Airstream Time

Exploring North America in an Airstream

Posts from the ‘National Forests’ category

Spotted Bear River

Monday, September 4, 2017

We realized somewhere driving in yesterday that we had not bought fishing licenses, and it was a long, rough drive back to town. Besides, the fly shop would be closed for Labor Day weekend. Well, we would just have to show them our lifetime fishing licenses from Virginia and the yearly license we bought in British Columbia. Then tell them we were just old farts who forgot to get a license when we went to the fly shop.

We drove south toward the Spotted Bear River stopping to take pictures at a beautiful overlook of the South Branch of the Flathead River. The big river was down considerably, as was the reservoir. They haven’t had rain measurable rain for 78 days. We saw a sign for a ranger station and wondered if they would sell a license. As we parked in front of the station, I checked for a wifi and found they had one. If they didn’t sell it, we could go online and get one.

We walked in and met Terry He was retired from the Forestry Service, but had come in to help while others were busy fighting four fires. I thought about Jane-Ashley’s warning about not getting trapped by a fire. We were certainly in an area where you could get trapped. There is only one way out. Well, you can go back on either side of the reservoir. The fires were on the other sides of the mountains. I was comforted knowing this busy ranger station was working hard to fight the fires. If this valley was in danger, they would clear us out.

Terry apologized for being slow, which he wasn’t. He had to answer the phone as he went online to fill out the licenses for us, along with a conservation fee and an ALS number. Then he pulled out a map and marked areas to fish Spotted Bear. We thought about how lucky we were to stumble upon this guy.

Kelly’s friend, JC Hanks, had gone in at mile 1, telling us it was a 45 minute hike in. We passed that one and went to the next at mile 7. The bumpy road stopped at a cliff overlooking the river. This was a perfect area to camp with a fire ring and a beautiful overlook of the river. There was a lightly-traveled trail going in both directions, but we didn’t know if either went to the river. After walking it a bit, we opted to try another easier spot. That made it the falls, behind a horse and mule staging area. There were some nice-looking, fit mules in there. Apparently trail rides were a popular thing here. It’s also hunting season, and I’m sure they use these animals to ride into remote areas. My GPS showed trails going everywhere for miles and miles long after the roads stop.

The falls were not really a waterfall as I had expected, but they were beautiful with clear, bluish water rushing over, around and through solid rock. One pool in the middle looked like a swimming pool. In another there were probably 200 trout, so we started fishing. These had to be stocked trout as I have never seen that many fish in a pool, but we could only entice the little ones to bite. We fished up and down from the falls with minor success. Surely this was one of the most fished areas on the river. You can keep two fish under 12”, but we didn’t find dinner.

Then we went back down and fished behind another campground, another area that is heavily fished. We had the similar results, but it is a gorgeous area where Spotted Bear meets the Flathead. Kelly kept two small fish that wouldn’t be enough to feed two.

Fernie to Hungry Horse Reservoir

September 3, 2017

We got off to a leisurely start. Taking the trash and garbage to the disposal area, we found a man sorting recycling into different bags. Kelly struck up a conversation with this lean gentleman, probably in his 60’s named Holmes. He is an retired engineer, who had to go back to work because his pension wasn’t doing well enough. He comes to sort recycling, takes it to a center and then gives the proceeds to a senior center charity.  Once I told him I was from Charlottesville, like everyone else we meet, he went on about how we were still fighting the civil war. I had to set him straight. He is from Newfoundland, and talked extensively about its politics and history. I told him that is where I would like to go next summer. We probably talked for an hour before we left. It would have great to talk more over cocktails as he is s very interesting guy with a great sense of humor.

Then we went by Elk River Guiding Company to buy some flies. They have a huge collection of beautiful flies. Leah helped us and told us to stop at Larry’s Fly Shop in Columbia Falls, which is owned by a girl named Hillary, and to tell her hi. We thanked her, headed out and picked up a Starbucks coffee for the road.

Smoke clouded the mountains as we drove south toward the border. The grasses were dry and brown. There were only two cars in front of us at the border, and the crossing was easy with a nice young man telling us where the fires were – all over, but we should be OK at Hungry Horse Reservoir.

