Airstream Time

Exploring North America in an Airstream

Posts from the ‘Rivers’ category

Cowichan River Provincial Park

October 12, 2017

As Lonnie suggested, we went to three day-use areas on the Cowichan River. We were astounded by its beauty. Lonnie said it is very busy in the summer with fishermen, so it is closed to fishing now below the falls. Steelhead run the river in December after the rains come. She said the river will be up 20 feet! People will still fish it in drift boats and pontoon boats. It is also very popular with kayakers, and I can see why. At the falls, there are two fish ladders, each for different water levels. I don’t know how you would fish this when it is rocking like that. This is a gorgeous river with a lot of uses.

We drove up to the town of Cowichan, which is at the bottom of huge Lake Cowichan. We stopped at the grocery to stock up on a few things, and returned to camp to sign up for another night and get some lunch.

We went up to Marie Canyon Day Use area, another gorgeous area on this beautiful river. In its summer form the river cuts through an impressive rock canyon. No wonder kayakers love this river. What is really amazing is how the water cuts concavities  and even holes right through rocks. One rock looked like a Mickey Mouse face. This park follows the river for a long way with hiking, biking and horseback trails. The Trans-Canada Trail comes through here. It is a very well thought out park, where picnic tables and benches are tucked into secluded places.

Back at camp we enjoyed a nice fire and told each other the stories our books told. I am reading “13 Hours in Benghazi” while Martha read “Fugitive Nights” that she picked up at a visitor’s center “Need a Book” shelf. Rain drove us indoors for dinner and early book reading. It rained all night. Dick was right when he said, “ You can set your calendar to October 12th for the rains to begin”.

Move to Cowichan River Provincial Park

October 11, 2017

Driving back across the island, west to east, through beautiful mountains, we passed several big, pretty lakes. There is a provincial park on the other side of Kennedy Lake. The only way to get there is by boat. I imagined kayaking there for a few days. The highest mountains were lightly covered with snow, and leaves were beginning to change.

We stopped in Coombs to visit the Country Market Brian and Leslie told us about. It has a sod roof where goats graze. It works. Everyone stops here. To my surprise, the store is quite nice, offering all kinds of goods at reasonable prices. Fresh-baked breads, pastries, jams, cookies make your mouth water. There is a good deli, and they make lunches and salads. It is a happening place with all kinds of things.

We passed through Nanaimo in a little rain. Further south, headed toward Victoria, we turned right and headed into Cowichan River Provincial Park. It’s a self-register park, very neatly kept. We drove the loop to select a site, only passing a few campers. We chose a site with some sun coming through the trees. We needed to charge the batteries. Although we had power at Green Point, the circuit breaker shut off in the middle of the night. It was 37 degrees and windy, so we were heating with the heat pump. I flipped the circuit breaker switch back on in the morning, and didn’t noticed the batteries at 50% until we were ready to move. Why they didn’t charge while we were driving I don’t know.

Of course I was interested to see the Cowichan River, so we got on the trail and walked over. It’s a beautiful river in its summer, clear and low form. I was hoping to see salmon, but didn’t. All I saw was one fish show himself, but couldn’t tell what it was. We started along the loop trail when I tweaked my calf muscle. Martha continued on and i hobbled back to camp. I gathered a bunch of sticks and built a fire. We didn’t have any firewood, so when Martha returned, we drove around looking for some. At the boat launch, a young lady was gearing up behind her Jeep Wrangler to go fly fishing. I screeched to a halt in front of her. She said she was new to fly fishing, but she was planning to fish for trout. She didn’t think there were salmon here yet. I thanked her and wished her luck.

A ranger was collecting the registration envelopes, so we stopped to ask about firewood. She had some and would meet us at our campsite. Lonnie is her name. She said she didn’t see many Airstreams, but she loved them. She told us all the Day Use areas to see along the river, about the trails and the Trans-Canada Trail. She told us about the town, Cowichan and where to get groceries. She said the river is closed to fishing except above the falls, and then it is catch-and-release. The park is open all year and really gets busy in summer. It is used mostly by locals, and she rarely sees people from the US. When the rains come, the river will rise 20 feet or more. Steelhead run in December, so people will come to fish for them then. Kayakers love the river. Lonnie was great. Who needs a visitor’s center when you have a Lonnie.

