My West Virginia Mountains are home to some of our nation’s most creative problem solvers. The 3 rivers area of Gauley Bridge is no exception. In 1954 there were two problems. One, an old Greyhound bus that was no longer able to do bus stuff and a rock in the middle of the river with no fishing camp. Enter problem solver Walter “Bruiser” Cole. I have to admit that I never met this person and I have never been to his unique fishing camp which still looked like a Greyhound bus when I was a kid. I have never been able to figure out how he got it out onto the river either. But it’s been an icon of Gauley Bridge my whole life. I do remember talk in the 70s about the State trying to take his little camp away from him in a clean up effort. They called it junk! Such a unique and artful form of recycling and the State wanted it to go away.
In 2016 there was the worst flooding our area had seen in my lifetime. The News reporters call it the one thousand year flood. With all the damage to our entire state I thought for sure that it was the end of the bus on the the rock. But, on my next trip into town there was the little camp right there on the rock just like always. It kinda became a symbol of hope for me. If that camp could withstand the fury of both the State and nature in such an unlikely location then anything is possible as long as you’re anchored in the rock.
Today, the little camp has a new red,white and blue paint job and an extra room built on. From the front it doesn’t look as much like a Greyhound bus as it once did but the bus is still parked in the middle of the river.
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Gently floating on the Kanawha River just above Kanawha Falls the fishermen works his line. I was a bit envious when I spotted him peacefully maneuvering his one man craft across the river. He seemed to be so free. The morning mists were cascading down the mountains and spilling out over the falls as he casts out and slowly retrieves the bait. The ducks on my side of the river slyly slip into the water unsure about the big blue truck that came to an abrupt halt near their perches. As I scan the water a trail of bubbles break the surface. That’s the tell tale sign of big mud turtle lumbering on the bottom. With my camera in one hand and my ever present coffee in the other I step out of the truck to enjoy nature for a few minutes and thank God for the new day. Silently, I wish the fisherman luck as I preserve the peaceful scene in my lens. The ticking of my internal clock urges me to resume my daily commute. The engine purrs and I check the mirror as I pull out taking the peaceful feeling with me as I drive away.
I’ve always liked to just sit quietly by the water and look at the reflections. The shallow waters of Muddlety Creek is a great place for thinking time. On this particular day I was looking at these trees and bushes. The rest of the world just faded away into nothingness leaving only the occasional ripple where a small sunfish broke the surface. Tiny tortoise shell butterflies darted through the tall grasses stopping only for a moment to catch their breath. Sapphire blue Damselflies hover just above the water and the only sounds are the songbirds calling out from some hidden branches. A slight mist drifts in the breeze and droplets form tiny jewels at the tips of each leaf. I found myself wishing for a boat. I wanted to paddle upstream just to see what treasures lay just inside the trees. The mist began to thicken into a sprinkle and I knew it was time to move on. Placing my camera back into its case I climbed up into my big blue truck and took my journey just a little further down the quiet country road and on to my next destination. I’ll definitely be back to this spot.
The hot summer sun slowly sinks into the West and I can feel the coolness of the night sweep across the Lake. On the other shore near the sunset I can hear the doors of cars shutting as the engines pur to life and the swimmers make their way home. The smell of food cooked over an open flame lingers in the air. Small birds begin to skim across the water catching insects. The bird songs soon give way to the chirping of crickets and the occasional sound of a treefrog close to the shore. Deeper into the woods the hair raising cry of a screech owl rings out as he challenges his rivals for territory. Soon the evening star raises over the mountains signaling an end to the day. The headlights of my big blue truck come to life when I use the remote to unlock the door. It’s time to ease back up the gravel road and go process the images of the day.
Summer should be spent on or around boats. Summerville Lake in West Virginia is a great place to be a teenager with a boat. It was just a little day cruiser with a small cabin but it was an adventure machine. We did the usual stuff with it. Fishing and white I never mastered the art of water skiing we did have a knee board that was a lot of fun. Perhaps the most interesting knee board story would be the time I didn’t quite get my shorts properly secured. The way to start off on a knee board is in the prone position. Dad hit the throttle and the boat was running particularly well that day. Yup, pulled me right out of my swim trunks on a crowded lake! I dove as deep and as fast as I could. I could almost touch them but I was running out of air and had to surface. Head only of course. I spent the rest of the day wearing a brightly coloured towel as a loincloth and in fear of breeze created by a boat at full throttle. Most of the time we just puttered up river (The Gauley River runs underneath the lake.) Into one of coves and when the fishing wasn’t really all that great we’d have a swim. Camping isn’t allowed on the shore except in designated areas but you can anchor off shore and spend the night on your boat. One morning we was cruising out to a quiet spot on the lake and encountered a lady who was totally freaking out. We thought maybe she was in trouble so we pulled along side their boat to offer assistance. She produced a broken fishing rod. A large one similar to the ones used to fish the shore of the ocean. The rod was broken at the base and the hook was pulled out straight. She had experienced one of the monster catfish from the very bottom of the lake. The Department of Natural Resources maintains that these unnaturally large fish do not exist but we have certified Scuba Divers who will not dive Summersville Lake after spotting one. Life on Summersville Lake is an awesome experience. I hope to see you there sometime and be sure to bring good strong fishing tackle. You might be the one who pulls a monster out of one of submerged caves.