Airstream Time

Exploring North America in an Airstream

Posts from the ‘State Parks’ category

A Mess in New Hampshire

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

I didn’t sleep well and got up at 3:30 after being awake for a half hour. My head was spinning with the events. I tried not to let my mind go back to the accident. It was just too painful. I read an email from my friend, Ed, that helped put it in perspective, but it was still difficult. I tried to focus on what to do next. “The cheese had moved. Move with the cheese.”

We were staying at Lake Francis State Park in New Hampshire, right on the Canadian border. My phone said I was in Canada and charging me accordingly. I would later learn that’s where the nearest tower is. I went down to the very nice bath house and showered. As daylight came, I walked around to help clear my mind. It’s a gorgeous spot where the Connecticut River runs into Lake Francis. We were here to fish the river. All the write-ups described miles of river to fish, most of which are tailwaters from three lakes that keep the water cool. The people population isn’t so great, and it feels more like Canada.

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The campground is very pretty and well-maintained. Several guys in their 20’s came down with rods in hand, two spinning and one fly rod. They had been catching fish, mostly Brook Trout 10-12 inches and one 16″ Rainbow. The guy with the fly rod had caught the most fish. I asked what fly he was using, and he said, “A brown wet fly with white wings.” Had I felt better, I might have smiled. I wished them luck.

At the top of the hill, a young man was rigging up his fly rod. His 5-year old girl asked, “Daddy can you….”, but he said, “Wait a minute dear. Daddy has to get his fishing rod ready.” His cute wife had just come back from a one-hour bike ride at 7:00. 

I spent the morning talking and emailing Chris Burch, Airstream service advisor at Jackson Center in Ohio. I sent him all the pictures, including ones after Kelly and I had cleaned everything up. It took a long time because we are surely not the only ones that needed help. I have had service there before with our 2005 30’ Classic, and they did a great job. I think he would also go and talk with his service people and managers and ask what would need to be done. 

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It was about 11:00 when Chris said it would be a lot of work. The roof would have to be replaced, so everything on the roof has to come off. Then three of the ribs need to be replaced, which means they have to take the inside shell off and take the cabinets out. It would be expensive, but they couldn’t do it until the fall. 

I was about to throw up when Sue(?) came up in her golf cart. She is the campground supervisor and had seen the air conditioner sitting by the dumpster. “Have you reported this to the police?” We thought a guy behind us had done that, but she gave me the number of the Pittsburg police chief. I called him while she watched. John, the chief, said he would go and look, then come and talk with us.

It was a long morning of waiting. Kelly was beginning to think how he might get back home, if he could cancel his flight out of Bangor, Maine and what towns or cities we might be passing. There was no sense in driving all the way to Jackson Center, so I called Paul at Profile State Line Superstore in Lebanon, Maine. He was very nice, and said they were happy to help get us back on the road. They couldn’t do the work for three weeks though. They were four hours away, so it just made more sense to go there, and leave it to be repaired. Martha and I would have to go to Newfoundland and stay in B&B’s or something.

Where was that sheriff? We hooked up the trailer and got ready to travel. Finally John came. Big and strong, in his 30’s, John introduced himself. I told him the story as he checked my driver’s license and registrations. He took some pictures and I gave him mine. I was liable for the bridge damage. Apparently that liability falls on the truck insurance while the trailer damage is covered by a different company, but that’s another story.

Then John said I needed to pay for hauling the air conditioner away and should go down to the office and settle with Sue. Sheez! I went down and told Sue (?) we were leaving, hoping to get two nights refund to pay for removing the air conditioner, but she said she didn’t know if it could be refunded on such short notice. I was about to lose it as John left. She said I needed to contact a recommended service to pick it up. “OK, can I use your phone to call them?” “No, you have to send them a letter.” Are you kidding me? John had suggested $40 to remove it, so I put it on the counter and left. I had really liked this campground, but now I was ready to get the hell out of there.

We set the truck GPS for Lebanon, Maine and started out. It told us to turn left on a gravel road and we did. In a short distance we saw it was not a good idea. It took 15 minutes to turn the trailer around. I tried to keep calming myself, afraid I might make another mistake and damage something else. Finally back on the road, we stopped at a Y. The GPS told us to go left, but that is where the covered bridge is. There was one in front of us, but it was just a decoration now. I began thinking about suing the state for keeping these cute, but outdated bridges.

