|Loft Mountain Campground
is at the bottom of the map
We did it! We went camping with a baby!
Last weekend, we took David on his longest car ride yet and his first camping trip! He fussed the first 30 minutes in the car and we almost turned back, but thankfully, we powered through it and made our way to the Shenadoahs for a Blue Ridge Overnight.
I pulled the map off another website (Midatlantic Hikes). You’ll see the campground loop at the bottom where you can also see the Appalachian trail (white line) loop around the campground and mountain ridge.
|Great job setting up the tent David!|
|Now that is a happy camper 🙂|
|Heading out on our first hike.|
The trail encircles the campground. All in all, we hiked about 2 miles. A perfect easy hike through the woods and mountain ridge provided spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
|Happy Family. Mom and Dad each with the emergency clip-on baby attire.|
|The Appalachian Trail swings around the
campground with spectacular views.
|A very cool silver spider at the bathroom.
He had to go too, apparently.
|The Upper Falls
I’ve got a Lamb’s Ear Leaf in my hat to match David’s.
My buddy Kevin wanted me to try painting a Shenandoah Brookie for him “Prosek Style.” Meaning, he wanted the swatch of color and pattern without the fins and such. That is good, because I can’t paint the other bits of the fish.
Using Prosek’s Labrador Brook Trout as a guide along with the picture from Kevin, I came up with a version I like. Hope you do too!
|Sara getting us started.|
Yesterday, Sara and I woke up early and drove to the Rapidan Wilderness Area to hike up Bear Church Rock. I found the hike on the site HikingUpward.com which has a great list of hikes throughout Virginia and West Virginia. It rates the hikes for their difficulty, views, streams, solitude and camping. I was looking for something that had good views and streams. I was hoping I might squeeze in a tiny bit of fishing along the way.
|This guys reminded us of our cat. Very Fluffy.|
Bear Church Rock is an outlook that gives a nearly 180 degree view of the wilderness area. It is about 3100ft in elevation. You hike 3.9 miles (one way) climbing 2210ft from the parking area. The first 0.5 miles of the trail is along the Rapidan river. The next 1.7 miles or so hugs the Staunton River before turning up the mountain to snake through a canopy of mountain laurels and eventually navigate its way to the Bear Church Rock Overlook. There is also a small cabin 0.3mi off the trail you can rent. We met a friendly couple who was spending a few nights there.
We set out to enjoy a day hiking, have lunch at the overlook, possibly do a bit of fishing on the way down, and grab some barbecue and cupcakes at BBQ Exchange in Gordonsville for dinner.
|Although I didn’t catch anything in the 30 minutes I spent fishing,
I saw several nice fish in the Staunton River. I think I’ll come back and try to tackle them again.
|Plenty of fungi for this fun guy.….|
We did all of that. As you can see by photos, it was a great day to hike. We spotted lots of treasures along the way. The butterflies were out in full force as were the fungi. I got to see a ghost plant (Monotropa uniflora) which was super cool. I even stole about 30 minutes to fish the Staunton with the Tenkara rod. No fish in hand, but I had several takes. Several were nice sized fish as well, probably over 10″. This would be a great river to return to in the fall.
|Finding bright colors all over the forest floor.|
We made our way back to the car and headed to BBQ Exchange. This place is so good and even better after a day of hiking. I suppose it doesn’t really matter what you eat after a good day of hiking. Any food always seems to be very fulfilling. But I’ll tell you this, there was no talking as Sara and I each got lost in a good BBQ sandwich paired with some fresh slaw.
|We found several groups of Monotropa uniflora also known as the ghost plant, Indian Pipe, or corpse plant.|
|These are parasitic, non-photosynthisizing flowers.|
|Sara by the big tree stump.|
|Mountain laurel canopy. Very cool.|
|I think crossing the path was this little guy’s summer activity.|
|The panorama view shows no man-made object in sight.|
|The Tenkara rod came along, but no fish to hand.|
|BLTs at the top. Hit the spot.|
|A great day in SNP. Here’s to a spring and summer full of them.|
Spring is now officially here, but I think it arrived in the northern hemisphere sometime in January. The brookies were taking dries on the Rapidan River in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. It just took me a while to land a fish. I’m still getting used to the tenkara rod and still getting familiar with the Virginia trout waters. I can feel the pieces are starting to come together.
