Sunday, May 17, 2015

9th Annual PHWFF 2-Fly Tournament - Day 1

This was my second year doing media coverage for PHWFF at their annual 2-Fly Tournament. I had the dates to this year's event down on my calendar the day I left Rose River Farm last April. For those of you unfamiliar with Project Healing Waters, it is an organization "dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and disabled veterans through fly fishing and associated activities including education and outings." It is one of the most touching and rewarding organizations I've ever been involved with. 2-Fly, the flagship event of PHWFF, as you'll read, makes for one of my favorite weekends out of the year...

I want to write this up the same way I did last year, breaking two individual posts down by day. To read about last year's event, click here for Day 1 and here for Day 2.

I packed up my car on Friday night, after getting home from a meeting that concluded my long work week. In typical Morgan fashion, I overpacked, making sure I was ready for whatever. The initial plan was to use my Slumberjack Camp Tent 8 aka the "Taj Mahal" to sleep out by the pond like last year, but I decided to save some space in the car and sleep in the Subaru. So instead of a tent, cot, pillow, tarp, and sleeping bag...all I had to pack was my Slumberjack Borderland 20 sleeping bag and pillow. Last years weather was unreal, in the 80's, sunny, and without bugs. This year, the forecast was set for rain and 40-50' I packed accordingly.

Saturday morning came quick and after an awesome family breakfast, I hit the road. The drive down to Rose River Farm is about 2.5 hours but because of the scenery and gorgeous setting, I usually take 3 hours. After some foul weather, including about 30 minutes of sleet and snow, I turned down Old Blue Ridge Turnpike and laid eyes on the Rose River. This is where the cell phone dead zone starts so I sent a quick text to let my wife know I was there safe. Most of the rivers and creeks I crossed on my trek were blown from the recent rains we had received...but not the Rose River. It was gin clear, perfect flow, ideal for the weekend ahead.


Pulling in to RRF never fails to raise my heart rate. Crossing that bridge over the Rose onto what, in my opinion (and many would agree), is the most beautiful property in VA is breathtaking, ask anyone who has had the privilege of doing so. Pulling up to the main tent, my phone automatically picked up the WiFi from last year and the messages and emails started to pour in...I set my phone to Airplane Mode so all I could do was take pictures. I pulled in and said my hellos to everyone setting up, including good friend, the weekend's host, and owner of RRF, Douglas Dear.

I quickly drove over the hill to the bass pond where the Bluegill Tournament was taking place, run by Cory and Kelly Routh of Ruthless Outdoor Adventures. Vets were all breaking for lunch provided by the American Legion and man can those vets cook. I was able to chat with some familiar faces including Rob Snowhite, Cory Routh, the PHWFF peeps, Capt. (ret.) Kim Smith and her awesome pup Shyan from last years tourney, Rick Pope of TFO and yes, Flip Pallot...awesome.

After chowing down, we headed back to the pond to watch the vets rip some lips. Bass and Bluegill were being caught pretty consistently despite the colder temps and overcast skies. As the tournament wrapped up, I picked out my spot for the night, got the firewood set for the campfire later, and headed back over the hill to the main tent for appetizers and beverages.


I walked into the tent just as the rain started to fall pretty hard. There was a rumble in the behind me and as I turned, VA Patriot Guard rode in, as if nothing would faze them, including the rain. Its an awesome sight to see, especially since these riders are vets themselves. There is a resonation of emotion that sets the mood for the weekend when those bikes ride by, waving the flags behind them...especially when the good old red, white, and blue contrasts to the dark skies and rain.

To see more of the silent auction items, click here and look for the hashtag #phwff2fly

I did a quick once over of the silent auction items with a glass of Luna Vineyards chardonnay in one hand and my phone in the other (keeping both hands occupied so I wouldn't bid too much) and man were they amazing, seriously, from hand turned wood bowls by Mike Pivarnik to custom rods, a shadow box of Mike Dunlap's famous poppers to fly boxes full of hand-tied flies, and much much more. While walking around, we had the great tunes of  Karen Jonas in the background setting the mood. Great music, definitely helped set the mood.

As I made my way to the appetizers, I couldn't help but notice something that wasn't there last year, an oyster shucking station. Just my cup of tea. I kid you not when I say I put down 2 dozen of Mike Manyak's "Happy Oysters" from Sapidus Farms on The Great Wicomico River. I had a blast talking CCA, aquaculture, and oysters with Mike. Great guy doing great things.

As I headed back to the table where I sat with the Routh's, I put back a Dark & Stormy (made with Gosling's of course) as we mingled and chatted about the weekend, fishing stories, and PHWFF. The tent was filled shortly before Ed Nicholson, Douglas Dear, and Ellen Killough took to the mic to thank everyone, share some announcements, and break tables for dinner.

Dinner was amazing, with beef, cream of chicken over rice, salad, and mixed veggies, I was beyond full and ready to start the night's program. As dinner finished up, the room quieted as our MC, Capt. (ret.) Eivind Forseth (US Army), one of PHWFF's first participants, introduced keynote speakers, Lee and Bob Woodruff of the Bob Woodruff Foundation. Let me start out by saying that Lee and Bob are absolutely amazing people. The chemistry between them as a couple is out of this world. After all they have been through, it doesn't surprise me. Coming from a family that has gone through trauma with my younger brother, I can understand that bond. For those of you who do not know who Bob Woodruff is, he is a news anchor that was covering a story in Iraq in 2006 when he was struck by an IED along with his cameraman and the 4th Infantry Division they were implanted with. To read more on Bob and the events in 2006, click here.

Lee, Bob's wife, spoke on something that seems to be often overlooked. The aspect of the spouse, partner, or caretaker. How, through the journey of healing, they are there non-stop providing support. It was amazing, the tent was quiet as the attention of the entire crowd was focused on the duo.

The rain continued to fall, but that didn't change the mood of the night one bit. The three participant speakers took the stage to give their testimonies. We were honored to hear the testimonies of three of the vets, with their service ranging from Vietnam to our current campaigns. Although every story was different, they all hit the name soft spot bringing tears of sadness followed by joy.

After tears were dried, the vets were called up to receive their swag bags including a TFO rod, hand-tied flies, fly boxes, and much much more. Announcements were made, the night was adjourned and we headed back over the hill for our campfire and beverages. Andrew Holt, a good friend of Rob and I, works for the sister company that I work for (if you don't know, I work for the largest wine and spirit distributor here in Maryland). As we found that the rain made our firewood less than ideal for a campfire, Holt brought out one of his emergency road flares and kickstarted the whole thing in one pull. As the fire grew, Holt and I both brought out our sample bags to share with friends and the Marines we were to share the "campsite" with that night. With a glass in one hand and a fire poker in the other, we chatted, told fishing stories, and took in the beauty of the night as the rain simmered to a drizzle.

At around midnight, I decided to lay down the seat of the Subaru, unroll the sleeping bag, and call it a night. The next day was set to be a good great one...

...stay tuned.


No comments:

Post a Comment