On Stands Now
June 2024

Questa  •  Red River  •  Cerro  •  Costilla  •  Amalia  •  Lama  •  San Cristobal

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Courtesy Photo Wiley Terry places his fish bag in the water to acclimate

Cutthroat Time

Courtesy Photo Third-grader Finley Terry

On May 17, after an unforeseen delay of a couple weeks, the annual stocking of Rio Grande cutthroat trout in its namesake gorge took place. The event was sparsely attended, due to the lack of advance notice, but the spectacular day made up for it. The rim country was almost impossibly green, giving off the sagey aroma of the recent precipitation. Chimayoso to the south and Blanca to the north cut the blue sky like snowy daggers. The baby cutthroats were ready to resettle their ancestral home, and about 40 stalwart fans were happy to oblige them.

My hiking partners were my friend Kevin and his twins Finley and Wiley, whose third-grader energy inspired me, while wearing me out. On the way down from Big Arsenic, Wiley quizzed me on a variety of animal topics, and by the time we reached the riverside, we’d come to the conclusion that an octopus is a more magical animal than a chameleon, by virtue of the fact that an octopus not only has the ability to change colors like a chameleon, but can squeeze into the tiniest of spaces and befuddle predators by shooting ink out of its como se llama.

But the fun didn’t end there. After we placed our fish bags in the river water to acclimate, Finley introduced me to Sourpatch Kids, a type of candy so sour it made me try to swallow my head, lips first. Then Wiley asked his dad to lower him into the river by his feet, which after several times appeared to be such a gas that the boy’s sister demanded to be dunked.

As I watched, my mind wandered back a few short years to when my own son was playing here. This was my extended family’s favorite time of year to gather all the cousins for a camping trip, and the gorge is where we usually ended up. How many times have we hiked this hike and found a calm pool with enough boulders to heat up on after swimming in the snowmelt? Watching Wiley and Finley frolic shocked me into realizing that those days of wet and laughing cousins may have passed without a proper goodbye. Now that they are heading off to college, my son and his cousins will be too busy to relive this, even if they are ever in the same place at the same time. Though I could tell he was doing so, I really wanted to tell Kevin to savor this moment.

Yes, due to Gus’ impending high school graduation, I’m grieving the fact that time never stands still. Even so, I didn’t know how much having a blast with a couple rambunctious chicos would rub salt in this wound.

Though I guess I should have. The Rio Grande gorge is nothing if not a quick journey through time. Kids playing, baby cutthroats finning and splashing at invisible insects, the knees that were once my superpower now being my liability. The Rio Grande gorge itself, the result of the draining of the ocean-sized Lake Alamosa a mere 440,000 years ago, is a blink of a geologic eye. Fossils of Rio Grande cutthroat trout have been unearthed from the drained lake bed, and you know what that means. The Rio Grande gorge is younger than the fish Finley and Wiley released into it. As a species, the cutthroat trout have been around for over 10 million years. That’s nothing.

So let’s enjoy them while we can, whatever and whoever “they” are: our children, our fish, the days of our lives—for though time may not always be our friend, it will always be our companion.