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  Articles of Interest
Sometimes, getting there is half the fun
Ed Engle writes for the Daily Camera in Boulder
June 2, 2001

    - Homer Jennings, the gifted Colorado Springs bamboo fly rod maker, and I have been talking about four-wheeling into the section of the South Platte River above Cheeseman Reservoir for the past year or two.

    I'd walked down into the area from the east side many years ago and have known for sometime that it's possible to get down to the river from the west side on what I'd been told was basically a gravel road with just a few "four-wheeler quirks." A little research indicated the road along Corral Creek, while not the shortest route, might be the least hostile way to the river for a couple of aging fly fishers looking for a morning of adventure.

    It should be noted that adventures of this sort seem to have a way of taking on a life of their own. When they happen, they happen quickly, and often with little thought. That's the way it was when we found ourselves stuffed into my 1981 four-wheel drive Toyota micro pickup truck.

    It's the one I bought new in December 1980. The one with no power steering, no air conditioning, no radio ... no concession to comfort whatsoever. At the time it seemed like a good idea. The floor on the driver's side recently rusted out and I have to bungy cord the gear shift lever into first gear if I get involved in any serious 4-wheeling or it will pop out. But it has been a great truck.

    The idea from the beginning had been to try to make it to the confluence of Tarryall Creek with the South Platte River. I've had a fantasy for years of fishing up into the Tarryall Canyon.

    Once we made it to the Tarryall Reservoir road it was only a matter of time before we sped by the turnoff down to the river. We were several miles up the road when it became clear we'd missed the turn. We both looked at each other and declared, "There was no sign back there, I know that for a fact."

    Actually, the turnoff to the well-maintained gravel road was clearly marked when we found it on our second sweep through the area. It wasn't long after that when we turned off onto the four-wheel portion of the trip. At first it was nothing more than a few rocks and gravel on a switch-backing road. Then Homer, who was steadfastly watching the road ahead, sang out "Moguls ahead!"

    I calmly began to reply that the little Toyota had been through much worse than that, but was cut short in mid-sentence when I found myself tipped up a bit and driving on three wheels. That's also about when the gear shift lever popped out and I exclaimed I'd forgotten the bungy cord. Homer volunteered to hold the lever in place.

    "Nah," I said.

    The rest was not bad, assuming your truck is equipped with a skid plate. What was bad was the river. We'd forgotten that in the springtime, runoff is to be expected on Colorado's rivers. The South Platte was high and looked like a chocolate milkshake. We forged onward to the Tarryall, which turned out to be the source of the chocolate milk.

    Homer cheerfully said he'd caught trout in water like this before. We suited up and then put some big flies on, figuring the trout would be able to see them in the dirty water. The plan was to wade across the Tarryall in hopes that the South Platte upstream from it might be a bit more clear. I can report that it is not especially easy wading through a fast-moving, waist-high chocolate milkshake, even with a wading staff. We made it. We fished. We didn't even come close to catching a trout.

    Later, we spent some time collecting the spent .45 caliber brass that littered the area where we had parked. It looked like a war zone. We both got the impression that the area sees a lot of use on the weekends. The hillsides were deeply rutted where dirt bikes had gouged deep scars. There was considerable garbage strewn about. Tree stumps were pocked with bullet holes.

    Our saving grace was that we had come on a weekday. We had the place to ourselves. Deer were quietly grazing by the river when we arrived. And even the carnage inflicted by the heavy use could not take away from the beauty of the river and the canyon in that place.

    We looked at each other and decided we'd be back once the runoff was over. On a weekday of course. We didn't catch a fish, but it had been a great day. That's the way it is when you make to a place you've always wanted to get to.

Rewritten with permission from the Daily Camera in Boulder, Colo


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