As the morning sun breaks over the distant ridge I can hear the voices coming from the rushing water in the valley below. The mists slowly rise up the mountain reminding me of something that might be seen in Tolkien’s world of Middle Earth. One by one the large rubber rafts come bouncing over the rapids . They’ve traveled from all over the world to experience the thrill of the Gauley River. The Corps Of Engineers and draining the lake for the oncoming winter. I believe that there’s magic in our mountains. All of the fun and joy of summer on Summerville Lake is stored up in the lake itself and released in the fall as whitewater. The fun then moves up paddles and is absorbed into the hands. Eventually this magical essence of fun travels through the heart and comes out as excitement and laughter. The magic is amplified by the canyon walls until it spills over high cliffs and I smile as it touches me. Switching to my long lens I capture a few frames of the rafts passing by and enjoy the last of my coffee. The big blue truck is waiting to take me to the next leg of my journey so I pack my gear and slip behind the wheel. Just before pulling out I roll the window down and allow the magic to fill the cab. Call it “one for the road”.
As I stand on the overlook at Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park the storm clouds begin to thicken and turn dark. In spite of the history made here this is a beautiful place where you can enjoy a sense of peace. (I am hoping to get some good photos of the reenactment of the Battle this year. There will be more about the Battle at that time). Behind me a family is playing on the swings but the wind blowing in my ears drowns out the rhythmic squeaking of the playground.
In just a few short weeks they will start draining the lake for winter. That signals the beginning of the rafting season. The Gauley River below will be full of brightly colored kayaks and rafts navigating the Class IV rapids. Mother Nature’s rollercoaster! I have been told bottom of the trail that goes down to the river. In a few places you’ll find virgin timber. I remember seeing the massive stump of an American Chestnut in one of those spots. It was at least ten feet thick when it was alive. Today I just needed to absorb the view and let the wind blow in my face. As I breathe in the peace and tranquility of the mountains the storm clouds offer me the courtesy of a warning shot. The first few large drops of rain land at my feet and I know that it’s time to aim my big blue truck for home.
Something stalks the neighborhood in my mountains. Slowly and silently it creeps along the banks of the rivers and streams. It sharp eyes detect the slightest movement just below the water’s surface. It strikes like lightning and it’s prey has little chance of escaping the razor sharp beak.
The Great Blue Herons are one of my favorite birds. I have never seen a native species that reminded me more of a dinosaur. The one pictured here was close to three feet tall. The long serpentine neck, wide wingspan and habit of trailing it’s lags as it flies really makes one think that they’ve crossed into the distant past. This one also seems to have a sense of humor. It likes to lurk around just below the bridges in my neighborhood and spring up out of creek when you least expect it. If I didn’t know better I’d swear it laughs as it flies away. I haven’t been able to spot the nest yet but I do occasionally hear it’s grunting calls coming from the thick bush. They’re truly one of the more amazing sights in my wild wonderful West Virginia and hope you get to see one if you’re ever traveling close to the water. And, if you happen to hear a snicker it’s probably the one that likes to startle me.
Life is all about balance. Mountains don’t exist without valleys. The Earth is never without a sky. Rivers dry up without clouds. Without gravity centripetal force would sling us into outer space. Why then should the ebb and flow of life not include the same pattern? At first, it might seem like a nice thought to always have things go our way. But soon the lack of a challenge to overcome would leave us without the joy of overcoming. In short, we wouldn’t grow and become physically, emotionally and intellectually weak. It’s a lot of work to go from the river in the valley to the mountaintop but when you stand on that rocky ledge overlooking the valley the view is enhanced by the thrill of winning the challenges. Of course you also have to pick your battles. The amazing view in tonight’s feature image was taken from a local bridge especially for you to enjoy while we ponder finding the balance together. Hopefully the lesson that we’ll learn is that if a storm, sunshine, mountains and valleys, Earth and sky can all exist in harmony together to create a fantastic view then perhaps all of the different ideas in today’s society can both maintain individuality and work in harmony to create a fantastic world.
Pictured above is the trestle bridge at Gauley Bridge West Virginia. The Gauley River was peaceful and calm when I stopped at the convenience store to top off my morning coffee. You can see the last pylon from the old bridge still standing in the water.
Once part of American Civil War the remnant of the old bridge now imparts a peaceful feeling as I look out over the cool green water. Just beyond the trestle is the point where the Gauley River meets the New River to form the Kanawha River. The flat water seems to be popular with kayak enthusiasts who paddle up stream to relax on some large flat rocks and play in the shallows. The place always seems to give me nice reflection for my lens as well. After taking a few deep breaths I pulled myself away from the urge to call off work and headed back onto the highway slightly heartbroken due to leaving such a peaceful scene.