An attractive lady drove up in a golf cart pulling a lawn tractor behind. She stopped and asked if we were lost. I told her we didn’t like where the GPS was sending us. “Oh, GPS doesn’t work up here. Go straight down this road and you will get to route 3. Thanking her, we drove down the gravel road to Rt 3, turned left and saw a gas station where we refueled yesterday. Are you kidding me?! All we had to do yesterday was drive a half mile from the station, turn right on a good gravel road and go 3/4 mile to the park. The GPS couldn’t have taken us on a more convoluted route! Now I wanted to sue the GPS. I understand phones not working, and I understand GPS not working, but this was crazy, like some demonic spirit in control just to have a little fun!

Driving New Hampshire roads while pulling a trailer is not fun. Someone told us Newfoundland roads are terrible. They can’t be worse than New Hampshire roads. The countryside is gorgeous though, and driving through the White Mountains is very pretty. The adrenaline was fading now, and I was getting tired, so I asked Kelly to drive. There are few people I would let drive and he is one of them. Still, it makes me nervous.

We arrived at Profile Stateline Superstore at 4:15. Tom came out to greet us. He is the technician and pulled out a ladder, climbing up to assess the damage. I waited for the “Oh my God” to come out, or the head shaking, but neither happened. He just looked, pointed and calculated. Then he went inside. Again, no muttering or comments, just calculating. Then we went inside to see Paul. They did some talking and quick calculations, and Paul thought it might cost $10,000. The parts are expensive. Shipping from Jackson Center is expensive. Big sheets and panels, packed and shipped carefully would surely be costly. “OK, go ahead” I said.

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Kelly was eying this little 14.5′ Airstream for Rhonda

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Kelly packing up

We had no place to stay and we hadn’t had lunch today. They said we could park beside the service building. There is even a power hookup there. Well, I wasn’t going to run the air conditioner. We stayed there. It was just easier. It was hot sitting in the sun, but we opened all the windows and turned the fans on high, and soon it cooled down. Kelly searched ways to get home by plane or train. We had just bought all this food. What were we going to do with it? How would I put all this stuff in the truck? There were things I didn’t need, and thought about renting a little storage unit. We cooked a steak in the frying pan, corn on the cob and some mixed vegetables.

Kelly finally found a train to Richmond leaving from Back Bay in Boston, an hour and a half away. I didn’t like it, but the plan was now to leave the trailer here, go to Newfoundland and come back to pick up the Airstream after the trip. We probably wouldn’t stay as long, as it would be a lot more expensive, staying in hotels and eating all our meals out, but that was it. It had been a very long day and we were tired. Martha was coming to Halifax, Nova Scotia Tuesday night. I made a list of things I needed to do.

The Westfield River

Thursday, July 4, 2019

The East Branch of the Westfield River was too warm for fishing yesterday, so our plan was to fish the tailwaters of the Westfield River. It was July 4th, a terrible time for trout fishing, but a tailwater stream comes out of the bottom of a dam, so the water is cold. 

Driving out of Tolland State Park, there was a line of waiting cars. People were walking and talking around the cars. Slowly driving around the corner, the line continued for half a mile and judging from the animated conversations going on around us, most were Spanish speaking. The park is on a large lake, with a beach and a campground. For $5 a day, you can spend the day at the beach. A campsite is $27 a night, and they are large sites. A young man walked up the line of cars, handing out registrations. A truck came down our side of the road and seemed unwilling to back up. There was a space between cars in the long line, so I backed up so he could get in it. He was a park ranger. People came up to his truck to ask questions. We were amazed at the line as we drove out. 

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Driving up the Westfield main branch, we passed a park on the river. It was packed. People were parking across the street. We turned to Wrightsville dam, but two police cars blocked the road. The officer said they couldn’t allow anyone else in, as it was full. “Are they fishing?” we asked. “No, no one is fishing.” he said with a grin. He suggested fishing below Littleville Lake nearby.

We found the very pretty lake with a small stream flowing out below. We found a parking spot on the main branch behind an old sedan. A family was cooling off in the river. The young father came up to check on his car. We told him we were going to fish upstream of them. He could see we were old, decked out in fishing gear and harmless, so he nodded with a small smile.

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As we started up the small branch of the Westfield, Kelly fished ahead. I walked around the shallow side of a small island. I have never seen so many crayfish in my life, and there were some big ones. Crayfish, crawfish, crawdads or mountain lobsters are common in many streams, but this is a crayfish farm! Why on earth would a trout take any fly in my box when it could dine regularly on lobster? This pretty, little stream was warm – too warm, and slippery. We fished it up to the bridge and never saw a fish. 

