Reflections along a mountain stream

autumn leaves, back lighting

Backlit leaves.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Recent rains made the sparkling mountain stream joyfully sing its way through the sylvan hollow to the broad valley below. The late morning sun’s reflection shimmered as the cold water rushed over and around ancient boulders.

I had driven to this little paradise on the advice of my daughter. She recently had hiked with her family a trail that crossed the creek and scaled one of the precipices of the old, rounded Blue Ridge Mountains. I wasn’t that ambitious.

I was content to drive the 22 miles out of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley to the end of Port Republic Road to enjoy a morning stroll. I took the much easier firebreak road that shadows the meandering stream.

Stepping stones across the usually placid braided stream broke the trail my daughter took. Today the stream roared rather than lapped its way into the valley.

The native brown trout had to be happy to play in other pools for once. I was happy, too.

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The temperatures warmed as the sun rose higher above the foothills. The shedding oaks, maples, dogwoods, sycamores and quaking aspens filtered the sun’s splay. Sunrays backlit the remaining colorful leaves. They glowed against the drab earth tones of tree trunks, ferns, and long shadows.

The creek drew me down from the road to its shallow banks. Sapling undergrowth made the way tricky, but not hazardous. I was surprised by both the speed of the stream’s flow and the water’s clearness, especially after recent steady rains. Weeds and reeds normally rustled by the wind swayed submerged.

In the shade, the cooler creekside temperatures chilled me. I didn’t linger there for long.

I returned to the more inviting sunny, well-maintained service road. At times, the stream ran against the narrow berm. In other places, the road curved slightly north while the creek twisted south and out of sight, but never out of earshot.

No car horns, no train rumbles, no jake brakes, no jetliner noise overhead, no boom boxes interfered with the numerous natural sounds. A fox squirrel skittered from the road to the safety of a tree trunk as I approached. It barked at me, and I shot it with my camera.

Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Up ahead, birds flew across the firebreak. To keep my load light, I had left the binoculars in the vehicle. Fortunately, the birds sat still even as I quietly approached.

I smiled at sighting my first of the year Dark-eyed Juncos, freshly arrived from the Canadian tundra. The flash of their outer white tail feathers against their slate-colored revealed their identity.

The mountain’s granite core stood exposed from time to time. Whitish-gray outcroppings reflected the morning sun both at manmade cuts and in natural talus slopes. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near the latter if the massive rock pile decided to slide.

Soon hikers a decade older than me approached from the opposite direction. We bid each other adieu, and I asked them how far the road reached.

“Ten miles,” they said, “But it’s an easy walk to the top,” referencing the mountain. The road ended at the Skyline Drive. I took their word for it.

A few trails flared off in either direction. I was content to stay the course for a while before returning to the car for lunch under the noonday sun.

The earthy fragrances, the laughing stream, the vibrant colors pleasantly seasoned my simple fare, which was only right. It had been a sumptuous morning in every aspect.

mountain stream, Shenandoah NP

Sparkling stream.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

9 Comments

Filed under birding, birds, column, family, human interest, photography, rural life, travel, writing

9 responses to “Reflections along a mountain stream

  1. Ava

    That looks so Virginia! Land that I love. Beautiful pictures, Bruce.

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    • Thanks, Ava. I hope it looks like VA. That’s where the shots were taken. 🙂
      Bruce

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      • Ava

        There’re some really great hiking trails near Skyline Drive. One especially nice one has a number of waterfalls along it.

        If you haven’t been to Reddish Knob, which is about an hour west of Harrisonburg, you would really enjoy that for photographing. It’s one of Virginia’s highest points and is a great place to look out over Virginia and West Virginia. It’s a favorite spot for locals. It’s pretty deep into the mountains but very accessible by car.

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      • Ava

        The view is almost 360 degrees and you can see across the valley to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Here’s a link to more info. http://www.vawilderness.org/north-river-trail.html In nice weather, Old Order Mennonite youth will sometimes bike there on Sunday afternoon. When I was much younger (and more daring), a group of us drove a covered wagon up there. We tied a tree behind our wagon to help brake on the way down. Some of us rode the tree. It was a lot of fun.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That sounds like an excellent story that needs to be written, Ava. Thanks for the link.
        Bruce

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  2. Gail B.

    How beautiful! Nature gives us such beautiful places to enjoy and many in our own neighbourhood; if we look for them. A walk in the woods can calm and relax, unless there are mosquitoes!

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  3. Bonnie

    Beautiful photos Bruce, it looks very much like our little acres in the woods here in Northern New York State. The brook, the trees, the trail through the woods. A very calm and peaceful place to live.

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