Available in HD. Just click the button or go to vimeo.com.
Enjoy the music. The Tallest Man on Earth: “You’re Going Back.”
Sometimes you just need to reset yourself. Your clock, your sleep schedule, your diet. Yesterday, I had to reset my attitude. We had been fishing all morning and I felt like I was getting worse. My casts were getting uglier. I was losing faith in my fly selection. I didn’t understand the water like I have in the past.
The day started off well. We got to the Rapidan river by 10 AM. The weather was beautiful. There was a chance of rain, but optimism won out, and the storms steered clear. The three of us spread out, hop-scotching each other, sharing the pools. The air was filling up with midges, a few duns, butterflies, and gnats. I tried to start slowly, taking in these new surroundings.
I haven’t fished the same water twice for a long time. Moving to Virginia has dumped a host of new species, habitats, and thus, opportunities at my feet. It is exciting, but also slightly hectic. Each fishing trip has brought new challenges.
After the last outing for trout left me contently skunked, I new I needed to really take the time to study the water on this trip. This river was a buffet line of good pools, but that doesn’t mean I should just dig in and throw myself at everything in sight. Careful study of each entree is needed to ensure optimal satisfaction of each portion.
So I took my time. When I saw a rise, I switched to dries. First a griffiths, then a midge, then the closest thing to the duns I had. I had droppers, emergers, then scuds and soft hackles. I eventually switched to a stimulator and began getting some looks, even a few takes, but the size was too big for the little brook trout mouths. Slowly, the takes and looks went away. No fish in hand yet.
I had heard that the fish were hitting on nymphs, so I tried. I really tried. I am, however, extremely uncomfortable nymphing. Maybe it is because I can’t see the nymph in the water. Even just watching the indicator is hard for me. I like to see the fish take the fly. I don’t know, maybe I just need better glasses.
Regardless, the frustration was mounting. I had taken a slip or two, scratched the waterproof lens on my camera, and was losing fly after fly to the forest. I started walking up a ridge to get to another pool when I came upon a bed of moss. It looked too inviting. I set down my gear, took off my sunglasses, and laid down.
I slowed down my breathing, taking in the fresh mountain air. Listened to the birds and the brooke. Felt the sun on my face. My mind cleared itself of the negativity that was filling up all morning.
I sat back up, feeling the serrated edges of the lichens with the palms of my hands. I looked back at the pool I had planned to fish next. It looked good. Hearty. There were fish in there. I knew it. Not only did I know it, but I knew where I needed to cast. The water made sense again.
On the second cast, my fly slid on the seam of the run. A errant strike splashed next to my fly. I let my drift finish and casted again. The second strike was dead on target. I set my tenkara rod and felt the small body fight with every ounce of power it possessed.
A beautiful fish. I sent it back and continued up the stream to finish off the day. The water made sense to me all the way back to the car. I even managed another fish and a few more looks. I met up with the guys and we shared beer, stories, and dinner.
The day started and ended great, but it was funny how things added up to really pull me down and shake my confidence on the water. When I commit an entire day and eight hours of driving to fish a single stream, I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform. Today, I got to spend a gorgeous day with friends doing something I love. That should be good enough. My ability to catch fish, while important, shouldn’t dictate my happiness. Of course, I fish to catch fish, but I won’t always do so. When I get frustrated, it is helpful to hit the reset button and try again when I feel ready to see the water.
This is a summary of my trip yesterday to Shenandoah National Park to find mountain brookies and a preview to the video to come shortly.