Halfway Lake

The small seven-acre lake was a good choice for a meeting of the clans. My son and his wife would drive north from Arlington, VA to meet us at Halfway Lake, a feature of Raymond B. Winter State Park in mid-state Pennsylvania. The 695-acre park is situated in a Ridge and Valley Province roughly halfway between my son’s home and our own place in the Southern Tier of New York State. Rocky ridges, covered with oak and pine forest, proved to be a pleasant setting for us at Rapid Run and Halfway Lake, a cold-water fishery impounded by a hand-laid sandstone dam.

spillway from the CCC dam…

Rapid Run…

Raymond Winter was a young forester who dreamed that a park could be created from the ruins of massive lumber operations and forest fires in the early twentieth century. Winter devoted his life and labors to establishing a site of natural beauty where original European settlers had traveled the “14 Mile Narrows Road” between Center County wilderness and the Susquehanna River.

the site is also along PA’s long Mid State Trail…

The original stopping point at Halfway Lake was known as the Halfway House– a barn and tavern built along the tannin-colored waters of Rapid Run. The teamsters could stop and refresh themselves, half way through their travels over Sand Mountain and through Pine Swamp. And here, during the pandemic of 2020, Brent and Catherine, and Leighanne and I converged for a family gathering, respecting the dangers of Covid-19 and trying to maintain our distance from other Memorial Day celebrants.

walking the nature trail…

forest in succession…

My wife and I had reached the park before the two Southerners were scheduled to arrive, so I had an opportunity to fly fish for native trout and stocked fish dwelling in the laurel shade of Rapid Run. I didn’t do too well. I broke a bamboo rod tip under abject circumstances, thus joining the “UB Broken Rod Club” just days after UB (a faithful reader of this blog) disclosed a similar misfortune up near Slate Run. Luckily I had a spare tip handy for continued casting.

another tip bites the dust…

native trout not responsible for broken rod…

The Rapid Run Nature Trail, traversing “one of the first State Park Natural Areas,” presented a white pine and hemlock forest pretty much “as it appeared in 1850.” Painted trillium blossomed beside the trail. Warblers sang from the multi-green shroud above. We found gelatinous orbs of wood-frog eggs and salamander haunts in the vernal pools adjacent to the stream.

vernal pool with eggs… photo by Brent…

Our stop at Halfway Lake provided a good holiday visit, live with food and conversation, as in simpler days before the age of Zoom. Spring was shifting its weight toward summer and the halfway point of the year. The past few months have been strange ones, for sure. Let’s hope that the balance of 2020 is a healthier half for all.

the beach at Halfway… photo by Brent…

painted trillium….

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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19 Responses to Halfway Lake

  1. Leigh Smith says:

    Sounds like a good outing overall. Add my name to the broken rod club as of 2 weeks ago.
    Hope you and Leighanne are doing well.

  2. JZ says:

    A wonderful retreat in a natural setting with your family Walt. I’m sure you enjoyed the hike and taking in the scenery. Sure didn’t like to read about the broken rod tip, but things happen sometimes. Fishing is much like life, it’s not always smooth. Although, with age comes experience and we fret a little less in our mishaps otherwise. Tips can be fixed (scarfed), or new ones made. Fishing a shorter tipped rod sometimes reminds us to get back on the horse and carry on, lol. Walt, I’m reminded of a song verse,
    “Life is a dance and we learn as we go,
    sometimes we lead, sometimes we follow,
    Don’t worry what you don’t know,
    life’s a dance we learn as we go”.
    (smile) Love ya Walt.

    • A sound philosophy (with song!), JZ. Thank you, as always. At my age, it’s true– a broken ‘boo is far less troublesome than a broken bone (although I have a few rods that might argue this point)!

  3. UB says:

    Hey – not sure my submission got through while I was logged into the WP account so I”m submitting here to see if it’ll get through RTR – If is DID get through – then jsut delete this one – thanks UB.

