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
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
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
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
I hope your stress level is noticeably lower when you're at the end of
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
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
The first wide creek that I had to ford was Stony Creek in Virginia
Day 39. There was a sign a couple
miles downstream that warned hikers the bridge was washed out, and offered a
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
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
"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
Pennsylvania. See the journal entry on
Day 72 for the history of
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
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
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
The 27-mile section between Mad Tom Notch and VT103 is full of creeks and
rivers. Two of the creeks are below (Day
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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