Susquehanna Wild

[The following narrative reflects the culmination of my first week of June, a wild trip that began on local water and then moved north to include Vermont’s Battenkill and New Hampshire’s White Mountains for some outdoor exploration with my daughter. On the morning after my return to New York, my wife and I canoed the upper Pine Creek in gorgeous weather with a group of friends.]

Oswayo Creek

Canoeing the upper Pine Creek in early June brings back the youthful vision I once had for Susquehannock– a reconstituted Pennsylvania wilderness. The proposal for a wild place in the northern tier was detailed greatly for my own amusement and perhaps for anyone interested in not only honoring the pre-Columbian inhabitants of the region but also in boosting the idea that wild nature has a worth and beauty over and above whatever utilitarian aspects it might have for us.

Pine Creek

A 13-mile canoe paddle with Leighanne and friends returns my vision of the great ideal, returns it through the rocky riffles and the long green pools with this understanding: Susquehannock would remain a dream, and little more. We can slow down the destructive tide of civilization, but without self-education and a passionate will for preservation, special lands and waters will succumb piecemeal to the growth of second homes and recreational development.

Pine Creek pull-out

Canoeing on the perfect water, we belong to the constantly changing panorama: shale ledge, wooded slope, huge sycamore and pines, merganser family, campers in their lawn chairs– “Hey, come back next year; we’ll be selling hot dogs!” Passing anglers with their fly rods or spinning gear, I’m the other guy now, the paddler at the stern, and not the patient caster silently cursing a flotilla of canoe and kayak or raft with Keystone drinkers and iPhone naturalists aboard.

an 18-inch brown released on local water…

Resolution: float the moment mile by mile, enjoy the company, watch for that strainer up ahead, those looming rocks, that wild spirit capable of slicing your shoulder if attention slumps. If by chance the rapids flip you over, well, understand that it’s probably meant to be. Ultimately, we are woven into our place as much as the trout below and the osprey overhead. And if we’re lucky, we’ll have grabbed that wayward camera and the swimming can of beer, acknowledging (perhaps) that we’ve immersed, at last, in something greater than ourselves.

Moccasin flower, Potter Co., PA…
Clintonia, White Mtns., NH
on the Battenkill, Arlington, VT…
Alyssa on Artists’ Bluff, Franconia Notch, NH…
the Robert Frost home & museum, Franconia, NH…
No, that last image was a joke… but here’s a view at Crawford Notch State Park, NH…
fished the Ellis River here at Jackson, NH…
and the Saco River here at N. Conway, NH…
climbed to Ripley Falls near Crawford Notch… amazing…
a 19th-century luxury ride would have brought us here, before the climb…
and lastly, time to celebrate my new poetry book– “formidable,” darkly joyous, keeping our heads above the rise, with more info coming soon, available at Amazon & Wood Thrush Books & here at home….

About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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19 Responses to Susquehanna Wild

  1. alex55manta says:

    You certainly do get around and seek adventure. Looks like a great trip once again! I had a canoeing experience near Ansonia back in the mid-1980s. There were 3 of us in a canoe and there should have only been 2. We stopped and roasted a few hotdogs and that was alright. We didn’t take or partake of any alcoholic beverages during the excursion. We were in our mid-20s at the time. We were unaware of the falls in Ansonia – the great drop of and so the person in the rear of the canoe said let’s take a closer look. By that time we were over the falls 3 people bobbing along and the canoe along with us. I end up downstream of my 2 compatriots and the canoe finally makes its way and happens to find me on the upstream side of a boulder in the water. I’m pinned against it with the full force or the Upper Pine Creek pressing the canoe on my back. Luckily I had both my forearms against the rock and could keep the canoe at bay while I hollered to my ‘friends’ something like – ‘I COULD USE A LITTLE HELP HERE’! They make their way down to me … finally, and proceed to get the canoe off my back – eventually!
    Sorry for the long comment RTR – I have a vivid memory of canoeing Upper Pine! Ha! UB

    • A great memory there, UB! Yeah the details for such an event remain strong for obvious reasons. Originally our plan was to sail down through the gorge where you experienced Owassie, the grand Pine Creek rapids, but we got a late start & had time only for the shorter ride. It was worth it, though. L. & I are looking forward to seeing everyone at Slate on Saturday.

      • UB says:

        Bring the new book along and I’ll pay you on the spot RTR! Cut out the middle man and increase your profit margin! 🙂 Hey, maybe you can autograph it… inscribe it a little? See ya Saturday – I”m looking forward to it too! UB

  2. alex55manta says:

    drop off…. not ‘of’…. apologies …. UB

  3. Brent says:

    I don’t know that you could’ve packed this post with more if you had tried: beautiful scenes of casting and paddling, mountains and literary history, and news of your latest collection! I really liked your reflection on the rewilding of Susquehannock. Back in the days of my blog, I wrote about accidental vs intentional rewilding of parts of Appalachia. Humans will move on eventually–either because tastes change or because our use of the land has rendered it economically inviable–but I love to see the mature trees, the wildlife, and the clean water return while I’m still alive (and without the dubious context of apocalyptic upheaval).

    • Thank you, Brent. You’re right, the accidental or intentional rewilding does occur in Appalachia, gratefully enough, since so much of it is scarred forever. We are fortunate to see the possibilities in either case. And yes, it was a busy week in one of my favorite times of year. So much to see & do.

    • Bob Stanton says:

      Brent, I miss your blogging days! Sad face…

  4. Jet Eliot says:

    I found your post today so joyous, Walt, thanks so much. I loved reading the section about what if the canoe tips, and your resolve if it does. My favorite line: “Ultimately, we are woven into our place as much as the trout below and the osprey overhead.” Your adventures, the summer, your lovely daughter at the waterfall, friends and family, the moccasin flower and other beautiful nature photos. I also appreciated your message, one that I am in complete agreement with: “We can slow down the destructive tide of civilization, but without self-education and a passionate will for preservation, special lands and waters will succumb piecemeal to the growth of second homes and recreational development.” Congrats on publishing your new book. Cheers!

  5. I attended Middlebury College in Vermont years ago. Frost had an association with the school. He was involved in some manner with the college’s writing program, which operated in the summer seasons.

  6. plaidcamper says:

    Another splendid post, Walt! Friends, family, travel at just the right speed, pretty wild indeed. Happy to read you didn’t get tipped, although as Jet noted, you seemed prepared for it. I’m delighted you have a new volume published, and can’t wait to immerse myself – a treat in the next little while I think, something for summer!

    • Thank you, Adam. Preparation for this type of ride is always useful, but surprises always happen nonetheless. For example, a large rock appears beneath you but instead of sliding over, it catches the craft & swings you around attached as the water pushes down & you just hold your breath. Fun. Anyway, always love to have your support here!

  7. Don T says:

    Nice Brown Walt.
    There you are in my favorite stumping grounds in NH. The Whites are awesome. Will be hiking the Monadnock Sunapee Trail in southern NH next week.
    Glad you enjoyed your adventure with your daughter.

    • Thanks Don! Had to think of you while up that way, and of your plans to hike the Long Trail. The White Mountains are an awesome sight, and a rugged climb for someone like me.

  8. Bob Stanton says:

    Love the Whites, love the idea of “Susquehannock,” love the new book! Somewhere, I have a photo of that same mailbox…

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