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We got out in someone’s yard to walk up to the road. I saw a lady on the porch and asked if we could walk across. She yelled for her husband. John came to greet us, saying it was fine. “Did you catch anything?” he asked. He said the water gets to warm to even swim in the summer. He had build a small dam to make a little swimming hole, but he said the water comes off the top of the lake. Sheez, the top of the lake! So this is not a tailwater stream – only the one below Wrightsville Dam. He smiled and told us about all the work he had done on this pretty house that was built in the 1800’s. We thanked him and began our long walk in the hot sun back to the car. There was a lot of traffic on this little country road. A car with a Spanish-speaking family stopped to ask directions to a park. 

As we crossed a bridge over the main Westfield, two police cars blocked the road. Traffic was backed up as far as we could see. A nice police officer told us it would be about five minutes while a worker cut a downed power line. So many people were trying to find a place to cool off. Like us, they thought they were getting away in the countryside. God knows what it was like at the ocean beaches. 

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We were concerned we might not be able to get back to our campsite, but that was fine. As we drove into the park, this end of the lake was filled with boats gathered to party. We thought it would be terribly hot in the trailer, but it wasn’t. Our big, shady site was very comfortable. We showered and watched Enemy at The Gates, an excellent, riveting WWII movie. It was nice to relax a bit. After cocktails, we fixed a nice dinner of trout, new potatoes and sautéed spinach. Across the street was a big gathering of Latinos. Different people stood in the middle telling stories. Why couldn’t I make myself learn Spanish? I’m guessing the stories would have been fascinating. 

Fishing The East Branch of The Westfield River

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

It was and hour drive over to the East Branch, plus a stop for ice and a breakfast sandwich at a gas station. We took a quick look at Chesterfield Gorge, a pretty spot on the river, but we were excited to get fishing. It was already 9:30 and warming up. 

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We drove down the bumpy, dirt road, passing a couple of cars a photography team and some dog-walkers. It would be a great place to walk or ride a bike. We drove down a mile or so and parked. Kelly is always geared up first and had to wait for me. I followed, waiting to put a fly on until I got a look at the river. He was fishing on top, so I put on a nymph. I hate fishing nymphs, but it was probably our best chance of catching fish. The river is gorgeous, with huge boulders, swift runs and big pools. It’s easy casting with little in the way. Big rocks make great platforms to stand on and cast. 

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The water was warm – no cooler than a good smallmouth stream. This is not a good thing for trout. The river is a bit treacherous to walk in with silt covering the rocks, making it very slippery. We changed flies a lot and fished hard for two hours. No hits, no runs, no errors, so we decided to go downstream a ways. 

A nice fisherman was driving back up and stopped to chat. He hadn’t done anything either, starting where a gate blocks the road. He was going to try going upstream, so we went down. After parking, we walked down a half mile and started fishing. Nothing. I mean it’s July, and that’s not good for trout fishing. We were sitting on a big rock when I noticed a bike-rider with his shirt unzipped climbing down the bank toward us. We said hello as George approached us. “Did you lose a fishing rod? A walker found one in the road.” Kelly said it could be his. Did he set it on top of the truck toolbox and leave it there? “What color was it?” George asked. “What color line did it have on it?” Amazing how you can fish a rod for 30 years and not know what color it is. It was his father’s Orvis rod. We had noticed a group or groups of walkers along the road above us. George said the walker might leave it with the park attendant, but there was none today.

I scrambled up the bank as they were talking and walked quickly back to the truck to see if his rod was in the back. It wasn’t. By then Kelly was walking up. We got in the truck, hoping to catch this walker before he left the area. Backing up 300 yards, we found a place to turn around. A Jeep was coming down the road and had to back up to a spot we could pass each other. We passed several groups of walkers, but no fishing rod. Then a biker with two dogs stopped us. It was a bit hard to tell what he was talking about. As a dentist, I was focusing on the missing teeth. He was a fit-looking older guy with no shirt on. Apparently there was a car with a dead battery. We had only passed one parked car, a Jeep. “Was that it”, Kelly asked. “No, it’s up a side road. I remembered a road turning up the mountain. “We’ll come back, but first we need to look for a lost fishing rod.” we said. He was still talking as we hurried off. Hurried is a stretch. This road is rough, and 10mph is top speed with a lot of bouncing. We’ll probably break something in the back, we said.

One more group – no rod, but in the next group, a bearded man about our age had the rod. Kelly thanked him profusely. “Thank God”. We turned around and drove back down the road to find the car with a dead battery. Catching up to the bike-rider with two dogs. It was his truck, a new Toyota. He must have left something on, maybe a light or something. He said he would lead the way to where he was camped for several days. Shades of Deliverance went through our minds. The two of us could take him, but suppose he had a friend up there with a gun. He could ride the bike faster than we could drive the truck, but we followed him to the  turnoff. He said it got a bit narrow at one point. Looking back, he said, “Boy, that’s a big truck!” We have driven much tougher roads, but a log narrowed it at one point. It was a bit of a struggle getting by, and his directions weren’t great.

