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Runtrails' 2005 AT Journal
 
Previous          Journal Topics by Date            Next
 
 
PHOTOS 40: WATER, WATER
    EVERYWHERE, PART 3: CREEKS      
 
APRIL 25, 2006
 
 
"It's hard to see a river all at once, especially in the mountains.
Down on the plains, rivers run in their course as straightforward as time, channeled toward the sea. But up in the headwaters, a river isn't a point
where you stand. In the beginning of the river, you teeter on the
edge of a hundred tiny watersheds where one drop of water is always
tipping the balance from one stream to another. History changes with each
tiny event, shaping an outcome that we can only truly grasp in hindsight.
And that view changes as we move farther downstream." 
 
- Lynn Noel, Voyages: Canada's Heritage Rivers
 
 


Peaceful creek in Virginia on Day 32

This quote is just as true of a river in any other country, including those found in the eastern United States that are influenced by the thousands of little creeks that begin along the ridges of the Appalachian Trail.

Sometimes AT hikers are above the headwaters on ridges. There is no water, except for perhaps some puddles left by recent rains. I usually carried adequate water for each day I was on the Trail, but most backpackers have to traipse down steep hills occasionally to find springs or small creeks to fill their water bottles in these areas.

Other times, the Trail goes right past a spring. Serendipity!

Shelters are located near springs as often as possible. These springs are usually the very beginning of little creeks that get bigger and bigger as they flow down the hills and mountains, joining other creeks until they end up in lakes or rivers farther downstream.

The Trail crosses every stage in the "life" of streams, from ridges above the sources, to dry streams and springs, through all the middle stages as they merge with other creeks, until they become mighty rivers. In a few places, you even get to see two rivers merge!

The only stage you don't see on the AT is when streams empty into an ocean or bay. I think that is pretty cool.

THE SONG OF THE BROOK

"The woods are made for the hunters of dreams
The brooks for the fishers of song;
To the hunters who hunt for the gunless game
The streams and the woods belong."
 
- Sam Walter Foss, The Bloodless Sportsman

I have always loved to follow trails along creeks when I run or hike in the woods. The sound of the water tumbling over rocks is soothing, almost mesmerizing, to me.

I prefer to go more slowly so I can absorb the beauty, the sound, the total memory.

If you have read the daily journal of my trek on the Appalachian Trail, you'll remember the many times I talked about how I enjoyed following streams, such as Mill Creek, below, located next to the Paul Wolfe shelter south of Rockfish Gap, Virginia (Day 52) . . .

 

. . . until I got to Maine, that is, and most of them had to be forded!

Crossing some of those creeks and rivers without falling in or getting swept downstream became a daily challenge of dexterity and courage for me. My fears were realized on the infamous Day 141 when I had to cross two flooded rivers and two flooded creeks to reach safety before nightfall. The remaining week was difficult as I imagined more of the same and wondered how I could ever do it again.

Time hasn't erased those fears, but as I sit here at the computer seven months after surviving the AT in Maine, my memories are overwhelmingly positive about all the lovely creeks and rivers I had the opportunity to enjoy.

In the next three essays, I'd like to share with you some photos of those beautiful streams, cascades, and waterfalls.

In this essay try to visualize yourself right there in the photos, listening to the water either flow quietly by or singing a brook song to you as it splashes over the rocks. Imagine you are sitting in the shade on a nearby rock or log, relaxing, eating a snack, or reading a book for a little while.

I hope your stress level is noticeably lower when you're at the end of this page.

STREAMING PHOTOGRAPHY (sorry, not video)

The next two photos are from early in the morning on Day 24 as I climbed north from the Nolichucky River up to Curly Maple Gap in the Unaka Mountains of North Carolina.

I crossed this beautiful little creek several times. I described it as nirvana, and I remember it as if I was there only yesterday:

 

I loved Laurel Fork Creek and its gorge in Tennessee on Day 28. The first view is near the beginning of the gorge before the creek drops significantly:

The second view is past the falls (going northbound) on the official white-blazed AT as the Trail follows the very edge of the creek in the bottom of the gorge.

If the water is up only a few inches, it would be impossible to walk through here. There is a blue-blazed "high water trail" that doesn't descend to the falls or the bottom of the gorge. I'll show the falls in Photos 42.

Next is a scenic creek south of Dickey Gap/VA 16 on Day 32 (there is another view at the top of this page):

One of my favorite creeks is shown below on a foggy morning. A beautiful 150-foot suspension bridge crosses Kimberling Creek, which is located just south of VA 606. You can see two views of the bridge in the journal on Day 38.

The first wide creek that I had to ford was Stony Creek in Virginia on Day 39. There was a sign a couple miles downstream that warned hikers the bridge was washed out, and offered a road detour.

I declined. The water crossing wasn't bad at all. The water was calf deep but clear across the approximate 30-foot-wide creek:

That would seem very easy later on!

Two of my Roanoke ultra running buddies accompanied me on Day 43 from Daleville to Bearwallow Gap in Virginia. You can tell that Dru and Graham were having a good time at one of several creeks we crossed that day. There's also a photo of Graham cooling off in an unusual manner in another stream later in this essay.

Many of the creeks along the AT have historical significance.

One example is the East Branch of Antietam Creek, shown below, which is in Pennsylvania near the Maryland state line. The bloodiest battle of the Civil War was fought farther downstream near Sharpsburg, MD in 1862 on the Burnside Bridge over Antietam Creek. I took this photo where the AT crosses the East Branch (Day 62):

When I followed Conodoguin Creek in Pennsylvania for about a mile on Day 65, I thought it was a river because it was so wide (next two photos):

 

RENEWAL

"Streams represent constant rebirth. The water flows in, forever new, yet forever the same; they complete a journey from beginning to end, and then they embark on the journey again."

