For the second year in a row, a group of cartoonists (Todd Clark (Lola), Steve Moore (In the Bleachers), Jeff Myers (animator/director for shows like Phineas & Ferb, Rick and Morty and King of the Hill)) plus Jeff’s two sons and me ventured into the wilderness of Idaho just to see if we would all come back. We called it Man Camp because there were no females among us, but mostly because cartoonists don’t get to do outdoorsy stuff very often and it sounded cool.
Risky? Yes. The consensus among the group was that the only thing that would keep us from a Donner party ending to the weekend would be teamwork, preparation, and a guy named Marv.
Marv is a retired Chief Warrant Officer who grew up in Idaho and knows things that normal men do not but wish they did. He knows how to hunt, how to throw an axe (do people even DO that any more?), and which berries are poisonous. This is a sketch he drew for us to demonstrate his artistic talent.
His job was to keep us alive while we enjoyed the wilds of Idaho, which in our case meant a rented cabin with electricity, a heater, and running water. Marv chose to sleep outside.
Our real goal was to fish.
The cabin was located near the town of Yellow Pine (pop. 94), home of the Yellow Pine Music & Harmonica Festival, so one of us (Steve Moore) went to town to find out where the local anglers go. He came back with news of a place called “Fish Lake” and had the directions.
Let’s break this down. Steve has male model good looks, is deeply tanned, and was driving a rental car (a sedan, which for the time he was there was the only non-pickup in town). He went into the general store at Yellow Pine where they hang animal skins behind the front counter and asked for a no-miss fishing hole. The owner told him about a place called – conveniently – Fish Lake. Down the road a stretch, then hike in about a mile.
We were sure that the townfolk were having a good laugh at our expense. They might as well have said, “And during hunting season there is a place called Slow Deer Mountain that you should try out.”
The next morning, we got up and packed our gear. We weren’t sure where we were going but we were ready to go. Besides, what could possibly go wrong?
We began in high spirits, hiking through lush, green forests and crossing over trickling mountain streams.
Marv had a GPS (of course) and kept us on track, but for the most part Steve Moore led the way. It was almost as if he was afraid we didn’t believe him.
We kept hiking.
After what seemed like an eternity, Steve sat down and admitted that we had walked for at least three miles. We could tell that he was embarrassed and was starting to come to terms with the fact that he had been duped. We were delighted, knowing that for the rest of our lives we would have the Fish Lake story to hold over his head.
But then Marv told us that the GPS showed a lake just a few feet ahead – just over the rise. Steve jumped up and scooted ahead.
And there it was. Fish Lake.
Steve’s reputation was intact, and appropriately, he caught the first trout of the day. I caught a fish too – a big one with Orca-like features – but out of compassion I decided to let it go rather than drag it all the way in. The fact that I chose to release it two seconds after it grabbed my hook is irrelevant. Interestingly, Todd Clark, Jeff Myers and both of his boys each caught exactly the same number of fish, which sounds impressive until you find out that Jeff didn’t bring a fishing pole at all. At the end of the day the group brought in two trout (Marv caught the other one, of course).
We all returned to the cabin happy and with a fresh respect for nature and humanity – at least for the humanity in Yellow Pine. As we sat on the porch and reflected on the day, we all agreed that although the experience was wonderful, we still had one unfulfilled goal that confronted us.
So next year we’re hiking to Slow Deer Mountain.