NANFA-L-- 2004 convention casper report 3

Subject: NANFA-L-- 2004 convention casper report 3
Date: Mon Nov 15 2004 - 13:36:51 CST

The next morning Chip picked me up and then Traci to take us to a place to
snorkel, but first he wanted to take us on a short hike before the day heated
up. It is a wildlife refuge named Congaree Creek Heritage Trust Preserve where
 we hoped to see some more gators and snakes. The morning was cool and we all
 enjoyed the very leisure walk. Interesting bugs and plants and mushrooms
were about. We had a good time talking about plants and critters. No fish nets
were allowed in the sanctuary to dip in the swampy waters but we could see
there was a lot of activity. The most interesting section was a narrow levee
path dividing to beautiful waters lush with a variety of water plants. Every
step was cautious and slow hoping to get a glimpse of a big gator blocking our
path or a coiled snake sunning itself. Frogs leaped out with a loud "Erp" and
splash keeping our nerves jangly but no gators lunged from the water as in
the movies. Getting back along the rolling path I started seeing chantrell
mushrooms and before long i could not hold myself back. Chip had mentioned how
his mother had wanted to cook for the group and since eating is a required
activity i suggested he call her and sure enough she invited us over for lunch. I
took this opportunity to gather a shirt full of the yellow flowerlike
mushrooms as we walked the final stretch out of the swamp. We still had to cross a
narrow 3.5" x 3.5" 10' long "bridge" which was a challenge as dark, gator
infested water bordered lapped-in- each side of the twisted, frayed timber...-in-
least according to Chip! Finally we made it back to the truck with dry feet
and-in-this point unknownst to me a chigger harvest and headed to Chip's
She had it spread out for us... chicken cassarole, lima beans, tossed salad
with vildelia onion dressing, tiny sweet pickels, toasted bread slices cut one
 the slant, pistachio pudding and all capped with Mrs. Edwards mouth
twistingly tart but sweet Key Lime pie and all rinsed down with cold iced tea. It was
nice sitting in her house and hearing and seeing them remember stories of
Chip's younger days. It was a real treasure to be in her home for awhile.
I was way full but with a bit of urging Traci and i cleaned up the fresh
chantrells and cut them into neat pieces. We then buttered up a cast iron
skillet, set the heat to medium and proceeded to cook the mushrooms. A little salt
and pepper and a bit more simmering to reduce the moisture and they were
ready for sampling. After everyone had enjoyed a mouthful Chip inquired if i was
going to have any? I responded with a... "why i never eat wild mushrooms!".
Sure i ate some and they were very good and one of the fungi that are
impossible to misidentify once you have attained a few observations. They are
always listed in books as "choice" for edibility and taste. Still one cannot
overstate caution in mushrooming.
Saying our goodbyes after the wonderful meal and relaxing visit we headed
back to pickup our vehicles for the drive to the snorkel site. From this site we
 were all to depart for our 3 seperate destinations. On the way however a
wall of rain swept on us, one of the most intense rains ive ever experienced. We
pulled over into a quick stop mart and decided to call off the snorkeling
and say our goodbyes. Drenching wet i loaded back into the van and headed back
towards the interstate. The rain was intensifying and becoming outright
dangerous. I was being overwhelmed by the mounting rain, minimal visibility and
flooding roads. I could make Chip's truck out ahead and gave him a cell call.
We decided to stop and relax in a Mexican restaurant and let the rainstorm
blow over. Chip and i reviewed the gazateers and the sites Fritz had suggested
while enjoying some chips, salsa and the rain from a window booth. Several
others travelers arrived to do the same. Finally the rain calmed to a drizzle
and we again said our goodbyes and thanks and i headed north to the Atlantic
slope of the Appalachians! Thanks Chip!
Several hours and a more rain had me passing Furman University to the north.
I was only a few more miles south of my goal and with a bit more wandering i
found myself standing by the Middle Saluda just as dusk was falling. A
couple fishermen and fisherwoman welcomed me on the sandy banks of the somewhat
murky stream. I took a look-in-their catch and inquired of the water and a
place to stay. Things did not look promising and my hopes were in that it would
clear by morning if no more rain fell. I found the motel they spoke of in a
little town called Traveler's Rest and got a cheeseburger-in-the Carolina diner
before retiring.
The next morning the Middle Sadula was nearly opaque. I had missed a couple
snorkeling opportunities by hours over the previous days and disappointment
was aiming for me. I studied the maps and decided to work up to any headwaters
of this flow. A free day can be burned up trying to find snorkelable sites
and i was not desiring any experience such as that. I followed the churning
