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The Gearboat Chronicles

Indoor Outdoors

Hearing an elk bugle is always exciting. When it’s a real elk, anyway. It’s a privilege to hear such a thing.

So I felt privileged, sort of, every five to seven minutes inside the Portland Expo Center last week when the majestic call of a bugling elk came from one of the many vendors auditioning their elk imitations for the crowds inside the 2010 Sportsmen’s Show.

Winding Waters set up shop next to Del Sol Wilderness Adventures, our horseback compadres for the Paddles & Saddles trip where you head up into the Eagle Cap Wilderness on a trusty steed for quality mountain time, then reset your watch to river time for a float through Hells Canyon with Winding Waters. River time and mountain time are nearly the same, it’s just a matter of whether you end up around a campfire next to a small gurgling mountain stream with your horse picketed in a grassy meadow, or your raft is tied to a hackberry tree on a beach. The campfire still crackles and the water still gurgles, it’s just that the gurgling happens at a lower decibel once it gets to the river stage.

So we put up some great photo moments from river trips gone by and Paul built Morgan a hobby horse, named “Bucky,” so he could demonstrate the proper riding technique for the Saddles side of Paddles and Saddles.

We saw old friends who have been on trips with Winding Waters already, and with Paul, Penny and Morgan acting as ambassadors during the Sportsmen’s extravaganza, there’s a fresh batch of immigrants set to join Winding Waters Nation this coming season.

A popular attraction at the show is a fishing tank set up for kids. If you’re 12 and under, you get a bamboo pole and the chance to haul a trout out of the big aerated pool. It’s always fun to watch a kid get excited from the wiggle of a fish on the end of their line.

I take that back. It’s always fun to watch anybody catch a fish. Young or old. Or in between.

So I like watching kids smiling around that fish tank. But just like an authentic elk bugle sounding much better than something simulated, I’m excited for the river season to start here in a few months so I can trade the walls of the Expo Center for the walls of the river canyon and see a kid reel one in for real.

Morgan agrees. We’re heading back to Wallowa County a day early to do some river shuttling for a work crew so they can get across the Grande Ronde to a roadless stretch where they will be re-planting native grass seed on the banks where they sprayed for noxious weeds earlier in the year.

After the planting crew goes home, Mo and I are thinking we might just stay down there on the Grande Ronde and partake of this record year for steelhead runs.

After being surrounded by all that outdoors squeezed indoors at the Expo Center, it’ll be a welcome sight to see the outdoors back where it belongs. Outdoors.