The Western Rim

On Sunday, with weather approaching spring-like conditions, I ventured to the Pine Creek Gorge. Unfortunately the Rail Trail through the gorge was closed for repairs. In order to continue with my interest in hiking, I traveled on to Colton Point and took a walk to the West Rim Trail and the Barbour Rock Vista. From there I could look straight down a thousand feet to Pine Creek and Owassee Rapids.DSCN7564

I was on the western rim of the Pine Creek Natural Area, a National Natural Landmark, in northern Pennsylvania, a wild place I adopted as the heart of the “fly fishing realm” reflected in my book called River’s Edge.

The West Rim Trail was quiet at this warming end of January. Other than a few cars that had passed me on the icy road leading to Colton Point State Park, and a couple of hikers heading back to the parking lot as I made my way to the vista, there was little sign of any connection to a wayward planet.

DSCN7555I took a deep breath and edged out toward the rim. I wished for the sun to appear and to cast good light for the camera, but it wouldn’t come out till later– as I was driving to the western rim of this watershed for a round of brook trout fishing.

I listened to the rapids foaming through Barbour’s Bend, a place commonly known as Owassee Rapids, a rocky sluice capable of tossing the heart and soul of rafters and canoers who enter it while riding through the 20-mile gorge in spring.

I thought of Samuel Barbour who died there in the 1890s while trying to break up a log jam, and for whom these West Rim rocks were named. At Barbour’s death, the Pine Creek wilderness and its white pine forests were quickly heading toward destruction, all their groves being clear-cut and their slashings turned into flame and smoke.DSCN7551

Later, when the timber companies had nothing left to ravage, they sold their lands to the state of Pennsylvania which, in its early wisdom, gave this beautiful region an opportunity to re-wild.

Getting to the heart of the matter, I went fly fishing for an hour or two. I should’ve known that the seasonal roadway to the stream that I selected would not be plowed or sanded. The pagan angels should have whispered in my ear, “Hey buddy, that road’s gonna be covered with ice and water. Think about it.”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

With no place to turn around, I kept moving toward my usual parking spot, hoping like mad that it was open and not too steep for reversing the vehicle when it was time to leave.

Okay, I had to fish. I could worry about my exit when the time for worryin’ arrived.

The stream was low and clear, a thing of beauty that required a careful step, a power that, in turn, would throw its net of relaxation.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I used a longer rod than usual, an 8’4″ three-weight that would come in handy while nymphing and encountering the possible ice shelf. Small black stoneflies crawled out on the rocks and snow to look at life from their own western rim.DSCN7546

My beadhead imitation did the trick. I was on the edge between sun and shadow, at the brink of February, and as far as I could tell, the whole world was fishing or dreaming about something nearly as pleasant.DSCN7557

The road, which could’ve been an Owassee Rapids of seasonal thoroughfares, wasn’t bad at all. A few bumps and slides, a share of suspense, but nothing to upend or quickly erase a winter afternoon.DSCN7563



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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14 Responses to The Western Rim

  1. Brent says:

    The winter landscape really throws the gorge and the plateau into sharp relief. Great pictures and nice reflection on a quiet winter day on the water and in the woods.

    • I love the winter landscape for that very reason, for the bare bones contrast and comparison of its parts. The gorge is a stand-out, or a deep imprint, if you will. Thank you, Brent.

  2. Bob Stanton says:

    “Damn the torpedoes, I’m goin’ fishin’!” Way to beat back the (sorta) wintertime funk, Walt. And a beautiful place to do it in.

  3. plaidcamper says:

    Your heart and soul are in this one, Walt – as ever! Enjoyed your adventures here, stepping around the pagan angels and into the centre of your fishing realm. The idea that the whole world could be fishing or dreaming an equivalent is a wonderfully sustaining thought! If only…
    Glad you got in, and back out again – here’s to many more.

    • I’m always glad that you like the labors here, fun and otherwise, Plaid. I was just reading another great post of yours on OldPlaidCamper (one of my absolute favorite blogs) and want to reread this one before commenting later on today. Appreciatively….

  4. John Z says:

    Have not been out in a little while and your shared experience on the water does take of the edge. I do have a new 8ft bamboo stick in the quiver that is itching to throw a few fly’s underneath to tempt trout. For now, it will have to wait until winters edge isn’t so sharp. Glad to hear your ride to the bank was safe and that the fish are still there and feeding in the cold-cold water….thanks for the wonderful read Walt.

    • Thanks John, I appreciate it. A new 8-footer, wow. Totally new, or used new? Either way, it’s exciting and fun to anticipate the first outing with it. Don’t blame you for wanting to wait until winter’s out the door. At this time of year, I’ll use a less valued bamboo once in a while, but generally stick to graphite or glass that doesn’t hurt as much in case the icy rocks get an upper hand. When the time comes, let me know how you like the new one.

  5. Too adventurous to me right now. I’ll wait until the temperatures rise a bit. Glad you’re getting out …and back.

    • Me, too, Howard. Of course, the coming back makes it all worth while. It wouldn’t be the same without that “edge,” but then it wouldn’t be the same if there was NO coming back. Life is just too short, either way.

  6. Doug says:

    All so beautiful. so beautiful. s s s soo cccold.. Gotta grab my blanket.

  7. loydtruss says:

    Gorgeous country, especially in the winter months, where one can see for miles; I assume all the trout were taken on nymphs. The 3 weight is my favorite fly rod to fish with. Enjoyed the post!!

  8. Yeah thanks, Bill. Trout were taken on nymphs. I, too, like the 3-weight, especially for nymphing. A little heavier line for the shorter rods.

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