Tag: Nature Photography

Vessel

Vessel

I nearly fell to the ground as I felt the power of the Earth rush through me. The foggy river, honking geese, cool temps, and autumn colors blazing, opened me. The more I opened, the stronger the power of Earth energy moved through me. I wept—no, I sobbed—as I felt the strong connection to Earth Mother. To everything. In this open state, I stumbled laughing, crying, and feeling gratitude stream from me as tendrils of light.

When I came to an open area between the ripened corn fields, three bull elk were in the distance, two locked into a play for strength and dominance, even though they had separated from the cows. Their squeals and grunts were easily heard as I stood quietly. Their power was huge and I was yards away but in that open state, I felt the immensity of their energy and it was intimidating and magnificent.

I was unable to move as they pushed and shoved, squealing…. vocalizing their need to show strength and dominance. Hidden at the edge of the drying corn field, I was transformed…into elk magic, river magic, geese magic….into the Earth Herself.

Long After

Long After

The clear, cold water moves through me still. Long after four blissful hours are over there remains inner clarity and flow. My cells were changed, cleansed, and made new. The trout swim within me; I am part of the river, still with them. 

I close my eyes and sense the inner sparkle. Things were laid down in that river; burdens left behind to be carried on the currents of flowing water…down, down, down over rocks and waterfalls, scrubbing away the heaviness so that by the time they reach the sea, those burdens are only sparkles of light, released from constriction, freed from bondage.

I give thanks for wild places.

Time Stood Still

Time Stood Still

It was 45 degrees when I arrived at the gravel parking lot, just as official sunrise happened. Just as the mist was rising over the 52 degree water. Just as the colors were beginning to show in the trees. The magic space between darkness and full light. On the West Fork of the Pigeon River, the sun took a few more hours to peek out from behind the mountains. Those minutes could have ticked off very slowly, waiting for the warmth of the sun to kiss my face and hug my body, except time stood still. Cold didn’t matter. Discomfort of holding one position a long time didn’t matter. Nothing mattered except the magnificent beings I encountered.

Time might have first stood still when I watched the huge, fat brown trout—just two feet from my boots—for almost an hour…or two…who knows when you’re in no time.  Or perhaps when that trout’s friend arrived and both hulks gazed at my flies as they floated overhead. They didn’t want a dry fly, a nymph or a wet fly. I’ve never tried so many flies working one fish, two fish. But what an amazing experience to drop into fish time, which is really no time, and merge with water, flow, leaves, rocks in that space of Oneness. 

As the sun topped the mountain, the colors became so intense!

It reminded me of diving in Bonaire, my favorite dive destination, and stopping in a place where a fish or sea turtle was there and just hovering in no time while observing as part of the underwater community. Today, I was a gray rock. Only moving my arm to gently toss the line…it wasn’t a cast really…upstream of the small gathering of the trout giants. It felt like I was standing there hanging with friends. No need to talk, just hang out and enjoy the day. And watch the silly fly fisher’s flys float down the river.

Thanks Shawn for sharing this image of me trying to remove the hook…

Once I let the fly float past and kept watching the big trout. A smaller trout downstream grabbed the fly but I was too slow, my attention being on ‘brown beauties.’ It flipped off the hook. But I cast to the far side of the river and after two or three casts had a nice little brown trout on the line. I landed it in the water at my side and I knelt to remove the barbless hook but it wouldn’t come out of its lip. I reached for the hemostats and the fish swam off, with the fly. (It was a good lesson in using my net. Usually I can reach down and just touch the hook and it falls out but today the net would have helped contain the fish and then I could have removed the fly and released it. I have been told the fish can rub the fly out of their lip and the secretions from their mouth dissolve the hooks within a couple weeks. But I don’t want any fish to suffer because I was not diligent with my fish-handling skills).

I turned my attention back to the big brown trout and they wanted absolutely nothing to do with me. So I moved from the center of the river to the bank and switched flys. I sat on a large rock and for a lark tossed out the fly. A nice rainbow trout bumped it, took it under, and generally played with it every time it floated past. It was that kind of day. Yes, we see your amazing fly. No we don’t want anything to do with it.

