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Best Wild Places

The memory of a fine deer dropped or a strong trout landed can draw us back to a special place in the wild. So, too, can the more heartbreaking memory of a buck moving out of range at the last second or a rainbow busting off in the rocks. We’re drawn back to these places to relive our victories and for second chances. At other times, it’s simply the land that calls us back. We want to walk the trails, hike the mountains, and camp in the woods. We want to be in the wild.

For the second straight year, Field & Stream partnered with Trout Unlimited on tours of America’s Best Wild Places. The six spots we explored all offer great hunting and fishing on public land. Sadly, they all face environmental threats, too. We aim to change that. [ Read Full Post ]

Photo Galleries

  • Exploring the Blue Lakes: Day Three
  • Exploring the Blue Lakes: Day Two
  • Exploring the Blue Lakes: Day One
  • Exploring Gila Country: Day Three
  • Exploring Gila Country: Day Two
  • Exploring Gila Country: Day One
  • Exploring the Alpine Triangle: Day Three
  • Exploring the Alpine Triangle: Day Two
  • Exploring the Alpine Triangle: Day One
  • Outlaw Triangle Day Three
  • Exploring the Outlaw Triangle: Day Two
  • Exploring the Outlaw Triangle: Day One
  • Exploring the Roan Plateau: Day Three
  • Exploring the Roan Plateau: Day Two
  • Exploring the Roan Plateau
  • April 16, 2012

    Part Four: Exploring the North Maine Woods

    7

    By Lawrence Pyne

    Our third and final day broke with overcast skies that threatened rain. So we loaded our gear into rucksacks, threw them into the back of Rick’s truck, and hit the road.

    Northern Maine has few paved roads, yet is laced with private logging roads. They range from gravel highways like the fabled Golden Road north of Moosehead Lake to dirt two-tracks that require a four-wheel drive with good ground clearance. The North Maine Woods alone has 3,000 miles of permanent gravel roads, and thousands more that are not maintained. It takes time and a good map to learn them, but it’s worth it. They lead to endless backwoods hunting and fishing opportunities. [ Read Full Post ]

  • April 12, 2012

    Part Three: Exploring the North Maine Woods

    1

    By Lawrence Pyne

    Our second day began like the first, with Jeff Reardon, Greg Ponte, and I boarding Matt Libby’s floatplane at the dock at Libby Camps. Except this time our destination was one of Matt’s favorite remote trout ponds, where we would fish from canoes stashed along the shore.

    Nestled in a rugged height of land between the Allagash and Aroostook watersheds, it’s officially classified by the state as a “native” brook trout pond, meaning it has never been stocked—either directly or indirectly through fish planted in connecting water. [ Read Full Post ]

  • April 11, 2012

    Part Two: Exploring the North Maine Woods

    5

    By Lawrence Pyne

    In all my travels, I have never been anywhere like the North Maine Woods. About the size of Yellowstone, Glacier and Yosemite National Parks combined, it is home to some of the wildest rivers and lakes in the East, including the 92-mile Allagash Wilderness Waterway. Yet it is neither park nor national forest.

    Instead, the North Maine Woods is almost entirely commercial timberland, which is open to the public for a reasonable daily fee. It is a forested world unto itself and hunting and fishing paradise, even if while scouting for moose, deer or a promising place to cast, you must also keep a sharp eye out for logging trucks. Because they do, in fact, own the road. [ Read Full Post ]

  • April 9, 2012

    Day One: Exploring the North Maine Woods

    By Lawrence Pyne

    Photo: Dave Sherwood/wildfilephoto.com

    The species name for brook trout—fontinalis—tells you almost all you need to know about the native trout of the East. Roughly translated, it’s Latin for “from a spring.”

    More than anything else, brook trout are a fish of clean, cold, undisturbed streams and ponds. Which is why wild, truly native brookies are such a precious commodity. They not only look like jewels, they have become almost as rare.

    Once abundant from southern Appalachia north across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, brook trout now occupy a fraction of their native range. Habitat destruction, water pollution, and competition from non-native fish have eliminated the colorful speckled trout from all but the most pristine waters. Continued human encroachment, natural gas development, and climate change threaten even these remnant populations. [ Read Full Post ]

  • February 10, 2012

    Day Three: Exploring Colorado’s Upper Dolores River

    4

    By Kirk Deeter

    Sam Perry had something special in mind for the last day, and he told us to bring our hiking shoes. We were going to hike into a remote feeder creek—Groundhog Creek—and sight fish to big browns and rainbows in water not much wider than a city sidewalk. The hike was only a couple miles long. Thing is, it was also 1,000 vertical feet down.

    Now, the going down will stress your joints more than your lungs, but with every step, one can’t help but wonder what the climb back out is going to feel like. I was taking a break to ponder that, when I caught a whiff of something strong and pungent in the air. I knew that smell from the years I had spent elk hunting in these mountains. [ Read Full Post ]

  • February 8, 2012

    Day Two: Exploring Colorado’s Upper Dolores River

    8

    By Kirk Deeter

    The Upper Dolores water is actually comprised of two forks. Its east and west branches straddle a steep granite ridge, not far west from Lizard Head peak. Each fork flows through an alpine valley, before converging several miles upstream from the town of Dolores.

    On day two, our group drove over the mountains from Rico to fish the west branch with Sam Perry. Like many, Sam is a transplant to this region. He originally hails from Georgia, but he spent many fall days on family hunting trips in the area. Eventually, the Perry’s bought some acreage in the Dolores watershed, and Sam took that a step further by moving out here to become a teacher and coach at one of the local schools. [ Read Full Post ]

  • February 6, 2012

    Day One: Exploring Colorado’s Upper Dolores River

    8

    By Kirk Deeter

    The Upper Dolores River in southwestern Colorado is one of those special places in the West where the story doesn’t revolve around memories of what the flyfishing or hunting was like “back in the day.” The “prime time” experience—when wild, lightly pressured trout attack gaudy dry flies with almost reckless abandon, and massive elk herds roam aspen-lined mountains and valleys—is happening right now.

