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Y-Stories: Adventure in a Belly Boat

Belly Boat Lead

Have you ever done something so completely out of your comfort zone you questioned your sanity?

The thought pulsed with my racing heart as I dragged my feet down the hill to Sweet Memorial, I’m insane. Signing up for the daylong Backcountry Belly Boat fishing trip seemed like such a good idea at the time. I leaned forward without breaking pace and hoisted my already heavy backpack up to relieve my already achy shoulders. If I had known I was about to add an additional 20 pound belly boat and flippers to my load, I might have cried just a little.

I suppose I should mention I’m not really a “backcountry belly boat” type of girl. I’ll pledge my allegiance to fly-fishing and could spend hours ambling the river’s edge trout seeking. I’m guilty of forgetting all notion of time as I blissfully stand waist high in lake water casting “just one more time.” But belly boating? No, I’m a carpooling, city girl posing as mountain mama for a brief stint every summer.

I suppose I should further mention that prior to arriving at the Y this summer I had never heard of a belly boat. Tony, my husband and resident angler, thought I would enjoy fly-fishing in an inflatable boat. I think he also had high hopes it would dramatically improve my cast. I took him up on his offer to hold down the fort with all four children while I spent the day alone in a boat, in a remote lake in the mountains, fly-fishing. In my mind it was the Rocky Mountain version of a day at the spa. What I didn’t fully take into consideration was the “backcountry” part of the trip. It dawned on me that early morning as I schlepped naively down the hill with my husband’s pack ill-fitted on my back I was in over my head.

I met up with our small group and guides from Sasquatch at the fishing shed. The trip was mapped out—carpool into Rocky Mountain National Park, hike to The Loch, fly fish in our boats for several hours, and return by supper. None of these activities individually set my nerves afire. Collectively, however, hiking, belly boating, and fly-fishing in the “backcountry” officially freaked me out. Plus, I was the only girl on our adventure. Go figure.

From my vantage point, the morning got off to a bit of a rocky start. The guides wisely sent me back to the cabin for fleece pants. I failed to consider I’d be partially submerged for several hours in a lake filled with melted ice. While I managed not to topple from the sheer weight of the gear in my backpack, I was winded just carrying the load from the parking lot to the trailhead. I vowed not to cry or play the girl card on the trip, but when one of the men offered me his walking stick, I may have done a little of both.

From our young and agile guide’s perspective, we were “owning” the morning. We were ahead of schedule and the most prepared group he’d had all summer. I couldn’t hear clearly, my heart pulsed loudly where my brain formerly resided, but I believe our guide hollered, “We are going to race up this mountain and get to some serious fishing. Booyah!”

Clichés played like a bad soundtrack as we raced up the mountain:

The only way out is through.

Keep your eye on the prize.

That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

I think I can. I think I can. I think. . .

I think I better pray:

Please Lord don’t let me die on this mountain.

Or worse, cry.

Or triple worse, die crying in the woods while the men wait for me to take a potty break.

I’m happy to report, I made it to The Loch in one piece that day. I didn’t die, fall into the icy cold water, or lose my flippers. While the men seriously out fished me, and my pink fly rod, I caught my share of glorious greenback cutthroat trout.

Belly Boat Collage

I conquered more than a creel full of fish. I belly boated the backcountry y’all! I stepped out of my comfort zone, tried something new, and owned it. Thanks to Tony and the incredible guides at Sasquatch Fly Fishing, the backcountry belly boat trip ended up being the best birthday present I could have hoped for. My forty-fifth in case you are wondering. Which is old enough to appreciate the challenge and young enough to live to tell about it.

Have you conquered a fear or stepped way out of your comfort zone during an adventure at the Y?  I’d love to hear your Y-story.


We are blessed to co-donate Serendipity cabin with David and Ruth Ann Mindel, from Granbury, Texas. Stay tuned for the next Y-Story when I’ll share more glimpses of life at the YMCA of the Rockies.

Kristin Schell is writer in Austin, Texas where she lives with her husband, Tony, and their four children. You can find her at www.kristinschell.com where she shares her passion for family cooking, faith in Jesus Christ, and fly-fishing.

About The Author

Kristin Schell is writer in Austin, Texas where she lives with her husband, Tony, and their four children. You can find her at www.kristinschell.com where she shares her passion for family cooking, faith in Jesus Christ, and fly-fishing.

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