Always check with your wading staff to see if the leaves are on the bottom or are floating. This one almost led to a good dunking.

The fish, for the most part, were just not that interested. A guide we passed said they had the same thing happening. Some days trout play, other days they won’t. But for me, when I can stand in a river for an hour watching two trout, that’s as close to bliss as I can be unless I am diving.

There were other trout and attempts and they all said, meh. But what a fabulous morning. Almost five hours fishing, standing in flowing water. 

My vibe when I drop into ‘no time.’

I suspect brown trout are masters of time for they led me into no time. In their world, I spent hours of being present with beauty, abundant beauty, that is magnified exponentially by forgetting everything else except what unfolds each moment.

Shout out to United Women on the Fly for having such a great forum for gals to meet other gals interested in fly fishing. Shawn’s hubby works at NOC as a raft guide. When he works, she plays. 🙂
I Was A Leaf Looker This Weekend

I Was A Leaf Looker This Weekend

The sweet smell of balsam fir trees hung in the thick fog. Every droplet that kissed my face seemed to anoint me with Nature’s most amazing scent.

I arrived early at the parking lot at Clingman’s Dome, hopeful for fog. Most people that visit want clear skies for the long-distance views. And they were there at the parking lot, but the top of the mountain was blanketed with cloud cover.

It’s a steep, 1.2 mile walk up to the observation tower made a bit more challenging because I was on Day 2 of my ‘Play Tourist’ weekend. Why I chose this weekend—when the leaf lookers were out in full force—I’m not sure. Maybe I wanted to see color. Perhaps I wanted an excuse to visit my favorite fly fishing store in Townsend. But most likely it was due to the rivers and creeks I fish running very high due to several days of rain. I wanted to let them drop before wading.

So, I got out the Big Mama Nikon and tripod and grabbed a telephoto lens as well as my wide-angle zoom—heavy equipment that I normally don’t hike with and reserve for special photographic endeavors. But the weather was finally rain-free and the temperatures very nice so on Friday I headed to Townsend, through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

I wanted to photograph some of the creeks and rivers since the water level was high. Water…the element that balances me, heals me, directs me back into my soul skin without fail. In my wandering, I had a perfectly timed encounter with three kayakers running a big rapid that’s normally not a kayaking river. After that, I decided to head to another watery place near Cades Cove but traffic was at a stop almost two miles outside of Cades Cove. No thanks. I turned around and went to Townsend.

I’ve been fly fishing since April and over the past month started tying flies, which has opened an entirely new, creatively amazing, journey. Little River Outfitters is where it all began for me and the staff there is beyond amazing. And their store…it feels good just to walk in there. I hadn’t visited their second story which is all fly tying goodies. Threads, equipment, furs, feathers, hooks of every imaginable size and kind and an artist’s dream. Color! Parts and pieces to create small versions of insects, or in my case…insects from Wonderland. Alice would be pleased. I had fun…way too much fun.

A drive back through the park, stopping at beautiful waterfalls and creeks and letting my Nikon play, added more fun to my day as I wound my way up and over the ridge through the park, and finally to my home. A late afternoon walk at my usual trail ended the day beautifully.

Saturday, I intended to go to the Upper Nantahala with the Nikon, but when I got in my car it headed to Clingman’s Dome. I explored the magical, foggy, balsam fir forest on top after the walk up. It felt like I was in another realm, like the fairy dimension opened and invited me to explore. Even though it was early, there were other humans there so I headed down to the parking area to leave before the insane crowd developed. But I got to Forney Ridge Trail and decided…what the heck.

The trail was downhill through beautiful moss-covered rocks and boulders. I was surprised at the number of people on the trail, but it was not nearly as crowded as the main trail. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring a water bottle or put the heavy telephoto lens in the car so I had quite a grueling hike. But it was worth it just for the beauty. There’s something very special about hiking through terrain that’s over a mile high. The trees are different, the air is cooler, and it seems somewhat removed from the chaos of the parking lot and everywhere really.