 

Hike Cable Bay Trail and Nanaimo River Park

Friday, October 6, 2017

We hiked two pretty trails, the Cable Bay Trail and Nanaimo River Park Trail. The highlight was seeing four River Otters in Cable Bay. Martha went down to the point to get a closer look, and they popped up right in front of her, trying to figure what she was all about. Two eagles were yelling, unable to catch a fish. Maybe they were yelling at the otters, which are very good at catching fish.

The Nanaimo River Park would be a great place to bike. The river looks like it would be fun to canoe or kayak. Back at camp, Martha fixed a great dinner of ratatouille, pork chops and mushrooms.

Nez Perce National Historical Park

September 21, 2017

A few miles out of Lewiston is the headquarters for Nez Perce National Historical Park. The rest of the park is composed of 38 sites in Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Montana. We would visit two more sites today, one the basalt area north of our campground, and one at Buffalo Eddy on the Snake River.

We watched a 33-minute movie about the Nez Perce, who call themselves the Nimiipuu. They were a huge tribe that inhabited the Columbia Plateau. A very spiritual group, they are one with the land and waters. In 1804 they were instrumental in saving and guiding Lewis and Clarke, giving them food and trading for Appaloosa horses. In an 1855 treaty, they were granted approximately half of their homelands as a reservation, but a later treaty reduced their lands to 10%, and they were forced to move in the spring when waters were high and dangerous. Thousands of white settlers had moved into their territory. Chief Joseph led 500, many of whom were women, children and elderly against 2000 cavalry. He had only 145 men burdened with many noncombatants, but through many skirmishes and four major battles, they managed to hold off the soldiers for four months, crossing the dangerous Snake River many times. In Big Hole Basin in Montana at 3:30 in the morning Colonel John Gibbon attacked the sleeping Indians with 183 men, killing women and children. The Nimiipuu counterattacked with guards from the surrounding hills. The soldiers lost 29 men with 40 wounded. The soldiers fought with rifles and pistols, while the Indians fought with bows and arrows. The army counted 89 Nez Perce dead, mostly women and children.

The remaining Indians escaped and managed to elude the army for another two months, but in the Battle of Bear Paw Mountains, Colonel Nelson Miles dealt the final blow. Those not killed surrendered. They were only 40 miles from the Canadian border. Chief Joseph famously said, “I will fight no more forever”.

The museum is very well done, with excellent exhibits, and the movie is also excellent. I hope I am not related to John Gibbon. Roger Dailey of the park service was very helpful and generous with his time telling us other sights to see and places to visit. He is from this area and was a fire jumper for many years. There is so much to see in Idaho!

We took the “Spiral Road”, as Roger suggested, back to camp for lunch. Lewiston is the lowest point in Idaho at 700 something feet, and is surrounded by mountains. After lunch we took Roger’s advice to visit another Nez Perce site at Buffalo Eddy on the Washington side of the Snake River. It is a gorgeous drive up the river toward Hell’s Canyon. The Snake River canyon is the deepest in the United States. Driving 25 miles into the canyon, the river becomes more wild, yet there are houses and cabins all along the Washington side.

Buffalo Eddy is a huge eddy on the powerful Snake River. Having fished for trout for three weeks, I know to look for backwater currents where fish find calmer waters to rest and eat from a constant easy flow of food. This eddy is huge, at least two football fields long and about 40 yards wide. Beautiful basalt rocks lie beside the pool, a perfect place from which to fish. Native Americans came here for 10,000 years to fish for salmon coming upriver all the way from the mouth of the Columbia River to spawn. I imagine there were thousands of salmon in this pool. These large hard, black, flat-sheared rocks were a perfect place for the Nimiipuu to hammer out figures on the rocks. It would be quite a job to chisel these out with stones on these hard surfaces, but that is what made them survive all this time. It was very cool to be in this incredible place.

