Simply Shenandoah

I spent a few days near Thanksgiving being grateful not only for friends, family and supporters but also for our National Park system, which includes Shenandoah, where I caught a break from premature winter in the Northlands.

Chester, at home

It was a simple move, a needed change of pace. Virginia’s Rapidan River didn’t fish well for me on the first day but, on day two, a quiet hike on the North Fork Moormans brought me into a deeply forested plenitude of trout. It’s not that the fishing was remarkable. It wasn’t, but I found some brook trout, still feeding despite their cold-water, post-spawn funk. For that, an old catch-and-release angler simply had to tip his hat.

lookin’ up, on holiday

Like my homeground and other areas of the East, Virginia has had more than its share of rain this season. I wasn’t sure if I’d be seeing flood damage, or not. Although the streams were higher than I’d seen them in years, the waters were clear and (mostly) in good shape, reminding me that times of overflow were better than times of drought. It all seemed simple enough.

a shade of autumn

Wading wasn’t so easy, though. It was difficult at times. For example, I’m not used to crossing the diminutive Staunton River, typically a gentle brook, with a beaver-cut walking stick for support. With cold, boulder-studded waters of the Staunton rushing at my knees, you can bet that I placed my steps with care.

they were small…

A holiday gathering of family was scheduled for later in the day. With this in mind, I enjoyed Thanksgiving peace and quiet in the mountains. The high-water crossings along the Moormans Trail kept away the folks with only hiking shoes for travel. I saw no one above the third river crossing, where my only company was the brook trout, a Carolina wren or two, a chickadee, a jay. The sun was out; the air was autumn crisp; I liked the day’s simplicity.

simply irresistible…

As I headed out for Black Friday on the Rapidan, my son said I should take it easy on the hike… “We suspect that if you don’t eventually die in bed beside your wife, we’ll find your body rotting in a creek somewhere, clutching a fly rod, with trout nibbling at your eyeballs.”  Yeah, I said. Sounds great. So, with intimations of mortality and feelings of diminishing time, I set off on the trail, more comfortable with the cold gray morning than with combat shopping at the mall. A simpler outing, for sure.

a steep gradient…

The temperature never peaked at the expected high of 40 degrees. Ice formed periodically in the guides of Chester, the fly rod. I hiked well into the mountains and stepped carefully around the white tongues of the Rapidan. Catching a couple of oversized chubs was not a good sign for trout fishing, but hooking up with a few colorful natives was a fine way of getting back in balance with the watershed.

yeah, Egg patterns and a Prince nymph worked the best…

The weather was cold, but warmer than it was in New York State–  a simple fact, a simple face-to-face with nature. Like a good book opened by a woodstove on a winter’s night. A simple game with friends or family. A closing to a complex life.

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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21 Responses to Simply Shenandoah

  1. Ross says:

    Walt, sounds like a great way to celebrate Thanksgiving & to give thanks – with family, friends and immersed in nature. Looks like a nice trip!

  2. Bob Stanton says:

    A fine fall excursion, Walt. I’ve been doing some tying, daydreaming of spring and hungry trout. And perhaps a trip up Long Run…

  3. John says:

    This is the true beauty of Virginia. Appreciate the awesome pics of brookies. Now I just need to catch one.

    • Thanks for your appreciation, John. Yeah the image of a brook trout seems to be iconic for wild Virginia, doesn’t it. When you’re on its home ground, you’re almost always in a beautiful place.

  4. Also, thank you, Anonymous, for your comment on the Olympus Digital Camera shot of “lookin’ up, on holiday.” I tried to copy/paste your comment here but it didn’t work. You said, “A truly fantastic shot!” I appreciate the comment and will admit that when the photo is enlarged it does look pretty cool.

  5. Brent says:

    My implication was merely that such a (hypothetical) passing would be more fitting for you than a “death by Black Friday” trampling! Glad you had an enjoyable time in the mountains. Weather allowing, I’ll be able to get over there myself sometime soon.

  6. Well said. Wonderful photos.

  7. JZ says:

    Lots to be thankful for this Thanksgiving Walt. Family, food and football it was for me on turkey day. Spending time with the kids and cutting down a Christmas tree was fun. I highly recommend seeing the movie Creed II. Excellent sequel that paid the movie series justice. Iconic in a greater sense since the first Rocky Balboa movie was in 1976. Glad to see you were able to raise some fish. They sure are a pretty sight to behold, not to mention the places they are found. Careful wading this winter my friend and soon I’ll find myself out there too..

    • Sounds like your holiday season is off to a great start, JZ. I may have to fight through it, like Rocky himself, but the family aspect is the thing I look forward to. Thanks for the suggestion and variety of comments, and all the best for some safe and happy winter wading!

  8. Mark Wittman says:

    Thanks for the reminder of the loveliness of those southern mountains! Glad to see you enjoying them once again

  9. plaidcamper says:

    Thanks for the simple and natural facts of time well spent outdoors! Sounds like you balanced family time and alone time about right, and avoiding a Black Friday crush (or a mall at any time) seems reasonable enough – with our days being numbered, it’s best to spend them as wisely as possible…
    Enjoyable as always, and great photographs – thanks, Walt!

  10. loydtruss says:

    Gorgeous images of a place I’d love to fish one day. My wife and I visited the Shenandoah Parkway years ago. I didn’t do any fishing but saw some awesome looking streams to wet a fly in. Gald you guys had an enjoyable Thanksgiving—thanks for sharing

    • Bill, The parkway takes you into the heart of it, and the trails and streams take you to the beauty of the region. Hope you get the chance to revisit and enjoy. Thank you, and happy holidays!

  11. Jet Eliot says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post of beautiful vistas, rhythmic words, and pleasant ponderings on life and gratitude. Thanks so much, Walt.

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