I am back where it all started. Historic Schaumboch's Tavern. I needed a few days to give a final conclusion. Needed to mull over some things. What is important about any journey. What did I learn, about the trek, the route, my environment, about myself?
One thing I learned. Can you paddle a canoe from Hawk Mountain Sanctuary 250 miles, on three rivers, by yourself, to the Atlantic Ocean at Cape May, New Jersey?
(I know there were some Delaware sailors in disbelief)
Why didn't I wait and paddle around the point? It wasn't that important to me. I accomplished what I set out to do. And now I wanted to go home. I had things to do, like meet up with my successful incoming adult children! One coming in from Milwaukee on the evening of the 16th! A hockey game of another to see in Scranton on the 17th! And one coming in from Colorado and needing to be picked up from the airport on the 18th! With a hopeful dinner with all three, together, in one safe place, this same evening!!! HOW COOL IS THAT!!!!
What did I discover? Wild beauty within this very populated corridor. I had mentioned to someone that I probably traveled through the most urbanized water corridor there is? And yet, yes, at this time of year it felt beautifully wild. It was not wilderness. There are strict classifications of what designates wilderness and I have been to some of those. But I feel wilderness is also an emotion. Did I feel wilderness? Yes, there were times I did feel it. A raw undisturbed natural beauty for only me to see at that moment. Yes, I did feel wilderness. Miles from shore, dark skies, three large unknown native creatures watching me as I slowly paddle bye. Yes, I did feel wilderness. A large flock of snow geese along a remote piece of shoreline in the fading light of day, for my eyes only.
Yes, I did feel wilderness!
What else did I learn? This corridor played a very significant role in the settling of this land we call North America, the United States. It is cluttered with human history, some pieces easier to find than others, but there is presence throughout. It played a large part within our country's industrial revolution. The beginning of human growth explosion, the exploitation of this once very rich ecosystems natural resources. I noted several, the shad, the sturgeon, oysters. That is the part that gives you a stirred up feeling in your gut. Wow, to have been able to experience prior to the exploitation. The vast riches. The enormous amount of quantity there must have been. Unfortunately for our forefathers to take, and take they did, leaving the presence of absent abundance, unfit habitat, and death.
A reference of our very own Maurice Broun in Hawks Aloft about the very river where I started.
The dark little river (the Schuylkill) that threads its serpentine course from the north and skirts the foot of the mountain-the most significant stream in our area-what of it? Once the wood duck and the great blue heron made it their home; shad and trout and a host of other aquatic forms abounded; and it was a wellspring of life to otters and beavers. Under the stewardship of civilized man the little river became a sewer.
Do not worry I am not leaving you a taste of gloom and doom and a somewhat hatred of our own species. Just the opposite, this turns out to be a story of hope! This same piece of stream is now a very proud fishery, wood ducks and great blue herons once again make it their home. I have done many surveys along this stretch and many other aquatic forms also now abound, fish, salamanders, frogs. I have witnessed beavers and I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of otters.
All the people I have come in contact with along my travels now look at this magnificent waterway for its natural riches, not its exploitation. There are efforts to bring back the shad, the sturgeon, oysters. The human community of this riparian corridor is connected to the natural community, and they love it! They respect the beauty it offers, they feel its pulse. There is hope folks!
Outside my window is my daughters car.
|There are multiple dents, not there when she got the car|
|That's right the top one says Raft Naked, I personally do not recommend this, Cody what the?|
Now you are thinking this is my daughter, she was raised on Hawk Mountain collaborating with volunteers, staff, and passionate interns from all around the world regarding conservation. OK, that's true, but she is tied into a friend network since she left the mountain of many like young folks. Young passionate individuals that make a stand everyday to make this world of ours better, for them but also for us all. It is this that provides the engine that will continue to drive efforts to continue to bring back a healthy planet and make room for all its wildlife, two legged, four legged, multiple legged, and no legs.
And back to this as a fundraiser to support our programming. This is what we do! We provide opportunities for folks to connect to the spectacle of our natural world. It is focused on our raptors and their migration, our specialty because our scientists and educators are the experts. What is awesome is one component of this focuses on youth, and in a number of ways. Weekend interpretation, visiting school groups, and service learning. Many efforts to reach all we can. And it is only going to get better and more dynamic! It is a School in the Clouds!
|Mr Ahlert with Dr. Goodrich on the lookout. His future goal is to become Hawk Mountain's President|
|Hawk Mountain Conservation Corps adopts a Northern saw-whet owl|
And what about community? I expected to find the wildlife, the seclusion, the wide open spaces. What discovery I did not expect was these wonderful communities of people. Folks bending over backwards to help me out during my quest for the sea. Thank you all!!! And in my return home I was once again reminded of the wonderful community I have here, in the Kempton Valley. I attended the Holiday Program at the local New Church School. What a joy. The collection of community members watching our youth perform. Thank you Kempton for being my home!
What have I learned about myself? Well, I no longer have any fear of paddling a canoe a distance from shore in the dark. Did that, several times! It was just more reaffirming of what I already learned about myself in the past, and what drives me since I turned 40 now very soon to be five years ago. To experience as much of our wildlands as possible before my final last great journey (I am speaking here of six feet under). Living with the wild is where I want to be, living with the wild is all I want to do!
Here is a quote, one I have always cherished.
Man always kills the things he loves, and so we the pioneers have killed our wilderness. Some say we had to. Be that as it may, I am glad I shall never be young without wild country to be young in. Of what avail are forty freedoms without a blank spot on the map? Aldo Leopold
There are still blank spots on the map that I have not seen. Places to go, people to meet, cultures to experience. This is one part of what I will be doing with my future years. Another will be to keep on following values and ethics that my family instilled in me. Work hard, and play hard! I will be passionately working doing what it is I do. Promoting and encouraging a connection of people to the natural world. I have been re-examining my life over the past year, what will I do with my future kind of thing? Here it is, this is what I will be doing, the only difference is seeking ways to do it better!
Now let me leave you with my absolute favorite quote, one I live by!
One final paragraph of advice: Do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am - a reluctant enthusiast..... a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it's still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizz, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that sweet lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much: I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound people with their hearts in a safe deposit box and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this:
YOU WILL OUTLIVE THE BASTARDS.
I want to THANK YOU all very much for JOINING THE JOURNEY!!!
(Outliving the Bastards!)
P.S. Thanks go out to HMS Board of Director Tom Stine and his associate Dennis Metzger for providing me their expertise on what technology I needed to make this BLOG happen. Also, another thank you to Rossin Wood for giving me two Mac lessons back when I got my laptop and introducing me to blogger as a way to bring this to life. Dr. Goodrich took the above rainbow photo from North Lookout this season. It begins, or ends, where I started, the Little Schuylkill River!