As the trail began to taper, I found myself focusing more on each step. The climb was getting harder, the path more rugged, and my breathing became more labored. It was a simple test from this high alpine lake’s gatekeeper, making sure that if I passed, I would find its reward. Access.
Like most trails, the most worn part of the path is at the beginning of the trailhead. But as you climb and gain some distance from your beginning, it begins to change. It narrows. Your focus narrows. The fly rod in your hand is no longer a reminder of the water you could have been fishing two hours ago, but simply the reason that guides you purposefully forward. And with each passing step, the fish that live in these places gain meaning, they earn respect.
The sun disappeared beneath the blanket of low lying clouds, just as the first drop of rain could be felt tapping the brim of my hat. And as I looked out into the lake, the comforting smell of autumn wafted in the air, brought to life by the seasonal shedding of the aspen trees that waved quietly on a stiffening breeze. The calm that had surrounded an ordinary morning was gone, I found myself alone, and a solitary smile creased my lips.