Today I loaded up the dogs, camera and fly rod and headed down to Madison County, Virginia to explore the upper portion of the Rapidan River. The source of the Rapidan is located where two streams come together high on the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains. That spot is also the site of President Herbert Hoover’s summer retreat built in 1929, Rapidan Camp (or, as it is also called, Camp Hoover). You can drive much of the route up the mountain, but high ground clearance is a must, and four wheel drive is recommended. Once you turn off the main road, it’s a rough drive up an extremely rugged and steep road. I drove to the end of the accessible road (seven miles that feel like twenty), not passing a single human, and parked at the gate marking the last stretch up the mountain on foot to Camp Hoover.
I’ve done my fair share of exploring around the Virginias, and I can’t recall ever feeling as remote, as far removed from any other person anywhere in this region as I felt today. I hefted the backpack weighted down with drinking water for the dogs, and we crossed the gate and headed uphill, surrounded by crisp air, brilliant sunshine and total silence but for the soothing nearby rush of free, clean and infinitely abundant drinking water for dogs.
This portion of the Shenandoah National Park is so remote, I broke my Always Keep My Dogs Leashed In Public Parks rule (okay that’s not just my rule, it’s actually the park’s rule too), and let them run ahead and explore. However, the terrain was so remote that I started feeling the real possibility of a bear encounter. The last thing I wanted was for the dogs to spook a bear, or come between a bear and her cubs, or to piss off a bear and then run back to me, leading that pissed off bear back to me. So I decided it was best if we all just walked together.
We (okay, I) took a wrong turn at one point, adding a couple miles to the hike. But exercise was a goal for the day, and besides, if I had not made the error, I would not have seen these cool icicles.
This fireplace was mainly used for photos of President Hoover and his distinguished guests. Heads of state, era icons such as the Lindberghs, Mrs. Thomas Edison, Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt, Finn and Winnie have all been photographed here.
Source of the Rapidan located and historical photographs secured, we headed back down the hill, our sights now set on the wild brook trout that populate the river. If I was a brook trout, I would love this spot right here. I am, however, not a brook trout. Nor do I have much of an idea about where they live or what they eat.
Dogs, as it turns out, are not particularly helpful when it comes to fly fishing. But they are genuinely good company, and it was fun having them along.
When I found a spot to fish, I needed the dogs to just stay in one spot so they wouldn’t come in the water and disturb the fish I was not catching, and also it’s critical to know where your dogs are at all times when you are casting a fly line. They were really great today. Winnie is fascinated by the casting of the fly, she follows it with intense focus, and watches it drift along the current while it is not being eaten by a trout. She, it seems, would make a great fly fisher.
After a good hike and some fishing, I like to stop for lunch. Ideally, a local place with some character. The Pig ‘n’ Steak, complete with NASCAR legends laminated into the bar top, fit the bill nicely. I drank this delicious brew, wolfed down a burger, and split the fries with Finn and Winnie. Total tally for the day, Fish caught: 0, Humans encountered: 0, Bears encountered: 0, Awesome day had: 1.
The WordPress Photo Challenge of the week asks bloggers to illustrate with a photograph what it means to ‘indulge.’ Examples of my personal indulgences are legion, but a favorite of mine is taking a break from trout fishing to enjoy a stream-chilled beer. On this occasion, the trout fishing was being done at Rose River Farm in beautiful Madison County, Virginia, and the beer of the day was delicious Dale’s Pale Ale.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Really, Ed? Starting a blog post about the ancient art of falconry with a quote from Tommy Boy?” Well sometimes inspiration comes from unexpected places. And besides, I want to be able to capture all the web traffic from people who might Google the terms “Chris Farley” and “Rabbit Hawking” together.
When I learned the Virginia Falconers Association was having a meet not far from where I live (which was right after I learned that falconry was practiced at all in this part of the U.S.), I couldn’t wait to see what it was all about. I will be writing more about the sport and my day, but for now I wanted to share my favorite photos from this amazing experience. I hope you enjoy them.
(The beautiful bird pictured above is a first year, or “passage” Red-tailed Hawk named Kingsley. Thank you C.B.)
I’ve not done one of these challenges before, but thought I’d answer this one, because I spend a lot of time seeking out (or even building) high-up places for almost the singular purpose of looking down once I’m there. I wait for leaves to fall, for birds to land and for dogs to walk around in circles enough times so they can finally, lie, down.
As I start to make plans to attend this spring’s Fairfax Hunt Races at Morven Park in Leesburg, Virginia, I found myself looking through last year’s photos. The event was an assignment, of sorts, as I was writing this story for Virginia Sportsman. As a result, I was granted access that allowed me to get in position to take some cool photos. Not all my favorites could make it into the story, so I thought I’d share them here. And if you live in the area, this year’s event is April 22. And, I am told by people in a position to know, that this spring’s meet will be the last race EVER at Morven Park! Enjoy…
We got kind of an ugly snow overnight. Wet, grey, patchy and melting fast. But still it was sticking to every little branch, and when that happens I always have to try to get some shots. Hope you enjoy these…
There was so much eagle activity around our house this weekend I was determined to get a decent photo! These, to me, qualify. They are as good as I can do with the equipment available (which includes a borrowed zoom lens I have to return soon!).
This eagle sat perched in a tree within sight of my studio window. Several times he would arrive there and several times I would go outside, camera in hand. There were too many branches between him and I to get a clear shot, so I kept walking closer until he flew away. Then I’d try to focus and follow his flight, snapping away. If he flew away from me, I had no opportunity. If he flew out into this clearing, I had opportunity but never could get it all together for a good shot.
With these, I have decided if he chooses to grace our property again, I will not pester him until he gets uncomfortable and leaves. I feel bad about harassing him, and part of me feels like I’m cheating myself by experiencing these moments through a tiny shutter window. I love recording special moments with photos, but while I’m trying to capture them, I sometimes forget to see them.
So, Mr. Eagle, if you can forgive my clumsy attempt to show my appreciation for you by chasing you away, and if you should choose to visit my favorite sycamore again, next time you’ll never know I’m there. I promise to admire you from afar.
My closer brushes (there was one yesterday when I didn’t know an eagle was perched in a tree I was directly beneath) usually catch me off guard without a camera. But this morning I saw a pair hanging out in our sycamore tree by the river. I got the camera and came back out, and tried to be stealthy and get a little closer. I shot a few through the trees (photo below) where they probably couldn’t see me, but as soon as I tried to step closer they casually flew away, not particularly threatened but I’m sure I made them uncomfortable, even from a hundred yards away. Later, while I was at my desk writing this blog post, a single eagle landed in plain view of my studio window! I went back out with the camera and caught him leaving, headed downstream.
I put the pictures on the computer and, yet again, realized I’m just not close enough to get a decent shot. Certainly not with my 15-85mm lens. But the subject matter warranted some more effort, so I decided to just mess around with some effects. I’m pretty new at these effects, they’re fun to play with but the program I’m using (a demo) is cumbersome and very slow. Still, I like my results here, and hope you enjoy them too.