May 25th, 2002
The fluorescent lights hum as I flip the switch in the lab. Sterile light illuminates the signal generator, tables, desks, chairs and a spider's web of cables and computers. Not for the first time do I question if this is all life has in store for me. I seriously doubt I can continue to do R&D for the government for another 30 years, even if I am still around.
It has been a long month. The first ten days were spent in the hospital recovering from my wounds. Surprisingly it wasn't that hard to explain. According to the doctor he sees quite a few cases every year where people injure themselves with a variety of things. The most common is surgical removal of fishing hooks, but he had also seen arrows, swords and even spears. With that said, I still don't think he fully believed that I managed to bruise 3 ribs, stab myself in the calf and fall on an arrow, but he was a good sport and didn't press the issue. It was worse at work. There was no end of the razzing and jokes. Into the second week I was able to work out again. I couldn't pull my bow and was forced to crank it down to 64 pounds. It wasn't until the 3rd week that I was able to attend class at the dojo. The last week I spent every spare moment practicing archery, iaido, kung-fu and aikido. I still don't think I am back to where I was a month ago but I am close.
I got my film back from the developer with a note. Kodak Premium Processing indicated that the film had obviously been damaged by Air Port X-ray exposure. The note further explained that the effects of X-ray exposure are cumulative and in the course of a journey you may end up giving your film half a dozen or more exposures, which might start to affect faster speed film. Kodak suggested that I ask to have my film hand checked in the future. Every picture looked like the last roll. Every picture contained huge streaks and was washed out.
Oh shit! Oh god! Oh Shit. I totally spaced out the fact that the Signal Generator emits significant amounts of radiation. Who cares about the film, what about my body? A quick perusal of the internet seems to indicate I have been heating all my internal organs. Continued exposure will probably result in leukemia, cataracts and worse. Fearing the worse I called the doctor who took care of my injuries. I asked about the blood test. He indicated there was nothing abnormal about the red or white blood cell count. I thanked him and hung up.
Needless to say I spent a lot of my time out of the hospital thinking about my life and what the future holds. My cats were very supportive. They seemed to sense my feelings and were always close at hand. Then again it could be they were just getting as much petting as they could.
To cap the month off with a bang we just got notified that our GPS contract may get canceled. If it gets canceled all hardware and software will need to be shipped to the DOD. If that happens I won't be able to visit Middle Earth again. Then again I could always just make the next visit last a lifetime. I wonder if a 30 something Signal Processing Engineer can survive in Middle Earth. I bet they would think I'm mentally challenged. I can't speak the language. I can't write. I have no valuable skills for their society. And to top everything off the fashion police would have a serious problem with my gear. I got it! I could be the village idiot! No that wouldn't work either, who would want an idiot who wasn't even funny. Hmmm, maybe I should just go native like Radagast? I could be the wildman in some woods. Maybe I could pretend to be a wizard, sort of like a Colorado Yankee in King Aragorn's court? Hmm, if I remember correctly the Boss in Mark Twain's book didn't fair very well either. Perhaps I can only be a Middle Earth tourist. Middle Earth trout bum, that's me. Of course with my luck, some overgrown dog with a thyroid problem will devour me for breakfast.
Time to get going. I key the Signal Generator and wait for the view of the Ford, I step forward into the beam and find myself in Middle Earth. I have two days to get to the portal. The portal will open up starting on noon the 27th and then once an hour for the next 18 hours, then once a day for the next 7 days. Travel to the portal shouldn't be that bad, as by various maps it is only about 11 miles away, in mountainous terrain at the confluence of the Bruinen and the Merrill rivers.
The sun has not yet risen above the Misty Mountains but it is still light enough to see. The Ford across the River Bruinen, sometime in the not too distant past, five of the Black Riders were swept away at this very spot. Nothing even remotely hostile can currently be seen. One cannot truly appreciate this passage in the book without seeing the River. Upstream of the Ford is a series of small cataracts. The water collected from the western side of the Misty Mountain rushing towards the Angle. It is noisy and the water is white splashing over the rocks. Kayakers would love the challenge of the rapids. Just before the Ford the Bruinen widens and slows dramatically. The Ford itself has a foundation of rocks varying in size from baseballs to boulders.
