In the doldrums of summer, in the land of my birth, I go to the mountains to quench my thirst.
It will be called UnNamed, USA where I go. All of us have a special place called UnNamed. Some are fortunate to have many. It’s not a place available for general public consumption, like we travel writers make a living exposing, or in most cases, ruminating about places from our own subjective experience that have been written about time after time. You have to find your UnNamed on your own. I’m sure you already have. If not, find your own and tell no one (or very few). There are places that I have found and that I have explored that I will not write about in specifics, though maybe so in broad, general, unnamed terms.
As a travel photographer/writer, I get to experience a variety of places in a variety of lands. It pays my bills and it always leaves me enriched and thankful for the breadth and depth of this Old Earth…and the reader can go there, too, either literally, vicariously, or both. Yet these journeys only partially fill me. UnNamed fills me completely. To the brim. To overflowing…and it is relatively inexpensive as it is close to home. In times of travel penny pinching, our UnNameds are wise travel investments.
My wife—mortally deceased fourteen years ago—and I spent part of many summers at UnNamed. Our son Steen—now 29—did, too. UnNamed was our camp, our sanctuary, our Shanghai-La. It was our eye from which we explored our region. Family and friends had and still have the pleasure of UnNamed, too.
Everyone should have an UnNamed. A place to go, to be alone, to be away from it all…or just to be with whom you want to be with.
My first memories at UnNamed were with my Dad and brother, often accompanied with other friends and family, too…and many times, just Dad and I. We came to fish this stream of dreams. It is where my Dad taught me to be a very proficient spin fisherman. Though I fly fish only now, my Dad made me into an expert at bait and spin fishing. Trout trembled at the approach of both of us…or so we liked to think. In those days, it was rare that we would catch and release. We had a large family to feed, with few resources, and we wanted to “bring home the bacon” to prove that we actually had been fishing. We didn’t want anyone outside the family to sense that we were having great fun in the process for fear that they would seek too much information about UnNamed and then we would have to stretch the truth and send them on a wild trout chase (few geese were involved) in the general vicinity without naming UnNamed specifically. When I took up fly-fishing, catch and release became the mantra, though the old black skillet still gets used on occasion.
We came to UnNamed right after the school year ended and before the summer haying began. Mom and Dad had a custom hay hauling business. Between hay cuttings in August, we came, too. Our lives were simple. We worked hard and played easy. Still do.
The UnNamed River that runs through the canyon where I sit writing at this moment—at July’s ending, seated in a chair, in the water, wearing my summer black short shorts with a cold margarita placed on a flat rock a hand length’s away( it’s 80 plus in the sun; I’m in the cooler shade of the creek cottonwood)—has the soft cadence of languid summer days.
The river starts as a series of brooks that come together as a creek, cascading from the base of a wilderness area’s highest elevation. The flow is tamed by the first large valley where it meanders gently through pine, willow, aspen, red osier dogwood and alder thickets: home to small mountain brook trout, beaver, song birds, butterflies, deer, coyote, squirrels, raptors, a few eagles and occasionally elk. There are mountain lion and bobcat here, too, though I’ve never seen one. A few cattle graze this area, but less so than in years past.
FIRST HIKE 30 YEARS AGO
My first hike to the headwaters was 30 years ago. JJ and I hiked into the wilderness, setting up our mountaineering tent in a sequestered grove of aspens near a bend in the creek. The following morning, both of us fly fished for brooks en route to the source. Along the way we marveled at the richness of the summer wildflowers: delphiniums that towered above our heads, the delicate and intricate columbines, paintbrush, yellow monkey flowers, elephant heads and an array of penstemons. With her pad and drawing pencils, she illustrated several scenes.
Hummingbirds were active in this fecund garden of nature. Somewhere en route at a deep pool, we stripped naked and slipped into the water. The cold, clear, mountain creek was like a jolt of electricity, energizing us for the remainder of the upper valley trek. We eventually arrived at UnNamed’s source: a Garden of Eden.
The natural tending by Mother Nature was extraordinary: a scene mindful of manicured French and English gardens, abundant with a variety of wildflowers and a series of little brooks gushing from springs at the basaltic rock. There were still a few remnants of snow. Gathering as one, the little brooks tumbled from its high mountain nest over a small waterfall, the beginnings of NoName Creek which later (30 miles distant) gets a name change to NoName River—the only such body of water in the state which I know whose adolescent name is changed when reaching adulthood. From beginning to end, NoName winds from high pine and fir country to the high desert—a near hundred mile course—and then exhausts itself as though dying from old age.
Every time that I come to the camp at NoName, the past comes with me. I hear the laughter and stories of days gone by. I see my Dad in the prime of his life along solitary stretches of the river making casts toward the wary and elusive rainbow and red band trout. Occasionally, he would take a break and light up a Pall Mall, a habit which he overcame the last 20 years of his life, but he had to live with the lung damage along the way. His choice though, as I’ve recognized that all humans have vices, one way or the other, and some things that some people call vices are really not vices at all. It is the fabric of our intricate makeup. NoName makes me philosophic, yet, concurrently, it also makes me—that is, allows me—to be empty and pure again without any philosophy, religion, imprints, prejudices and DNA encoded weight. I’m light at NoName, like the feathered flight of warblers, spotted sandpipers, tree sparrows, flycatchers and the Western tanagers that frequent the camp. NoName is anonymity and anonymity is freedom.
The presence of my wife is here, as are part of her ashes, released the summer after her death, by our son and me, and her sister and husband. The last time we stayed here together as a family was the summer of the year she died. The three of us threw our bedrolls on the ground and slept under the stars. The night was still and the twinkling stars glistened in the heavens. We counted falling stars. Little did we know that her star would transcend later in the year.
Our NoName camp has been from simple to deluxe, depending on how much time we stayed. Sometimes, it would just be a pup tent or a sleeping bag on the ground. Most times though, we had a full tent (or the 16-foot antique camp trailer), a screened kitchen tent, two umbrella tables, two hammocks and a portable dining table. Often, we brought a kayak or inflatable raft. Often with family and friends, we spent the Fourth of July here, sometimes the camp swelling to 20 or so. Today, I’m camping alone.
NoName has many names, among them: love, family, honor, celebration, peace, tranquility, the moment, nature, harmony, simplicity, tradition.
Wherever your NoName is: attend to it. Let it flow through you and become a part of you, and never let it go. If let go, you are denying a vital aspect of your soul. In a sense, your NoName is an ultimate freedom.