Climbing

Our muscles tighten and our lungs adjust, whether we seek the headwaters for trout because the lowlands have been flooded, or whether we lift our feet and pull with our arms along a skyline scramble for a special view that might come from above. We accept the challenge in our search for the beautiful– the wild bird, fish, or flower that accompanies our glance from an unusual place inside our lives. Climbing is a fun and healthy way of getting there.

old Hardy/wood anemone

We inhale the cooler air and revel in the majesty of a great white pine or, higher up, express new wonder at the jagged rocks and stunted trees. It’s best to apply more caution now; the path has faded and our way becomes irregular. Stumbling as we climb can bring unwanted consequences: a fly rod can snap, a water bottle drop away or, worse, a body part could be injured, finishing our day.

good god, we climbed up there…
again, looking up from Appalachian Trail…

So we strive for balance and implore the gods to show their mercy. Each measured step brings satisfaction, hopefully, rather than a warning of fatigue or danger, and the growing prospect of a view absorbing our words and previous expectations.

daughter on the rocks…
toward the Rapidan…

Climbing in the Blue Ridge Mountains, I look down at the valley of the Rapidan and wonder where it was I fished in that wild scene. Later, climbing a short distance on a feeder stream above Kettle Creek in northern Pennsylvania, the mind’s eye struggles for a view of the big stream’s oxbow and the headland that forces the renowned trout water southward and then north and southwesterly again. The natural formation has been said to resemble a tea kettle, thus inspiring one possibility on how Kettle Creek got its name.

an abstract “kettle”…

Observing a topo map or getting a bird’s-eye view from above might offer the suggestion of that implement. Tea kettle or not, the only certainty obtainable from climbing is a draft of cold clean water like a spiritual reward.

our waterfall after recent deluge…
heavy rains sent us to a feeder stream inside the Kettle watershed…
potty humor, headwaters…

The Native Americans referred to the Kettle as Sononjoh. I like that name. It sounds romantic and befits one of Pennsylvania’s most scenic valleys and its fertile waters. Sadly, our American ancestors were driven out from here, as well as from many of their homelands on the continent. Climbing up above the mundane realms of our workaday lives can help restore a vision of the greener past, and maybe even offer an idea of how to save a remnant of a wild place still attainable.

rainbow from the lowlands, next day…
next day brown from PA’s Genesee. released. of course…
log-jam, with Jim at work…
view from Bearfence, looking west….

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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16 Responses to Climbing

  1. Brent says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed the challenge of the Bearfence scramble. I love seeing how the seasons only slowly climb their way to the peaks. Next week I can show you some pretty stark pics I took this past Saturday, of full foliage in the valley transitioning to almost bare mountaintops in Shenandoah NP. On a side note, that info on the Kettle oxbow is new to me!

    • I’m glad you pointed us in that direction! As for the oxbow, there is even more to the naming thing than this, but I’ve tried to keep it simple. I’ll look forward to your SNP pics…

  2. alex55manta says:

    Never realized that Kettle had such an oxbow in it! Shows that I haven’t really looked at a map of Kettle doesn’t it? Some great pictures and great views like usual! As we approach mid-week (Tuesday), we’ve had about an additional 1/4″ of precipitation. Time shall tell if here in Slate Run if much more will come over the next 4 of 5 days. Those headwaters might be the only places to find water levels fishable soon if much more arrives in this time frame. There’s no satisfying people is there? The water is either too high of too low and we’re lucky if 1/3 of the time it’s ‘just right’. Alright, I’ll take my ‘Goldilocks’ impersonation off. Haha! Looked like a great time was had by all. take care RTR! UB

    • Yeah the oxbow is a classic of its kind, forcing Kettle to flow an extra few miles than if running straightly as it typically does. The rain was sorely needed so we dare not complain too much… The day before, we were looking at the possibility of a repeat season of 2020… Goes to show that nature rules. Thanks UB!

  3. Don T. says:

    Thanks for the tag along Walt. Have spent many hours on those feeder streams of the Kettle. Certainly a special place.

    Heading to Cedar Run Sunday.

  4. plaidcamper says:

    A heartfelt nod of thanks to the merciful gods – you made it up and back, always a relief, and what a lung buster that looks to be. It’s always good to find a different view over what might be familiar territory, and isn’t something to be privileged a glimpse of what was once a larger natural wonder? Great images of some tough terrain – thanks, Walt!

  5. Bob Stanton says:

    Wow, what a landscape, both near and afar!

  6. loydtruss says:

    Walt
    Just wondering how many feeder streams you guys got to fish on this outing? I assume you were fishing those streams that the average fly fishermen don’t care to hike to? My son and I fished feeder streams in the Smokies a couple of years ago higher up in the mountains that fished much better than the average stocker streams in the lowlands. Great read, thanks for sharing

    • Thanks Bill,
      Actually, on the PA outing that followed the big rains, we fished just the one feeder stream before returning to the main stem & trying some of the calmer water there, too. We didn’t do well in either location for some reason… the water was cold, the sun bright, etc., who knows, but I think the feeder stream was more enjoyable due to the beauty of its watershed & the clarity of the flow.

  7. Klausbernd says:

    Thanks for sharing your little adventures.
    All The best
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  8. Jet Eliot says:

    Your calm and mesmerizing words were a gift today, Walt. It is a joy to see some of the wild places you have adventured, and to hear your tales, and to feel your passion for the earth and its inhabitants. Cheers to more climbing and outdoor magic.

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