A Brotherhood Forged in Bad Fishing – The Plan

By Alex Cagle,

In an earlier article I detailed how fishing cemented Clint’s and my friendship. As we set our sights on late May to early June for a summer fishing trip, we settled on Arkansas, an ideal spot due to close proximity and its two main features: hiking and fishing. We broke up the trip into two parts and each of us oversaw planning one part. Both of us wanted to hike and fish, but we were not equally enamored by each activity. While Clint was more excited about hiking and took charge of that portion, I most looked forward to fishing and planned it accordingly. Clint researched online and found that the best hiking trails in Arkansas are in the Ozarks, near the Buffalo National River. So, he found a beautiful campsite on the river where we would first set up shop.

For my location I knew exactly where I wanted to camp and fish in Arkansas: Lake Ouachita. Damned in 1953, and the Ouachita River created the lakes Ouachita, Hamilton, and Victoria near Hot Springs, Arkansas. I knew I wanted to go to Ouachita because as a kid my family would sometimes vacation there, and I always wanted to camp on an island in the lake. One summer my family camped on an island, but we chose the island poorly. As we unloaded our gear onto the island we inadvertently tracked it through poison ivy, so the next morning both my parents woke up covered head to foot in poison ivy. We canceled our trip early and headed home. However, my desire to camp on an island remained, and Clint was just as gung-ho about the idea as I was, so we had our two locations set.

Next, we fell right into the details of planning. We had already planned when, the end of May, and now we knew where. Our next question, “What do we need?” This trip was going to be my first camping trip with all my own gear as an adult. The only problem was…I had no gear! Clint being the expert camper that he is sent me a list of all the essential items I would need to bring. So I set about either borrowing or buying the stuff I needed. The hardest thing to get was a large camping backpack. I didn’t want to spend money and buy one that I would use very little, but I still needed one. Luckily I was able to borrow one from a friend at church who camps and hikes quite often. One thing I did have to buy was a small cooking set. I found a great deal on Amazon that included a pot, pan, utensils, drawstring bag, cup, and most importantly a head lamp! The headlamp proved to be the deciding factor, so I bought it.

The very last thing that I had to get was food. We intended—note the word “intend” because this will come into play later in the story—to eat the fish we caught while we were fishing. Yet, we didn’t want to leave all our meat to the fish, so I went to the store and loaded up. I bought three bags of jerky, ten bags of instant mashed potatoes, 8 bags of instant rice, and twenty cliff bars. After the trip I would learn that I grossly overestimated how much food I would need for a five-day excursion. Once we had everything bought we were finally ready to leave on our adventure (the suspense for which is now thoroughly killing you).

Portland and Seattle – Two Nights, Two Cities – Part 1

After spending two weeks on the road and before embarking on the final leg of our journey, the guys and I spent two nights in cities to rest up and enjoy good company. Leaving the gorgeous Oregon coast was hard, but knowing that Portland was the next stop made our departure easier. Since Portland is well known for its trademarked Northwestern outdoorsyness (it’s a word if I say it is, auto-correct), we actually bypassed the city and drove to a little bouldering spot about 30 miles to the east.

Trusting the website, we pulled off the highway to find a country road that turned into a forestry road and parked in front of the specified gate. While I rallied up some camera gear, Peyton and Daniel stepped out to look around and noted the directions on the friendly climbing forum were decidedly sketchy. Unfortunately they proved to be at least inaccurate because we only found one minuscule boulder, barely worth shoes and chalk.

Anyway, feeling duped, we headed back into Portland to meet up with my friend Richard who was extremely kind to offer up his living room to us last minute. We hoped for a local perspective mixed with some “must-do” touristy attractions, and Richard delivered with a specialized tour only available from one who knows what is cool but still appreciates what is corny.

To begin, we took the train from his apartment to downtown and walked to Deschutes Brewery for a mouth-watering dinner. In true Portland fashion, everything was local. My elk burger was divine, definitely the best meal up to that point in our trip. Richard then took us to the “Keep Portland Weird” sign, which didn’t have a line sprouting out from it, and pointed out a few places we should check out the next day when they opened. To end the night on a high note, he took us to the famous Voodoo Doughnuts. To paraphrase Richard: there are better doughnut shops in Portland, but Voodoo Donuts is an experience you have to have at least once as a visitor.

We took ours to go, hopped on the train, and chilled on the rooftop patio of Richard’s apartment building. Overlooking Portland’s dazzling lights, we chowed down on various doughnuts (mine was covered in Cocoa Puffs) and talked about whatever.

The next day–the day before our departure to Alaska–we decided to hangout in Portland for a bit to visit Richard’s recommended stores and check out the amazing food stands. I found a tiny leather-bound journal at Made Here to take back to Emily as an adventure planning book. We passed Powell’s City of Books but decided not to go in. Instead, we spent our remaining time reading menus on about 60 food carts. Maybe I should have chosen lunch from one of the many amazing ethnic food options, but something about “The Cheesus” just reached out to my American spirit. Two greasy grilled cheeses as buns on the juiciest burger I’ve ever seen, and I couldn’t resist. After devouring a heart attack, I was ready to hit the road and find our next mountain bike park in Seattle.