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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Zippin' & Fly Fishin'! (and FEMA)

It's fun to play "tourist" at home!
This past week Dan and I had a rather amazing little getaway- right here in southern WV! We got to go Ziplining through the WV forests at TreeTops Canopy Tours , learn to fly fish for trout with Bobby Bower of ProFishWV, have a couple of Great gourmet Chef Burgess dinners at Glade's at Glade Springs, and I even got to treat myself to a wonderful facial and an Amazing massage at Glade Spring's Orange Spa! Dan is 63 & I'm 51, and yes, we went Zipping through the mountains 120' above the rivers hooked to a metal rope, and if we can do (and love every minute of) it, ANYONE can do it! You do NOT have to be in great shape, nor do you have to have any skills, physical ability, or strength- I am living proof of that! The feeling of "zipping" is a "rush" like Nothing I've ever done, and it is, in a word, AMAZING! The set up & equipment is new and state-of-the-art, and the smart and professional guides were GREAT- we heartily recommend Keith Kinsey, as he knows Everything about the trees (TreeTops is part of a project to save the Hemlock forest from going the way of the American Chestnut), mushrooms, and edible plants, and his love and enthusiasm for it all is infectious! We walked over rope bridges (whistling the theme song from Bridge Over the River Kwai !), and hiked a bit between our 10 zips, and it was a Magical afternoon in the spring sunshine! It went by WAY too fast (I badly wanted to do at least 3 more "zips"!), and we can't WAIT to do it again!
Elisse, Zipping!
Dan, Zipping!

Yes, I had a few "take a deep breath through your nose and out through your mouth" moments, but then I stepped off the platform & zipped! I REALLY DID IT- zoomed across the forest 120' above the water- and I am SO glad I did!!!!!! 
(And not to worry: before they take you up there into the tree tops and let you "zip", you practice on the ground first!)
Before we went "zipping" we had a lovely lunch of crab cakes & seafood chowder (made by a Louisiana chef who knows his way around a remoulade sauce!) at "Chetty's Pub" at ClassVI (where TreeTops is located), and after our grand Ziplining adventure we went back there & treated ourselves to Gin & Tonics overlooking the Gorge- and watched the eagles play!
The view from behind "Chetty's Pub" at Class VI- the "Best Seats in the House"!
Rhododendrons in the West Virginia Mountains
Eagles at play...

The next day we (finally!) learned to fly-fish, something I've been aching to do for Years- ever since those pricey LL Bean catalogs would turn up in my NYC mailbox and tantalize me with incredibly expensive trips... I did it once back in 1981 in Ireland, and it was pretty magical to see a trout leap into the air and take a fly (not mine, I hasten to add). I always thought the hand-tied flies, made with feathers and beads and such, were, well... Pretty, and I've secretly coveted one of those cool fly-bedecked hats like Col. Blake wore in M*A*S*H for years, and even considered buying some to turn into earrings... I found it fascinating to look closely at all the different kinds of flies and see the work that goes into creating 100s of different kinds of fake bugs in all their stages of life...
Plus, for the last 8 years we've lived on one of THE best trout streams- the Elkhorn Inn is right on Elkhorn Creek, famous for its 24"-32" trout- and many of our guests are Trout Unlimited members and avid fly fishermen- but although they taught me to hand-tie a fly at our dining table, not having the gear or the knowledge, we'd never done any fly fishing! But now we have! And we'll be able to  do it at home! YAY!
We booked a full day with Bobby Bower of at Glade Springs, (for a fraction of those LL Bean trips!) and had THE best day! After getting our WV fishing licenses, we spent the morning learning the rudiments of the sport on a lake at Glade Springs, practicing our casts & learning about the equipment, and the difference between "woolly buggers" and dry flies...

Bobby then drove us out- WAY out!- to Glade Creek-on-the-New, and dressed in our spiffy new waders & boots, we hiked out into the middle of the white water, and really did it! And Elisse caught her first brown trout on a dry fly!!!!

Dan & Bobby Bower, on Glade Creek-on-the-New
Though Dan didn't land himself a trout, he did get some good nibbles, and we truly had a GREAT day! We learned just enough to be dangerous- and got well and truly bitten by the fly fishing bug! So we now have to get all the cool stuff so we can do it at home on Elkhorn Creek! No, fly fishing isn't exactly an inexpensive sport, but we learned enough from Bobby to know that it doesn't have to be insanely expensive, either! And since we've already paid for our fishing licenses for the whole year, and we live right on a great trout stream, we now have high hopes that if we get the Stuff, maybe some of our Trout Unlimited guests will take us out behind the Inn and teach us some more!

Our days of playing tourist came after I spent a month working for FEMA on the disaster response operation following the March floods in southern WV. This was the first time I've worked for FEMA here at home in WV, and, as I discovered as a New Yorker while working in NYC after 9/11, when it's "your" disaster it's different- much more intense and much more personal...  I was working in Beaver, WV, about 1 1/2 hours from the Elkhorn Inn, and so when Dan wasn't busy with guests, he was able to come visit me, and on my few days off we were able to spend some "quality time" playing tourist in our own state- like we did 8 years ago when we first came to West Virginia while Dan was working on a FEMA operation- after which we decided to buy the flooded, slated-for-demolition building that Dan restored into our home and the Elkhorn Inn and stay in West Virginia! Back in 2002, Dan & I spent more than 5 months living in a room at the Sleep Inn in Beaver with Trapper, our old Yellow Lab, while he ran Logistics for the disaster response operation, and so being back in Beaver was kind of "deja vu all over again" for us! We got to have dinner at some of our favorite "old haunts" like Young Chow's (the best Chinese food in the region), Logan's Steak House, and Pasquale's, have drinks with Dick at Dick's Yacht Club, enjoy some Amazing gourmet dinners at Glade's (such as a whole, crispy Red Snapper with roasted red pepper sauce, followed by creme brulee and Frangelico!), and find some terrific new places like the excellent Aangan Indian Cuisine in Beckley that just opened. (Dan actually proposed to me in Oct. 2002 at the Texas Steak House in Beckley, after buying my diamond engagement ring at the Beckley WalMart!)  

As you may know, the March floods did quite a bit of damage to southern WV; roads and bridges were washed out, homes were damaged, and people were stranded; the five counties of Raleigh, Greenbrier, Fayette, Mercer, and Kanawha were designated for Individual Assistance in this declaration. I'm a Community Relations Field Specialist, and during this operation I was the Community Relations Reports Manager, and worked with a grand team of folks from my own Region- the first time I've worked "at home" in West Virginia! As you undoubtedly know, West Virginia also suffered a terrible loss in the recent mine disaster that killed 29 coal miners; the genuine expressions of concern and care that came from all over the USA were deeply appreciated.
As a West Virginian I say: thank you.

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