“He’s a drunk,” Mark said to me. “Look at him,” he motioned with his drink. “No, this dude knows something… listen.” I took another sip of my beer, then cleared my throat. He looked to be in his late 40s or early 50s. His grey hair was pulled back in a pony tail and partially hidden under the bill of a worn out Moose Drool cap that he had turned around backwards. His tan right hand scratched at his beard.
“Hey… ah Billy,” I said. He turned and looked at me. His eyes were the color of a grayling’s flank. “What’d you say the name of that crick was?” Billy stared for a few seconds, then let out a belch. The woman sitting two stools down turned and gave him a dirty look. “‘Lill E,” he said, then turned back to nurse his beer. “Crimson Butte trail… at the top there’s a lava field with a cave… only way to get in.” He raised his hand and the bartender filled his glass.
I turned to Mark. “See? Are you getting this?”
Billy continued: “It’s Desolation Canyon, but the crick is called the ‘Lill E, named after the son of the first settler who found it back in the 1800s. Natives say the whole area is Holy Ground, ‘n they’d be right. Beautiful fish. Some like they been brushed with copper and gold by the Almighty himself; others pearl white, silver, and Ebony spots. Water so clear, you can barely see it.” He stoped, sipped his beer, then turned to face us. “You two thinkin’ ’bout goin?” We both nodded our heads. Billy turned back and chuckled to himself. “Mind the snakes,” he added.
Three days later, we stepped out of the cave, and I still can’t believe it.