By Anthony Rhoads

The New River begins in North Carolina and snakes its way through Virginia and West Virginia before it joins the Gauley River to form the Kanawha River in central West Virginia.

Despite its name, the New is the oldest river in the western hemisphere and is the second-oldest in the world, second only to the Nile.

American Indians referred to it as the ?River of Death' because of the high number of drownings that took place there.

Growing up in Hinton, W.Va., I also had a fear and respect of the river. Each summer, I heard stories of kids (and adults) who drowned in the river. Yes, it truly was a river of death.

But it is also a river of life.

The New River is a fisherman's paradise with small and largemouth bass, catfish and scores of panfish.

Some of the fondest memories of my life were spent on the banks of not just the New River but on the nearby Indian Creek and Greenbrier River.

Fishing was not just a hobby or diversion; it was a way of life.

It was a way of life ingrained into your soul.

You had to know how to fish, hunt and farm.

It was a matter of survival for my family, who had spent generations in the mountains, making a living from the land.

They did everything themselves. They raised their own food, hunted for their own meat, and made their own moonshine.

I recently had the chance to go back home on vacation. My parents and I went camping on the banks of the New River.

We set up camp in the Cedar Branch portion of the Bluestone Public Hunting and Fishing Area, just south of Bluestone Lake in Summers County, W.Va.

We spent nearly a week camping with no electricity, running water, indoor plumbing or cell phones.

It was the way life was meant to be lived.

Sometimes, the city becomes so tiring and the steel and concrete becomes suffocating.

The traffic gets aggravating and the rude, obnoxious behavior becomes too much sometimes.

As much as I like Atlanta and appreciate the opportunities here, my heart belongs to my beloved mountains of West Virginia and I will never totally get used to living anywhere else.

I need to get away and go back into the woods to find solitude and peace.

I know it probably will never happen, but sometimes I long for a day when I can go back home and live the way my ancestors did.

Sometimes, I want to go back to the mountains and make a living farming, fishing and hunting with no modern ?conveniences.'

That is the life, for paradise does not exist in the Bahamas, Hawaii or some other exotic locale. For me, paradise lies in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains.

Anthony Rhoads is a sports writer for The Daily and his column appears each Wednesday. He can be reached at or