Finally we saw the new, red Toyota truck. Of course it was pointed away from us. We quickly surveyed the area for others. Dogs are usually good indicators, and these were two very nice dogs. If they were pit bulls, as so many people seem to have, we wouldn’t have followed him. 

We had to clear all his camping gear, coolers, stoves and bags out of the way. Then we pushed his truck backward so I could get my truck around a fire pit to his hood. “You want a beer?” he asked. He was constant chatter, and I wasn’t here for chatter. Steve was his name. He said, “Oh you don’t drink?” “No, we drink – just not beer”. The cute, little puppy kept jumping up my leg, looking for attention. 

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Fortunately I have long jumper cables, but they’re not so easy to clamp on my battery. First try, no effect. There was just clicking. May be the starter, I suggested. “No” Steve said “They really service this truck well. I’m sure it’s the battery. It has so many electrical gadgets and technology, I’m sure it was my mistake leaving something on.” Tightening the clamps, we tried again with no effect. “Let it run a while to charge it”, he said, and the chatter kept flowing. Noticing a hanging trash bag, I asked about bears. That led to a couple of bear stories. Steve likes to camp in remote places, not that this is really remote, but if you like to bike and walk, this is a good place. “Try it again”, I said while he was still talking. Still clicking. The starter, I thought.

I checked the connections and found the one on my battery had come loose. “Try it again” I said. He said, “Leave it a few minutes and let it charge some more. Are you guys in a hurry?” He was drinking a beer, and still talking. Thankfully, on the next try, his truck started. He thanked us profusely as we wrapped up the cables and put them back in the truck. It was a bit tricky turning around, but we finally made it. Heading down the mountain, he was still talking, thanking us. Now safe, we realized not many were going to come up this road to help Steve, and we were glad we did. Not many people were going to come down to the river and ask if we had lost a fishing rod either, so we had paid if forward. The fishing wasn’t much, but it was an adventure.

We started to drive to a fly shop in Deerfield, but the bridge was out. It was 45 minutes north and we were an hour from camp. That’s enough for one day, so we turned around and headed home. Charlie had called as we left the Beaverkill. What a nice guy! He said the Deerfield was great, and gave us the name of a great guide. Looks like we aren’t going to make that one this trip. 

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Fisherman’s Paradise and Fishing Creek

Monday, June 24, 2019

We had passed an overlook several times, so this time we stopped to get some pictures of this beautiful area

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We knew Fishing Creek was muddy, but that was our best choice, at least of the streams we knew about. We stopped at a convenience store for some coffee. As Kelly was getting in the truck, a fit, middle-aged guy walked in front, and Kelly asked, “Where’s the best place to go fishing around here?” With a quick smile, he asked, “Trout fishing?” “Yeah”, Kelly said. “Fisherman’s Paradise. Two presidents have fished there. You’re just 20 minutes away. Just put it in your phone for directions. It’s a spring creek.” We thanked him and searched Fisherman’s Paradise to quickly find directions. A spring creek wouldn’t be muddy.

As we drove south on I80, we thought, sure, it’s a pay-to-fish place. With the luck we have had, that was fine with us. As we arrived along a large crystal-clear spring creek, a sign greeted us. It is a state-run facility as a model for sustainable trout fishing. There were a few fishermen as we crept up the road admiring the beautiful stream. The road ended in a big parking lot and a large building. Now fishermen steadily walked up and downstream with a purpose. We have never seen so many, totally-geared up trout fishermen. They all looked like guides with the best waders, fishing shirts, vests, rods, nets, hats and sunglasses. I should have gotten some pictures, but my purpose was fishing. I walked around reading signs discussing the history of this place, once a private, pay-to-fish place, lined with fishermen. As the water quality deteriorated, the state bought it and gradually restored it. Using barbless hooks, no fish can be kept. 

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I noticed Kelly had been talking to a man, so I walked over and met George. He was very familiar with this stream, coming every year. He said he tries to come during the sulfur or midge hatch. Unfortunately, it is between hatches now. He had a license tag that read, ANGLER surrounded with a Trout Unlimited frame. He is from Connecticut, and was working on a project for UConn. At first I thought it was Yukon, and I couldn’t figure out what he was doing. Coming in on the middle of the conversation, I didn’t want to make him retrace everything. What I did get was that he didn’t catch anything this morning. He targeted several fish that he saw, but couldn’t move them using a #20 fly. That is tiny! He said the fish didn’t even look up, so I asked why he didn’t try something under water. He just smiled. One, it’s not as much fun, and two, spring creeks have heavy grasses in them. If you go under water, you are going to get caught in them. If George hadn’t caught fish, what chance did we have? Surely there was some answer to attract these rainbows and browns. 

