Chopaka Lake/The Brother-In-Law Rod
Everyone has a special river or lake, the mention of which brings glassy eyes and a wandering mind replaying old tapes, and fish, for hours afterwards. For me, that water is Chopaka Lake, altitude 4000 ft, within a stones throw of the Canadian border in north central Washington. For most of my early childhood years, the name "Chopaka" referred not to the lake, but to the mountain of the same name on whose flank the lake was incidentally nestled, and conjured only a family legend I had not yet seen.
Chopaka was our family's near private deer hunting preserve, to which, during the entire hunting season, the the whole extended family work force would retire to camp and hunt, closing the family businesses for up to six straight weeks while the menfolk carefully avoided shooting any game bigger than a grouse until the last few days.
Chopaka was private, or near private, land to us for one reason only. It was guarded by an incredible and frankly dangerous four-wheel-drive-only trail. These days it would be closed as a public hazard for fear of lawsuits to the state, or feds, or God, or whomever is responsible for luring idiots to take chances. But in the years immediately after the war (the second one) these were no such considerations and the country was treated to the public availability of the Willys Jeep.
Since most of my family was involved the heavy construction and earth moving business, which can get very muddy and treacherous in Seattle for seven months of the year, every one of our families had at least one "rig". That was the excuse anyway The real reason was for the yearly assault on Chopaka, and it's deer.
In our family, having a stock Willys was the equivalent of driving a Nash Rambler. Everyone yanked out the weak and unreliable straight six engine and crammed in a bigger (and then new) V6 or even V8 than the last family conversion.
A trip to Chopaka, as I first experienced it at age 13 after years of legend listening, was an adventure by no means limited to the climb "up the hill". One left Seattle in the evening after work and, after negotiating Stevens Pass, relatively mild even in those days, one turned north and threaded slowly up
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