The last few weeks have been all about the rain. Many of the photos I've posted have given no clue to the reality that Rob and I have been living... its been raining most of the trip so far. (I don't take my camera out in the heavy rain too often.) When one lives outside in the rain for this long, one must become the rain.
Even though the skies have been unloading, we have slept dry in our hammocks and a cheap sil-nylon tarp has kept us sheltered for cooking and downtime. And just because we didn't love the rain doesn't mean the trout didn't... they definitely did!
Water was high after a few days of repetitive wet weather, but not high enough to deter us or the fish. In fact, while the fishing slowed a bit in the main stem, the tributaries just exploded with life, and it was a welcome discovery.
Luckily for us, the rain was coming in spurts most days, instead of steady rain all day long we at least had some moments of clear skies - once in a while the sun would peak out from a sucker hole to make us feel better.
The forest clearly loved all this rain - spring wild flowers were blooming abundantly, and I've never seen as much Trillium anywhere as I saw here.
We spent some time driving down dirt roads leading to small tributaries, walking between the wet branches and dodging the early poison ivy shoots, which were now making their new presence known on the forest floor.
Sometimes we were joyful in the rain, other times less so... but each break in the rain brought smiles and some new photos.
During one of these breaks, Rob's friend Tim landed two fish in a row that would have each been fish of a lifetime for anyone in a stream like this. The fact that he got both of those fish in one run was pretty mind-boggling. I have to admit I was a tiny bit jealous... but I was also really happy to see Tim land those fish. He surely deserved them.
The fish above was legitimately 12". The fish below was about 14". That is not a mini-net, its a standard fly fishing net... and check out the tail!! The photos prove it... these large mid-Appalachian brookies are the real deal. It was relatively simple to find 8-10 inch fish, but this was another level. Amazing.
We ate well during the week, keeping a few stocked rainbows to eat, but leaving all the brookies alone. Tim had brought some amazing steaks and some mushrooms, to which we added some greens. Prepared over the fire on an iron skillet, this surely was one of the best meals of the trip so far.
In the mornings the rain would usually return, but it always brought some form of beauty along with it.
We saw spider web cups in the fields, wet with morning dew and fresh misty rain. The jack in the pulpits came up after the Trillium.
The rain also brought us plenty of beautiful wild brook trout...
... red efts and other salamanders...
....pheasant back mushrooms...
... and of course, what we've all been waiting for... MORELS!
We knew that we were in the right area to hunt, and had spent some time the first few days looking under the appropriate trees, but it took a few extra days of rain, and then the first warm/sunny interruption in the rain to help them pop.
And pop they did...
...again and again again. Woohooo!
Focusing on the right trees with the right exposure of light at the right times of the day we were able to find quite a large haul our first day, and then more in the day following.
We had to toss many of the "rules" of morel hunting out the window as those rules had been holding us back from finding the mushrooms. Once we had our own system down of when, where and how to look, the success rate was almost unbelievable. It must be a bumper year for them right now.
The excitement was, at times, hard to contain.
I also came across a much rarer and more unique fungus along the way... one which invades arthropods/insects and evokes thoughts of the "Alien" movies... which must have based the idea of the alien infection and "birth" on this family of fungi.
The mycelium takes root in the insect and begins to turn the innards into sugars/food for the fungus - at which point the fungus takes over the insect's brain, encourages it to walk out on a limb in the open where it can release its spores; and then sprouts the visible mushroom/fungus, killing the host and turning it into a statue of sorts. I am not sure if its Cordyceps, Gibellula, or another related "alien" fungus... more research is necessary... it was extremely cool to find. If you know more about this, please feel free to write a comment about it, below!
And right below that log on the river I picked up a nice trout, too!
I have so much more to post, but for now, that's all the time I have. More to follow soon.