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George said if we liked wading, we should go downstream a mile to a bridge. We thanked him and headed down, passing fishermen along the way using a variety of techniques. None were catching fish, at least that we saw. For several hours we tried our best with no luck. After a hour of trying a few dry flies, I tied a dropper nymph, knowing that would do the trick. That means tying a small underwater fly to a large dry fly. That way you can see a strike and control the depth of the nymph. Nada, nothing, so I moved the nymph deeper. Nada. Wrong nymph? between hatches? Wrong time of day? We didn’t see anyone else having any luck either. By lunchtime, we were hungry, tired and frustrated, but this sure is a beautiful stream, like a large version of Mossy Creek at home. 

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OK, let’s go back to Fishing Creek and try that. We picked up a hamburger at McDonalds in Coburn and drove to Fishing Creek. It was still muddy, but we fished it hard for a couple of hours in a couple of places with no luck…..again. Well, we weren’t skunked. I caught one small, beautiful Brook Trout. 

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The fly shop said Poe Creek had fish in the upper section above the bridge, and Kelly was determined to catch some. I opted to take some pictures as I followed along. It is such a beautiful stream, it was fun to relax and enjoy the views. I’ve never been on an ugly trout stream. They may vary greatly in size, shape and surroundings, but they are always pretty. 

Raccoon, I think

Raccoon, I think

Poe Creek

Poe Creek

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By the time we got back to camp it was 6:30, and we were tired. We built a fire, fixed a drink and discussed the trials and tribulations of another frustrating day. Still, we felt lucky to be able to do this. Thank you Martha and Rhonda!

Scouting Penns Creek and Fishing Creek

Saturday, June 22, 2019

As we packed up at Bumblebee RV Park, Andy came by to say hello with his dog, Charlie. We chatted for a while. This is a nice campground with very nice owners. Since Lisa and Andy work remotely, their WIFI system is great. They have owner’s WIFI, camper’s WIFI and full-timer WIFI, so there is plenty of capacity for everyone. With an excellent shower house, good water and electricity, we are going to miss these conveniences. 

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We drove 4 hours northeast, mostly on 220. Again, it was a beautiful, uncrowded highway through the mountains. We didn’t trust our phone GPS as we turned onto a gravel road 11 miles from Poe Paddy State Park, especially when a sign pointed to Poe Valley State Park. Were we going to the wrong place? Creeping along, we finally came to Poe Valley State Park and a paved road. There were lots of houses and cabins and a lake with a big swimming area. It was cool here in the mountains, about 72 degrees, a great escape from the summer city heat. We were sure we were in the wrong place when we saw a sign for Poe Paddy State Park 3.5 miles ahead. 

Then the narrow road turned back to gravel and followed a gorgeous trout stream – Poe Creek. Finally we arrived at Poe Paddy State Park, happy we weren’t in the wrong place. There was no office, so we stopped and found an information board with a map of the park and campground. We had reserved site #146 for four nights, since we had three streams to fish in this area, and the campground is on one of them – Penns Creek. The sites are huge in this nice park but here are no showers, power or water hookups.

After setting up, we drove to the end of a road and walked along an old railroad bed. This was a logging camp years ago, the train being used to haul lumber. Now it is a beautiful bike/hiking trail along Penns Creek. The river was muddy and flowing pretty fast. Seems to be our trademark when fishing – camped right on the river, but too muddy to fish.

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We have a printer in the Airstream that we use to print fishing licenses on the internet, but there was just one problem – no WIFI and no cell service. With our cell booster, we got one bar of service, but it was not enough to get on the internet. As we started to drive out of the parking lot, a warden drove up. I rolled down the window and asked if they sold fishing licenses at the Poe Valley Park office. No, he said as he got out of his brown truck and came up to the window. “You have to go to Milheim hardware store over the mountain”. Of course we know nothing about where we were. He could quickly see we were going to get lost, so he pulled out a map showing us where to go. He also told us they stock “the heck out of Poe Creek”. Then he showed us where Fishing Creek was and where to fish it. Turns out he is a school teacher, teaching physical education and history, and works as a warden part time. He was a fit guy with a big, easy smile. He was wearing a bullet-proof vest and a tool belt with a pistol, flashlight and other gear. I asked if we were in a rough neighborhood, and he just laughed. Why he took so much time with us, I don’t know, but he said, “Look, I’m headed home in that direction. I have to make a quick stop to check people at the boat launch, but you can follow me”. What lucky people we were to find a guy like this! His name is David Martin. Pennsylvania is lucky to have a guy like this.

