400 yards short of 22 years

Click on the pictures to enlarge them.


f00_2a.jpg The fishing this morning was awful, so mid-day I took off for GEV, a place in a valley nearby where my friends and I used to camp and where I used to fish. I didn't take my fly rod along, just my hip boots and camera. I started down this path to GEV where Husker last drove his white International pickup some 22 years ago. At various times Phil, Fred, Husker, Web, Enright, Pav, and I camped here. There is a no trespassing sign posted, but there was one 22 years ago too. Just like back then, if challenged I hope to talk my way out of being asked to leave.
f00_2b.jpg Just some flowers along the path.
f00_2c.jpg I remembered that the scene from the road suddenly expanded and you could see to the far side of this small valley. It's more grown up with trees now, but here is the view I remembered. The far tree line marks the course of the trout stream, maybe Spring Valley Creek? I never knew the name.
f00_2d.jpg Here is the meadow where along the creek we used to camp. In 1976 there were a few spots to camp along the creek. We camped here and also farther back in the woods along a bad but passable road. Here we camped way off to the right next to a deep pool of water. It served as a swimming hole and refrigerator for our beer. The drinking age back then was 18 for me, and 19 for my friends.
f00_2e.jpg Again, my camera has trouble because of the brilliant sunlight and dark shade under the canopy of the woods. To the right and washed out by the camera are large flat white limestone rocks. These valleys are all carved out of limestone and dotted with springs and limestone caves. This area was also suffered major flooding due to heavy rains two weeks ago. You can make out trees and brush piled up by the heavy current if you look closely.
f00_2f.jpg Here is a placid but not too deep stretch of steam. I again observed no insect life. Insects larvae hatch on the bottom of the stream and then float to the surface as nymphs. Trout eat them on the way up. You use wet flies that don't float and look like nymphs to catch the feeding trout. My experience tells me if nothing is hatching I won't be catching anything, either. Later, on the surface, the floating nymphs change into flying insects. One ties floating dry flies and dry nymphs on your line now to catch trout who are now feeding on the stream surface.
f00_2g.jpg At the top of this picture is the calm water at the end of a pool. It turns into a small rapids which is at a bend in the stream. One gets a small seine net and scoops up some water at the exit of a pool like this to try and discover what the fish are feeding on. If trout are feeding, you have only to find something in you fly case that looks like the ones in your seine net to begin catching fish. Match the hatch, baby. Note again the down trees and vegetation hanging in the foreground.
f00_2h.jpg More down trees and woods. Up to this point, there has been no trail to follow. I remembered a trail that led to the headwaters of this stream and took maybe an hour to walk. The stream started as water coming from the face of a rock cliff and from the base of a second cliff. A dry creek bed ran even further back. It consisted of steps carved into the limestone. I remember a neat limestone cave off to one side. My major purpose of going here is to see these sights again and take pictures of them.
f00_2i.jpg Here is a round rock perch above the stream. You can easily see the parallel layers of limestone sediment laid down eons ago. At this point I am getting kind of freaked out. My memory says I should have reached the headwaters by now. The whole area is overgrown and nothing like I remember it. A fat guy with a bad back shouldn't be 2 1/2 hours up a stream that will take 2 1/2 half hours to go back down. Again, always when I am here I get the feeling I am the only person on Earth.
f00_2j.jpg Guess what: more woods. Several times I have stopped and drank from the stream. I don't want to give up, but at this point I can't trust my memory about this place. Does this stream have the neat headwaters, or am I confusing this stream with another one? I have matches along if I can't get out by nightfall. Plus, I have seen a rough horse trail if I need it. It doesn't follow the stream the way I am. Around this time I have been slugging along for three hours. I wish I had an inner tube. I would inflate it and float back down to my car.
f00_2k.jpg This has been my trouble all along: rough going due to the tremendous number of down trees and vegetation piled up by the flood. I started at 10:30 and now its 1:30. The stream is getting smaller, indicating there is a headwaters. I found one small stream coming into the main one. My memory suddenly thinks that three small streams come together, and I want the left-most one in order to get to the source with the rock wall and cave.
At this point my camera malfunctioned. I don't have the remaining pictures I took. My camera battery previously died in mid-film, and for some reason the counter got off and the film didn't get exposed. Too bad - that shot taken by the bear of me, Bigfoot, and the pretty forest nymph would have been worth big bucks.

