Thursday, March 16, 2023

The Hike In

 Scraggly, low hanging clouds concealed the higher hills on one late September day in the Green mountains. Moisture clung to every surface as dainty glass like droplets, slowly gathering and gaining size as they combined with others before splattering to the forest floor. The sound of the drops permeated the forest. Indeed it was just about the only noise, though a soft and calming one. At the time, Garth and I may not have been able to enjoy it much at all. It reflected our own damp state in the moment. Both of us possessed waders with inconsiderate holes in them that slowly turned any dry pants or socks we layered underneath them into soggy, unpleasant garments. We both complained vocally as we inserted a leg at a time into our damp waders one last time for this trip. We had a walk ahead of us though, and we'd need to suck it up and bear it. 

The woods still very much gave these hills their name, and it was made all the more fresh by the dew... green was everywhere. Moss, ferns, hemlock, maple, birch... the forest couldn't have felt more alive. It was early fall though and little touches of other color were scattered throughout our view. Some trees were beginning to turn;l branches here and there adorned with yellow, orange, or red. Taking advantage of the misty rain, the terrestrial form of the eastern newt moved about on the forest floor. These vibrant little creatures stand starkly against their other amphibian relatives in the same environment, bright orange and red rather than brown, grey, green, or black. They moved with purpose. Each seemed to have a place to be, and though even something as minimal as an oak leaf acted as a massive impasse to these little animals they traversed them with unwavering determination.  

Our walk was significant too, though our purpose was certainly different from the efts. This was our twisted form of leisure... not really relaxing or even comfortable by the standards of the modern middle class vacation. We were wet, tired, and mentally drained, but adamant on making the most of our last hours in Vermont. We treated our pleasure more like business. And in many ways it was... work like, that is. We were certainly not hear to earn a wage. But we had goals and effort must be expended to reach those goals. The first and not least of which was simply getting to our stream of choice. 

As we began our walk, the sound of dripping water gave way to rushing and tumbling as we approached the first of two foot bridges. The river below tumbled over pale granite boulders creating a long stretch of pocket water. We already knew there wasn't much to off in that lightly tannic water, though in my younger days I'd have wasted time fishing that very sterile water. We were going elsewhere, a tributary with colder and more consistent flows and a series of old beaver meadows that lent nutrients to the stream in a way that bare granite never could. 

Days before I'd been sitting in front of a screen, looking at this same landscape in a disconnected fashion. In the blue light before me, an array of pixels depicted imagery gathered by a satellite. I studied the course of the river from above, trying to read its bends and contours, to get an idea of what it might look like in person. I'd grown good at this over the years; learning to read satellite imagery and topographic maps and what they had to tell me about where fish might be. A particular stretch of river, sinuous and coming in and out of a number of meadows, stuck out to me. It was well away from any road in an area I had little knowledge of. In my lap lay an open atlas, a forgotten tool for many a young angler. It was already dotted with marker and pencil, denoting places I'd been, places I wanted to go, and notes. My gaze shifted between my laptop and my Atlas, and I jotted down notes and added new pinpoints. I wasn't sure how cell service would be where we were going, so I wanted an analogue backup. Though it didn't end up being necessary this part of the process still had its benefits. It forced me to take a closer look. When we ended up there, on the ground, though my phone would have and did function as a source for direction and information, I had in the back of my head a picture of where we were and what we should do. 

Leaving the bridge, out path jogged to the east and up hill. The hemlock darkened this area and gave it a primordial feel which was further exaggerated by the return of the dripping noise as the river's loud sound faded behind us. The trail was crossed by uneven, moss covered roots. It was the kind of woods that smell fresh and alive and where one can picture some long though extinct animal traipsing out of the shadows and into reality. In fact, other than the little efts and the odd bird and red squirrel, we saw very little in the way of animals at all. Certainly nothing large or unusual. But it sure did feel like we could. We moved swiftly through down the trail, the sense of passing time pushing us forward. In a short time we came to the bridge crossing our stream. I knew we'd need to follow its course upstream to reach the stretch I really wanted to fish, but I wasn't sure there'd actually be a trail. There was. We followed it for about a mile, it's tunnel-like passage through the undergrowth taking us closer and closer to our goal. Though our hike from the gravel road had not been a particularly long one, we were pretty far from anything. There was no road noise, no other cars in the pull-off, nobody already in the river, and nobody hiking on that trail. Our intrusion was the only human one this day in this place. 

I paused eventually, noting that the sound of tumbling water had calmed and dense forest had been replaced with open, grassy areas to our left. This was our cue to leave the beaten path. We dropped into the river's narrow valley, where little braids coursed like veins through the thick tufts of grass, and made our way to the main artery. The river itself flowed dark and cold, and we didn't know for sure what we'd find as we worked its runs and pools. Garth went down, I went up. Both of us were keen to find out what we'd made that walk for. 

Thank you to my Patrons; Erin, David, John, Elizabeth, Brandon, Christopher, Shawn, Mike, Sara, Franky, Geof, Luke, Noah, Justin, Sean, Tom, Mark, Jake, Chris, Oliver, and oddity on Display for making Connecticut Fly Angler possible. If you want to support this blog, look for the Patreon link at the top of the right side-bar in web version.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, cliffhanger! But the word picture hiking in with you guys was worth it. Also, reassuring to learn how diligently you research forays into rugged terrain. Staying tuned for next installment.