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Reaching a Goal

Sometimes reaching a goal has no connection whatsoever to numbers or statistics or records. Sometimes it does not matter in reaching a goal how fast one goes, how far one travels, how high one jumps, how many points one scores.  Sometimes reaching a goal has nothing to do with what one does and everything to do with whom one does it.

Last summer, my son, Kevin, excitedly told me about Lost Lake, a high, pristine alpine lake filled with cutthroat trout.  He had run the 4.8 mile vertical trail to discover the lake in the Eagle's Nest Wilderness near Copper Mountain, Colorado. He is an experienced outdoorsman and ultra runner. "We should hike up there, Dad, and try to catch some fish," he told me.  I loved the idea of fly fishing for cutthroat trout, but wondered if I could actually make the trek up and back.  Despite some misgivings, I was in. I had a goal. Then, I had to figure out how to reach it.

So I started my workout routine.  I live right next to Trinity Park in Fort Worth, a beautiful parkland area that meanders for miles along the Trinity River with running and bike paths, picnic areas, playgrounds, fishing spots, water activities and delightful areas to stop, and with shops and restaurants interspersed along the way. Four to five days a week, I would run the trail working my way up to being able to run a mile and a half without stopping, then jogging and doing exercises over another couple of miles, and ending with climbing 14 flights of stairs from the bottom of our condo complex to our unit.  Each time I started on those steps, I told myself, "This is the way to Lost Lake."  

On a cool morning this past August, Kevin and I set out from the trailhead at 6:45. We each carried our fly rods in their cases.  He volunteered to be the sherpa, wearing a backpack with food and water. He gave me his two hiking sticks. He set the pace as we went vertical, no doubt watching out for me with regular stops to catch our (or rather my) breath. We ascended through hard wood forest, took a picture at the Eagle's Nest branch sign after the first mile, traveled across lush valleys, took in spectacular lookout points, traversed a bolder field (and noted aloud why they are call them the "Rocky" Mountains), marveled at a dense aspen grove, walked across marsh land on a man-made bridge (and thanked whoever the builders were for their handiwork), and then finally crested the mountain, rounded a bend, and came upon Lost Lake--a two-and-a-half hour trek to one of the most serene and stunning spots I had ever encountered, with snow-capped mountain tops reflected in the still, mirror-like surface and with cutthroat trout cruising through the cold water.  We had ascended to over 11,600 feet to reach the lake at the top of the mountain.

We walked to the north side of the lake, had a bite to eat, and set up our rods.  Then I got an unexpected reward for making it to the lake.  A young man was fishing near us and caught a big trout, letting out a happy whoop and then releasing it back into the lake.  A few minutes later he came over to us, and in a demonstration of fine fishing etiquette told us the fly he had used.  Coincidentally, we were using the same fly.  As we introduced ourselves, Kevin told him that I was his Dad and that we had hiked up just for the day. The young man looked at me and said, "My Dad could never make it up this mountain." He then said, "Do you mind if I ask how old you are?"  I told him 73 years young.  He said, "Wow."  The "Wow" indicated that I had accomplished an incredible feat of superhuman least that's how I interpreted it. 

Kevin and I then moved to the south side of the lake to have lunch and fish.  Both of us waded barefoot into the water to cast our lines under some overhanging trees.  I watched him as he cast and then stripped his line in.  I was reminded of when he was a boy.  We had a tradition on Father's Day. I would take him and his brother, Matthew, fishing. Most of time, I was untangling their lines or baiting their hooks.  But, as a father, I had just one wish...that they would catch a fish.  As I watched Kevin cast, I had the same wish at Lost Lake.  Then, a trout hit his line.  As the rod bent and the line whizzed, he played the fish beautifully.  I was near him so I moved next to him since I had two things that he did not--a net and a camera.  While he was the fisherman, I was the netter and the camera operator.  It seemed like a team effort as he landed the cutthroat trout in the net, and I took a picture for posterity. After admiring this beautiful fish with blazing red strips under its gills (thus the name cutthroat), he carefully released it.  We high-fived.

So, he got his fish, and I got my wish.  A good outcome. I suspect that he was wishing the same thing for me, but I missed the hit on my line.  I really didn't mind. After all, I was with him when he caught his...and I did not have to untangle his line or tie on his fly...kind of like a perfect Father's Day.

We headed back down the mountain.  It was on the hike down that I realized how steep the ascent had actually been as my knees felt the stain. By the time we got back to the trailhead--10 miles round trip--I was tired but exhilarated. We hugged.

A goal reached. Not the hike but the experience with my son. 

We celebrated with an ice cream cone at Foote's ice cream shop in Frisco. 

A good memory. I have it locked away now in my mental treasure chest which I can open again and again...and will.

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