The deep woods hike in middle March was a tough climb through the melting snow, two miles up the Pennsylvania tributary, and back. I wrote of this mountain hollow in Beautiful Like a Mayfly, 2015:
“The tributary flows through the remotest section of the river’s watershed. Its valley is mostly forested, with intermittent clearings where willow trees and alders predominate, and the brook’s flow is mostly paralleled by a jeep trail that provides limited access to a series of small hunting camps. I’ve fished the brook in springtime for nearly a decade and have never seen another human on those walks.”
There have been some minor changes since the book came out, most notably from an alternation of severe drought and flooding, as well as from encounters with a human or two. For instance, I crossed tracks with a fur trapper, a cabin-dweller, who was pulling up his line, who said that a flood, two or three years ago, slammed the brook trout population, and the fish are still struggling to return. Again, from the book:
“This back country stream averages only four or five feet in width. I worked my way up through the hollow, alone with my thoughts, toward a natural spring significant enough to be labeled Spring on the topographic map of this area. A winter wren, with its stub tail and eye stripe, flitted from an undercut bank to perch on a mossy log. As it broke into a long and intricate song, the stone-sized bird seemed perfect for this woodland habitat.”
Stepping through the brilliant snowmelt, I knew it was still too early for the wren’s song, but a pair of pileated woodpeckers filled the forest emptiness with cackled notes. I plodded onward like a woodchuck just emerging from its den, turning from the hollow toward the distant summit. I could heed the sage advice of the trapper who suggested that I keep an eye out for the waking bears, but I preferred to daydream of the brook trout that were living well (I hoped) in the small stream down below.
Three days later, I was fishing on a neighboring tributary where the flow was downright cold, but where the atmosphere was toned like a bluebird’s song. The trout, those native “dwellers of the spring,” were shy and thoroughly hidden, but I felt their presence nonetheless. They were like a pulse that issued from behind the snow-capped rocks and log debris, growing stronger, warmer, every day. In the woods beyond, maple sap was dripping at a quickened pace, the various buckets filling where they hung on the rough-barked trees.