After a quick stop at the boat launch, David brought us a copy of the rules and regulations with a list of all the trout streams – Geez! Then he takes a right on a gravel road going up the mountain. It’s a narrow road with a fair amount of traffic. You have to hug the edge to pass other cars and trucks. Tom stopped to pick up a big chain someone lost in the middle of the road. As he was picking it up, he looked back and yelled, “SLOWDOWN!” I hadn’t even noticed the car behind me that had obviously skidded to a stop. It was Saturday and everyone was out. At the bottom of the mountain we turned right to follow Penns Creek into Coburn, where he stopped at The Feathered Hook Fly Shop. They didn’t sell licenses, but a nice young man inside brought us two printed maps of the roads, towns and streams on it. Milheim was only 2 miles down the road.

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Seeing we were in good shape now, David said he was going home to take his wife out to dinner. We thanked him profusely and went into the fly shop. This is quite a fly shop with everything in it. The wall is lined with fishing boots in every size! I looked around while Kelly talked to Tess. She said the trout can see better than you think in cloudy water, but the time to fish is late in the evening. Apparently there is a hatch at that time. Memories flashed back to the Columbia River with our guide, Rod, out of Castlegar, BC, when there was a huge mayfly hatch from 6:00 until dark. He had said there was no real sense in going out until then, since the fish waited to gorge on big mayflies. 

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Tess is quite the fisherwoman, having fished her way across the United States recently. We told here we had fished our way across Canada in 2013, so we traded favorite trout streams. Her favorite is Penns Creek. She told us what to use, so we bought $40 worth of flies. With the hundreds of flies we have, why do we never have the right ones? We could tell she knows what she is talking about and later decided to see if she could guide us, but she was booked up. Too bad. It would have been fun and educational to fish with her.

Using the map they had printed for us, we headed over to see what Fishing Creek looked like, and maybe get in a little fishing. The trouble was the map listed route numbers, but the road signs were in street names. We found Fishing Creek in Lamar, but couldn’t find the right way to the area Tom had told us to fish. We stopped to ask a gentleman sitting with his wife in the shade of their garage. He told us which way to go, but we still couldn’t find it. We were embarrassed when we passed by him three more times. I was ready to give it all up, and I was ready for a drink when Kelly talked to a young man at a gas station. With fresh directions, we finally got on the right track. 

As we headed up Fishing Creek, once again it was muddy. We passed two seasoned fishermen walking up the road. They looked tired and grumpy, but I slowed down and asked how they did. One said, “We’d have done better at the water treatment plant. At least we’d have caught something brown!” That’s what I needed, a good laugh. I guess there are brown trout in this stream. 

After cruising the stream a while, we headed back home. It was 6:00 and we were tired, but the decision for tomorrow was easy. Everything was muddy except Poe Creek near our camp, and Tom said it was well-stocked.

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Houses of Natchez

I spent the afternoon driving, but mostly walking around Natchez. One neighborhood along the cliff overlooking the Mississippi was most impressive. It’s only a guess, but I suspect the city codes for historic homes might stop some people from buying. Next door to some incredibly beautiful homes are once-beautiful homes that are in disrepair. There are also intermixed modest homes that are often quite pretty. Blocks away, I found a modest neighborhood that looked like Elvis’ birthplace. Rhett was right. This is a very cool town, rich in heritage and history, and I didn’t even get started on the cuisine. Next time 😊

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Loved my campsite at Natchez State Park.

Natchez Trace Emerald Mound

Like the Grand Village, this is a sacred and impressive site of the Mississipians beginning about 1300. Mound building was practiced for thousands of years. It was a place of ceremonies, trade among nations all the way to Indiana, and games. Here they placed stickball with only their hands. They still return every year for ceremonies.

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Driving back up the Trace from Natchez, I wanted to see Mount Locust, one of the hostelries along the Trace. It is the only one that remains. The framework of the house is sassafras, and was found to be in almost perfect condition. The interior trim and walls were poplar; the exterior siding cypress. From “Guide to The Natchez Trace” by F. Lynne Bachleda. Unfortunately it was not open. I visited some other sites along the way, a beautiful cemetery on the Trace, the remains of Elisabeth Female Academy (1818-1845) and Loess Bluff, an ancient wind-blown cliff.