Looking in the river I see huge blackish-brown stonefly nymphs. I scoop one up. It appears virtually dead and lifeless but within a minute the warmth of my hand begins to revive it and starts to move. They are over one and a half inches long. I rig up as a ponder what to use. I decide to use a Kaufman's Black Stone Nymph, with bead-head and rubber legs. On a size 6 it look pretty close, my only question is it weighted enough.
I attempt to fish the fly drag-free close to the bottom in riffles, runs, and waters below them. The flow is much to swift for my fly, it is not dropping fast enough. I will attempt the slightly slower waters. I am hoping that the trout will follow the nymphs into the shallows. I slowly move up stream using a shallow-nymphing technique fishing the shallow riffles and seams next to the deeper waters.
I feel a strike and set the hook. The fish leaps out of the water struggling to free it self from its tether. It looks silver in the morning light. The fight lasts ten minutes before I land him in the net. The fish is actually a brown trout, or a hybrid of some kind. The fish is mostly silver but it has many reddish-orange spots surrounded by faint halos below the midline. The fins are silver as well and spotless except for the dorsal fin. The reason for it fighting so well and breaking the water soon becomes apparent. I hooked it in the side.
Using as much care as I can I back out the hook and steady the fish with its head upstream. Within moments it recovers and darts off. The rest of the morning continues to be excellent. I catch nine brown all over 17 inches before 10:30 when the fishing dropped off. I spend the next couple of hours hiking along the bank enjoying the scenery.
The great spine of mountains pushing its way boldly through the thin skin of the eastern prairie, that range we call the Misty Mountains, probably harbors the greatest trout fishery in Middle Earth. From the grasslands in the Gap of Rohan at its southern terminus to the frigid plains of reindeer moss at its northern end in Forodwaith, this jumble of upthrust and broken mantle has birthed more streams than any one angler could hope to fish in a lifetime.
Around midday I build a small fire and cook two trout. I have decided to have a cold camp at night in the hopes I won't attract any more visitors. Lightly salted, the fish are excellent. The weather is mild and the sky is blue with only a few wispy clouds. I notice a red-tailed hawk soaring in the thermals. I wash down the last bite with some bottled water. I decide the better part of valor would be to put on some sun-block. I don't want to get burned.
After carefully extinguishing the fire I head back to the river. Wash my hands and once again follow the river upstream. With the help of my Action Optics I notice an occasional fish in the deeper pools taking a siesta. The rest of the afternoon passes pleasantly, my only companion being the red-tailed hawk. Not for the first time do I wonder if it isn't following me.
I decide to take a break and examine the situation. I dig into my daypack and pull out my Pentax 10x24 binoculars. Since I am no longer bringing my camera I decided to bring my light-weight binocs. I spend the next half an hour watching the bird. It is a little tricky at first because of the narrow field of view but I eventually zero in on it. Damn! I wait for the hawk to soar a bit closer to verify my observation. Yep, the hawk has jesses. "Hillo, ho, ho, boy. Come, bird, come..." It is either someone's hunting partner or it is watching me.
Paranoia is a good thing. It helps to keep you alive. I ponder the ramifications as I pack up and continue walking upstream. Logically the hawk isn't associated with the Orcs. Then again what do I really know about Orcs? Nothing. Perhaps its owner is the comely elf who shot me? I wonder. The rest of the afternoon passes without incident. I spend the late afternoon and early evening fishing. Every now and then I notice a hawk, maybe a different one. The fishing is not as good as it was this morning and I release everything I catch.
I find a nice forest to spend the night. I feast on a goose breast sandwich and an apple. I string a hammock between two trees and decide to sleep 15 feet above the ground. I attach a safety line around my waist just in case. My .44 is along my side, a comfort in the dark. I can barely see the stars. The noise of the river lulls me to sleep.