The small seven-acre lake was a good choice for a meeting of the clans. My son and his wife would drive north from Arlington, VA to meet us at Halfway Lake, a feature of Raymond B. Winter State Park in mid-state Pennsylvania. The 695-acre park is situated in a Ridge and Valley Province roughly halfway between my son’s home and our own place in the Southern Tier of New York State. Rocky ridges, covered with oak and pine forest, proved to be a pleasant setting for us at Rapid Run and Halfway Lake, a cold-water fishery impounded by a hand-laid sandstone dam.
Raymond Winter was a young forester who dreamed that a park could be created from the ruins of massive lumber operations and forest fires in the early twentieth century. Winter devoted his life and labors to establishing a site of natural beauty where original European settlers had traveled the “14 Mile Narrows Road” between Center County wilderness and the Susquehanna River.
The original stopping point at Halfway Lake was known as the Halfway House– a barn and tavern built along the tannin-colored waters of Rapid Run. The teamsters could stop and refresh themselves, half way through their travels over Sand Mountain and through Pine Swamp. And here, during the pandemic of 2020, Brent and Catherine, and Leighanne and I converged for a family gathering, respecting the dangers of Covid-19 and trying to maintain our distance from other Memorial Day celebrants.
My wife and I had reached the park before the two Southerners were scheduled to arrive, so I had an opportunity to fly fish for native trout and stocked fish dwelling in the laurel shade of Rapid Run. I didn’t do too well. I broke a bamboo rod tip under abject circumstances, thus joining the “UB Broken Rod Club” just days after UB (a faithful reader of this blog) disclosed a similar misfortune up near Slate Run. Luckily I had a spare tip handy for continued casting.
The Rapid Run Nature Trail, traversing “one of the first State Park Natural Areas,” presented a white pine and hemlock forest pretty much “as it appeared in 1850.” Painted trillium blossomed beside the trail. Warblers sang from the multi-green shroud above. We found gelatinous orbs of wood-frog eggs and salamander haunts in the vernal pools adjacent to the stream.
Our stop at Halfway Lake provided a good holiday visit, live with food and conversation, as in simpler days before the age of Zoom. Spring was shifting its weight toward summer and the halfway point of the year. The past few months have been strange ones, for sure. Let’s hope that the balance of 2020 is a healthier half for all.