A Letter from Maurice


To Elizabeth and Brian

Aug. 27,1994

And a good afternoon to you my friends

About one out of every two weekends when the nighttime temperature does not drop below freezing you will find me with my jeep and canoe (1) somewhere in the desert or mountains…usually in Utah but any place that I can get from on Friday nite and back to by Monday morning. 

And three times a year I get an extra day thrown in. The picture of my jeep was taken on Ebbitts Pass in California just south of Lake Tahoe over the Memorial Day weekend.

But what prompted this note was a sign that I came upon while taking a stroll along a path in the High Uintas area of Utah, just south of the Wyoming border. I had planned to camp and fish at Meeks Cabin Reservoir right on the border of Ut. and Wy. but when I arrived there early Saturday morning I found the water level to be too low. It has been a very hot and dry summer here and many of our lakes and reservoirs are dry. 

I went south then for about ten miles to Fish Lake and found that lake dry also. That made it two lakes that were too low to fish. I had just refinished my canoe anyway and I really didn't want to mess it up again. 

A wooden canoe is like the fingernail on a French whore. The nail itself is practically indestructible but the polish will scratch and blur at the slightest provocation and will remain so until it's owner can't stand it any longer and spends the time to remove the old polish and apply a new coat. With a canoe you sand out the scratches and apply a fresh coat of varnish.

Somehow I have gotten away from the "sign." (2)

Being in the High Uintas is no different than being in the Adirondack Mountains or the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Just get up high where the air is clear and the nights are cold and for two or three days you don't hear a word from another, human being except a "thank you' from the gas station attendant, and you are off again to the dirt roads.

I think that I may send this note to you in chapters, for as I type each line I tend to re-live it. When the day is warm, the sky is bright and a soft wind blows, I'll find a spot and take a nap. Not long, maybe forty-five minutes or so and then I'll get on down the road.

It was just such on Saturday afternoon as I lay on my mattress in the back of my jeep. A storm came in, and as I closed my eyes the sound of raindrop on my tin roof lulled me to sleep.

After my nap I took a stroll down the dirt road that I had been driving on and came to the sign. As it was getting near sundown and the clouds formations looked as to make an exceptional sunset I returned to my car and got a tripod. Returning to the sign not only was the sun setting in a fine manner but a full moon was also rising in the east. I took these three pictures (3) (4) (5) from the exact same spot all within a ten minute time period. As it was getting dark and the sky was becoming more lovely by the second and I was using only 100 ASA film I took this photo on a 15-second time exposure. I have no idea what happened but I thought it made an interesting shot.

Sunday morning a few flakes of snow were on the ground at my campsite (6) and a small branch from a pine had dropped (7) near my car. A short distance from my camp is a small waterfall with water so clear and cold and clean that I washed and drank the water and used it for my morning coffee. (8)

As there was no lake close by I decided to stay right where I was for the day and relax, read a bit and take a snooze once in a while. 

I'm big on short snoozes and can take one at almost any place, at any time. My cook clams he actually saw me take a snooze while making a turkey and avocado sandwich, but he lies.

About 8:00 I took a walk down a game trail (9) and came upon one of mother's favorites, Mountain Laurel, (10) and a couple of other spots that I thought looked interesting. (11) (12) (13)  

A meadow of to my right caught my eye (14) with mom and her little one in It. (15) A half mile down the trail I saw this piece of drainage pipe lying In the middle of nowhere. There was no water anywhere that I could see and it made me wonder WHY? As I walked up to it I saw my tiny friend (16) at the far left of the pipe just about to approach its highest point. If you use a magnifying glass you can see him clearly. (Boats are always girls and mice are always boys.) 

I'll bet that it took me an hour to get this shot. (17) As soon as I would move a muscle he was gone, only to appear a minute or two later in a different spot. And he didn't just move, he moved at the speed of light. I held the camera to my eye until it became too heavy and I'd have to lower it and as if he were watching me he would appear. As slowly as possible I raised my camera to take the shot but in the blink of an eye he was gone only to reappear two minutes later in another spot. As you can see he finally stood still for 11500 hundredth of a second.

Down the path I wandered stopping a moment to watch a honeybee (18) or two at work (19), a tree where a woodpecker had found a likely spot (20), and finally to a pretty place where I found a shady area under a small bunch of quakies and took a snooze (21).

I wish that you two guys had been with me.