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Returning to camp, we walked a path two miles up river to a basalt rock formation along the river. This is rock formed from a series of lava flows 17-6 million years ago. Surging up to form the Columbia River Plateau. The weight of the flow caused Central Washington to sink, forming the Columbia River Basin. It and also damming up the ancient rivers and forming two huge lakes, Idaho Lake and Columbia Lake. There were a series of catastrophic floods known as the Ice Age Floods. “the deluge caused American Falls Lake to breach its natural lava dam, which was rapidly eroded with only the 50-foot-high American Falls left in the end. The flood waters of Lake Bonneville, approximately twenty times the flow of the Columbia River…swept down the Snake River, leaving debris and sediment deposits across southern Idaho. For miles on either side of the Snake, flood waters stripped away soils and scoured the underlying basalt bedrock, in the process creating Shoshone Falls, Twin Falls, Crane Falls, and Swan Falls, while cutting and deepening gorges and canyons along the way”. (Elizabeth Orr, Geology of the Pacific Northwest)

We think of all the disasters going on today with fires, hurricanes and earthquakes. Then every now and then I read these things and try to imagine the rocky mountains being formed or that a whole part of the western continent just fell off into the sea. I love the Will Durant quote, “Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice”.

McCall to Lewiston

September 19, 2017

It is a beautiful drive with a variety of terrains along Rt. 95. At Riggins it follows the great Salmon River. Riggins is a cute little village with a bunch of river guiding companies. It was cold and rainy, so we opted not to stay in Riggins and float the Salmon. Maybe another time. The river takes one side of the mountain at White Bird to turn and join the Snake River, while the road continues north to Lewiston. Big rain clouds were in the distance. We had rain earlier, but all of this is so welcome. The whole northwest has been plagued by tremendous fires all summer, smoke covering the whole area. Makes you wonder – fires here, hurricanes in the east and a big earthquake in Mexico.

We pulled into beautiful Hell’s Gate Campground just outside Lewiston. We are on the Lewis and Clarke trail. The visitor’s center has all kinds of information and a movie about their crossing of the Rockies in Idaho and the terrible time they had in the Bitterroot Mountains.

We were setting up camp when Carol came over from the adjacent campsite. She and David are on their way to McCall, so we traded information north and south. Dave came back over later with a drink. We talked about travels and the troubles you have fixing things. You just have to learn how to work on all kinds of problems, because it happens to all of us. He was a Ford mechanic for years, so that really comes in handy. He told us about a bike trail that goes along the Snake River and through Lewiston. Clarkston is on the other side of the river. This is the area where the Clearwater joins the Snake River on its way to the Columbia. Lewis and Clarke followed the Snake into the Columbia River to winter at Fort Clatsop, near where I met my friends at the mouth of the Columbia. I have not followed the Columbia through the United States, but have seen its origin, fished it there and as it leaves British Columbia south of Castelgar, and have crossed that monster bridge at its mouth. With beautiful rivers flowing into it, like the Snake, the Clearwater and the Salmon, it is a heck of a river. It is nice to know about the hatchery in McCall, Idaho that hatches millions of Chinook Salmon, and that they can find their way to the ocean, returning five years later all the way back to McCall. Fish ladders allow them to make their way over four or five dams.

Boise

September 14, 2017

Martha and I spent two days exploring a bit of Boise. We walked and biked the great riverside trail along the Boise River. What other city has a river running through it where people fish for trout? We explored  downtown, shopping and had a nice lunch at Wild Root. In the evening we met Ron Lowry for drinks and dinner at the Ram. Ron is a VMI and MCV grad a class ahead of me, and is an avid fly fisherman. We enjoyed hearing his stories about fishing throughout Idaho. We are going to sign up for a trip he has taken every year for 15 years down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, a six-day trip through wilderness. I can’t wait until next July! Boise is a beautiful city with an interstate running through it, about the size of Richmond, Virginia.

We drove out to World Center for Birds of Prey. They were vital in the restoration of the Peregrine Falcon after DDT caused their demise. Now they are working on restoring the California Condor along with other projects. Even Martha enjoyed the great presentation, pictures and displays.

As we were packing up to leave, Justin, the manager at Mountain View RV Resort, came over to say goodbye. Not only is he a biker, but also a fly fisherman who grew up in Riggins and McCall. He gave me some good tips on places to fish as we headed north. He also told us to stop at Tackle Tom’s in Cascade. What a nice young man!

