Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Old Farts Reunion: Phart Three


I headed off with a somewhat smaller group for a hike to a waterfall. Anyone says "hike" and I'm usually in. For a while it didn't look like this hike was going to involve any actual forward movement. You get an astrophysicist and a geologist with a GPS device and they'll hunch over in the middle of an obvious trail for hours staring at their whizbangery. I'm technologically backward, but evidently there exists a little square box that can tell you where you are with CIA proficiency. "There should be a large, striated metamorphic boulder eight feet to our right," they'll say, hunched, "and right now we should be directly under a suspended spider visible from space." They look up.

Already this is a lot different from the old Hostel Club. We didn't really care all that much if we got lost, because we were young and unfamiliar with mortality. There was never a guarantee Lynn's VW bus wouldn't strand us on the side of the road, we had no cell phones or cash machines, and if we did undertake too many expeditions in a row without getting lost, we'd try spelunking. We'd drop ourselves into a narrow hole in the ground on a rope and scrabble about in the mud and the dark like salamanders until even J. Edgar Hoover gave up looking for us. We always assumed at least one of us knew the way back to the rope, and as long as there was still a prospect of descending on the nearest Howard Johnson's on the way home like the Attack of the Mud People, we were happy.

Bill, or Clumsy Carp?
But there's no getting away from the modern ways, which are undeniably cool. Still, it wasn't technology that saved the day for me. It was Karen. And she isn't even an original Hostel Clubber. She married in.

We left Bill at a water hole with his fly rod and took our noisy selves further up the stream in search of the mythical waterfall, which was exactly where, in the opinion of John's GPS, it was supposed to be. Three of us, not including your correspondent, plunged into the pool below the falls, while your correspondent examined the falls with just a little disappointment. This was puny by Oregon standards. There were rocks and water and a smattering of gravity, but not a lot of fuss to it. But Karen is a marine biologist, which means she is an avid appreciator of life in all its speckled, gelatinous, stridulating, or wriggly majesty, and she and I were soon flipping rocks in the stream and scoring frogs and crawdads and a toad and little tiny insect larvae and she whipped out her magnifying glass and revealed yet smaller (but still enthusiastic) forms of life. She found me a freshwater sponge. I didn't even know there was such a thing as a freshwater sponge! You can tell them from the marine sponges by the scrubby pad on one side. And then. And then!

Fishies! But not normal fishies. Fishies with zest and ambition and piscatory derring-do! Fish smaller than my little finger were galloping straight up the wet rocks and bounding into the cascades, everywhere we looked. They bunched up in pools the size of a bicycle helmet to get a good running jump and they flipped themselves into the miniature torrent and zipped and squiddled their way upward, ever upward. Diminutive bears waited at the top of the falls with their mouths open. Itty bitty videographers from National Geographic stood off to one side. Somewhere a band of tiny trumpeters was playing the theme from Rocky. Karen and I crunched down as small as we could and cheered. Go, tiny fish, go! Go, tiny fish, go!

We have two biology degrees between us, hers a working model and mine vestigial, and we have no idea what the hell they were doing. They couldn't have been old enough to spawn. Maybe they were little kid fishes playing "bet you can't" and "watch this." It was an honor to observe them, and hard to leave them. But we'd promised Bill we'd meet him back at his fishing hole, and there we found him, troutless and a bit worse for wear. He'd slipped on the rocks and fallen in, twice, to the detriment of several body parts he wasn't done with yet. John and Karen and Morris had plunged in on purpose. I was the only one high and dry.

Mostly high.

Here's a video of our heroic fishies. Look closely! A couple of them make mighty leaps at the very end. 


33 comments:

  1. Even what we would call the "least evolved" sort of creature seems to have a sense of play. I sometimes catch the goldfish in our pond "breaching" as if they are pretending they are tiny little whales. Perhaps "play" is something that's coded into our genes?

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    1. I am really hoping that is it. I could have watched those little guys for hours.

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  2. Wow! What a terrific post! I am so glad you were in the Hostel Club and not the Hostile Club, which would read quite differently.

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    1. The Hostel Club was, for most of us, a refuge from social hostility, at least in part. We always called it "being in with the out crowd."

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    1. I deeply wish you could see the fishies, you want love. I have video. It's trapped on my Panasonic camera and will not go onto my Mac. I downloaded some kind of software that should make it happen, but I don't know how it works. Meanwhile I won't delete the photos on my camera (which are seriously adding up) because I keep hoping someone will help me get the fishies out.

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    2. Send the memory card to fishducky, she can look at the fishies on her camera, then send the card back to you.

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    3. Hey! I got them out, and it only took me two hours and I still don't know what button I pushed to make it happen! Go on back up there and have a look!

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  4. Now, that's a hike I wish I had gone on! Not the big vertical hike with boulders and dehydration. But it sounds like you had a wonderful time and saw a new side of Karen, too. Oh well, next time, huh?

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    1. "Next time!" Let's do it. All sides of Karen are new, of course.

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    2. Looked to me like a new side of Bill.

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    3. Looked to me like a new side of Bill.

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  5. Maybe they were little kid fishes playing "bet you can't" and "watch this."

    The adult fish version of this is "Hold my beer and watch this!"
    I'm sure that is where Midwestern people learned it.

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    1. Isn't that what Click and Clack said were a lot of men's last words? "Watch this?"

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  6. Spelunking? Shudder.
    I don't even like basements. Or the bottom floor of tall buildings.
    Watching fishies play though... Oooh. And ahhh. And jealous thoughts.

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    1. I thought it was fun at the time. I have a feeling I'd be more claustrophobic now. Which sucks. Who needs new phobias?

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  7. I think my old joints could handle a "smattering of gravity." I'm a bit shaky on gravity in quantity.

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    1. You should watch me try to jump more than three inches in the air. Can't do it.

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  8. Like the way Bill sticks his head in the water to look for fish. Or is he trying to drown out voices in his head??

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  9. I know we're not supposed to covet, but I do - I covet your group, and I covet your fishies, and your old fun, and now your new fun. Wahhh. We were so nerdy (and two of us had teachers for mothers) we didn't even think about forming a group ...

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    1. Most of us wouldn't have either. That's what Leadership is for. We had Leaders.

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  10. Everything but those caves. I felt all my insides dry up and stick to each other at the thought of going down a rope into a hole. A big opening with a fire at its mouth to fend off the sabre tooth tigers, ok. But no narrow, bendy, twisty, under the groundy holes accessed only by ropes. Loved the rest of it, however, particularly Bill fishing using nose hairs as bait.

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  11. I'm loving the idea of little fishies playing at being grown ups.
    and Bill's interesting fishing method.

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    1. It didn't work, but you have to give the man props for trying.

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  12. This biologist thanks you for such a wonderful dose of nature appreciation -- just what I needed this morning! I would have been right there with you, hand lens aflutter, flipping rocks and chasing toads and admiring plants (I'm a botanist myself). That sense of wonder and discovery and love of tiny wiggly things is the best thing about being in nature. Thanks for sharing your wonders with the rest of us. Go, tiny fish. Go.

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    1. But do YOU have any idea what the little guys were doing? They could not possibly have been spawning age.

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    2. Not a clue. I might if they were plants!

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    3. Now there's an idea. Maybe they ARE plants. Maybe they were specially trained up in covert cells and planted there to baffle biologists and keep them from their work.

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  13. The video is wonderful - thanks for your perseverance! Although I just kept thinking, as the fishies slid back down the rock - ow, ow, ow ...

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    1. The original is less pixelated but you can still see the buggers. If you look closely, you can see one or two make it all the way up!

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