I went back to Natchez, visiting St. Mary’s Cathedral and the Natchez National Cemetery that my tour guide recommended. Walking along the boardwalk, there are three impressive homes standing above the Mississippi.

Natchez, Mississippi

My friend, Rhett Riplinger, told me Natchez is a great and interesting town, so I spent a couple of days exploring. Still I left a lot undone. I walked around downtown and along the riverwalk. Then I saw a little horse and carriage with a man standing beside it in front of the old train station. I hustled over just in time. Within a couple of minutes I realized this guy was going to be a classic, and I started the recording app on my phone. He grew up here, adding a lot of color commentary, but he knew his history…..although some may have been embellished.

There was the ‘Hanging Tree” at the court house and old jail, where paranormal stories abound. There are Clan stories. Bowie’s Tavern has an old bar where Kit Carson inscribed his name. Sam Bowie, born in Kentucky, grew up across the river, gaining fame in the “Sandbar Fight” in the middle of the Mississippi River. He was shot twice and stabbed three times, once in the sternum with a sword cane. With the sword sticking out of his chest, he grabbed his opponent’s shirt, killing him with his large sheath knife.

The Natchez Indians had settled this site on a high bluff above the “Father of Waters” for 1,000 years before the Europeans came. Probably the “Mississipians” had been there long before. When De Soto came in 1540 with 600-700 armored and mounted soldiers, the Natchez “Sun God”, Quigualtam, had heard how he had treated Indians along his journey. De Soto sent emissaries several times asking for treasures and surrender. On his last attempt, he said he was the father of the Sun and was more powerful than the chief. Quigualtam told him to prove it by drying up the river. When that didn’t happen, the Natchez chased and raided De Soto all the way to the Gulf.

The Mississippi originates in Lake Itasca in Minnesota, traveling 2300 miles to the Gulf, which makes it the third largest watershed in the world. It carries a half million pounds of sediment every day. Over the eons, it is responsible for making what is now south central United States. From “Guide to The Natchez Trace Parkway” by F. Lynne Bachleda. It remains a relatively untamed river.

Samuel Clemens spent a lot of time in Natchez. My tour guide told the story of Clemens being invited to the 1st Presbyterian Church. Before the service, he noticed the Slave Gallery upstairs. He tried to go up there to join them, but couldn’t find the way up. It was said that was one of the inspirations for “Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn”, where the kids fake their death on the river and view their funeral from the rafters. Later he was asked what he thought of heaven and hell. He said he didn’t want to comment because he had friends in both places.

Natchez was a rich town before the Civil War, with river transportation, lumber and cotton being the primary businesses. After the war, times were different. A lot of the shipping business went to New Orleans and Baton Rouge. The transition from slavery and today didn’t always go easily. I visited the Natchez Museum of African American History and Culture. You could spend the rest of your life reading all the books in that museum. I was their only visitor that afternoon, and was given a guided tour that lasted three and a half hours. I was thankful, but exhausted. History is rich here. We discussed recent issues we have had in Charlottesville, or what I call “Statue City”. They said it could have easily happened in Natchez. Diving back to camp, I couldn’t help but think of how terribly the Native Americans fared. Yet we hear little of it today.

Natchez State Park was a great place for me to stay. It was quiet with a good staff and good facilities.

Tahquamenon Falls

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

We explored the lower and upper falls in Tahquamenon Falls State Park, and they are beautiful – like a little Niagara with colors like Pictured Rocks. It rained hard again last night, so the river was rocking. This is a beautiful area you could explore for a long time. There are lots of trails and lots of clear streams to float, but we don’t have a lot of time, and it is supposed to rain hard for the next three days.

Our treat of the day was to go to Brown’s Fish House, famous for freshly caught whitefish. Looking at the small menu, I was torn between yellow perch, walleye or whitefish. The nice waitress said whitefish is fresh and what people come from miles away to get. Whitefish and chips it was, and it was good. With three good-size pieces of fish, it was all I could eat. 

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We drove out to Whitefish Point to see the beach, the lighthouse and bird sanctuary. Walking out on the beach, we came up on a young man with a scope and a computer, drinking his coffee next to a tiny hut. It was a chilly, windy day, but he was there to count birds for the Michigan Audubon Society. Martha walked right up and asked what he was doing. His name was Gary, and for 30 minutes he told us about all the birds that come through here. Birds are his passion, and he knows his stuff. The puddle ducks are all gone now, flying south for the winter. That’s why we didn’t see anything at Seney Wildlife Area. Now the diving ducks were just starting to come in. The plovers have all migrated, and so have the hawks. He said thousands of hawks migrate through here. It is such an important spot because birds will stop here after crossing Lake Superior or resting before crossing when coming back north. It’s a relatively narrow part of the lake, so it’s a good place to cross. Unlike so many places, this point has gained about 150 yards of beach, including a good-sized pond. We thanked Gary for his tremendous enthusiasm and sharing his knowledge with us.