Driving north, Route 55 follows the Payette River, a world-class white water river. We stopped for lunch at a pull-out where there is a white, sandy beach on the river. We went into Tackle Tom’s and met Tom, who has been working there for 38 years. I bought a fishing license and a few flies as he gave us great advice where to go hike as well as fish. He advised us to stop at the Boise National Forest-Cascade Ranger Station just down the street, so we did. I bought a couple of maps as Steve advised us on places to go, and explaining the fire restrictions. Ranger stations are getting to be one of my favorite places to go.

We drove through McCall and out onto a peninsula jutting out into Payette Lake to Ponderosa State Park. Kevin Handford had recommended it. He is another VMI grad as well as an excellent financial advisor, who has a place in McCall. There was no one at the gate. Reading the board, most of the campground was closing next week. We drove through and picked a nice spot, filled out the form, put the money in and put the envelope in the slot. Martha said five days would be good.

Fishing The Bitterroot River with David Hufman

September 9, 2017

We drove 30 minutes to the Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop in Missoula to meet our guide at 7:00. We met David Hufman and did all the paperwork in the shop and put our rods in his Toyota truck. We drove south about 45 minutes to the Bitterroot River. We thought we were going to fish Clark Fork, but David said the Bitterroot was fishing better. We talked about the fires as we headed toward Lolo National Forest. He said the smoke acted like a cloud cover for the river, keeping it cool and making fishing better. I asked about his beautiful Boulder boat. He said it is the third one he has had. A client had given him this one! He has guided this man on many fishing trips. He is a very wealthy man, now 90 years old, and still comes fishing with him. He had bought the boat and wanted his aid to learn how to use it and to take him fishing. That never quite worked out, and it sat in a shed for two years. One day David got a call from the man’s aid, who said, “David, this is your lucky day. Mr. … is giving you his Boulder boat. He is going to have it shipped to your house.” The drift boat is a light, thin-walled boat that slides easily over rocks.

We learned that David grew up in western Pennsylvania. His best friend moved to Montana and kept telling David he needed to come join him guiding fishing trips. Finally, he came, and now he has been guiding for 18 years. By the time we got to the river we learned David is a bright guy with tremendous knowledge and enthusiasm for his profession. After pushing off into the river, he put tippet and different hoppers on our lines. Then he gave us some instructions on how he wanted us to fish. We told him we were here to fish, but also to learn, and we welcomed any instruction and coaching. You might think we know how to fish, and we do to some extent, but a great guide, like David, is fishing every day. He talks to other professionals, and he spends every day with fishermen and women, talking and watching techniques. He knows where the fish are, what they like to eat and what time the hatches are. Even if you had a boat like this to float the river, we would just start fishing flies we thought might work, but we would likely make the wrong choices, the wrong colors or the wrong presentation. We would probably catch some fish, but we would not have the kind of day we were about to have.

David coached constantly, in a soft, positive manner all day. It was like going to a clinic with a great expert. We started catching fish from the start – big, strong cutthroats, rainbows and a cutbow, which is a cross of the two. The biggest fish of the day was a 19-incher Kelly caught. He almost made the 20/20 club, where you catch a 20 inch fish with a size 20 fly. That is a very tiny fly! After about an hour and a half the Trico hatch started. These are tiny little flies that hatch, spawn and the males die. David said they must be like cocaine for trout, because the love them, and while feeding on them, they will ignore everything else. We watched a real bug float over feeding fish, and they ignored it.

In one area, they had put old cars on the bank to try to stabilize the river banks. It didn’t work so well, but it makes great cover for fish. It also makes a great place to break your line and lose fish. It doesn’t look like these old car frames will do what they wanted. David said the powerful river moves every year, washing these sandy banks away. In one  area the river will likely go up and over the banks and take an entirely new route.

We have seen feeding trout before, but never like this. Big noses poking out of the water as they sipped Tricos. They were schooled-up in certain areas with 10-15 fish feeding. David called them pods of fish. He could tell the big ones by the size of rings they made in the water. Sometimes you would get a glimpse of the tail or the whole fish sipping tiny Tricos, 3-4mm in size. Looking into the water by the boat, you could see hundreds of dead males floating by. Similar to salmon, they hatch and mate. Then the males die while the females live on. This river is full of food for fish. The trick, and it’s a demanding trick, is to pick out a ring where a fish is feeding and cast the tiny fly one foot above it with absolutely no drag from the line. You have to drop the fly right on the target, not a foot in front or behind. Why would the fish move when the food just keeps coming down the river. You have to drop the tiny fly so gently, it looks like it has a parachute on. The fish then has 100 options, one of which is your fly. If he takes it, you must wait for him to swallow it. He has his big mouth open and if you jerk the fly, it just comes out of his mouth before he has a chance to close. This is a whole, new level of fishing. There were so many fish feeding that we managed to catch some of them. Big, powerful, hard-fighting fish that and take 15 minutes to land. Even then it takes an expert lunge of the net by David to finally land the fish.