- Tim Palmer, Lifelines

The next photo shows Rausch Creek, near the abandoned town of Rausch Gap, Pennsylvania. See the journal entry on Day 72 for the history of that area.

One of my favorite creeks on the entire Appalachian Trail is Sawmill Brook, which flows through the beautiful Sages Ravine near the Connecticut-Massachusetts state line.

I took over a dozen photos there on Day 100 and wished I could just live there!

 

This photogenic creek has numerous little reflecting pools and cascades:

Are you relaxed yet??

If not, how about soaking for a bit in the cool water of an inviting pool in Sherman Creek near North Adams, Massachusetts? I enjoyed following this gurgling stream for a good ways up East Mountain on Day 105.

I had to smile when I saw this blue bath towel near a pool of water below a little waterfall. A trail angel must live nearby!

Vermont is full of lovely creeks, too. This unidentified brook is located  between Stratton Pond and Bromley Mountain (Day 107):

The 27-mile section between Mad Tom Notch and VT103 is full of creeks and rivers. Two of the creeks are below (Day 109):

 

There were the days when the Trail became a creek after considerable rain had fallen.

The next two photos are from Day 125 in the Carter Range of New Hampshire. Notice the run-off here . . .

. . . and the standing water here:

[The very worst flooding I encountered was on Day 141 in Maine when I chose to cross four swollen creeks and rivers. I didn't photograph the creek I crossed twice. I'll show you the flooded Little Wilson River in the next essay.]

In general, the streams became increasingly rugged in northern New England.  This shallow sub-alpine brook between Franconia Ridge and Galehead Hut is an exception, however. That reflection of the sky and clouds is sublime (Day 118):

Then there's Maine.

Not only does the state have the most creeks to cross, most of them have to be forded. We don't need no stinkin' bridges! the Maine AT Club seems to say.

The streams are beautiful but many are rugged and were often a challenge for me to cross even when they were at normal water levels. I'm not an agile rock-hopper.  After a rain storm, Maine creeks and rivers can be nightmares.

Fortunately, I was able to enjoy most of the streams in Maine and I'll share some of my favorites here.

AN ANOMALY: QUIET REFLECTIONS

Some of the streams in Maine were quite tame (i.e., low) when I crossed them.

Here are three more soothing reflections in creeks that I photographed. I was as fascinated by their small reflections as the expansive ones I photographed on ponds and lakes.

The first is from Day 130 near Surplus Pond. I love how the green foliage and moss makes the water look green, too:

The second reflection is in a still pool of water in Sandy Stream, located between Arnold Swamp and East Carry Pond (Day 137):

Sunrise is reflected in Cooper Brook early on Day 146 at Jo Mary logging road:

This unnamed brook was near Hwy. 27 on a misty autumn morning (Day 135):

More boisterous, even at "low tide," is Pierce Pond Stream, which I happily followed downhill for several miles from Pierce Pond until it flowed into the Kennebec River (Day 137). There are numerous cascades and falls along the creek, as well as more placid stretches:

 

That's a great hike or run along Pierce Pond Stream. I'll show one or two more boisterous sections of the creek in Photos 42.

Holly Brook, located north of Caratunk, looks peaceful here on Day 138, but imagine how tough it would be to cross that creek when it's flooded with rushing, deep brown water and you can't see where to step:

Jim saw Vaughn Stream, north of the Big Wilson River, on Day 141 when it was so flooded he couldn't see any of the rocks. He did not cross it.

This is the same creek as I saw it two days later after the water had receded but was still higher than it sometimes is:

There is a falls just to the right that I'll show in Photos 42.

Pretty scary to think of "Big Foot" and other hikers crossing that creek on Day 141 so close to the falls!

This is another creek (Long Pond Stream) that was trickier to cross on Day 143 because the water was still so swift from the recent rains:

JUST CHILL OUT!

When they aren't flooded, creeks can be very therapeutic both mentally and physically.

You've seen examples above of beautiful little creeks that sooth the soul. Following are some creek photos that feature two- and four-legged critters enjoying creeks in, um, less traditional ways.

One way to relieve stress is to laugh at the next picture. I smile every time I see this photo of my "creek therapy" on Day 8 because I remember the moment so clearly.

My goodness, that water was cold!!

My quads were killing me, so Jim suggested I sit in this chilly creek running through North Carolina's Standing Indian Campground. It was so convenient, very close to our camp site.

Jim had heard my tales of sitting in cold mountain creeks when I attended Roy Benson's running camps near Asheville and Brevard, NC for several summers in the early 1990s. It's a great trick for soothing tired muscles after a hard run.

Cody, our water-loving Lab, couldn't resist joining in the fun:

Try it sometime! (Jim took the photo, but he didn't get in the water with us.)

It was fun to take Cody running with me on days where I knew there would be creeks or lakes where he could drink, swim, and cool off. I've got a lot of photos of him in water, including this little wooded creek in the James River Face Wilderness in Virginia on Day 48:

This is my buddy Graham again on Day 43, cooling off by immersing his head in the water:

And you thought I was goofy for sitting in a creek??

"Till last by Philip's farm I flow 

To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go
But I go on forever."

- Alfred Lord Tennyson, The Brook

Next up: rivers along the Appalachian Trail

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater

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2006 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil