On November 21st, 2016, we launched the Filson Experience the Wild Contest. Participants were asked to choose one out of four expereinces for a chance to win the trip of a lifetime for themselves and a guest of their choice. Thousands of entries and twenty-one days later, we announced the winner of the Filson Expereince the Wild Contest: Jim Hubert.
Jim and his brother Justin worked with us to plan an unforgettable trip to Idaho. A few months later, they were off to Mackay Bar Ranch for a weekend of fly fishing and horseback riding through the rugged terrain of the Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness. While exploring the Nations second largest contiguous federally managed wilderness, we asked Jim to share his expereince with us.
Let me start off by saying I am just like most of you, I have never won anything but a $2 scratch off from the local gas station. So needless to say, I was floored to win something of this magnitude. Filson named the trip “Experience the Wild”, well, they delivered in aces. Never have I been so removed from civilization. It is impossible to show in pictures or put into words the grandeur of the Frank Church Wilderness. It is a humbling place.
The Outfitters Filson set us up with are a cut above. Mackay Bar Outfitters are some of the nicest, most down to earth people I have ever had the pleasure to meet. They are very well versed and talented at their craft. That craft being hunting, fishing, and conservation of the land they clearly love. Not to mention running and maintaining a beautiful ranch/lodge, which is no small undertaking. I considered myself an outdoorsman growing up on a farm here in Michigan. Hunting and fishing in the north of my state, I thought I had a good grasp on outdoor life. It didn’t take me long to realize I couldn’t hold a candle to these folks. They are wonderful people that make you feel as family immediately.
On the morning we went out to fly fish the South Fork of the Salmon River it was raining and cold. My brother and I quickly got our gear together as we could see Buck (our guide and owner of the Outfitters) and his ranch hand saddling up the horses for the ride out. I felt excited, about to live out my childhood fantasies of being a cowboy riding into the mountains. After breakfast, the time had come to saddle up. Standing there next to the horse in the cold morning air, seeing my breath, I became nervous. Realizing, although I have ridden horses many times, I have never riden in the mountains. Only flat farm fields of Michigan. Buck, whom is basically the manliest man I have ever met, says to me “ you’ve ridden before?”. I reply “yes”. “Good”. And that was the end of my cowboy tutorial. Not wanting to look foolish with a rambling string of questions, I threw my leg over the saddle.
As we started up the trail I was in heaven. Rain beading up off my Tin Cloth and rolling down my arms. The low hanging clouds hiding the top of the mountains. Seeing the powerful river below holding our fish to catch. It was invigorating. We went up the mountain with only the sound of hoofs hitting the trail and shifting gear packed onto Happy, our pack mule, as he scrubbed rocks he walked by. The trail became exponentially smaller the farther up the mountain we went. It was here that my cowboy fantasies came to a screeching halt. Off to my right was a fall I would not likely survive. Buck, I believe, could pick up on our anxiety. “Just trust the horse” he said. So with a reassuring pat to my horses neck and inspirational words like “please don’t kill me” we continued on. Buck was right, those amazing horses never missed a step or even broke a sweat. We reached several remote fishing holes along the river safe and sound.
Sitting on the river bank stringing up my fly rod, I watched the churning water, picking out where I wanted to land my fist cast. Praying a fish will rise. I was reminded of a quote my brother read to me on the flight out: “A place that doesn’t welcome tourists, that’s really difficult and off the map, is the place I want to see.”- Paul Theroux
Thank you to Filson and the people at Mackay Bar for an unforgettable adventure.