By Greg Gollberg
“Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.”
Henry David Thoreau
Lorenzo Trout, or to some, Larry McLaud, was my friend. Anyone who knew Lorenzo knew that there was nothing more important to him than wild lands, or big “W” or little “w” wilderness. It was his calling to go to them, to respect them, to protect them or, more simply, to love them. LT knew the coyote nature of the word preserve. You can’t really preservewild lands because they are meant to change. Change is a big part of being wild. So, if you love the wild, then you try to keep the land safe from those who would abuse it. And that’s what Mr. Trout was all about.
His appreciation and love of the wild was informed and deepened by who he was. So, who was this gentle man / iconoclast who preferred the Spanish pronunciation of his first name attached to the surname of a fish? He was born Lawrence Olin McLaud in Elmira, New York. He told me once that he would prefer to die hiking on a trail and be eaten by a bear. He didn’t get that wish, but he went out with grace and dignity.
Lorenzo loved many things: post impressionist artists (particularly Paul Cézanne and Vincent van Gogh), fly-fishing (of course), red wine (white wine, at best, was only good for cooking!), cooking (and my, my the boy could cook!!), all cats (great and small), and TREE’s. God he loved trees!! The western larch (we think we found a record in the Wallowas), Ponderosa pine, white pine, western redcedar, bristlecone pine, subalpine fir, Douglas fir, pinyon pine, alligator juniper, and, and… Can a trout be a tree-hugger? Lorenzo was.
He loved to travel. And not just in the woods. From Italy to New Zealand, and Afghanistan to Malaysia in the Peace Corps, and more, Mr. Trout did swim! He made his way to Idaho in the 1970’s and got a MS in Agricultural Economics from the University of Idaho. He had a scary smart gift for higher mathematics. He lived in Tucson Arizona and he moved to Boise Idaho and worked at the Boise Co-op in the produce section.
I met him on his return trip to Moscow to take a job with the Idaho Conservation League. Some of my radical graduate student friends and I had come to the Moscow Chapter of ICL with our own wildlands agenda. ICL created a new full-time position to be based in Moscow and I applied for it, but Larry got it. The ICL ED asked me to help him get settled. Lorenzo never really settled into one place in Idaho. I think I helped him move 4 times in Moscow alone. We became fast friends. We both preferred solo hiking, but we decided to try a trip together. On that trip we found that we really enjoyed each other’s company. We backpacked together in Utah, Oregon, New Mexico, and Idaho.
LT loved the Clearwater. It held a special place in his heart. I had the privilege of making a number of trips with him into the Clearwater country. However, I’d like to swap in the story about our first backpacking trip to another favorite spot of his the Boulder – White Clouds in southern Idaho. I don’t remember the year. Back then getting the Boulder – White Clouds to be a designated wilderness was a dream. I remember we went about mid-spring and had plans to go up the Castle Divide. Spring had come early that year and we thought we’d have no problems getting in. We drove most of the day and got to the trail and a hot spring before dark. Now I knew that Mr. T. was a minimalist. He traveled light. But, he really loved great food and red wine. After we set up camp for the night we went to the hot spring and out of his daypack he pulled a really fine and expensive bottle of Zinfandel. He told me he had another one for when we came out.
We set off early in the morning and had a bit of a grunt crossing over a ridge and down to Germania Creek. It was mid afternoon when we got to the creek. Creek not. It was more of a
torrent. We had no rope, which was probably a good thing. It didn’t take long for us to realize that we were not going to be able to cross the creek and head up the trail towards our ultimate destination, Castle Peak. So, we improvised and decided to make a loop this side of the creek. There was no need to hurry. We’d set up our tents, pulled up a piece of dirt, sat and enjoyed the view. The view included a bunch of monster cottonwood trees and a very large cinnamon colored bear on the opposite side of the creek.
Before this trip we had shared meals at each other’s place back in Moscow. Food, good food, is the first thing we bonded over. So, being the foodies that we were we agreed to swap cooking somewhat extravagant (for backpacking) meals each day. T prepared a remarkable pasta dish by the creek. As he was putting it together and as the evening progressed I noticed that he was moving slower. And then it was obvious that he was in a lot of pain. I began to worry. The ridge we had crossed to get to the creek seemed like an impossible route back if we needed to cut the trip short. Our plan forward included crossing at least two more ridges. I couldn’t carry him. I started imagining how long it would take for me to hike out and get help. I tried to joke that he looked like Chester (aka Dennis Weaver) who famously limped in the old TV series Gunsmoke. He said, “Yeah, I have pretty bad ankles.” I thought, “WTF!” but said, “Oh.” He told me he lived off ibuprofen and he proceeded to take 4 of them.
We had set our tents kind of close to the creek. After a fabulous dinner we cleaned up the dishes and were heading off to our tents for the night when it started to rain. A drizzle at first, but that turned into a real downpour and pretty high winds. I usually sleep like a rock, but I woke up sometime late in the night and it was really coming down. I peeked out the tent and noticed that the creek seemed to be rising. Typical for me, I fell right back asleep and into dreamland. Sometime later I was startled awake by a loud crash. I thought I dreamed it and went back to sleep.
In the morning it was drizzling rain and the wind had died down. The water in the creek had come up. Between it and the wind one of the really large cottonwood trees on the other side of the creek came down across the creek on our side. It’s uppermost branches were only a few feet from my tent and Lorenzo’s. He made some wisecrack about it must have been the bear coming across the creek to check us out.
Lorenzo was not 100 percent. I noticed him grimace as he took down his tent. I asked how he was feeling. He said he was fine. And after another handful of Advil we were on our way. I was sure that he would not be able to hike very far, but he did. He actually seemed to get stronger the more we walked. He was in his element and happy to be putting one foot after another. Plodding along like that was the kind of conservationist he was too. So, we crossed one ridge and got to the top of another and saw a third that shouldn’t have been there. We found ourselves briefly in that most wonderful of situations. We weren’t sure where we were. We were lost! And it brought us both to tears with laughter! It was at that moment that I realized what a dear friend I had found.
We had many more trips / adventures together. While Lorenzo was living in Moscow, my wife Linda and I would always get together with him on Christmas Eve for a meal. I treasure those times, just the 3 of us telling tales and laughing. When he moved to La Grande, Oregon I saw him a little less. But we had our property and little cabin on the Lostine and we got together with him occasionally. Then he moved to Silver City, New Mexico and got married! My work took me to Albuquerque for meetings once a year and I’d drop in on him and then him and Carol. He was so happy. I’ve got a lot of wonderful memories to hold onto of times with Mr. Trout. The last time I saw him was in 2017. We met in Stanley, Idaho for the Great American Eclipse. More food, more wine, more hikes, more hot springs, more stories, more memories. Thank you, my friend.