I now came to the aforementioned horse trail as it crossed the stream. I decided after three hours of hard going that it was time to forsake finding the headwaters and try to walk out on the horse path. The trail quickly doubled back and led across a makeshift bridge to a cabin, where it ended. That meant that the way out was down the trail in the other direction. I re-crossed the bridge and got a good, long drink. I looked up and saw thick black smoke. Very odd. Just ahead the trail came to a "y". I would have taken the right turn to go back the way I came, but instead I went to the left toward the black smoke.

The trail led uphill to a locked gate, beyond which was a gravel road. I could see that the smoke was originating from just a little farther up the gravel road. As I approached the smoke it was apparent I was nearing a farm from the back side. A farmer in overalls was burning a fiberglass boat. I held up hailing him as long as I dared, because he was watching the boat intently and I knew my appearance from the primeval back woods would freak him out. Finally, I gave him a loud, "how's it going?". He jumped two feet in the air!

As I walked by him I told him I had tried to find the headwaters of the stream but couldn't. He didn't make a comment about that. He just explained the obvious: he was burning his old boat. Really? It reminded me of burning one of those plastic model ships you build as a kid, only way bigger. Maybe he was wondering how the pollution control crowd had managed to witness this twenty-first century we-love-mother-earth violation. The boat now was just a big plastic blob belching deep red fire and jet black smoke. I asked him for directions, and he told me a paved road was up the gravel road maybe 1/2 mile. I walked really fast to get out of there. I didn't take any pictures so he wouldn't worry about me turning him in. Come to think of it, a picture of a burning boat deep in the woods might have been as unusual as one of me, Bigfoot, and the pretty forest nymph.

I reached the paved road - some county road. I saw a farmer out driving around on his 4 wheeler, but decided to walk down the road a piece to the next place. It was just a house with a huge R.V. parked outside. I rang the doorbell and then stepped way back so they could see me. I don't think they get many trick or treaters at Halloween: too remote. A grandma answered the door. I asked her if the paved road led to a gravel one that would intersect the road where the back gate to GEV was. This is where I had entered and where my car was parked. She told me that I could take the first right and end up by the back gate. Except that the recent floods had taken out two bridges. "No problem", I told her, pointing to my hip boots. She thought for and instant, and then called for her grandson. "I'll drive you up to the first bridge". On the drive she told me that the place had really changed. She used to walk around GEV like we did so long ago. She said the place had become so overgrown that it had been ten years since she had walked back there. A farmer used to run his cattle in GEV, but he stopped when too many 4-wheelers started to make use of it. The grazing cattle kept it open, but now it was choked up with forest. In addition to this, I had to also contend with all the dead wood and trees deposited along the stream by the flood.

I have never been so grateful for a ride. She drove me maybe two miles to the first bridge. The bridge itself was fine, the flood had taken out the approach to the bridge. I said my good byes and was able to get across the first bridge without having to wade the river. I had duly recorded this on film, too bad. I next had to walk about a mile to the second washed out bridge. Only after I was halfway across did I notice that the last 1/3 of the bridge was totally missing! The bridge rose gently as you traversed it, and this optical illusion prevented me from noticing the missing part. I came about 10 steps from falling down twenty feet into the river. I remember thinking the people who found me could never believe I just walked over the edge like that! I retraced my steps and was able to wade across the river, which at this point is made up of two streams, one of which is the one I just tried to find the headwaters of. I had about a half mile to walk until I reached my car. My return trip took about an hour, so I saved myself two hours of climbing over logs.

I returned to the Root and fished until about 7:30. There did not seem to be any insect action for the trout to feed on. I didn't see any fish feeding or have a chance of catching any. I stopped in the little town near GEV before I drove home. In the bar, I asked if anyone was familiar with the local trout streams. I explained to one guy about my walk around GEV and not being able to find the headwaters. He said he had been back there on horseback about a week ago. I described where I stopped and took the road out. He told me I was maybe 400 yards away from the headwaters. He said the place had really changed. You couldn't see the rock wall where the stream started because of tree growth. He said the cave had collapsed, too. I have a thought in my head that I find kind of funny. I couldn't get back to the headwaters that day just like I can't get back and be 19 with my friends again. Hence the title of this, "400 yards short of 22 years".