Tales of Scotchman Peaks – Joe Heisel

Up Sam Morris

This would be my first trip up the creek with a three-year old on my back. The Morris Creek canyon doesn’t have cutties as long as your arm, but they are plentiful, and there are a handful of holes that my son could catch fish in, as well as many holes in which to lose a fly. I wasn’t sure if we could keep the hook out of his ear on the back cast, but the risk had to be taken.

We got a late start. There were snacks, three changes of clothes, and the required fishing array. I swung Jenson on my back and started blazing up the trail.

After a bit, the trail pulls away from the creek and gains elevation, letting us see that plenty of snow was still hanging in the chutes off Blacktop. The water was really too high for fishing, but the snowmelt allowed for a chaotic roar in the canyon. Jensen was getting rather squirmy on my back, wondering when the fishing would start, but of course we had to keep moving upstream.

We idled up to the stream crossing, and Jensen jumped out of the pack. Crossing the creek was out of the question, but we still threatened. The creek was up, and so was our mood. There is something good about taking a stroll in country that hasn’t seen too many boots, and Morris Creek is one of those places. I’d hazard to say not too much has changed since the glaciers left, maybe a few more trees and a couple more loose rocks, and oh… somehow these fish got here. More than once I have been upstream of fish barriers that a tsunami couldn’t overcome only to find Westslope Cutthroat casually occupying a pool the size of a tea-cup. It is almost as puzzling as being three days from a road and finding an empty Keystone Light… but, I digress.

After a brief snack, we descend down the water worn cobble, pole at the ready. That day we were releasing what we caught. The fishing regulations said two cutthroat could be kept, which would have amounted to about twenty calories, so we conducted an informal population survey. Those little mountain fish can be pretty fragile, so it was fortunate that only a few were launched into the trees. Not to worry though all the fish eventually found their way back to the stream.

That day we bounced down Morris Creek, I think Jensen caught more than fish. I think he caught the bug. He had caught the flu that a place of wildness can bring. This had been just a little foray; a dip in the shallow end of the pool; but visits to landscapes seldom visited begin to have an effect on a person. In advanced cases, individuals spend most, if not all of their time outside. If found inside, the chronically affected are usually thinking about, talking about, or planning to go outside. It is a heavy burden and a woeful affliction, but I am hopeful, that if he and I stick together, we’ll be just fine. Luckily, the cure just happens to be out the front door.


This story, written by Joe Heisel, was originally published in our January/February 2009 Peak Experience newsletter, Vol. 5 No. 1

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About The Author:

Rose wears many hats within FSPW as well as the greater Sandpoint community. You can find her working behind the scenes for the Friends, coaching kids mountain biking and nordic skiing, or out on the trail enjoying nature.

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