With Roots in the Sky (Finale)

1. Just over two years ago I began a series of blog posts that I’ve called “The Cedar Run Experience.” The series has reflected my intent to fly-fish and explore the whole length of a beautiful trout stream, Cedar Run, in north-central Pennsylvania. With

near mid-section Cedar

near mid-section Cedar

this post, The Cedar Run Experience, Part 20, my explorations of the run are finished (though, of course, the fishing never ends as long as I’m able).

I began the fishing walk at the mouth of Cedar Run, at Pine Creek, on Memorial Day 2013 and then, as time allowed, worked my way upstream by casting over the pools and riffles as I found them. On each occasion throughout the walk, I tried to start the day’s fishing at a point where I had left off previously. (“The Cedar Run Experience,” posts #1 through #19, can be located on RR via Search.)

Although the project was completed at a leisurely pace and, overall, was easier than “The Slate Run Odyssey” (also available), there were challenges throughout.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACedar Run flows through a vast state forest and, as long as it is, has more accessibility than Slate. That said, you don’t want to travel its ribbon-like roadway in a season of inclement weather. It’s a snowmobile trail throughout the winter months.

The run is nestled in a winding gorge without cell phone coverage or civilized conveniences. This is some of the wildest country in the Keystone State, a wonderful place to hike or hunt or fish with restrictive tackle (see state regs for Cedar Run). It’s a place where you can better understand your own mortality and, as such, you tread with care.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd so I’ve finished my 11-mile immersion in the wild. I’ve walked into the heights of Cedar Mountain with a six-foot fly rod and fished the little stream as far as I cared to go in leafy June.

2. The headwaters have “roots,” or freshets of water nourished by a mostly healthy forest. On the day before the Solstice, I entered such a place, my anger at the world dissipating slowly with each step.

There’s no room here for the tragic outbursts of American racism. There’s no room here for the anti-intellectualism in the world, for the lack of critical thinking or the fear of OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAlife’s diversity.

I entered a quiet realm where I could try to think rationally and be taken aside by what is beautiful. Yes, it’s possible! And happening in some place near and dear to where each of us is living.

It was time for the Solstice and the wonders of a white pine-hemlock forest on upper Cedar Run. There was room for casting underneath the spacious boughs, room enough for me and my memories of the fishing hike that’s taken two years to complete. There was room enough for me and the numerous small trout living in these nooks and crannies.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was good to come here while the rains still provided a decent flow. It was good to find clear water while the streams downvalley flowed high and muddy. It was good to see that freedom can be born in a simple place like this, that the hyper-patriotism of the world (where people are blind to the quality of life beyond their own political boundaries), is viewed for what it is.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASmall brookies slammed the Stimulator dry fly and returned, a little dazed, to the riffles and log homes of their stream. The biggest fish, a nine-inch, darkly-colored native, spun out from a tiny plunge-pool– the highest point on 11-mile Cedar that would offer me a temporary gift.

Black-and-white warblers sang their shrill and modulated notes, and hunted for bugs in a head-long manner down the trunks of larger trees. When the faint tracks of a forest road disappeared in a jumbled glade, I knew I had arrived.

Turning to face the downstream brook, I heard the soft red veer notes of the thrush known as the veery. From the other side of me came the teach Teach TEACH cry of the ovenbird, the notes everywhere harmonizing with a song of falling water.

near the top

near the top

In a place like this, I’m reminded that the violence of nature has nothing to do with the violence promoted by stupidity and the lack of critical thinking. Corporate institutions may condition people into a robotic and consumeristic lifestyle, but a place like this can give a person wings.

Last autumn, following a blog post where I speculated on where my walk of Cedar Run might lead to, I received a comment from Brent Franklin (of Bridging the Gap renown) who said, in part: “…The roots of a river are as high as one can climb.”

at mid-section Cedar

at mid-section Cedar

And that’s the gist of what I’m saying. A headwater region has roots. Like the crown of a tree, or an unearthed flower turned upside down, the uppermost “twigs and branches” take nourishment from the atmosphere and sky.

I could fish into that crown, perhaps. I could hold out for as long as I could climb.

And now the climb had reached its end.

It was like walking on air.

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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22 Responses to With Roots in the Sky (Finale)

  1. Alan says:

    Walt, interesting fly in that first brookie. Have a name?

  2. Bob Stanton says:

    Bravo, Walter, bravo!

    • Oh, thanks my friend! Hey, I’d take a little bow here if I could, but really it’s no big deal. Just something that was fun for me, and hopefully something that had a little meaning for those, like yourself, who’ve come along for the walk.

