Most people think I’m crazy when I tell them that I, at nearly Thirty, have never been to Disneyland. I usually tell them that I think they are just as crazy because they have never caught a native Brown trout from a high mountain stream. My vacations growing up might not have been “traditional,” but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t steeped in tradition.
Every summer since before I was born, the Keene family has vacationed in one spot, Red River, New Mexico. It’s a quant, mining town nestled in the mountains of northern New Mexico. We stay a few miles out of town in a small “resort” called Tall Pines. The cabins are old. Think of how old dirt is, and then add a few years. The newest ones were finished in the 1940s and the oldest ones were around during the depression. There is no television, no telephone, no Internet, and until a few years ago, no cell reception. It’s wonderful in every way.
All of the cabins at Tall Pines are unique and special. But there is something mythical about the cabin on the hill. It stands for everything good and right in my life. It sits in a clearing that is nestled into the side of the mountain, and when the fireplace is lit, the scene looks like a postcard. At the bottom of the hill sits the Red River, full of native Browns, Brookies, and a few stocked Rainbows that wash down from the Special Trout waters up stream. The river feeds a small brook that flows into a man-made lake. I think my best memories in life (with the exception of my wedding…) have occurred on the banks of that lake. If Tiger Woods grew up with a set of golf clubs in his hands, then I grew up with a fishing pole in mine. I would spend hours sitting on a bench dragging Pistol Pete’s and Wooly Buggers behind a bubble on a lightweight open face rig. When I was 8 I put down the spinning rod and picked up a cheap fiberglass fly rod with an EVA foam grip. I was hooked. If I was passionate about fishing before, I became a fanatic. Most kids lie in bed and think about playing professional sports. Me? Screw that. I thought about fly fishing.
I once told a friend that I spend 51 weeks a year looking forward to those sacred 7 days that I get spend in the cabin on the hill. It’s funny if I really think about it. I think of it as mine, but I think the reality of the situation is that I belong to the cabin. From May until September that cabin plays host to hundreds of guests. Guests who, like me, wait patiently all year for their turn to drive up that bench-cut gravel road to the cabin. It calls and we answer. People always tell me that Disney is the most wonderful place on earth. I tell them they only say that because they have not been to the cabin on the hill.