The Way to Cross Fork Creek

I don’t find it with a map alone, or with a GPS or through some recollection of a printed fishing guide. I’d never recognize it in the pages of Cross Creek, written by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, nor would I hear its stony voices in the Cold Mountain poetry of ancient China. Izaak Walton might have dreamt about a place like this, but his milkmaid visions and lobworm recipes intervened. These rugged hills are something else– inviting in a subtle way.

Since time is like a flowing stream whereby we one day wake to find a head gone more than gray, I say to hell with waiting for ideal conditions, and just go. I drive toward Little Kettle Creek, turn west then climb and snake down Hungry Hollow Road. At last I see it– soft-bright lines of water dancing and converging in a trout stream meant for pilgrimage. The creek is fed by springs called Boone & Bolich, Gravel Lick & Yochum Run. I’m buoyed by tiny pools and dense green foliage.

I’ve got a fool’s grin, thinking how a tattered vest and patched-up waders might support a poet’s dream, but there’s little that I need. I wet-wade, washing off the residue of distant pomp and vanity. For a morning or an afternoon, I’m incomplete but satisfied. I’ve made it here by leaving almost everything behind (well, don’t bother asking if I’d fish without the comfort of a car or favorite rod). My dry fly drifts by the laurel blooms, a cluster of ferns, and always, the chance of trout.

cedar waxwing, on hemlock…
what rainy day species, anyone?
r.-t. hummer…
mountain laurel…
red-tail… where did that snake go?

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 The Way to Cross Fork Creek

  1. Don T says:

    Walt,

    Little Kettle holds many memories for me. Thanks for the opportunity to reminisce!!

  2. UB says:

    Some amazing – outstanding shots of the hummingbird, hawk and Waxwing! The fish pictures are always nice to see but the clarity of those bird-shots… something else RTR! Nice job! Nice ‘shrooms’ too. When I first saw the picture of what I thought was a foam line along the stream bank – I thought ‘well that’s interesting’ – but when I clicked on the picture I could see the flies on water’s surface. Man, what sort of camera did you get? You’re taking some great pictures with it! UB

    • Thanks for your reflections here, UB. I’m practicing, still learning how to use the instrument, a modest Nikon with a 60X Wide Zoom that I hope to use in Costa Rica later this month. As you might suspect, the birds in that location are likely to blow what’s left of my mind.

  3. JZ says:

    Interesting stream and wonderful glimpses of how a brookie creek should be. Last week I fished the headwaters of Kettle and found brooks in it’s gentle pools and small pocket water. Started around 9:00 am and got back to my ride at dark. Such a wonderful time alone spent in the edges of nowhere. Next week, staying at Cedar Run Inn for 2 nights and three days, I’ll again go exploring in places that you and I are familiar with, paradise. However, I’ll save the we wading for you, lol. I’ll dawn the hippers with snake chaps just below the knee for my excursion. Those Kevlar snake chaps help protect the hippers from leaks and add a safety measure of protection from our slithering friends.
    As always Walt, love reading about your excursions. Oh, I fished the Raven Fork in the Smokies a couple weeks ago. a back country journey I enjoyed almost 20 years ago. It takes effort to get to this creek. It was how I remembered it, sweet & divine.

    • Ah, the edges of nowhere– even if it takes the names of upper Kettle, Cedar Run or Raven Forks… Glad you’re keeping tabs on paradise, JZ! As for snake chaps, they sound functional though I wonder if I could ever get used to them while sloshing around the mountainsides. We’ve been lucky with the rain, so far, though I noted that the water levels down in PA seem significantly lower than up here. Anyway, thank you, and enjoy the fishing next week.

  4. tiostib says:

    Thanks for a few moments of mental adventuring.

  5. Bob Stanton says:

    “In the woods too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child. In the woods, is perpetual youth.” This is the first thing that I thought of on reading your post, so apologies and thanks to Ralph Waldo Emerson.

  6. loydtruss says:

    Walt
    Those colors on that brookie are outstanding!! Fantastic images that were taken I assume with the new camera. Thanks for sharing

    • Bill,
      Color tones are courtesy of the new camera, which has both advantages & disadvantages when carried on the stream, but overall a pleasure. Thanks again for your reflections.

  7. plaidcamper says:

    Walt, I felt I could almost dance along to the sights and sounds in the lines that run from Little Kettle Creek to Hungry Hollow Road – thoroughly enjoyed the words and pictures here, vibrant stuff!

  8. Jet Eliot says:

    Your words were a complete joy here, Walt. Your deep soulful delight of fishing captured us instantly, and the photos were a grand accompaniment. You have me smiling at my keyboard. Thanks for taking us with you into this gorgeous creek.

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