Monday, July 28, 2014

Two Dudes in a Teardrop: Reflections From the Road by Todd and Son

Jack looking back on southwest Colorado

First things first: the map below is not quite right.  In point of fact, we traveled closer to 3,500 miles on our two week trip.  What the map doesn't show is the crisscrossing of the desert in the lower southwest corner of Colorado.  We spent nearly a day looking for our final destination, Mission Wolf.  It was worth it!  The map below was created using a fun new app and website called Road Trippers.  It was a lot of fun planning the trip because I put in my start and end point and then started exploring all the really interesting places to stop in between.  You can explore the map and see some of the fun places we stopped along the way.  

Colorado Trip with Jack | My new trip on!

Being almost thirteen can be tough.  The prospect of spending two weeks within mere feet of your father might not be the first choice of most almost 'teenagers.'  My son was no different.  He might not have said it, but I am pretty sure he was excited about the trip.  It did, however, put a significant crimp in his style.  After a bit of reticence while preparing, getting him out onto the road changed everything.  Every once in a while I would remind him of the importance of a good attitude.

"The difference between an ordeal and an adventure is attitude."
-Bob Bitchin

By the end of the trip, this had become our mantra.  Some days I needed it; other days he needed it.  Thankfully there were no days when we both needed it!

  As the miles piled up, I finally saw him relax.  He became my expert navigator.  He was soon giving me distances between rest stops, cities and gas stations.  Our new road atlas became his best friend!

Both Jack and I kept a daily journal that we filled with our reflections and captured tiny moments that we otherwise would have lost.  Now that we are home, we've added bits and pieces of park maps, stickers, photos, and more.  Taken together, these truly help us remember.  I hope someday he'll look back on them and remember what a terrific time we had.

The trip truly was epic and to truly cover all the activities and experiences would take far more than a few posts here.  So, I thought we would each pick a favorite memory and share them with you here.  I hope you don't mind that we've gone a little over our typical 500 words per post.  Let's start with Jack:

So, you wanted to hear about my dad and I's experience of traveling to Colorado. It was a wonderful experience that I will forever remember. Sure not all of the parts were fun such as the driving and the times where we both had bad headaches, but I think that the good outweighed the bad. Today I'll share some of my side of the story. I want to tell you about our trip up a mountain to see the wonderful Mission: Wolf. 

Jack catching a Rainbow Trout near Frasier, Colorado

It all started the day after we had just climbed The Great Sand Dunes (An entirely different story)...

(Midnight at The Great Sand Dunes National Park)

We started our journey to see the wolf preserve at Mission Wolf and they had told us not to use Google Maps or any other kind of GPS system. So, my dad had printed out some directions that "supposedly" took us to the preserve. (Fast forward one hour...) After this time we had found a tiny town called Gardner and we thought this was just about as deserted you could ever see. But still the directions told us to to forge ahead so of course we followed the directions. (Another hour later.) We found ourselves on a dirt road that was unnamed and we hadn't seen a car for a while. By this time we were very frustrated at the directions. We decided to just try to follow the road and maybe it would take us somewhere... (ANOTHER hour later!) We were so frustrated and mad that we decided we would finally just ask Siri to take us there and guess what happened? Siri took us exactly to the preserve and we were just straight up dumbfounded.  But, we were happy to be there!

We had a little problem turning off the incredibly steep driveway.  Let's just say the teardrop was temporarily parked on a mud know there's a whole other story there!

When we arrived at the wolf preserve we were taken on a tour by a nice lady named Astrid from the Netherlands.  She was there volunteering for a couple of months. (Almost all the people that work here are volunteer) And we saw some pretty cool wolves.  (Personally wolves are my favorite animal so this was pretty cool.) 

 Many of the staff live in tipis

But another strange/amazing thing is that all of the buildings in the preserve were made from recyclable material. The neatest thing to see was the wolves howling because I had never been that close to actually see a wolf howl. 

 The night we stayed at the preserve it rained all night...more mud!

We camped just down the hill from Mission Wolf.  We heard the wolves howl many times in the night. The next day was even more interesting....

 This is an awesome video about Mission Wolf:

The next day we "were" going to leave at like 9:00am but then they told us we could meet the wolves at like 11:30am so we couldn't pass up that chance so of course we stayed the extra time. Then finally at 11:30 we went into the wolves cage and we got to meet them. 

 Jack ended up adopting Zephir.  His sponsorship helps provide food and medical care for this beautiful wolf for one year...something he hopes to be able to renew each year!

The interesting thing about wolves is that they will smell you (they actually smell your teeth!) and then they walk away. Its like shaking hands a human wouldnt shake hands wit a person more than once without getting some strange looks. But, a wolf came back near me and the founder of the preserve said I could give him a belly rub. That was really awesome when I did, I will never forget that!

Yeah, so thats MY favorite memory but you should also check out my dad's favorite memory as well.

Jack Burleson

The memory I most want to share with you is of a nearly perfect afternoon.  We had been on the road about a week when we entered Rocky Mountain National Park.  After spending our first night on the west side of the park, we were heading up and over the Trail Ridge Road.  For some reason I didn't sleep the night before; that coupled with the altitude caused me to suffer from a severe headache.  That didn't stop us though.

