Climbing into the driver’s seat perched high upon the lifted frame of our rental Jeep, I used my thumb to clear the dust from the gauges. Once strapped in, I stomped the clutch and fired her up. It had been several years since I had driven a stick, so as we began to roll along the washboard that serves as street in the old mining town, I might as well have been 15 again whiplashing us through the gears on the way back to the cabin.

We were in the 4 Corners area for the first time and planned to stay the entire month of August. One early lesson was that I will never again visit that part of the country without a 4 wheel drive vehicle. We had taken the #CariVan so we’d have a place to sleep on camping excursions, but there were just too many places we wanted to go that were high clearance 4×4 only, and the spot we had in mind for this outing was just such a place.
A little online research awarded us the opportunity to rent the last and least expensive 4×4 to be had. There was no extra charge to pick it up the evening prior, so we made the short walk along a street of packed earth mixed with a small ration of crushed stone. After a quick walk around to assess and inventory the multitude of scratches scrapes and bruises that marred the outside of the 15-year old Wrangler, papers were signed and she was all mine! Well, at least for the next 24 hours.

I stood at the open slider of the #CariVan feeling the late afternoon sun warm the back of my neck between my hat and my shirt collar. As I worked to clear the Tetris level that was getting my gear to fit into my favorite pack, I wondered for a moment if this little excursion was even worth the trouble. It was a fleeting thought born of the traditional values one picks up as a young angler where the proportion of the effort is weighed only against the size of the catch. Old habits die hard, I suppose. But this outing would be nothing like my youthful pursuits f   or either glory or groceries. I had a very particular goal in mind, driven by curiosity more than conquest. The plan was hatched last time I had visited this favorite TX State park, and I was bound to see it through.

Both the Yeti and the Simms are viable options for shuttling your favorite beverage with you to the river or on the trail. If they were boxers, one would be the heavyweight and one would be the flyweight.

Earlier today, guided by a cobbled-together plan consisting of basic knowledge, general guidance and personal perseverance, I ventured eastward from Portland, Oregon through the shadow of the Mt. Hood National Forest. After an hour or so winding through old-growth redwoods, I rather abruptly emerged onto the straw-colored expanse of high desert. Windows down, I caught the whiff of woodsmoke even before catching sight of the mounting haze that had visited often on this trip. Though I hadn’t encountered a live burn at this point, distant wildfires have a persistent way of making their presence known.

I’ve been following the work of JP Ross for a while now. I first ran across his Muir pack rod, a 7-foot-5-piece fiberglass 3wt, several years ago when looking for a backpacking companion to chase…