stream up and studied every trib i passed or could locate on my meager map. I
regreted not purchasing a SC gazateer from Mark and was forced to decipher some
black and white copies i had made back-in-the Holiday Inn. All the waters
were churning and muddied. I finally turned down one crossing called Oil Camp
Creek. Not a promising name but lo and behold it was relatively clear. I found
a rustic planked bridge crossing with a good pulloff and doned my suit. A
couple ladies on bikes stopped by and we peered over the edge and they spoke of
colored fish just days before. I could make out several clean pebbled mounds
below and inquired of what they had seen and told them of my experiences in
other places. We waved goodbye and i walked downstream along the steep bank.
Into the shallow water i lay and was quickly greeted by many Yellow Fin
Shiners varyingly colored and small non descript Chubbs. Not in high color the
Yellow Fins were, but still beautiful and elegant. I worked my up to and around
several of the nests and noticed a couple other species along with several
riffle type minnows or chubbs. I have never snorkeled on the Atlantic slope so
all these fish were unique to me. However i could sense they were distant
cousins of the critters on the other side of these ancient mountains. An unusual
Darter crossed my path, a bit too quick to detail in the lower visibility. A
bland Sunfish and a highly marked Hogsucker stopped by. Someone had recently
chopped up and thrown off several fish carcasses and butchered a Snapping
Turtle leaving his clawed appendages littering the substrate. Still the water
offered comfort and with an acceptable 3 to 5' visibility. I found several
more clean mounds some looking like they had been stepped in dead center. In a
2' or 3' deep pool i reoriented myself to look back downstream. 3 Fiery Black
Shiners sparred in the flow displaying to one another and me. Beautiful, my
first time to see these neat fish. They reminded me in activity and habitat
and even somewhat in appearance as lost cousins of the Alabama Shiners i see so
often below Chattanooga. Very cool. I enjoyed them for awhile and began to
work myself back upstream, avoiding the mounds and laying in various offered
pools. I figured the mounds to be Blue Head Chubb nests from my books and had
been told the Blueheads hid on any approach and did most of their mound
building-in-night. Wonderfully and presented just ahead was a Bluehead Chubb,
tuberculed, battered, blinded and scarred. Blue is right and an unusual color to
see. Not a bright blue but a continuous dull blue over the whole head. I was
able to put a hand net over him and lift him from the water for a better
viewing. He was heavily marred and worn ragged. I dont suspect much more life
was available to him. He had been resting in a flowing eddy and i wondered if
he could recover.
Having enough after a couple hours i returned to the van. A young fellow of
about 18 approached me and inquired of my activity. He told me that the two
women biker riders were his grandmother and aunt and that he himself had
snorkeled in the creek i was just in. I had captured 3 of the Yellow Fins, 1 Fiery
Black, 2 of the small Chubbs(?) and 1 of the riffle type minnow/chubbs to
observe and identify back-in-home. I showed him these and urged him to watch for
 the colored breeding frenzies over the mounds during the spring and to get
in with them on those occassions. It was fun sharing experiences with him and
i remembered Chris had given me a few copies of AC. I found the one where i
wrote of my middle Tennessee wander after last year's Huntsville gathering and
gave it to him. Perhaps he will become as fascinated as us. He certainly is
well on a start since he has been snorkeling in his own front yard's creek!
I headed back to the main road in hopes of visiting another site Fritz had
suggested but more churning water and rains lay in the day ahead. The ride home
 was depressing after i crossed the contenantal divide into NC. I had hoped
to carefully study and observe the small head waters of each side of the
divide. Greeting me on the NC side were an ever sequencing passing of golf
courses, gated communities, no trespassing signs and tourism hogging the narrow
winding mountain road. Any hopes of snorkeling-in-sites such as the French Broad
 or Valley river continued to deminish with the continuing rain so i decided
to burn a path home arriving late Tuesday evening with a few, new,
interesting fish in tow.
Tho ending with constant rains and turbid visibility it had been a fine week
and i did get to finally witness the Fiery Blacks in their native habitat.
I'm grateful that Chip and Dustin did a wonderful job planning and presenting
an excellent NANFA convention for all of us fishheads, and i personally
experienced their southern hospitality. I'm also grateful for experiencing a new
region, renewing friendships, meeting new folks and dreaming of ongoing
adventures. Hats off to South Carolina and Chip & Dustin!

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: Fri Dec 31 2004 - 12:42:49 CST