After a while, we went back to hoppers and kept catching fish. We agreed this was the best day of trout fishing we have ever had. It was a beautiful day on a beautiful river with a great guide and coach. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

Spotted Bear River

Monday, September 4, 2017

We realized somewhere driving in yesterday that we had not bought fishing licenses, and it was a long, rough drive back to town. Besides, the fly shop would be closed for Labor Day weekend. Well, we would just have to show them our lifetime fishing licenses from Virginia and the yearly license we bought in British Columbia. Then tell them we were just old farts who forgot to get a license when we went to the fly shop.

We drove south toward the Spotted Bear River stopping to take pictures at a beautiful overlook of the South Branch of the Flathead River. The big river was down considerably, as was the reservoir. They haven’t had rain measurable rain for 78 days. We saw a sign for a ranger station and wondered if they would sell a license. As we parked in front of the station, I checked for a wifi and found they had one. If they didn’t sell it, we could go online and get one.

We walked in and met Terry He was retired from the Forestry Service, but had come in to help while others were busy fighting four fires. I thought about Jane-Ashley’s warning about not getting trapped by a fire. We were certainly in an area where you could get trapped. There is only one way out. Well, you can go back on either side of the reservoir. The fires were on the other sides of the mountains. I was comforted knowing this busy ranger station was working hard to fight the fires. If this valley was in danger, they would clear us out.

Terry apologized for being slow, which he wasn’t. He had to answer the phone as he went online to fill out the licenses for us, along with a conservation fee and an ALS number. Then he pulled out a map and marked areas to fish Spotted Bear. We thought about how lucky we were to stumble upon this guy.

Kelly’s friend, JC Hanks, had gone in at mile 1, telling us it was a 45 minute hike in. We passed that one and went to the next at mile 7. The bumpy road stopped at a cliff overlooking the river. This was a perfect area to camp with a fire ring and a beautiful overlook of the river. There was a lightly-traveled trail going in both directions, but we didn’t know if either went to the river. After walking it a bit, we opted to try another easier spot. That made it the falls, behind a horse and mule staging area. There were some nice-looking, fit mules in there. Apparently trail rides were a popular thing here. It’s also hunting season, and I’m sure they use these animals to ride into remote areas. My GPS showed trails going everywhere for miles and miles long after the roads stop.

The falls were not really a waterfall as I had expected, but they were beautiful with clear, bluish water rushing over, around and through solid rock. One pool in the middle looked like a swimming pool. In another there were probably 200 trout, so we started fishing. These had to be stocked trout as I have never seen that many fish in a pool, but we could only entice the little ones to bite. We fished up and down from the falls with minor success. Surely this was one of the most fished areas on the river. You can keep two fish under 12”, but we didn’t find dinner.

Then we went back down and fished behind another campground, another area that is heavily fished. We had the similar results, but it is a gorgeous area where Spotted Bear meets the Flathead. Kelly kept two small fish that wouldn’t be enough to feed two.

Fishing The Elk River

September 2, 2017

Fernie RV Resort is in a perfect location. It sits next to the Elk River, but is only a block or two from a shopping center. We decided to fish the Elk today, although we don’t have a boat and don’t really know where to fish it. We drove down to the bridge, where there are four good pools. We caught three nice fish in the first pool. It is Labor Day weekend, so people came in to fish all the holes below us. Fernie is a busy place anyway, but it is really busy on Labor Day weekend.

We went back to camp, fixed a sandwich, then went behind the campground to explore the river. There is a great bike trail running along the river for a long way. Someone also said it runs through town. There are a lot of bikes and bike riders here. At 92 degrees, people were swimming in one big pool. That takes a hearty person, because it is very cold. Wading it to fish was cold. We found a spot that had four good pools and worked them hard for three or four hours. We caught enough to keep it interesting, but as Nate had said, it was a little slow, but any day you can fish a beautiful river is a good one.

