Losing yourself in Lost River

Church on a hill, Lost River area. | Hardy County WV | Autumn 2021

Words & Images from the Lost River WV environs. |
by Douglas John Imbrogno | Autumn 2021

“Sometimes from my doorway on a still night I become aware that the silence is set in a velvet background like a jewel in a display case, a hushing that, when attended to, becomes ineluctable.”

~ TIM ROBINSON, “CONNEMARA: Listening to the Wind”

Autumn leaves on Rock Cliff Lake at Trout Pond Recreation Area. | WestVirginiaVille.com | Autumn 2021

The river runs through it.
Until it doesn’t anymore.

“This stream gets its name from the [fact] that for three miles it passes out of sight under a mountain which lies across its course.”

~ GEORGE WASHINGTON on ‘Lost River,’ in “Journal of my journey over the mountains while surveying for Lord Thomas Fairfax, baron of Cameron, in the northern neck of Virginia, beyond the Blue Ridge, in 1747-8.”

The girls next door. | Lost River WV | Autumn2021

I have so embedded myself in the Lost River community that the guy-— Mike-—who looks after the girlcows in the field beside where I stay, buys my meal of a Beyond Burger and first-rate french fries at Lost River Grill tonight. “Your meal was paid for, sweetie, by that couple,” says my waitress, looking to the table near the door. I had gone over to greet Mike and his wife earlier in the evening. As she nibbled an equally excellent house onion ring (I have had them), Mike and I continue our cow-side chat from the day before about the six nosy heifers he drops by to feed daily. He’s moving a couple of pregnant cows into the field tomorrow. “So I can keep an eye on them,” Mike says. I look over my shoulder at the couple, raise my glass. They raise theirs. Wide smiles.

VIDEO: “Lost River Reverie, No. 1”

Video production by AmpMediaProject.com

The Sinking River

“The Lost River was named for the fact it is a losing stream. A losing stream, disappearing stream, influent stream or sinking river is a stream or river that loses water as it flows downstream. The water infiltrates into the ground, recharging the local groundwater, because the water table is below the bottom of the stream channel. This is the opposite of a gaining stream (or effluent stream) which increases in water volume farther downstream as it gains water from the local aquifer. Losing streams are common in regions of karst topography where the streamwater may be completely captured by a cavern system, becoming a subterranean river.”

~ “LOSING STREAM’ Wikipedia entry

Making the Turn

‘Road to Blue Mountain.’ | Around the bend in Hardy County WV | WestVirginiaVille.com photo | August 2021

The Sacred River

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
   Down to a sunless sea …

~ Opening lines to “KUBLA KHAN” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Milky way. | Lost River Watershed Project | Autumn 2021 | WestVirginiaVille.com photo

I spend my mornings and early afternoons writing in a farmhouse built in 1896, “lovingly renovated” in recent years. That is how my friend describes the home she occasionally rents out when hitting the road. It’s an apt description for a sweet redoubt, tucked into Lost River Valley, a zone of eastern West Virginia I’ve not explored as much as other parts of ‘the Mountain State.’ What does ‘redoubt,’ mean, exactly? I ask Duck Duck Go. The third of three meanings nails what my mind is seeking to say: “A protected place of refuge or defense.” When I grow exasperated with writing—or trying to—and need space from what I call this “sorta memoir” (or “fictionalized non-fiction,” as my sorta memoir coach calls it), I lock the house up tight. ‘Mooooo…!!’ back at the girlcows in their field. Drive off onto curvy roads to see parts of West Virginia my eyes have never witnessed. P.S. Here’s a ‘sorta memoir’ sample chapter, published Summer 2021 in Longridge Review.

‘Tool House.’ | Lost River WV. Autumn 2021. | WestVirginiaVille.com photo

The Impaired River

“The 31.1-mile Lost River—essentially the upper course of the Cacapon River—drains part of southern Hardy County in eastern West Virginia. The river flows into an underground channel southwest of Wardensville, at “The Sinks,” and reappears as the Cacapon. Throughout its course, the Lost flows alongside and through the northern reaches of the Washington and Jefferson National Forests. The river is listed by the state of West Virginia as impaired due to pathogens; this is likely due to the livestock and poultry raising activities throughout the valley.”

~ West Virginia Explorer

‘Bovine Sunset.’ | Across from Lost River Grill, Lost River WV | Autumn 2021 | WestVirginiaVille.com phot

Impaired. You would not know there was impairment, plunging 60 miles per hour into dashing sunsets. Rising up to sunrise burning off the morning mists in the Valley of Lost River. Sort of like we humans. How we hide impairment, how it’s often out of sight. Until it isn’t. Which is what I’m trying to write about. Which is why I’m up early, after meditation with fresh-brew coffee at hand. In the now sun-lit living room of this late 19th century, made-over farmhouse, for hours. Typing fictional non-fiction. Which is why I need a sorta memoir coach who has a pile of published books to her good name. To get me into, through, and out the valley.

The farm in the curve of the hills, just north of Lost River in Hardy County WV

Lost in Jugoslavia

“There are many so-called ‘lost rivers’ in the world,” [says] The Pathfinder (July 20, 1935) … “India has the famous Lost river. Jugoslavia has one and so do Idaho and Oregon. Kentucky has a Lost Creek and West Virginia its Lost river…”

~ from “WEST VIRGINIA PLACE NAMES: Their Origin and Meaning, Including the Nomenclature of the Streams and Mountains,” by Hamill Kenny, The Place Name Press, Piedmont WV (1945)
Fisherman arrives to work at Rock Cliff Lake, a ten-minute drive up from the Lost River flatlands. | WestVirginiaVille.com photo | August 2021

VIDEO: “Lost River Reverie, No. 2”


Video production by AmpMediaProject.com

I stand beside Kimsey Run Lake. I am the only human being near the small body of water, at least as far as I can spy in any direction. It’s a chilly, tumble-blue sky afternoon in Autumnal West Virginia. Next to Springtime West Virginia, this is the best West Virginia, to my taste. Color daubs hills to the horizons. I could give the usual names — red, orange, yellow, etc. But these are more vivid than those and so deserve more vivid words. Ochre, sienna, ruby, salmon, rust, chestnut, coral, geranium. It’s good to be standing here. To be solitary in this weekday outback. Right here, right now. Right there.

‘Autumnal West Virginia Hills with Lily Pads.’ | Kimsey Run Lake, Lost River WV | Autumn 2021.

Parting Shots



PICTURE/SHOW: The Hills & Dales of Al Peery’s West Virginia: november2021: When it comes to Autumn in the West Virginia outback, nothing could be finer than Al Peery framing the scene from his wanderings in the West Virginia wilderness.

PICTURE/SHOW: 36 Ways of Looking at Thomas WV: september10.2021: Thomas, West Virginia, is a bump in the road several thousand feet up in the mountain air. With a storied past, small-town European feel, and humming creative scene it’s a special place in the hills. A photographic encounter.

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