Five years ago I wasn’t mature enough to enjoy weed — it’s true.
I didn’t really understand it and didn’t become comfortable in my experiences until I moved back to Colorado. This was my thought over the weekend as I walked aimlessly through the Rocky Mountains toward a hidden bend in the South Platte River with only one hope: That after a stoned fishing trip gone hilariously wrong, next time everything would be better.
I was with a couple old friends: Sober driver Max (a shiny haired blonde, artist, non-weed smoker and golfer by nature) and fellow toker Sean (the new age guy who has become my sidekick on these weed-induced adventures). Sean and I came loaded for this gonzo fishing trip, and our two tackle boxes included a 100-milligram cookie, a vape pen, a joint and plenty of neon bait chemically proven to catch the biggest fish.
Max threw up his sushi breakfast on the side of Highway 391 after soberly claiming he had contracted car sickness. It made me wonder if sushi was ever a good idea for breakfast.
We were trying to find one of Colorado’s premier South Platte fishing spots, a gold-medal water written about at this tasty government website. According to the site, coordinates 39.6900 N., 105.6400 W. in Clear Creak County is home to obese trout, sparkling carp and schools of catchable cutthroat. All week we had planned the trip, done our research and stared hopefully into the faces of fellow fisherman as they held their prized catches for the camera on the website’s photo gallery. But with Max intermittently vomiting at various roadsides locations, and with a 100-milligram cookie taking a too-heavy effect on Sean and I, we were beginning to give up.
This isn’t how things were imagined.
In a fit of fever delirium, Max took the wrong turn up County Road 64, a winding dirt mountain road. The 2013 Toyota Corolla he was driving was not built for the conditions, but we calmly talked about our fallback: The AAA membership that was standard on the Corolla’s lease.
And after going 13 miles, the realization hit: We had taken a wrong turn, and slowly our world was becoming troutless. The road was falling away before our eyes. Snow drifts surrounded us. We needed to turn back.
Without the appropriate tires and overall vehicle, Max told us the only chance of getting out and finding the real fishing location would be to drive in reverse through the snow and next to the cliff’s edge until getting to a proper turnaround point. This was our only choice. As the car crept backwards, slowly, Sean began singing the “Sound of Music” Julie Andrews hit “My Favorite Things,” a song he had never heard of until last week when he oddly claimed it to be his favorite song of all time.
Sean was trying to release the tension that had built up in the Corolla, and before he finished the first verse we all began to sing. This wasn’t going to be the end of our trip.
With a sense of renewed energy and focus Sean prepped the fishing rods, tying on flies and organizing the bait in the back seat. Max claimed his fever had passed, and we were soon out of the canyon and headed on the right path.
My cell phone’s GPS ended up directing us toward a small river bend with pools of six-foot-deep green water not far from the main highway, and finally — five hours and 56 miles from home — we were fishing.
The edible Sean and I ingested earlier had dropped away. The high had become manageable, and my thoughts cleared with brevity. It was quiet. We didn’t speak as we listened to our flies slapping at the water. There I realized, after all the anxiety of the day, that I had handled myself relatively well while stoned.
I didn’t once lose my temper or convince myself that we were in dire trouble, much like what I used to do in the past. And at 25 I have matured enough to actually control my highs. We ended up fishing without success until dark. But I read the river with an undying intensity, noticing flies, birds and the movement of water over rocks.
On the walk back to the car, exhausted, we all didn’t seem to care that we’d come away empty handed. And as the treeline faded in the dying light we walked together until stopping to soak in a view of the sun’s last light on the limestone mountain wall.
“This walk back feels like it’s been for days, like it’s been forever,” said Sean, glassy-eyed and smiling.
To which Max said poignantly, “I don’t know why, after a day like today, that has to sound so sad?”