It was a vision Garry Morfit had been obsessing over for some time. The Vietnam vet had served his country with honor, but he wanted to keep giving. After learning of Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing in 2006, he knew it was the gateway organization he would use for his vision. He started planning how he could give the disabled vets that make up PHWFF a trip of a lifetime in his summertime backyard- Alaska. He wanted to take them out on his boat the Hot Ruddered Bum (HRB) for a week of catching salmon, dolly varden, cutthroats, rainbows, halibut, and more. But this was just the spear head. Garry wanted a retreat for his brothers and sisters in arms. A home they could call theirs during their stay. The result was a beautiful home he dubbed Healing Towers. I met Garry a couple years ago at the 2-Fly. The conversation went something like this…
Garry: “Hi. Garry Morfit. I’ve heard a lot about you. Would you like to go fishing in Alaska?”
Garry: “Is that a yes?”
Me: “Is that a rhetorical question?”
We planned on the trip happening in the summer of 2014. The summer that I would later choose to take 4 classes to ensure I could finish my bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering in the fall. Although Garry had been operating for some time, PHWFF founder Ed Nicholson, like myself, had never before been. Ed decided to bring along a great friend of his, Cleve Van Haasteren. Cleve and Ed met in the Navy while serving together on the USS CONNOLE (FF-1056) 1982-1984. Ed was the commanding officer and Cleve was his Lieutenant (jg) Supply Officer. Ed and Cleve did some hunting, shooting and fishing back then, and stayed in contact over the years. Ed retired as a Captain and Cleve as a Commander. Cleve has been volunteering for PHWFF from its first year. I knew I definitely wanted to go the week that they were going. The problem with that was that they were going the week before finals. I would have an obscene amount of school work to do before and after this trip, but it was too good to pass up!
Once we all got to Ketchikan, we loaded up the boat with our gear and went grocery shopping for the week. Garry insisted I get my Diet Dr. Pepper and Heinz Ketchup- I knew right then he was a good man. After all that, Garry took us to the best place to get a burger- Arctic Bar.
Needless to say, they make a fair amount of change from shirts and hats. The people that worked there were really down to Earth and yes, the burgers were pretty much awesome. We walked over to the HRB and started out on the journey. Ol’ Putter was anxiously awaiting Garry’s return.
The view was as expected; it’s Alaska.
Here are some local fishermen prepping their nets.
It didn’t take long for Ed and Cleve to get into relaxed mode.
We talked and everybody got to know each other more, learned some key information on the boat, and went over Garry’s game plan for the week. The very, very late sunset was picture perfect.
This is the last thing I saw before heading to bed. I mean seriously, this place was amazing! I had a feeling day two was gonna rock.