    Ok, I had no intention of starting such a club! And…membership is NOT something to strive for nor wish on anyone – believe me. But, as I read the poster’s entry, I appropriately found humour in it … appropriately. I am sure this is not something you wanted to join Mr. RTR nor Ms. Smith. Maybe we can keep this to a club of 3 and spare anyone the pain of such an initiation? The fish, the egg masses, the trillium – some great pictures as usual! I think you and Bret have an eye for what to capture – with words and pictures. The pic of the broken bamboo rod tip (fingernails on a chalkboard)… yikes! Glad you can ‘see’ a good ‘outting’ even with adversity. UB

    • Glad you got through, UB. We will not hold you accountable for starting up such a club, and we will not seek new membership nor hold official meetings, as such. That said, we do sympathize with each other & do what is necessary to cast on happily or with lesser pain & frustration. Thanks again for your positive contributions & good faith!

  4. plaidcamper says:

    A good day out, Walt! I’m missing the old days, when we could visit the Halfway House taverns, and share stories in person – even if the stories might be ones of woe, broken tips and the like. Maybe soon…
    In the meantime, there’s sharing online, and still fun to be had out there as the year moves forward, and closer to the mid point. Time has been strange lately, racing forward and yet like molasses.
    Painted trillium – beautiful!

    • Thanks PC! Oh man, those days with meetings at the Halfway House taverns of the world. They weren’t easy to get to but I’ll bet they were deemed essential. May they resurrect once more & beckon us with cheer & good tidings. Till then, best to you & our Canadian friends!

  5. loydtruss says:

    Only you could describe a place like this and give it the credence it deserves. State parks have taken a beaten here lately with individuals trying to escape the virus. Glad you guys found a park that seems to be crowd-free. The added bonus for me visiting Winter State Park would be the trout streams. I hope you guys are staying safe and let’s hope this nightmare is over soon. The painted Trillium image is superb!!! Thanks for sharing

    • Bill, Thanks for your comment. You’re right, so many parks have taken a beating from the recent crowds, but I’ve got to hand it to my son for finding one that seemed attractive in ways and yet far enough from the mainstream to be both safe & enjoyable. I hope you are finding some comparable time & places for fishing & quiet contemplation.

  6. Bob Stanton says:

    I love the CCC- built parks and other recreational areas. To me, the Civilian Conversation Corps was a stroke of genius. Imagine how lives were saved from the despair of idleness, and worse. Imagine how many families it helped to keep afloat. And sadly, you can add me to the broken rod tip club (not bamboo, though).

    • Bob, Sad to have to add you to our growing club… Can you/did you get a replacement? As for the CCC, I agree with you– a stroke of genius in a desperate time, and to muse upon its works almost a hundred years later is a pleasant experience & a sight to see….

  7. UB says:

    I am NOT trying to encourage membership to this club folks! I realize that it happens…but … please do NOT go out and join this club/fraternity/sorority! UB

    • Aw, c’mon, UB… we might all get together on your porch occasionally & commiserate over Scotch & IPAs!

      • UB says:

        Ok now there’s a thought! Haha – I just saw a few Green Drakes fluttering about outside the place here in Slate Run. Looks like they are indeed happening now. Newsletter from the store also mentions they are around. – UB

  8. I fished Slate Run for a bit this afternoon but didn’t see much happening. Then fished a feeder stream up near Cedar Run and met a lot of little brookies.

  9. UB says:

    I did not hit the runs today. Have been busy with refinishing a kitchen table… but… I fished Pine this evening and there were a LOT of bugs! Fish were rising and the fly presented had a lot of competition! But I caught several Brown Trout Club fish and a couple of rainbows.. and one ‘PA’s Finest’ browns. Was an enjoyable evening on Pine. – UB

  10. Brent says:

    While I try to figure out why I’m no longer getting new post notifications, this was a fun set of memories from that day! I love those dark, conifer-heavy streamside forests.

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