I write this morning nestled in the bosom of the beautiful Pecos Valley, New Mexico. Flowing approximately 25 yards from this keyboard is the crystalline Pecos River. More about that later.
The bride and I decided to get away for a few days, and we called it a “mental hygiene getaway.” I suggested a cabin up on the Pecos where we would still be quarantined but surrounded by some spectacular New Mexico nature.
Pecos is an old mining area. Abandoned villages, once thriving, line the Pecos River as it winds down from the eastern side of the Sangre de Christos Mountains. The road that parallels the river at times dwindles down to almost one lane. There are handsome million dollar movie star compounds hidden behind thick trees, and there are “off the grid” folks who have patched together combinations of trailers, containers, and lean-tos.
Famous movie star Greer Garson and her cattle baron husband bought a huge ranch near here many years ago, and actor Val Kilmer (“I’m your huckleberry!”) eventually purchased the sprawling property. Jane Fonda also built a ranch here, but both Kilmer and Fonda have sold their retreats to anonymous buyers. Rich anonymous buyers.
Most of the dwellings up here are decidedly modest, in keeping with a common theme of “getting away from the rat race.” The house we are renting is a traditional adobe New Mexican with tile floors that are deliciously cool to our bare feet.
The owner built a small wooden deck at the edge of the Pecos and that is where my bride sits and watches me fly fish in the chilly waters. The river is clean and flowing and we had a great time last night drinking adult beverages and watching the very active bird population dive bomb the evening insect population hovering over the river.
A neighbor briefly made an appearance, sitting on a large rock a few yards to our west. He had some sort of portable music player and sat listening to Latino music. I wondered why the sounds of this magnificent river gurgling and splashing over shoals did not provide the man enough of a soundtrack. He listened for a bit longer, and then silently disappeared into the brush adjacent to the river. The man owns two large and fierce dogs that run down with growls and barks and then retreat with wagging tails. I am hoping that there will be no interaction with our two pups, who take great umbrage in these dogs inspecting our yard.
Vehicles belonging to trout enthusiasts dot the road north out of Pecos Village. Several outdoor sports enthusiasts emerged from vehicles in full trout fishing regalia: boonie hats, Orvis vests, expensive fly rods, sun-repellant shirts, and suitable footwear.
My fellow trout fishermen in Floyd County, John Graham (currently on the Yellowstone River), Scott Thompson, and John Kirkland, know that trout have eyes on the back of their heads and that one has to literally sneak up on the river in order to have a chance. So far, my score is trout: 10 and Harry: 0.
Would you like to know how much it matters? Not a bit.
My son-in-law, great band director Eric Thompson, sent me a text from Kansas State University country yesterday.
“Are you fishing or catching?”
So far, just fishing. You see, the Zen of that weighted line, the balletic arc of the fly rod, and the joy of placing that fly just so is to be connected with something profound. A perfect cast feels like a perfectly placed vocal note in opera. It is akin to an out of body experience, yet the rod and line are clearly in one’s control. The experience is a step toward excellent mental hygiene.
The elevation here is high, over 7,000 feet above sea level. That means that the area is conducive for the propagation of one of my favorite species, the Aspen tree.
I love the white bark, usually scarred with various natural designs. Sometimes one can imagine a face carved into the trunk of the tree. However, the best part of finding a stand of Aspens is when the wind moves through the heart shaped leaves and produces an amazing shimmering sound. If fairies designed wind chimes, they would sound like Aspen leaves in the wind.
I will head out on the river in a bit. If I bring home some trout to fry, all the better, but none are required to define a great day. I’ll listen for the counterpoint of the Pecos River and the chimes of the Aspen trees. I’ll send my peaceful Zen to the kind folks of Floyd County, Georgia.