad and Stan we were and how long it would take them to get back to camp. We had been in camp about ten minutes when the men wandered into camp with smug, knowing grins on their faces. Mike and I never mentioned being lost, and Dad and Stan never mentioned hearing our distress calls. Nor were we ever castigated for not staying on the trail. I suppose they figured we had learned our lesson the hard way.

As the years passed and I grew to be a husband and a father, I still had a tendency to embark on trails I should avoid. There came a point in my life, in the spring of 1996, where I felt the world crashing around me and I was aware of my part in it. About that time my family and I were afforded the chance to move from the coast, back to the Columbia Basin. It was with some reservation that I informed my Dad of the circumstances that had brought me home.

I received no condemnations, no "I told you so," only love and concern for the well being of my family. I was blessed with the chance for my sons to get to know their grandpa a little better and for me to try and learn to talk to my father honestly. Dad would stop by on his way to here or there for a cup of coffee and to make sure all was well.

I suffered at my own hand by not cultivating my relationship with my father more diligently. It was in November of 1996 while plowing snow at the Port of Ephrata that the Lord determined that my Father had worked enough and called him to his side.

Today what I know is that I need to not stray from the path. Success is a byproduct of hard work. Family should come first. Wealth is measured by how many good friends you have, not by the size of your bank account. A gardens growth is directly proportional to the care you give it. One should never be too busy to help a neighbor. I need never go through anything alone. These are just some of the things I learned from my Father. Should I end up being a wayward hiker I know he his watching me just out of my sight, and when I find and follow the trail to the end, he will be waiting with a knowing grin and a warm embrace. ~ Cary Morland


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