  This amazing road travels the 48 miles from Grand Lake on the west to Estes Park on the east.  You can see from the section of the map above that it is quite curvy, especially at the beginning!  My favorite memory takes place just past Milner Pass at a tiny lake called Poudre Lake.  The pull out identified the Continental Divide where all the precipitation that falls to the right makes its way to the Atlantic Ocean all that falls to the left goes to the Pacific Ocean. 

The sun was incredibly intense.  Even with sunscreen on, we could feel the sun's rays heating our skin.

To call it a lake is not quite fair.  Actually, the tiny pond was being fed by the run off from the snow on the mountains.  
(Jack on Pouder Lake)


The snow actually felt pretty good.  So much so that Jack decided to make some snow angels!

 It didn't phase me however.  I had been reading about these high alpine lakes and the beautiful Brook Trout that live in them for years.  The trout, due to the altitude, are tiny, but nonetheless beautiful and fun to catch; or so I had read. 

Jack and I studied the water.  It was a pretty calm afternoon.  There was some evidence of fish in the water.  We could see the occasional rise.  Soon we made our way down to the crystal clear waters.  That's when we saw the trout.  They were plentiful and easily spooked.  We retreated to the snow and set up our gear.  As we continued to study the water, we noticed that a hatch had begun.  

Here is our best attempt at matching the 'hatch.' 

The teeny tiny insects were making the journey from the bottom of the tiny lake to the surface of the water.  There, they dry their wings and fly off to mate and die.  This happens several times a day in every pond, lake, river on the planet during the spring, summer and fall.  

 Jack and I on the Pike River in WI earlier this spring

Fly fishing is part detective, part dance.  You have to try to 'match the hatch' in order to get the incredibly smart little fish to strike your 'fly' and not one of the 'real' ones.  It's not just a matter of slinging it out there either.  You have to try to 'match' the movements of the flies that are rising as well.  This is where the 'dance' comes in.  Unlike spin casting, where you use the weight of the lure or bait to 'sling' your line out into the water, fly fishing uses the weight of the line to slingshot out your incredibly tiny fly.

Anyway, we carefully made our way back up to the edge of the water; it's soggy banks engulfed our boots in quicksand.  Gently, we began casting.  We could see the beautiful trout.  They watched our flies with distrust.  I moved on down and around the edge of the lake and continued casting.  Each movement allowing me to send my fly further out into the lake.  Eventually it was so far that I could no longer see the trout.  On the retrieve from about thirty feet out I felt a 'bump.'  Fishermen know the 'bump.'  Something had ever so slightly attempted to nibble on my fly.  I quickly set up and fired the fly back out onto the exact same spot and waited.  I let the fly settle and then slowly twitched it back toward me.  After less than a second, I felt another bump and this time I was ready.  I grasped the line in my left hand and gently set the hook.  Immediately I saw a mesmerizing flash of irridesence that could only be the belly of a trout.  The trout spun away from the sting of the hook and I slowly reeled the tiny jewel into me.  I shouted for Jack to grab my net and soon, we had in our hands one of the most beautiful creatures I had ever seen: an Alpine Brook Trout.

After a few moments and several pictures, we put him back into his crystalline waters.

For about ten minutes I forgot all about my headache and how tired I was.  I had just done something I had been dreaming of for years.  To add to that, it was with my son.  I had just had one of the best days of my life.

What a terrific two weeks!  It makes me SO happy to read my own son's words and to mix them with the photos from the trip.  I hope this is only the first of many father/son trips we take!



  1. That's so neat that you can take a father/son trip like that! Did u stick the "how to do fly fishing" in just for me since I knew nothing about it? haha. And thanks to Jack for his great blogging about the wolf mission. Sounds like he has even more blog posts to write.

    1. It was fun seeing one event through his eyes!

  2. BELLY RUB a wolf! Wolf howls thru the nite? Recycled materials for shelter?
    Wowza! Jack thank you for sharing your travelogue. Have you thought of publishing it in a magazine or elsewhere?
    SNOW in the summer! Not going to happen here in FL or most of the states.

    Great post - my favorite of the summer, by far.


  3. I agree Tina about lots more GREAT material for articles here.

  4. Sounds wonderful and beautiful. Love the mantra. I might hang that on our kitchen wall. I so want to visit that wolf preserve.

  5. Todd and Jack, Great road-trip-father-son-snow-sun-flyfishing-wolf post! I've actually been to Mission: Wolf -- I think that's the one you visited -- my sister lives quite nearby (luckily she was driving when we visited) and I've sponsored some of those wonderful animals too. Beautiful!

  6. What a special 2 weeks you had - so many wonderful memories - so many unique experiences. Love your line about loving this trip, but more so because you did it with your son. Oh, that all parents could experience that!

  7. Todd, what an adventure! Love your photos! So happy Jack got to share the time with you. How cool Jack shared his journal entry with us too!

  8. Wow, Todd & Jack. This was a great adventure an bonding experience for you both. So thrilled to see those wolf pics, Jack, and also you are brave to let them smell your teeth. Zephir is a handsome animal. Love the travelogue.

  9. Todd: Creating memories together with family are sweet, special times. Thank you for sharing a peek into your travel journals. Jack: You and your Dad are a great team. Zephir is lucky to have you as his sponsor. Thank you for sharing your thoughts that you jotted in journal and then through this post. Do I see a future GROG Author? 😎 Continue to read, write and create every day. Your future is bright. ~Suzy Leopold

    1. I attempted to share a smiley face in the above comment, however, it became two question marks! : ]