Music by Idahooutdoor.net / Deo’s Song
Deo was a “WILD FOUND” dog from the streets of Pocatello in South Eastern Idaho. The first years of his life were veiled in a discretion of wondering Pocatello’s landscapes and streets, on some occasions for 20 mile distances, periodically stopping at my Mom’s or Brother’s home for brief instances of rest, food and water. Little did Deo know that these experiences were a forerunner of his future home and livelihood of wandering the endless expanses of some of Central Idaho’s most remote and beautiful locations? Deo loved the outdoors and particularly regions where mountain lakes filled with fish existed. He was an incredible Fishing Dog, who would swim to your catch once it neared the bank, retrieved it from the water and kindly locate the fish on the shore for a quick release. On a cold fall morning in 1997 Deo and I hopped in the car and headed to Central Idaho’s Sawtooth Wilderness which was about an hours drive from our home in Ketchum (Sun Valley). I had an ambitious expedition of a 20 mile stroll, with nearly half being “off-trail,” through a mountain lake riddled section of the Sawtooths.
The day was initially cold and wet with a thin coating of snow on the highest mountains. Cool cloud shrouded mountains soon gave way to sunny warm meadows and fish-laden mountain lakes. Caught in the euphoria of beautiful mountains and trout-filled alpine waters time soon got away from us. As 4:00 p.m. approached we found ourselves over 15 miles from the car. Knowing the shortening days of fall will soon yield to dark I turned to the map for a quicker direction home. Surmising that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, I improvised a “new and improved” sojourn home giving little thought to the 9,000 foot obstructions in our path. As our mountain stroll soon gave way to a climb, we laboriously, yet safely, came to the apex of our most formidable barrier that reluctantly revealed an extraordinarily beautiful Mountain Valley which to-date has seen no equal in my “beautiful places to visit list.” The beauty of our surroundings overwhelmed the dangers of our descent through a sticking serrated cliff-lined lake-filled valley which had all the perils any experienced alpinist could expect. Cliffs, impenetrable granite walls, permanent snow fields, lakes, ponds, waterfalls, avalanche runs, dead-fall and swamps lay in our path. We fished a little in the highest lake where Deo effortlessly retrieved my catches for me from the lake’s fringed waters. Time was running very short so I quickly put my fly-rod away and started to head down valley from the lake, however, Deo remained at the spot where the last fish was caught. Knowing he would eventually give up his protests for staying, I continued walking periodically glancing back to see if he was coming. Finally I heard the jingling of Deo’s collar signaling his near presence as well as his protest abdication, and as I glanced back I viewed the last trickle of sunlight falling behind a Sawtooth wall. The lake reflected this last ray also as Deo came tearing by me with the warp-drive in high gear causing me to pause for several minutes to really take in the overwhelming beauty of these surroundings. Glancing back down valley I again saw Deo running full speed through a wildflower filled meadow that was intermittently interspersed with last winter’s snow fields.
He was as happy as ever and I remember yelling at him saying “Deo, this is your place.” I struggled but plodded on trying to remotely match the enthusiasm of Deo who never showed any signs of fatigue. Eventually as night descended, we finally made it back to the car and home. While I had literally hundreds of experiences such as this with Deo over the years, this one occurrence, for reasons unknown, seemed to make an enduring impression on my mind.
More than a decade later on a cool late July morning in 2008, Sophie (My New Dog) and I hopped into my car and headed to the Sawtooth Wilderness. This was a special day because it was on this day I was going to return Deo to the place that seemed to make him so happy. “Deo’s Place.” As I parked the car at the trail-head and started the journey, memories of Deo and his special mountain valley became strikingly clear and detailed. Although many years had passes since I struggled through this most remote, trail-less and traitorous Sawtooth Valley, I seemed to remember nearly every obstacle that might foil my passage. I smoothly made my way to Deo’s lake where I placed his ashes at the very spot along the lake shore he reluctantly refused to move from nearly 11 years prior. As I departed, sadly I knew this time Deo would not follow.
Life is about the memories we have acquired with our loved ones through our journeys. Life is what we make of it and it is our responsibility to make as many memories as possible happy ones. Deo’s happy moments were countless. Never did he have a bad day and never did he not enjoy every miniscule instant life had to offer. Deo loved living, and he placed a particular fondness on life’s most simple delights. Deo taught me to relish life’s simple moments as well, and as I travel through this most difficult journey called life, I am blessed to have learned, lived and most importantly loved with Deo.
MAPS TO DEO’S PLACE, START AT THE IRON CREEK CAMPGROUND TRIAL-HEAD. FOR ADVANCED ALPINISTS ONLY.
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