One could easily argue that life is connected thru a series of lines; whether from choices made throughout the years, employment paths, friends and family or solely through daily progressions of menial tasks, there is a clear connection that simply cannot be denied.  2,141 miles; the line on a map from my doorstep to the town of Laurel Montana.  A 3 A.M. departure on July 23rd with a good friend started that line that would end a mere 34 hours later towing a driftboat, a truck loaded with gear and a thirst for adventure that would span nearly a month.

Ten gas stops later, copious cups of coffee and only about 90 minutes of sleep in a rest area somewhere in Wisconsin would be the only things that slowed the progression of that line as I embarked on something that I had meant to do nearly thirty years prior.  Although I have had some regret for not doing so, I can totally relate to the apprehensions of taking on such a trip by means of a vehicle. It is ever so apparent now how cold feet by my partners and also myself settled in in that summer of my youth when the notion of driving from Massachusetts to Montana seemed like a life calling.

It was going to be a trip of a lifetime we said before starting college; embarking on an adventure to a place we all read about in books and magazines.  A place where the things we valued a lot; cold water, rivers with what seemed like endless numbers of fish, and an outdoor landscape that was nothing like what we group up with in New England.

Unfortunately that trip never came to fruition once the summer kicked off and as time wore on seemed like nothing more than a lost dream.  I don’t blame anyone honestly, we all had legitimate reasons as to why we couldn’t go.  The idea was cemented in my brain my senior year in High School after one of my childhood friends who just recently graduated college relayed his experiences of two summers spent in Yellowstone National Park, pumping gas at the station adjacent to the main lodge in the park, yards away from Old Faithful.  Evenings in the outdoors after work and 2 days a week to do whatever he pleased in this outdoor paradise; seemed like heaven to me at the time.

What stood out to me were the stories of rising cutthroats after work, whether from one of the many streams and rivers that peppered the delineations both in and out of the 3,472 square miles and 2,221,766 acres that encompass the park.  Or the roadtrips taken to any one of the adjacent parks, rivers and campgrounds that seem like they’re everywhere you turn once you get on the roads leading away from the park.

College came and went and with it some of my time spent on the water.  Freshman and Sophomore year I fished hard all summer and part of the school year, but by my Junior year, my sense of direction in life was still foggy at best and I put the fly rod down; the baseball bat and glove and basketball as well and began focusing on what my career path would be.   What I finally figured out was whatever career path I chose, it would get my utmost of attention and commitment.   And so did my passion for flyfishing and tying; it grew legs so to speak that it in turn became a seconday source of income and molded into a career of it’s own.  Twenty two years later the focus has slightly changed but it is what I do today, everyday albeit with a much different outlook on things than when I was a less travelled twenty something.

My friend Phil who joined me on the way out west and like myself he had several lines that intersected this journey.  A 20 acre parcel of land in the town of Laurel was a line that he hadn’t visited in nearly twenty years.  Like myself he had always envisioned driving across the country annually to spend time in a place so different from Connecticut.  Like many of us, life changed;  wife, kids, work responsibilities all became a reality.

My two good friends Matt and Mike who joined me on the back end of the excursion to accompany me home both had some interesting lines.  Mike until this journey had never been on this side of the country, but wouldn’t you know it he has ascestral lineage with origins in Big Sky Montana.  Matt come to find out is part Blackfoot Indian from one side of his family so it was rather fitting that we changed direction midway through our time together to make it a point to camp and fish on the banks of the Blackfoot and Little Blackfoot Rivers.  All this of course after a two day trip courtesy of Amtrak that started in Rochester New York with a terminance in Essex Montana.  Watching that train pull into the smallest stations I have witnessed was surreal to say the least.  An 8 by 12 foot concrete pad under a canopy was literally the train station, and I can’t help but smile as I type this knowing that a stones throw from where I picked them up stands the Izaac Walton Hotel.

My wife actually has a few lines that intersect with Montana as well.  Several of her cousins ended up attending Montana State University and never came returned east.  Shortly after, her aunt and uncle both fell in love with the area and now spend more than half of the calendar year there as well.  So the lines that connect always seem to intersect us all in some way or another, albeit however dark or faint that they may be.  I know the lines that have drawn me to this area of the country run deep through my veins as they are all forged by water through rock, sediment and earth and have always had a strong magnetic pull on my soul.

So as I end this piece, I share with you a few pictures from the trip that took more than thirty years to complete.  Some new lines were discovered through both of my children, that which are still being talked about as we are home planning our next trip back as the marks left on their souls is something they both will never forget.  I truly hope those of you who read this will take a moment out of your busy day relishing in the lines that bind you to the many things you hold dear in your life, I try to almost every day, its what makes me feel alive.