Sleeping pool at Mossy Falls.
It occurred while I was on the way home after spending an afternoon at the base of a mind-numbingly, beautiful waterfall that is located halfway up the side of a small mountain in my backyard.
I had visited the discrete, little mountain creek with plans to conduct a brook trout survey at the skinny end of my flyrod.
The clear water was captivating, and as I sat there on the wet, mossy rocks, my sense of senses changed. I felt the soft mist on my face, and I could smell the pine scent. The air somehow seemed sweeter, and the gentle rustle of wind on the leaves was tangible. Sunrays glistened on the water as small rainbows appeared to dance above the tumbling falls.
I traveled to the deep woods to get away for a day and to escape the din of a dozen chores left undone. I was tired of the unrelenting concerns about what comes next. I needed time alone. Bugs be damned, bring on the brookies was my battle cry!
The woods and waters, and to a limited extent the mountains have always provided a place where humans can go to escape the regular drudgery of everyday life.
I’ve always believed the escape is not actually due any specific physical location, but rather it’s more likely a result of the long journey that’s typically required to get there.
The more demanding the access, the more I enjoy it. In isolated confines, it’s easier to attain true mental freedom, especially when there’s no one, and nothing around to interrupt you. In such special places, thoughts pour quickly, and deep thinking comes easy.
Sounds and sense, touch and feel are amplified when there are no distractions. In such places, it much easier to hear your inner thoughts, and to let the flowing waters rinse them away.., far, far, away.
Most recently, it occurred on a late, early summer afternoon as the roar of falling waters, combined with bed of soft moss bed and a sweet breeze to sooth my tired mind.
It had been a long week of hard work and I nodded off unexpectedly on a small patch of soft moss located on the banks of a small, mountain stream.
I’d been out for a while when I awoke with a start. I was unsure of the time, but I knew I had hung around for quite a while; maybe even a bit longer than I should’ve.
Although the route home was easy enough easy to follow, I knew it would be a challenge without a light in the growing darkness. During summer months, darkness arrives late, but it comes quickly; so I broke down the flyrod, and stashed my reel in the creel. I knew the brook meandered for a way through a small gorge, but there was an old tote road nearby.
So, with a large branch to guard my flyrod, I walked slowly through the high brush, carefully lifting my feet high to avoid tripping over obstacles, of which there were many.
It was a moonless evening, but the stars were out and I could hear traffic in the distance. The exact direction of travel was not my greatest concern, as I knew where I had to go. I was more concerned with tripping and breaking something, or poking a hole in my side after stumbling on the sharp stub of a beaver chewed sapling.
But in an instant, the dim darkness of early evening was punctuated by the soft light of lightning bugs blinking in the nearby marsh.
Crickets began to chirp and a long soft, cotton-like ribbon of fog began to slowly rise above the flat, black waters of the wide brook. I poked along slowly to avoid tripping over unseen obstacles. It wouldn’t stop me from stumbling, but it would soften the blow as I wobbled about like a drunken sailor on leave for the eve.
I could make out flickering lights of passing cars on the highway in the distance. I knew it was less than a quarter mile distant, but as I stumbled along in the darkness, separated by the boggy marsh and a flowing stream of varying depths; it seemed like an eternity. I was frustrated and covered in sweat, mud and other debris. My shins were bruised and muddy water sloshed in my boots. Spiderwebs wrapped my head and I was chewing twigs and spitting alder leaves.
“Ahhh!”, I exclaimed, “The absolute serenity of a calm day in the deep woods, sitting by a little stream. Never again, damn it!”
Finally, I reached the stream bank. I was in a foul mood as I poked around with my broken down flyrod to check the depths, which appeared to be just a couple of feet. So, I decided to step right in.
The water measured only two feet deep, but the mud and muck were of an equal depth, and both of my legs were firmly ensconced up to my thighs.
As I continued to struggle to free my legs, the foul smelling, methane bubbles began to gurgle up on the water’s surface. What had begun as a relaxing day on a small stream had grown into a face scratching, leg sucking, stuck in the muck nightmare, and I was still twelve feet from freedom.
There was only one thing to do. So I dove and belly flopped into the middle of the stream and popped up on the other side of the brook.
Quickly, I thrashed through the brush and mush as I rushed up the far bank. I sloshed and stumbled back home along the railroad tracks, and my wife kicked the dog out the door just as I reached the house.
He barked and sniffed at me for a second, then ran back inside the door as I shed my tattered clothes and grabbed a garden hose to rinse off the muck. I sustained no serious cuts, nor any broken or busted bones. Fortunately most of the stink went on the ground rather than down the sink
I was tired, scratched, bug bit, hungery and thirsty, but I was home with a good story to tell.
Next time, I may take a headlamp, and a watch, and maybe even a collapsible fly rod.
Or maybe I’ll stick to wider, less wild locations closer to parking lots and the nearby roads. But I doubt it. I’ll probably continue to seek serenity where I’ve always found it, somewhere just east of nowhere, even though takes a bit more work to get there, and back again.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.