Nothing brings to mind the carefree days of childhood than skipping stones. Before cable tv, before the internet and before Fortnight we would hike down to Collison Creek where the stream was just wide enough to make a flat stone bounce and skip along the water’s surface. It wasn’t really wide enough to go for long distance. Making it to the other side of the creek was fairly easy so we got creative. In some spots the water flows around large rocks that made perfect bumpers. The object was to play the bank shot by skipping a stone into the bumper and making it land in a certain place. Sometimes we could get one to skip on the rebound after bouncing off of the bumper stone. Other skipping stone games involved landing a stone on a sand bar and a second player would try knock it off with his stone. This one lead to another incarnation that we called “soldier’s fort”. We would wade out to the sand bar and stack rocks like cairns. Usually the stack was only 2 or 3 stones high. Then twigs were gathered from the forest floor and stuck in the sand like a palisade. The object was to crash through the wall by skipping a stone into it until you could knock down a stack of rocks. We never really kept a score. It was all about finding something to do in an age where you had to create your own fun.
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I have to admit that I have never been in a kayak before. I’ve always had small rowboats. Still, there’s a strong sense of freedom that comes from gliding over the water and going someplace that you’ve never been. I guess that it’s the perception of a broken barrier. We seem to crave a life without any restrictions. Thanks to Hollywood our perspective of what constitutes an adventure is colored by images of Indiana Jones trudging through the jungle or people in some life and death struggle with the elements. But adventure can be as simple as deciding to do something new. It doesn’t even have to be a thousand miles away from home. In fact there’s a lot to be said for having a warm bed and WiFi when the sun goes down. But I digress. My Appalachian Mountains are full of rivers and streams with all kinds of little coves and hidden beauty to explore. I have been told by a friend that while exploring a local river he found a hidden cash of prehistoric stone points. (I’m sworn to secrecy as to the exact spot on which river). Even the little creek that runs through my yard has yielded a few fossils. But the best reward we get from our rivers is the tranquility that comes from peacefully floating around and going wherever your heart takes you.
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.
Back in the day warm weather meant cruising. Now, there’s a fine art to this favored pastime of previous generations. First, you need a vehicle. It doesn’t have to be a classic vintage machine but that certainly helps. What’s important is the “CQ” or Coolness Quotient. If you don’t really have a classic ride then there’s several ways of compensating with what’s available.
For example, a compact car such as a Dodge Colt or a Chevy Sundance the preferred method was to fill the back seat with stereo equipment. Next, you needed a good mix tape. In the old days play lists were stored on high tech spools of magnetic film. It was important to make sure you had the right flow to the music because there’s no shuffle like we know today. You could fast forward or rewind. If you were really good at it you could count the seconds and stop the spooling at just the right time to get the song you wanted.
The next thing you need is a long stretch of quiet road and plenty of friends. The party starts in late afternoon. You simply spend hours and hours of driving slowly up and down that quite road with the volume on 10 and the windows down. Hopefully until the wee hours of the night. As you cruise the stretch you look for places to park and visit your friends.
On a good night every teenager in the county will be there. Some will push the envelope too far and the police might be called in to restore order but for the most part trouble is minor. For the guys it’s really about finding the girls. I suspect, that the girls would show up to be found by the right guy.
I’m sure the stories abound. Those kind of stories get better every time we tell them. 😉 What was really important was the memories and the friendships made.
Sitting on the bank in the warm August sun last year. Small birds swooped down and skimed the surface of the lake as they picked off insects. Dragonflies and Damselflies dart around and occasionally hover to check out the large creature in a fedora that had wondered into their hunting grounds. A large carp lazily floats up to surface and rolls back into the murky depths. Small feet scurrying across the forest floor. The dry leaves make it sound like a bear romping but it’s only a squirrel. He runs up the trunk of one of the trees so he too can get a good look at me. Then disappears with the flip a bushy tail. A shadow zips across my field of vision. It’s a red tail hawk. “That’s why the squirrel left in such a hurry ” I tell myself as I shade my eyes from the sun’s glare. The busyness of every day life melts away from my soul in the warm summer days by the lake.
The days are noticeably longer in the Appalachian mountains. Mother nature has begun to open her sleepy eyes. The buds on the trees have begun to swell and some of early flowers will be in bloom in just a few weeks. We’re still expected a few cold days and a spring snow is quite common in the end of March or early April. The Southern breeze occasionally peeks up out of the Gulf of Mexico to share warm kisses and hasten the thaw. Soon it will be time to plant gardens and make plans for cookouts and family gatherings. Most of all, there’s opportunity to find a nice quiet spot and just breathe in nature.
The tree in the image above grows in a park next to New River Gorge Bridge. The bridge is over 3000 feet long (924 m) and 876 feet high (276 m)
The catwalk under the bridge is open to the public and tourists can walk out over the gorge. I have texted with and seen pictures of one of the engineers walking the steel beams without a net or safety line. But I digress.
With the weather warming up I hope to bring you some fresh images of West Virginia. Our mountains and valleys are truly beautiful in the Spring.