    The Dolores is a home river of sorts for me. I have fished its upper branches and small tributaries for 25 years, and I don’t think these waters have ever fished better than they do at present. I feel the same way about the hunting. That’s partly because the region’s relative isolation from big cities like Denver, Phoenix, and Salt Lake City keep it just out of reach for most weekend warriors, and partly because those hunters and anglers who have discovered this region have worked to maintain its pristine value. [ Read Full Post ]

  • December 27, 2011

    Day Three: Exploring South Lake Tahoe

    4

    By David Stalling

    The great John Muir once wrote: “Going to the woods is going home, for I suppose we came from the woods originally.” After spending a few days in the Meiss Meadows area, and now spending some time alone roaming the Caples Creek area, I indeed—for the first time since moving to California—felt at home. Muir also wrote that “the most distinctive, and perhaps the most impressive, characteristics of American scenery is its wildness.”

    I couldn’t agree more. [ Read Full Post ]

  • December 15, 2011

    Day Two: Exploring South Lake Tahoe

    2

    By David Stalling

    I awoke a few times during the night and early in the morning from the sounds of my tent rattling from the strong winds. I was glad to have some shelter from it. Dave, on the other hand, had decided to just throw his sleeping bag out under the stars and managed to sleep well. By the time I got up he was already working his way around the lake catching fish. After a breakfast of oatmeal and coffee, we took a break atop a large, rocky outcrop with a spectacular view of the Upper Truckee watershed, looking north toward the town of South Lake Tahoe and the large, bright blue waters of Lake Tahoe itself. As far as I could see there was nothing but forests, lakes, rock and snow. [ Read Full Post ]

  • December 7, 2011

    Days 5-6: Exploring Alaska’s Tongass National Forest

    7

    By DARREN DORRIS

    I met Arne Johnson owner of Bear Creek Outfitters  at his shop early the next morning. The shop was adjacent to the Juneau airport. It seemed odd at first with the juxtaposition of a flyfishing guide shop overlooking the tarmac of an airport rather than a river, but Bear Creek Outfitters specializes in fly-out, flyfishing adventures—so, really, it makes perfect sense.

    I was lucky enough to secure a spot on their morning trip, accompanying the Blake family (Jackie, Gary, and Jordan) and Peter Voss—all of whom were cruise ship passengers out for a day of flyfishing. We stepped into our waders, then were whisked off to the float plane docks.

    The floatplane is the best option for reaching the inaccessible wilderness of the Tongass, and these docks were busier than the main airport. We all climbed into the DeHaviland Beaver and taxied for takeoff. A 20-minute plane trip, and we were so far out in the wild that our guide Matt Boline unloaded a bucket from the plane full of supplies…just in case the plane could not get back and we need to spend the night. We were that far in the wilderness. He also unloaded a 12-gauge shotgun and explained about bears and what to do if we see one and what to do if one approaches. [ Read Full Post ]

  • December 1, 2011

    Days 3-4: Exploring Alaska’s Tongass National Forest

    5

    By DARREN DORRIS

    The day after the hunt, I boarded the Fairweather, a high-speed catamaran run by the Alaska Marine Highway system (AMH) and one of the fastest in its fleet. In a scant four hours, I would travel the 150-plus miles to Juneau. Getting around the Tongass is very unique, with 656,000-plus square miles of islands and water, travelers must go either by air or boat. The AMH makes traveling this region simpler with stops in all the major ports. [ Read Full Post ]

  • November 30, 2011

    Days 1-2: Exploring Alaska’s Tongass National Forest

    9

    By DARREN DORRIS

    It’s 7:00 a.m., and I’m on the only daily commercial flight from Seattle that lands on Mitkof Island in the fishing town of Petersburg, Alaska. As we make our final approach, the clouds and rain are so thick that I can barely see the ground, almost until the plane touches the tarmac. The visibility is about what I expected. After all, I just landed in one of largest temperate rainforests in the world.

    The airport terminal consists of a garage and a 1,600-square-foot building. Being an East Coast boy, this isn’t the kind of airport I’m used to, but it seems a fitting location to start my journey into the 17-million-acre Tongass National Forest, in which Petersburg sits smack in the middle. [ Read Full Post ]

  • November 22, 2011

    Day Three: Exploring Idaho’s Clearwater Basin

    8

    By Hal Herring

    Hansen Meadows is about five miles away. We’re on a fairly level trail that skirts the toe of mountains that wall the north side of the valley. Gary Peters is leading on his mule, pointing out some of their hunting country as we travel. The creek is far away, but we can hear it sometimes through the harsh jumble of deadfall and obstacle course of thimbleberry, fireweed and young lodgepole. [ Read Full Post ]

  • November 22, 2011

    Day Two: Exploring Idaho’s Clearwater Basin

    7

    By Hal Herring

    Mornings in the Five Bears camp start about seven a.m. if you are not working there. John Ronson, the camp cook, has been working since before dawn, and you can take a cup of coffee from the kitchen tent and walk out the length of the camp--the sweet smell of the horses and mules rising with the sun--and find a cow and calf elk easing through the timber to get a lick of the salt laid down for the stock. A darker shape there is a moose, staring at you wide-eared. Kelly, the older of the two Karelian bear dogs in camp, ignores the moose and the elk. [ Read Full Post ]

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