[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.]
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.
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.
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.