In Columbia Falls, where there are no falls, we found Larry’s Fly Shop, went in and again bought a few flies. Disappointed Hillary wasn’t there, we talked to a nice fellow who gave us some good information. Spotted Bear River was really low, but the Flathead was fishing good. We thanked him and after crossing the dam, drove a rough road for 45 miles.

We found a beautiful campsite next to the reservoir. Once we got set up, we took a drink down to the lake as the sun sunk behind the mountains. The water was crystal clear as small fish broke the surface. To the south was a huge grassy plain. I searched for bears or elk, but didn’t see any. It’s a little spooky, but cool at the same time to be in a remote place all by yourself with bear warning signs all around. As the evening went on, a full moon lit the smokey sky.

Hidden Valley

As usual, click on any picture to enlarge it.

Hidden Valley is a very special place in the National Forest in beautiful Bath County, Virginia. Miles of trails to hike, trout fishing on the Jackson River and a very nice campground. There were beautiful wildflowers everywhere. It is just outside Warm Springs and 4 miles from Hot Springs. There is a B&B right on the river, but I didn’t go inside. Testing our new solar system by Lew Farber at Solar Tech Energy Systems in Naples. Under poor solar conditions, cloudy skies, rain, parked in the trees with a bush hanging over the panels, the system performed great. Seven days with no hookups and no issues! 

I have not seen Kelly so depressed! After losing 5 big trout, he felt like he had lost the touch. I have had plenty of those days, but he doesn’t often lose big fish. What is nice to know is that there are big fish in that river. There is so much pressure from so many fisherman, it is a wonder anything survives, but we see they are well-schooled.

Catskills to Poconos

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33℉ with 3-5 inches of snow in the forecast

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

We drove west through the Catskills, then turned south on 47. We drove the length of the Catskills reservoir that supplies New York City with water. We noted in the last couple of posts about the lack of rain in this area. My pictures don’t do justice to the dramatic low levels of this water system. You can see a bunch of small fishing boats to give you some perspective. Every stream we have crossed is very low or dry. This is home of some of the most famous trout streams in America. There was still water in these, but not a lot. A little research shows that New York consumes 1.1 billion gallons of water from this reservoir. I thought about the similarity to Mexico City, which was built on an area surrounded by huge lakes that are not gone, and underground reservoirs continue to drop. 

Then we drove through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. This is a very pleasant drive through a well-managed wildlife area along the Delaware River, which looks quite pretty. Fields are planted for wildlife, but it also is a great buffer for the river. A nice bike trail runs the whole length, and trails go all through it. 

Stopping for lunch, we studied options for places to stay the night and agreed on Hickory Run State Park in Pennsylvania, open until the first of November. It will be cool here for a couple of days with rain/snow tomorrow. Then it turns nice for a week. It looks like a very nice park with a lot of trails. Although it was chilly, we built a fire and enjoyed sitting out for a while. Martha cooked sweet potatoes in the fire along with pork chops and peas. 

The showers are closed for the season and there are no flush toilets, so I’m pretty sure Martha will be wanting to move on tomorrow. For the first time, she took a shower in the trailer! Out came the exercise ball, the roller log, LL Bean bag  and the yoga mat. I asked how it was and she said, “Great”.

West to Catskills

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32℉ at 5:00

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

We decided to head west through the Green Mountains on Rt. 7, then 9 to 87 south to 23 that took us through Haines Falls, then 214 south into the heart of the Catskills. It was a pretty drive all around. The East side of the Green Mountains were without leaves, yet they were still pretty. At the top of the highest mountain there was a viewing area, but it was on the wrong side of a busy highway with no room for a trailer. After crossing over, there was snow on the ground. They probably got 4-5 inches a couple of days ago. As we drove down the west side, there were leaves and colors. I don’t know what the story is on the town of Bennington, but it is beautiful, and unlike some of the other towns, this is an affluent area.