  3. plaidcamper says:

    You’ve written eloquently here about the need to retreat from the astonishing indifference, intolerance, and hatred some people have towards their fellows. I know it’s naive, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to find freedom in the wild to indulge our outdoor pursuits without that sinking feeling of having to return to a wider world of callous indifference?
    Anyway, on a more positive note, lovely photos of a very attractive run!

    • Thanks so much, Mr. Plaidcamper. You’re right, there’s all too much of it– indifference, intolerance, hatred… The relief that comes from enjoyment in the wild is brief, unfortunately, but it is real and it helps to give us balance in our lives. I agree, it would be great to be out there and not have that sinking feeling that you speak of. An immersion in the wild is not an escapist act. I think it’s more like stepping into what is truly real. Thanks for reading, and for the thoughtful response!

  4. Jason Miller says:

    Hey Walt….I’ve greatly enjoyed your Slate and Cedar write ups. I am also quite fond of those streams and am headed there in a couple days to get lost so to say…..and hopefully catch some of nature’s best looking specimens…..Thank you for helping me feel connected between trips….Jason Miller

    • You’re welcome, Jason. Glad that you were able to appreciate these write ups. I know we like to keep quiet about these experiences but I have an inherent trust in my readers to do the right thing, and these streams need to remain loved and protected. I hope you have a wonderful time fishing. Let me know how it goes. Hell, maybe I’ll “get lost” too and meet you on the stream!

  5. Mark W says:

    Walt – have enjoyed your “notes” from the whole cedar run experience very much. Thank you for bringing back memories of backpacking through the area in my youth.

    • It’s been my pleasure, Mark; thanks for coming along on these outings. I’m especially pleased that the “notes” helped bring back interesting memories of your backpacking adventures in the area. The Black Forest Trail is a great 40-mile path through the runs and is well-worth the time and effort.

  6. loydtruss says:

    Awesome place, that has one thinking he is right there experiencing every step with you. Were all the brook trout taken on dries? Enjoyed the post!

    • Hi Bill,
      I’m pleased that you enjoyed the Cedar Run posts and felt as though you have a better understanding of the place. On this last outing, the brooks were caught on dry flies. On previous stretches I was also successful with weighted nymphs and wet flies.

  7. Walt, you make me want to move and that’s saying a lot from this Colorado guy. Thanks for expressing what I often feel like.

    • Glad to be hitting the right notes here for you, Howard; you’re readership means a lot. The area is a special one for trout fishing, but I also look forward to the day when I can fly-fish Colorado once again (and the streams are flowing wonderfully!).

  8. Anonymous says:

    Walt- a wonderful post, of thought and pictures. I have backpacked the BFT and it is a beautiful piece of country. Thank you for memory. Ross

    • Hi Ross,
      Thanks for reading and reflecting on the piece. Glad I helped to bring back some trail memories. I’ll bet they’re fresher than my own memories of doing the loop, which was probably about 25 years ago. A great hiking trail!

  9. Brent says:

    Just catching your post–I’m glad the roots in the sky analogy helped wrap this up nicely. In a sense, the whole voyage helps you return to your personal/natural roots, not to mention our more wild roots as humans. Dog Canyon is another such voyage, as you know!

    • Yes it’s back to the roots, at ground level, sort of. I’ll want to hear about the Dog Canyon trip, of course. If we’re ever there in a cooler season, it would be good to hike it down from the forest in the sky!

  10. Les Kish says:

    King Crimson, great stuff, Greg Lake pre-ELP. Cool shot of the moss covered slab at mid section Cedar. I sometimes miss those hemlocks. Is the flower mountain laurel?

    • Mountain laurel it is, Les. Lots of it out right now. KC is truly great stuff, especially fond (still) of the first half dozen albums. Thank you! From the hemlock-headed one.

  11. Thank you Walt. I’ve been partly recovering, and partly hiding these days, for multiple reasons, some physical, some not. But in writing about these Pennsylvania woods that I love so much, you remind me why I need to return to them more often, and you so simply and eloquently describe part of what happens in my own heart upon the ridge top watching Broad-wing Hawk after Broad-wing Hawk descend from their thermal, and glide magically overhead while the look for their evening roost at the end of a September migration day. These are moments I need to write more about. Thank you.

    • Great hearing from you, David, and thanks for commenting here. As you know, experiencing the Pennsy woods is therapeutic and uplifting, like those migratory broadwings in spring and fall. I’m hoping things are going well with you, although In haven’t seen as much or your posting of late. Take care, and enjoy those streams and woodlands when you can.

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