Mike McKibbin

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September 19, 2012
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Childhood memory revisited

I'd bet everyone's favorite memories include many from their childhood.

Kids look at the world differently than adults. In some ways, I think it's a shame more adults don't view things like a child. Like Robin Williams, a comic genius in my book.

Many of my childhood memories involved family fishing trips. My two brothers and I, my mom and my dad loaded up the station wagon (remember when they made those, instead of vans?) and we'd head to a river in Colorado or Wyoming. My dad picked one, after hearing the fish were biting or the bug hatches were happening, so fly fishermen like him could pursue their passion.

One, maybe more, of those trips was to Trappers Lake. We lived on the Front Range, so it was an adventure for my brothers and me to travel far and wide, drive over Loveland Pass (before they finished I-70), as we argued and fought in the back seat.

Anyway, Trappers Lake wasn't exactly our destination. It was just where the North Fork of the White River flowed from and down to the White River. That's the kind of place my dad liked best and where he taught all three of us some of the tricks of the trade.

Those memories had been on my mind for some time this summer, especially after my dad passed away a month ago. For some reason, I'd had a hankering to return to a special place I shared with my dad as a kid.

I knew Trappers Lake had changed, though. As a reporter in 2002, I'd written several stories about the Big Fish fire that summer. It burned some 17,000 acres, including the century-old lodge, which has been rebuilt.

This past weekend, I traveled there again with a very good friend and her 7-year-old daughter. You'll see photos of our journey in a few pages.

I knew this trip wouldn't be like it was way back in the day. The fire's aftermath is still very evident a decade later, and it's likely going to be hundreds of years before the burned trees are replaced by new, green and growing trees. So it just doesn't look the same.

We still had a great time, although Emily didn't have a real chance to catch a fish. Balky fishing rod from a certain big box store.

But the charred remains of the trees and shrubs I shambled through as a kid - wearing rubber fishing boots and a fishing vest, until I found what I thought was my "secret" spot on the North Fork of the White - really didn't mar my memories.

The banks had eroded and the stream's course had changed, partly due to the fire and loss of vegetation, I'm sure. And the fire burned right to the shores of Trappers Lake itself, leaving tall, barren, lifeless poles in the ground.

Still, I will always remember "the cradle of wilderness" the way it was when I was a kid. Being outside in the fresh air, with family, having what I didn't realize then would be a time of my life.

And mostly, remembering my dad as he cast his fly back and forth, back and forth on the North Fork, then letting the line go and landing the fly right where he wanted. In a few casts, he hooked a big trout. He always did.

I'll always cherish childhood memories like these. And I'll always say "thanks, Dad. I love you" when I recall one.

Mike McKibbin is the editor of The Citizen Telegram.

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The Post Independent Updated Sep 19, 2012 06:00PM Published Sep 19, 2012 05:59PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.