Well, I hate busy interstates, and 87 goes to New York City. It’s a small interstate with a lot of traffic and a speed limit of 65. The wind was blowing hard, moving us around just a bit, but it makes you concentrate. The scenery was pretty following the Hudson River, but I was happy to turn off on 23 at exit 21. Driving through a wilderness area on a very narrow, winding road with huge drop-offs and road construction, made the palms sweat a bit. It was obvious everything was very dry. There was very little water in any stream. Then winding down 214 south through the Catskills, we arrived at Phoenicia, a small town and a campground that was still open. There is no WIFI and no cell phone service in this little river gorge. We had no WIFI in New Hampshire either, at least that my Mac would let me get on. 

We checked into the campground and talked with George, the owner. He said they hadn’t had rain all summer, and the river we were camped on should be two feet higher. He only takes cash, so we went up to town, a block away, got some cash and walked the two blocks of the cute, little town. Martha went into the library to get WIFI and emails while I roamed the interesting hardware store next door that had a sign on the front for guided fishing trips. A young girl worked the counter. She was bored to death, working her cell phone. 

A few doors up we went into a deli and baked goods shop. A german lady greeted us. I first noticed what appeared to be a banana coated with almond slivers with an edge of chocolate. “Now that’s the way to eat a banana!” I said. With a strong german accent, she said, “Not a banana”. I never quite got the name of it, but it was almond paste with coconut inside and I bought one. Martha bought a double cookie filled with jam and dusted with powdered sugar. We also bought some roast beef and some wild berry jam. I wanted a few other things, but resisted. The lady smiled as we left and said, “Enjoy your not a bananna”. 

There were a couple of restaurants, a grocery store, a gas station and a wine shop. What else do you need? With a forecast of 4-5 inches of snow tomorrow night, Martha wants to escape to the south, so we will wind our way south through the park tomorrow and head for Amish Country of Pennsylvania, and hopefully some WIFI.

White Mountains

High of 56℉

It has been raining for two days, sometimes very hard, sometimes very light. Driving in from Naples, we stopped in Conway, a busy place with tourists everywhere. The train is the thing right now as it travels through the mountains with the leaves still in color, but they are past their peak now. We visited the busy train station, then went across the street for a coffee and bagel. Main Street is long and lined with shops, restaurants, ski outfitters, clothing and fudge shops. This place is active all year long with ski slopes busy in winter. 

Rt. 302 goes through the park, and despite the rains it was still pretty. Big, impressive mountains surround you as we drove through Crawford Notch. I stopped at a viewpoint and took a picture. A Jeep was stopped with the hood up and a man leaning into the engine compartment. As I approached, he asked if I had jumper cables. I did, so we hooked them up with no effect. Fooling with everything for 30 minutes, his wife was finally able to get cell coverage enough to call AAA. I hate to leave a guy in that trouble, but we tried everything we could. Probably a bad solenoid or starter. 

Martha called the only campground that was supposed to be open, but they were closed. At the junction of 112 and 3 we pulled into Living Water Campground. While Martha talked with the nice owner, Jack, I looked around. This would do fine, and he was  thankfully open. There was a nice deli and pizza shop connected. It was the middle of the day, so we could have driven on, but we would have missed seeing the mountains. Jack told us about the scenic drives through the park. He said to pick any camp spot we liked. He had shut the water off, and there is only one bathroom, but it has a shower. He said there is 30 amp power behind the office, but the prettiest places are by the river with 15 amp. He gave us the weather forecast with a low of 34 and a little snow for tonight, but getting colder over the next five days with snow every day. We selected a beautiful, grassy spot beside the Ammonoosuc River. 

After lunch, we drove part of the loop Jack had suggested. Some of the roads are main highways going through. Some are smaller, and one you pay $36 to drive through. With rain and fog, we decided not to drive that one today. Still no moose sightings, but we did see three big turkeys. These are very pretty mountains with little towns scattered throughout. Each road seemed to follow a beautiful river, although they were all very low, so they obviously need the rain. 

We went to the deli for carrot and ginger soup and a pizza. Martha was able to do some exploring on her iPad. New Hampshire and Vermont were also slated for some light snows, and open campgrounds were hard to find. On Wednesday the low will be 18℉, and snow on four of the next six days. With highs in the upper 30’s, there won’t be much accumulation, but we might not be biking this week.