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Pucker factor
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I love being in the outdoors, especially in the wilderness. Along with the wilderness however come isolated incidents that I refer to as the pucker factor. 

On the Tuolumne River there is a place that you can drive to called Early Intake where there is a nice parking area and a trail that heads upstream four miles to Preston Falls. The river along this stretch is big and wide and runs along a series of meadows dotted with huge oaks and digger pine. Having fished all the way to Preston Falls I decided to rest awhile in the shade of one of the huge oaks. The tree limbs dropped almost all the way to the ground so I had to duck under them to get into the shade. Imagine my surprise when I came face to face with a large, coiled rattler. That is what you call the pucker factor!

A great way to fish the Tuolumne is from a rubber raft on the 18 mile float from Lumsdens Bridge to Wards Ferry. You camp out on a sandbar with your fellow rafters and share campfire stories. One of the favorite campfire tales is that of the fellow who gets snakebit and whose friend rushes to the phone to call the doctor for treatment instructions. His friend returns with the bad news, “The doc says you’re gonna die”. Another interesting campfire tale takes place in a wilderness setting where some city dudes have hired a professional guide to introduce them to the splendors of the wilderness. After hearing several campfire stories of exciting times in the wild, a lady remarked that there were things out there that could kill you. The guide replied “Lady, if there ain’t something out there that can kill you, it ain’t a wilderness”.

Oftentimes the Pucker Factor comes along with absolutely no warning what-so-ever. One bright summer day I was walking along a beautiful trout river, when the sky around me was suddenly filled with hundreds of angry hornets determined to kill me.  It was very much like the scene fro the movie “My Girl” where the young boy was attacked & killed. Fortunately for me, the river was right nearby and I ran as fast as I could & dove under the water to get away from the deadly hoard. I probably had a dozen hornet stings, but I figure I got off lucky. 

Since my wife, Mary, is a genealogy fanatic, we usually make at least one trip a year to the Salt Lake City area so she can do research in the LDS Family History Library. I usually find local waters to seek unwary trout. One of my favorite places to fish in Utah is the upper Provo River not far from Park City.  While the fishing is delightful, I tend to look over my shoulder a lot, because of the numerous signs warning of calving moose in the area. If you get between a mama moose and her calf, she will stomp you until you are dead, dead, dead. That adds a little pucker factor to the experience and makes your fishing a little more adventuresome.

For those of you with a theological bent, such experiences can also be referred to as a “Come To Jesus Moment”. Lake Alpine on Ebbetts Pass was the site of such a moment for me. It was early spring and the snow plows had just opened the road to the lake. The snow all around the lake was about 6 feet deep and the lake was still frozen over solidly, so I decided to walk across the ice to one of the islands in the lake. About halfway to the island I heard a loud noise that sounded like a gunshot. It was the ice cracking underneath my feet! At that moment I had a hurried conversation with The Good Lord, and vowed that if He let me off that lake alive, I’d have perfect attendance at church for the next year. I can testify from my own experience that miracles do indeed happen & by golly, I never missed a Sunday sermon for over a year. 


When you check the statistics I’ll bet that the wilderness is a safer place than the freeways or the shopping mall. Still, there enough factors out there in the wild to make your experience a little more exciting: The Pucker Factor.


Until next week, Tight Lines