When up is down
Trying to beat the heat? Get up on mesa for lower temps, summer fishing
Midsummer in Grand Junction.
Heat, heat and more heat.
Not like the popcorn-dry swelter of the Sonoran desert, where Abbey is said to be buried amidst the saguaro cactus and naked rocks, and where it’s so dry the trees are whistling at dogs, but more the kind of heat that recalls author Kristin Hannah’s novel “Summer Island,” where “The heat made people crazy. They woke from their damp bedsheets and went in search of a glass of water, surprised to find that when their vision cleared, they were holding instead the gun they kept hidden in the bookcase.”
Such a midsummer’s day, perhaps like the one about which Noel Coward was thinking when he wrote only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun, found me pondering in degrees up.
Stuck at a traffic light, I gazed longingly through the too-hot-to-touch windshield and figured the lake country on Grand Mesa was at least 30 degrees up.
Don’t expect to find this on your map, especially if you think “up” always means “north.”
In this case, up means down, at least in terms of temperature.
My resistance collapsed and I headed out and up, out of the stink of summer heat and up where dark green colors eased the eyes and a rainbow of wildflowers caressed the earth.
As I drove up and up, the thermometer went down and down, and by the time I got out beside the wave-tossed waters of Eggleston Lake, the register in my truck said 62 degrees.
A full 33 degrees cooler than Grand Junction, and a full 33 degrees up.
Had I gone the other direction on Interstate 70, Las Vegas was knocking off the roof with 109 degrees and sitting 14 degrees down.
I wasn’t alone in my avoidance theory of summer vacation.
The lakes and villages on Grand Mesa are busy, and ATVs puttered back and forth, kicking up dust in search of entertainment.
Tony Davis of Eckert had his tomato-red canoe out on Eggleston Lake, slow trolling brassy gold cowbells from a couple of lines hanging near the stern.
“Fishing’s pretty good,” he hailed a visitor on the shore. “I caught some coming up (lake) and hope to catch more on the way home.”
He was pushed along by a small trolling motor, just right for the limited expanse of Eggleston and forceful enough to make headway against the wind rippling the waters.
You rarely see big boats on Grand Mesa. The crank-‘em-up-and run crowd stays on Highline Lake or heads to Blue Mesa Reservoir or Lake Powell, where there’s ample room to stretch the legs on those big Mercs.
Instead, you’re more likely to see canoes and paddleboats, such as the one Jason and Tracie Clark were using around the wildflower-festooned margins of Eggleston.
They also had a small trolling motor for midlake propulsion, although it was Jason supplying the muscle power when they pulled into shore.
And, like Tony Davis, the Clarks had some fish to show for their efforts.
“It was pretty good fishing,” said Jason as Tracy showed off their catch of mostly rainbow trout. He laughed, his neat goatee flashing in the low sun. “Of course, the biggest fish got away.”
It was the Clarks first venture to Grand Mesa, said Tracy.
“We prefer places where it’s not so crowded,” she said, naming a small reservoir on the Uncompahgre Plateau. “We have a few dogs, and, well, there’s lots of people around here.”
Yes, lots of people on Grand Mesa but that’s to be expected when it’s a hot summer day in the valleys below.
Remember what baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.”
You have to come searching for relief yet knowing you’ll have to share with others the joys of being 33 degrees up.