We were tired from wading the strong currents and walking over big, round rocks. Back at camp, we did laundry in their excellent facility, took showers and looked at where we are going next – Crossover Campground in Montana, about a five-hour drive. We reread the letter a friend of Kelly’s, JC Hanks, had written. He has fished this area a lot and had some great recommendations. Sounds like it is right up our alley. It is very remote, probably no cell phone coverage and certainly no WIFI. Hopefully there are no fires and the fish are “bit’n”.

Paul and Leah and his staff at Elk River Guiding Company and Fly Shop have been very helpful. It’s a great shop.

Skookumchuck Creek Day 2

August 29, 2017

Driving 45 K up a very dusty gravel road, we stopped above where Buhl Creek comes into the Skook. It is truly a creek there, but still bigger than many of the trout streams we are used to fishing in Virginia. Kelly got out to check out the stream at the bridge. There were two heavy pieces of equipment removing a temporary bridge and five men on the ground. Two men came over to Kelly as I watched from the truck. Surely they were going to tell him to get off the bridge, but the foreman, Dean, was telling him where to fish. They walked up the road and motioned me to drive up. I pulled to a stop in front of them on the near side of the bridge.

Dean is the project supervisor and lives in British Columbia 8 months of the year and 4 months in Nova Scotia. You can’t do any better than that! He pulled a 30ft trailer up that road to stay in while the project was being done. This work is paid for by the Canadian government, purely for recreation purposes, hunting and fishing. Bow season will start in a week. They have seen lots of elk, but no bears. Grizzly hunting has been banned in this area, but Dean thinks that is a mistake. He thinks they will multiply quickly. Needing a lot of range, they will have to move into populated areas to find food.

We asked about the roads and where to go, and he pulled out his iPhone, showing us an app called IHunter. You have to download the area you are hunting or fishing in, but then your phone works as a GPS. I will get it tomorrow! We thanked Dean profusely, drove around the corner and parked. We fished upstream for five hours until we were starving and thirsty. It was a perfect day. The river was gorgeous, crystal clear, and the fish were bit’n. That is a reference to Kelly’s book about our last fishing trip across Canada in 2013, “If The Fish are Bit’n”, on sale at Amazon. Most of the fish were small, but some were good eating size. You are not allowed to keep any fish on the Skook, and we didn’t. I am sure many people do keep them. In heavily traffic areas, there are no fish, or few fish. After eating something, we drove back down the dusty road, waving to Dean as we passed, and giving him the thumbs up. He smiled and waved back from the other side of the bridge. We drove down a side road to the stream. It was obvious a lot of people go to this spot. We fished a huge, beautiful pool, but only caught one small trout.

An hour of driving that bumpy, dusty road will fray your nerves. The road comes to an incredible overlook of Columbia Lake with marshes surrounding it. Huge mountains provide the backdrop. I wanted to stop here and take some pictures, but smoke filled the air. Fires surround the area. One is on the Kootenay north of us, one to the west and to the south are fires in Wyoming, where we are headed next week. I have not seen rain since I left Columbus, Ohio on a rainy morning, July 10th. Indiana had beautiful, green fields, but they were watering the fields. Everywhere else I have been has been incredibly dry. Central Oregon was the worst. Not getting any news, I have no idea if there are fires there. I left that beautiful area because of 112 degree days. British Columbia is really suffering from the fires.

Back at camp tired, but quite happy, we fixed a drink and drove down to the “Cocktail Area” beside the Kootenay River. A man was walking his dogs and throwing a frisbee into the river for one of them. We said hi, and he came over to talk. His name is Kelly also. He is from this area and told us about the “Char” in the Kootenay that are a cross between a salmon and rainbow trout. You can keep one, but it has to be over 36”. He seemed quite happy we had come here to fish despite the smoke and fires. Hunting and fishing bring money to an area that has little industry but logging. Even if you don’t hunt and fish, this is an incredible place where two great rivers cross and huge mountains loom all around. The whole world goes to Banff and Jasper just the other side of these mountains. Where we stayed at the great La Beausoleil B&B in Golden, is only 186K away. While we were there with our wives, we took a boat tour of the Columbia Marsh just south of Golden, also a beautiful area.