Ever since hubby ‘inherited’ a vast quantity of fishing gear from my late mother’s late husband, he has become a man obsessed. Granted, there are stories of his fishing obsession from his childhood, but that desire has never manifested itself during our marriage and we have been married a long, long time.
But what good is fishing equipment without a place or two or ten to drop your line in. Hubby has some very fond memories of Mill Creek, just off the Allegheny River, a place where his parents trekked with the family on Sunday afternoons. I had never been and was more than willing to make the short trip to check out the potential of the trout stream. (The creek is stocked early every April by the state fish and game commission.)
So Sunday morning, a week ago, we headed north. After crossing the river at Emlenton, we found and followed Dotter Road, which quickly degraded from paved to gravel as we headed down, down the hill toward the river. After passing the ‘No Winter Maintenance’ sign, I began to wonder if the bears were out of hibernation yet.
“Are you SURE this is the way?” I queried while bracing myself as the truck lumbered over the washboard ruts of the narrowing ‘road’ we were following.
“Ok.” Being born and bread in rural western PA, and living halfway to nowhere for most of that time, I knew we were headed to nowhere, but I also knew nowhere can be quite interesting. Still wasn’t really sure about the bears though.
Finally we reached the bottom of the hill and found a pull-off to park the truck. Before us lay a lovely scene of woods, stone-strewn creek and three bridges. One of the bridges was for automobile traffic, the other two old railroad bridges, no longer used.
Deciding that the best place to start would be at the river, we headed in that direction, crossing over the top of the oldest railroad bridge. Happily enough, I discovered that the railroad ‘track’ had been converted by ‘Rails to Trails’ and a nicely paved path lay on top of the second railroad bridge. The Allegheny had a beautiful greenish hue to the water where the mouth of the creek emptied into the river.
Across the water, remnants of snow still littered the riverbanks.
While we were standing along the river and admiring the view, two joggers jaunted passed, waving hello. That surprised me somewhat, as we were definitely far from most anything. Shortly afterward, a couple walked up the road, inquiring whether we had seen any eagles yet, and after we replied no, he assured us that the birds were always about ‘down here.’ A pair of bikers appeared at the visible end of the path and shortly after, a pair of pickups passed on the road. Everyone we passed waved and mouthed ‘hello’, to which we returned the same. It seemed that this nowhere wilderness was a popular spot and I was feeling better about the bears.
With a last look at the river, we started walking back to the creek. This time we walked the ‘road’, which snaked about the ‘hill’ to the west.
Scattered about the hillside were outcropping of the rocks that make up the core of this land.
Between the two old railroad bridges was an ancient oak with an equally old sycamore at its side. The sycamore was hollow at the base and the oak covered with moss and lichen.
The older railroad bridge framed the automobile bridge perfectly.
Here is the view of the bridges from the other side of the car bridge. All three bridges are visible. Looking through the older railroad bridge, the diagonal of the bridge that carries the rails to trails can just be made out.
The remnants of a small foundation lay along the creek, covered in moss, the ferns that adorn it in the summer just beginning to shake away their winter’s rest.
From there we started the trek up the creek, each scene more enchanting and enchanted than the last.
We came across a small bend in the creek that harbored a still pool fringed on one side by cascading water.
A tiny overhang sheltered a half-melted icicle.
A solitary black rock spouted orange lichen while all its neighbors wore green.
Water bugs, which we call skippers, skimmed the water of the pool. What I found more interesting was the pearl-like balls that adorned the underlying rocks. I don’t think they were bubbles.
Here are the remains of what was to an old mill, which is maybe why the name of the place is Mill Creek.
More enchantingly enchanted scenes presented themselves.
We reached a cliff on the side of the creek we were following and to continue, the creek would have to be crossed. Not being that ambitious after climbing on and around rocks and boulders for the past few hours, we rested along the creek bank on a bed of moss and contemplated the fishing possibilities of what we had seen.
The creek was low, no doubt about that. March has been a very dry month this year. But in order to support the amazing amount of moss and lichen that adorn every surface along the creek bed, it must normally run much higher and faster, throwing plenty of mist into the air. Western PA is wet but we don’t get enough rainfall to sustain that luxurious, thick carpet of moss. The small pools we had come across would have no problem supporting a few trout if the water was a little deeper.
We chose to take the path through the woods back to the truck rather than follow the creek again. Time to find the way to Foxburg and the restaurant along the river that is our late afternoon lunch stop.
After deciding to keep following the ‘road’ rather than turning around, I knew it was a bad decision when I saw the first 270 degree bend. This narrow, gravel road was going to switchback up the side of the ‘hill’ and I’m not fond of heights. Sure enough, soon I was staring out at the tops of very large pines while the truck bucked its way up steep inclines.
Eventually the top of the hill was reached but my feeling of unease continued. The road was still gravel and narrow. After passing a sheep farm and then a pig farm, I turned to hubby and stated, “If banjos start playing, it’s everyone for themselves.” He just looked at me.
Thankfully, electric poles popped up along the road and gravel gave way to pavement. Soon after the road became wide enough for a double yellow line to embellish the middle, a true marker of civilization sat on the right side of the pavement ~ a stop sign! The second stop sign was situated in a town that was on the map and it turned out we weren’t that far off course. We arrived at the restaurant within twenty minutes and was treated to a very good meal while watching the river flow by.
poking through the leaf litter.
The cloud bank waited until sunset to move into our area.
The northern side of the sunset.
I can't believe how fast spring is making itself felt.
Back for another year. He's guarding 'hih' compost pile from all others.
The ground was dry enough for a quick tiller run-through of the corn patch. This robin is taking advantage of the turned soil.
They found the thistle feeder I have out already.
Sunny, west breeze, 34°F/1°C