The morning sun filters in through my closed tent flap and gently wakes me. My eyes open to the glow and immediately I feel the chill in the air. Although hot elsewhere, the mountains still retain a measure of the cold easily felt in the first rays of the morning sun. Before the sunlight lifts the cool veil, I shrug off the confines of the sleeping bag and step out into the day.
My first, long exhale plumes into a white cloud before me and withers away as I step through it to stoke the morning fire. Brought to life by a shower of sparks, the flame licks at the damp wood and curls back the bark. Allowing myself small moments to tune in to the subtleties around me is one of my favorite aspects of camping. The little things tend to be the easiest to remember.
The fire’s crackle is a soundtrack as I proceed to assemble my gear for the morning activities. Rods, reels, baits, and bags are corralled into a pile and wait patiently until I smother the fire. Its smoke swirls up through the pine trees and wafts through the air mingling with other woodsy scents. The important bags are donned, rods gripped in one hand, and the camera hangs from my neck eager to immortalize these moments in voiceless pictures.
My walk begins. The hunt for breakfast is afoot.
Taking my time to the lake, my eyes dart constantly between forest and floor, the former glance in search of a break in the trees, and the latter making note of my sure-footing. The gear around me rattles and claps with each step. Small hops dropping the heavy backpack down upon my shoulders as the campfire scent lingers further and further behind me.
The crunch of gravel greets me upon my arrival at the pristine lake, nestled in a mountain basin.
Although the sun has not yet crested the mountain tops, I can just barely see the dark silhouettes of cruising trout. Nearer the water, the plucking of rising fish is a strum on my instincts and my hands begin to work, tie, and cast a rod into the depths. The water is clear enough for me to watch the worm, sourced from beneath damp rocks, sink ever so slowly, its ends twirling tantalizingly in the new aquatic realm.
I settle in and wait.
The subtle thrum of my heart slows and the breaths I take are deep and full.
Sunlight pierces the water and the click of my shutter is the single disturbance to the picturesque morning.
The fervent bouncing of a rod tip commands my attention and as the sun raises higher, the silver, frantic flash of my prey shines in the water. The pumping reminds me of my heartbeat that was felt just moments before.
I land the creature and end its life with sharp taps from a stick, breaking the spine to show it a quick and merciful death. My breath plumes again as a sigh of respect escapes my lips.
The gear is stowed away and I begin the trek back through the woods. I follow the deepening scent of wood smoke and begin the transformation from hunter to cook. My mind stays focused yet the task and manner is different. Where once my goal was primal, an urge to kill, the urge is now to feast, to cook, to transform my energy spent into energy consumed. The sun stretches our shadows as hunter carries prey.
Upon my arrival the fire is stoked to a raging inferno and a mountain of embers are born. The fish is set nearby and begins the transformation between raw and cooked.
At first, the stench of the fish is akin to algae and mud, something not wholly appetizing. Its slime dries and adheres to the skin while the eyes grow cloudy. As time continues however, the scent becomes meaty and pleasing. The mouth waters as the skin crackles open revealing succulent, steaming flesh.
Breakfast, no longer trout, is removed from the coals and set on a plate.
Bones are fed to the fire, skin is fed to the dog, and meat is consumed, proudly, by me. The meat was taken respectfully in the most intimate of pursuits. Not a bit is wasted and as the day truly starts, every spark of the energy will be put to good use.
Starting my day like this means I have a greater respect for myself and the food I eat.
Most people never form the understanding of where and how their food actually comes from. They have no relationship with real food. Because of this it’s fair to say that hunters and fisherman have more than hobbies; they have a way of life.