Columbus Was Here

Part 1: At the start of Columbus Day weekend I was fishing a couple of Cedar Mountain trout streams. At one point I was suiting up at a mountain crossroad when Columbus OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAcame roaring towards me on a motorcycle. He glared at me as he approached and brought his bike to an idling pause. He looked like a city cop in his helmet and black leather uniform. He took out his GPS unit and began tapping at keys…

“How do you spell Cedar?” he asked. “C-e-a-d…No,” he mumbled, talking directly at his unit.

“Cedar,” I said, “C-e-d-a-r. Look there; it’s right on the sign. Cedar Run. That way.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“It’s telling me I should go… up this way. Where’s that lead to?” asked Columbus.

“Leetonia. You can go that way, and you can also take this road,” I said, pointing to the road signs once again. “Toward Marshlands. Then take a left on Cedar Mountain Road. It’s a nice day to get lost, isn’t it?”

“A beautiful day,” replied Columbus, with the early morning sky brightening over his head, and with the forest leaves blazing quietly into multi-colored glory. “Okay, I’ll try this road.” He blasted away on his bike.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABefore I had my wading shoes laced up tightly, Columbus came roaring back down the narrow mountain road and passed me at the intersection, shouting, “Why the hell doesn’t this work?” He zoomed back the way he’d come from, on the road to Colton Point.

Before I had my cane rod put together, I could hear him on his grand return, then watched in amazement as he tried to follow his directions, motoring off on the one road yet untaken, the road toward Marshlands, with a left to Cedar Run.DSCN7187

I fished the deep woods on a beautiful October day, alone on the headwaters of a brookie stream, catching and releasing wild trout, as if Columbus had never existed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPart 2: Brent and Catherine were here on Columbus Day weekend and they joined Alyssa and Leighanne and me on a short trip to Allegany State Park in western New York. The air remained comfortable and the sky was absolutely clear. Before an evening hike that covered three forested miles with a gorgeous overlook on the Allegheny River Valley, we visited a place called Thunder Rocks and marvelled at the house-sized structures left here by the powers of uplift and erosion.

Several of the rocks had suffered at the hands of man. Graffiti had been carved into their beautiful sandstone faces… “Columbus was here. October 2015.”DSCN7140

Driving home, we stopped for dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Allegany. Daughter Alyssa would be leaving in a couple of days for a new life on an island called St. Croix. We wished her well, of course, and hoped that the Caribbean was Columbus-free.DSCN7183

Part 3: The Genesee River in Pennsylvania and New York is my “home river,” but other than the Genny’s uppermost miles, I don’t know it very well. The river empties out at Lake Ontario in Rochester. Before we took Alyssa to the Rochester airport for her flight to St. Croix, I grabbed an opportunity to introduce myself to the Genny’s lowest stretch.DSCN7167

Big trout and great Pacific salmon enter the lower Genesee in autumn, swimming up to the Lower Falls in Rochester, and if you hit the river at the right time, you can have some fabulous fishing there. I’ve heard a lot about it, so I thought I’d check it out.

If I was ever gonna feel like Columbus might have felt, blown off course to a point where the eyes grow wide, it was gonna happen here. The Genesee Gorge was beautiful with October’s brightest colors, but the river itself was wide and muddy and filled with impossible rocks. The bank fishermen were numerous. In the places where I typically fly fish, almost all the people I encounter are white. Unfortunately, minorities (including women) are seldom seen. But fishing in the city, below the Lower Falls of the Genesee, changes all that.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI looked out of place but I felt fine. Blacks, Latinos, and women of all races could be found here on a late October afternoon. Most of these people looked poor; the Orvis crowd seemed miles away. A couple of old guys, casting live bait or corn or Cleos with a spinning rod, asked if they could have my fish, in case I didn’t want them.DSCN7186

I had little chance of catching a fish here with a fly, although I saw some huge ones breaching the water far beyond my casting range. I don’t know what Columbus would have done if he was here, but I was thinking that if I caught a fish, I’d give it away for someone’s use.DSCN7156

Part 4: I daydreamed that Columbus read about my readings at the local libraries and decided to attend one. He even bought a copy of Beautiful Like a Mayfly and asked if I would sign it for him. I said, sure, I’ll sign it for you. Here is what I wrote:

“To Columbus… Thanks for rediscovering America…October 2015…”

Yours Truly.DSCN7165



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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17 Responses to Columbus Was Here

  1. Brent says:

    I like that: Thanks, Columbus, for allowing us to rediscover some of the wonders we already knew, and to (newly) discover some others. The pictures are, as always, gorgeous.

  2. Brent says:

    I’ll amend: (newly) discover some others (for ourselves).

  3. plaidcamper says:

    Funny what you find when you’re lost, or convinced you’re right. Would Columbus use a GPS these days? Would he be drilling for black gold, the fracker? Not sure…
    The photographs here are amazing, real gold! There are treasures on this continent, and you’ve unearthed a few here!

  4. Good questions there, Mr. PlaidCamper, not necessarily answerable. Thanks for that. Columbus, himself, was a man of questionable character responsible for the killing or enslaving of Native Americans, a guy working for the “Company,” so to speak, so it’s time to stop honoring his legend as we currently know it. That said, the exploratory spirit should be honored, the one willing to work with all of life’s diversity.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Excellent blog Walt. I wonder if Columbus ever met Brautigan. hahaha. I loved it.

  6. loydtruss says:

    Don’t you wish you could go back in time when the first settlers encountered the northeast and see with their eyes what they saw? The wife and I have never been to the northeast, but are planning a trip there next year. If we were younger that would be the place we would live, such beauty there. Thanks for sharing

  7. Bill,
    I’d love to go back to pre-Columbian times in this region, given that I had the means to… return to the present. That’s the beauty of our truly wild regions– you can go back imaginatively and get a glimpse and a true feeling for what it must have been like. The wild Northeast, in part, allows us to imagine. Thanks for your comment, and if you travel to this region, I believe you’ll enjoy it, too.

  8. Mary Frederick Ahearn says:

    I enjoyed this so much! And your photos are beautiful. The mushroom one, well, the first mushroom one brought this Basho haiku to mind –
    sticking on the mushroon
    the leaf
    of some unknown tree
    and those first two photos – wow! All of them are so good. The second fungi pic looks like a mini frozen waterfall. Just lovely stuff.

    I have your new book on my wish list – it’s just a matter of time!
    Best wishes,

    • Mary,
      Thanks so much for your support and kind words. I’m glad this stuff resonated with you. I love the Basho haiku that you shared. I’ve always enjoyed this poet’s work but haven’t read this one before. It’s a keeper. And that second fungi pic is pretty cool, isn’t it. Coral tooth fungi. Like a frozen waterfall, yes, or stalactites in a cave. Thank you, again!

  9. Mark W says:

    It’s sad that people have forgotten how to enjoy getting lost!

  10. Alan says:

    Bravo Mr. Franklin……
    Beautiful brook trout.

  11. What can I say that hasn’t been said? I love your outlook and attitude and I suspect we are somewhat alike in our tastes. Do people look at you strangely while you’re fishing? Thanks Walt!

  12. Howard, I’d say our tastes are probably out of the “main stream,” so to speak, so yeah, speaking for myself here, people look at me strangely when I’m fishing, which is fine. It means, wow, why can’t I be fishing at a time like this instead of working or wasting time. It means, why’s that guy casting in a stream so small that I could jump across it, etc. It means that we’re living our lives more fully and honestly than the average Joe or Josephine, so we’re doing something right. Thanks again, Howard, always enjoy hearing from you.

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