While I appreciate the opportunity to do short day trips in the national park—it is the most-visited national park in the country—I generally stay away from highly visited tourist areas until January or February, when visitors aren’t as numerous. When I finished my hike and came back to the Clingman’s Dome parking area, there were hundreds of people milling around, walking, blocking the way. It felt like entering a chaotic, alternate reality. I quickly walked to my car, dodging stopped cars waiting for parking spaces, gulped half a large bottle of water and left the chaos. There was a line over a mile in length just to get into the parking area. And cars were parked all along the side of the roadway. I was glad to be headed to my cabin in the woods.

Finally, Sunday dawned chilly and I took a chance to fly fish at my favorite creek. The water was up but running clear. While I couldn’t wade some areas due to high water, it was amazing to be in 51 degree, crisp air, standing in a mountain creek. 

I chose to fish a fly I tied and it was a huge hit with my trout friends. The first cast got a strike. But they carried it underwater without biting the hook…several times. I’ve never fished a fly that got so much attention from trout. One trout even came up under it, opened its big, white mouth, and acted like it was going to take it but then just backed away. It was the best entertainment I’ve had in a long time. It was amazing that something I created brought entertainment to the trout as well. But they didn’t engage in anything but playing with the fly…and that’s okay with me. I saw a couple of mistakes I made in tying it that created a crippled insect appearance. Sometimes they go for a crippled fly, but it probably makes them more suspicious. And our wild trout in the national park are spooky to begin with.

After nearly three hours of wading and standing in the creek, casting a line, and generally losing myself in the non-linear time of Nature, I felt like a reset button had been pressed and I was back inside my soul skin. 

The leaf looker season is just getting started. Today (Sunday) over 2000 people went through the Oconoluftee Visitor Center—I wasn’t one of them. I’ll be seeking the quiet places, the hidden places, and avoiding the crowds and chaos for the next few weeks. But you can bet I’ll be wading and playing with trout and allowing the creeks to keep me in balance.

Barbie on the Rocks

Barbie on the Rocks

“WOW! Did you see that Barbie on the rock and there was a timber rattler right under her!” The young man ran up to me, sweaty, flushed, with wild eyes. The young woman with him looked calm. “Man, it was so cool.” 

I figured it was probably a garter snake. Or a stick on a ledge. And Barbie? Probably a fairy vision brought on by ingesting a white-spotted red mushroom…the ones that make you fly. But I thanked him and walked on up as they walked down the trail.

Didn’t see Barbie or a snake on these rocks.

Of course, the entire walk was spent looking for Barbie sitting on a rock and naturally, a timber rattler. Even though the trail is very wide—wide enough for a large pickup truck to drive up as it’s an old roadbed—I kept a close watch for the snake.

As I walked, I thought about his suspected hallucination and how it seems our society is living a massive hallucination. What if what we think really is our reality? Then the dude was actually seeing Barbie and a rattlesnake even if I never saw her or her slithery friend. But there was nobody to join in his hallucination so it was relatively harmless. But the bigger hallucinations—those can get scary and bring a lot of chaos or maybe we could all dream up calm and peace.

No Barbie or snake here.

It wasn’t the most relaxing walk. I was picking up beer bottles, plastic wrappers, cigarette butts and while the flowing water was clear and clean and beautiful, I kept thinking about Barbie and her fanged-friend.

No snake or Barbie here either

How much time do we spend on fear generated by someone else’s hallucinations? How do we, as a society, become so sure of things that perhaps aren’t even real? And what makes them real anyway? Maybe something is ‘real’ only if enough people believe it in their minds.

I have no answers to these far-out questions. For late afternoon, there were many people out walking. A mushroom eater (?) and a lot of larger groups who refused to yield the way. I could step off the trail and fall down a very steep slope or worse step on that timber rattler or I could clear my side of the trail. So I started swinging my bag of trash like a priest swinging an incense censer to cleanse a holy place. It worked. I don’t need to explain any of the similarities.

It became quite obvious, by the end of the walk, why I prefer to walk at sunrise…before the crowds and kooks arrive. And by the way, I’m super-disappointed that I didn’t get a photo of Barbie and the monstrous timber rattler frolicking.