Sleeping Fishes

Sleeping fishes?  I know, you're saying fish don't sleep.  Stay with me here, you might be surprised.

Do you have a secret place?  My home was full as a child and privacy was at a premium.  Finding a place you could be alone, even for a few minutes, just wasn't possible with four siblings and a dog in a small two bedroom house.  The house was unfashionably small, but the back yard was huge!  Along one side of the yard ran a fence.  The fence was totally covered with vines and tree limbs for about 20-30 feet.  I found that by swinging off a tree limb and lighting on the fence top on my feet, and carefully walking towards the thickest part, I would find a small hide formed from the thickets where no one could see me, and I could see no one.  It was my first experience with privacy.  As a kid I relished privacy more than I did ice cream or candy.

Over the years and several family turmoil's including a divorce I ended up spending a fair amount of time in my private place.  I kept books in waterproof plastic bags along with other comfort items.  I could lay there in my hide gazing at the contrails of passing jets in the sky and be totally at peace.  There's a song titled "Up On The Roof" which well describes the feeling of my hide.

As I grew we moved, and as I became an adult I started to travel.  I traveled the world.  In each location I would find a secret place no one else knew about.  Older now I was able and willing to hike miles or climb thousands of feet to find my secret place.  Nature was allowed, but no people.  Imagine the challenge of finding such a isolated secret location in Thailand?  No, I'm not going to tell you...  (because then it wouldn't be a "secret" place.)

I will share with you one particular place in the Northwest United States, but I won't even tell you which state because of the nature of what I found.


Upper Umpqua River, Oregon

Nikon D100, 17-35mm F2.8 AFS, @F5.6  ISO 200


An easy 5km hike from the car would find me at rivers edge.  As I'd progress towards my secret place I'd see less and less signs of man.  Less trash, less discarded equipment, and the occasional hiker would cease to exist.  My mobile phone would lose it's bars one by one.  No one could hear me now.  I followed the river upwards.


River, Oregon

Nikon D100, 70-200mm F2.8 AFS VR, @8  ISO 200


Ever see a natural fish ladder before? During the seasons run salmon or trout will be using the ladder in huge numbers.  Today it was quiet, but if you look towards the corner of the still water area you'll notice a green/brown shape under the surface?  It's a large Chinook salmon.


Several hours later I'd arrive.  Tired and sweaty, but alone in natures entirety.  Often I'd bath in the river and rinse off the sweat and trail dust, and then open my pack and prepare my table.  I've had this habit for decades, I like to watch a show while I eat.  There will be a show today.  The show was waiting for me as I arranged my blanket, spread out my food, and took a seat facing perhaps one of the most interesting shows produced by nature.


Cut throat trout sleep in place for the long winter months

Nikon D100, 70-200mm F2.8 AFS VR,  @F5.6  ISO 200


Sleeping fishes.  Cutthroat Trout. They aren't here all year.  They're here for 2-3 months every spring, waiting for the snows to melt and the river to rise, so they can continue on their journey.  The river becomes too low for them to travel past this one location, perhaps several hundred meters in length.  Usually the fish unable to move downstream would die.  But this particular location, my secret place, provided just the right environment for them to "sleep" in place.  The right water temperature, the right amount of oxygen in the water which moves past their gills, they could stay immobile for the necessary months until the snows melt and the rivers rise and their journey could continue.  This run of several hundred meters was naturally protected from predators making the entire show possible.


Almost like they're frozen in ice

Nikon D100, 70-200mm F2.8 AFS VR,  @F4  ISO 200


As far as I know there only are two other locations in the northwest where this occurs and both are documented.  They've built viewings areas where this phenomena could be observed by those willing to hike the necessary distance.  And as far as I know, this one remains unknown to anyone else but myself, unmarked. My secret place.

This show is unlike anything else on earth.  The fish remain motionless in place.  I'm privileged.  I finish my lunch and pack my bag for the long hike back down the mountain.  Those of you who know me have some idea of the price I pay physically for such a trek.  So you know it's a great show, even at twice the price.  Do you have a secret place to share?


Until next time..