Bridge 222W near Whitson’s road, on the Yancey/Mitchell county line, was built or rebuilt in 1964 and spans well over 200 feet. To get there, you have to drive slow enough to see the ripples along the North Toe as you ride parallel on 197. It falls between Red Hill and Green Mountain and gives residents access to a gravel road on the Mitchell side, which is a much safer commute on foot or bike than the state highway on the Yancey side. If you cross the footbridge and follow that gravel road, you’ll get spit out in downtown Green Mountain proper.
Not far from where we park, Shane and I notice a man in his sixties sitting on his porch. We caution a wave but he doesn’t see us. I dash up the steps and start bounding across the bridge, each leap rippling down the footbridge. Shane’s figured out that if he walks opposite of me, my feet will land just as the walkway arches up from the ripple effect of his steps, and vice versa. This makes for a less forgiving landing but a more raucous run altogether.
It’s impossible to mark the true middle of each bridge, but I venture a guess each time, clutching the rusted steal cables and leaning my whole torso out above the water. When I do this, the bridge tips a little and bends under pressure. Shane smiles and grabs a steel cable of his own for support.
Beneath these bridges, trout seem ever-present, their slick gray bodies bending against the current. At first glance, they’re holding firm in the same spot on the river, but the constant passage of water disproves this theory. Each second, a new parcel of river washed over the fish, the old one washing downstream, tumbling over the rocks. It’s an old Zen koan—you can’t step in the same river twice—and there’s no denying it at this height, the fish fanning their tails against the current, each swish giving way to the next.
On the other side, a woodchuck perches in the heavy brush. They freeze instinctually, then waddle away to their underground tunnels. But this one seems particularly charmed by us, staring for quite some time and fiddling his short, pudgy palms. And just as the woodchuck darts off, that’s when Shane hears it. Quiet at first, but once we stop walking the gravel road and stand completely still, there’s no mistaking that sound from across the river. It is the sound of fiddle being played on the porch about one hundred yards away, back on the Yancey side of the river.