Rollin’ and Tumblin’ (Cedar Run)

1. Driving along Cedar Run Road to my parking destination, I listened to the Velvet OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUnderground’s “Sister Ray,” 17 minutes of chaotic and perverse wonder, stirring up the vestiges of civilized existence. It was good to shake things up a bit before I washed away the soul debris with a mile long hike through a gorge I needed to traverse.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI once majored in psychology, and at rare moments like this, I think those studies might have had a bit of value after all. I would watch myself like a behaviorist on a laboratory rat. I would grab at the chance for wildness, drop down into the gorge as if it were the earth from which all humans came.

At the risk of taking myself too seriously, I imagined myself as a dog. The animal scrambled down through the trees, became a wolf again for an hour or a day, but actually was little more than a mutt gone sniffing through autumn leaves.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

2. Inside the gorge I’m reminded that this undertaking is my “Cedar Run Experience, Part 12″ and little more. Gone fishing, listening to the music of the gentle stream, to the drumming of a grouse, the squawk of a startled kingfisher.

The mile of stream beneath the wooded cliffs, beneath the dripping ledges and brightening sky above, was low and very clear. The trout were abundant but extremely skittish. Fly-fishing was a challenge and required stealth, a slow step-by-step where the water narrows into holding structure– a deepened riffle or a mini-pool among the multitude of rocks and boulders.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The 4-weight line carried a long tapered leader, a 6X tippet with a small Black Ant and, later, a Rio Grande King, a pattern quite attractive to the wild browns and native brookies. After several hours of relaxed casting in the gorge, I came out at a point where the car was parked.

Eight trout came to hand and went back into the run. The fishing had been slow, but then, so was I.

3.  I ate my lunch and drove upstream a short distance and parked near a little bridge where I had left the run a week ago. I felt like I was getting somewhere now on my long-term quest to hike and fish to the source of this Pine Creek tributary.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The bright day heated. I had long abandoned the sweatshirt worn in early morning. Clouds of gnats and occasional mosquitoes prompted my return to casting. I passed the cliff at Red Rock Run, its flow but a trickle of cool water entering the larger stream. I was in a groove of step and stumble, cast and stumble, cast again.

In my head I sang to the boogie beat of R. L. Burnside’s “Rollin’ and Tumblin” –morphing into Captain Beefheart’s “Sure ‘Nuff ‘N Yes I Do” –and then becoming Burnside once again–and the trout began to rise. The stream was opening; the forest canopy had stepped away, allowing a different view. The small willow trees and alders– with the water narrower and deeper, the gradient heightened– brought the natives rising here, and the brown trout rising there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA4. As much as I value individualism, I’m like everyone else who figures that the journey of a life is, in part, the quest for beauty. I’m a die-hard Romantic but I’m not about to capitalize the word “beauty” nor am I about to quote John Keats (or the Velvet Underground, for that matter). If you’re lucky enough to have a passion in life, you’ll know what I mean. You might pursue that passion even when you know its peak is nearly unattainable.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATake wildness, for example. Beauty. It’s found inside these mountains, well inside the sense of “scenery” experienced from a passing car or truck. I find it, grab it, and know– it’s like taking part in the creation of an art form. To find it is like letting go and getting swept up in a dream. And once inside that place, you want it to last forever.

I came close to a 20-fish day on Cedar Run, and for that I can be thankful. Rollin’ and tumblin’ on a mountain stream was fun. May we all get the chance to roll with it, with wildness or with beauty, in this lifetime, and along whatever stream will carry us.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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10 Responses to Rollin’ and Tumblin’ (Cedar Run)

  1. Mike says:

    You’re right about that peak being unattainable but your words always bring us close. Thanks, Walt. Also, if you get a chance, check out Blitzen Trapper’s tune called “Furr”. That bit about being a dog had me think of it and I believe you will dig it.

  2. Thanks Mike! Being an old-timer, I had never heard that piece before, but any song about flesh that turns to fur is fine with me, and will have to give it another listen. Cool connection there.

  3. Brent says:

    Look at that tree against the sky–almost like the sun! I’ve really been yearning for a wild experience recently, more so than usual. I’m going to have to make sure I walk along the stream and up the hill on my next visit.

  4. Brent, every now and then I see a tree or a woodland cluster that is beautiful orange or red or yellow like that, but this seems to be an odd year for the turning of the foliage. Around here, it’s been so dry that the leaves have been falling prematurely (our front yard maples are nearly two-thirds barren already) so I don’t think we’ll have the riot of color as we did last fall. We’re finally getting some rain tonight, but it may be too late to make a positive difference. Still, you should look for an opportunity to hit the trail down there in the next week or so, and catch the beauty of the change.

    • Dale Houseknecht says:

      hey buddy who is sister ray never heard of them. Are you gonna make it to SRS board meeting? My brother and I will be at the cabin oct 24th 25th. If your up stop over.

      • Dale, I don’t think you want to know Sister Ray. She/he is probably not your type! I’m planning on going to the board meet, but it’s not until November, right? As for the 24th/25th, if I’m anywhere near, I’ll hike in and say Hello.

  5. Great pictures! Looks like Fall is coming quickly up there.

  6. Bob Stanton says:

    Hey, I was just listening to the Velvet Underground (and VU devotees Yo LA Tengo, too) just today! “Sister Ray” is certainly a piece to introduce some commotion to your day and dispense with any concrete expectations. A twenty fish day, give or take, is a damn fine day indeed, and that much more so with those colored hills peering over your shoulder. How close to the Cedar Run headwaters are you, as of this installment?

    • Bob, I’ve got to check the big topo map again to be sure, but I’ve still got a few more miles to go, at least. I’m up to about Fahnestock Run, probably getting close to Leetonia but there’s a few tough sections yet to go. And then there’s the headwaters above Buck Run. I don’t know, but I’d say my finish line is still somewhere late next spring (?). I hope the series doesn’t get boring for the reader, but I’ll tell ya, and you know this, a mile of roadway is no comparison to a mile of fishing on a rugged stream. But yeah, I’ll let you know when I see the light, and maybe you can come over to share it, too.

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