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Walking up the beach, several people were collecting smooth, round rocks that line the shore. I took a couple of pictures of the lighthouse that protects shoals that have wrecked many ships, including the Edmund Fitzgerald. Gordon Lightfoot describes it well in his song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”. 

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Lyrics

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down

Of the big lake they called ‘gitche gumee’

The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead

When the skies of November turn gloomy

With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more

Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty

That good ship and crew was a bone to be chewed

When the gales of November came early

The ship was the pride of the American side

Coming back from some mill in Wisconsin

As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most

With a crew and good captain well seasoned

Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms

When they left fully loaded for Cleveland

And later that night when the ship’s bell rang

Could it be the north wind they’d been feelin’?

The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound

And a wave broke over the railing

And every man knew, as the captain did too,

T’was the witch of November come stealin’

The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait

When the gales of November came slashin’

When afternoon came it was freezin’ rain

In the face of a hurricane west wind

When suppertime came, the old cook came on deck sayin’

Fellas, it’s too rough to feed ya

At seven pm a main hatchway caved in, he said

Fellas, it’s been good t’know ya

The captain wired in he had water comin’ in

And the good ship and crew was in peril

And later that night when his lights went outta sight

Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Does any one know where the love of God goes

When the waves turn the minutes to hours?

The searches all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay

If they’d put fifteen more miles behind her

They might have split up or they might have capsized

They may have broke deep and took water

And all that remains is the faces and the names

Of the wives and the sons and the daughters

Lake Huron rolls, superior sings

In the rooms of her ice-water mansion

Old Michigan steams like a young man’s dreams

The islands and bays are for sportsmen

And farther below Lake Ontario

Takes in what Lake Erie can send her

And the iron boats go as the mariners all know

With the gales of November remembered

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed,

In the maritime sailors’ cathedral

The church bell chimed till it rang twenty-nine times

For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down

Of the big lake they call ‘gitche gumee’

Superior, they said, never gives up her dead

When the gales of November come early

Songwriters: Gordon Lightfoot

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

Rain! Petoskey, Michigan

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

We woke up to HEAVY rains, thunder and lightning. Like a small hurricane, the winds blew hard. I was worried a tree or big limb would fall on the Airstream. It was predicted to last all day, so we read most of the morning. By noon it let up, so we drove into Petosky and went to the library. Certainly one of the nicest libraries I have been in, the nice lady at the desk told us it is more quiet on the second floor. With comfortable tables, chairs and lounge chairs, we picked a good spot to catch up on the blog. 45 minutes later I was done. We headed across the street to an old church that now served as Crooked Tree Arts Center and checked out all the work, most of which was for sale. 

By then the sun had come out and it was warming up, so we decided to go to Bear River Valley Recreation Area, where the river had been turned into a 1.5 mile white water section. You’d better know what you are doing to run this one. Of course it was rocking from that torrential rain last night. By the time we had walked up the trail for a while, we started peeling layers off. From the 49 degree start of the day, it got up to 75 and sunny.

On our way back to Petoskey State Park, we stopped to look at the incredibly pretty houses overlooking the bay. I hadn’t walked very far when a gentleman, out for his walk, asked me how I was doing. The next thing you know we were walking together, talking about Petoskey. He said he has been coming here for 76 years, his parents bringing the family from the time he was born. He went on to jobs bringing distressed companies back to life, living in many places including Florida and 8 years in Hawaii. He said this is the best place he has very been, and I believe it as it is gorgeous. He told me we should buy a cottage here. Then he gave me recommendations of where to eat and places to go, among them Pictured Rocks and Harbor Springs. We said goodbye. A couple he knew came up the other side of the street, and he went over to talk to them. He must be the mayor of Petoskey. 

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I resumed taking pictures of the lovely homes, but didn’t make it down to Bay Street where the biggest houses are. Martha had made it down and around two blocks before we met again. We decided to go to Petoskey Brewing Company for dinner. A good burger and fries complemented the porters we ordered. A group of 10 guys were seated next to us. I couldn’t help but listen in as one guy told the story of deer hunting when a wolf killed a deer right in front of his deer stand. After all that rain, it turned out to be a pretty good day.