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Wilderness is for wandering

Wilderness is for wandering

Several years ago, when I was still a daily news reporter, I covered an event in which three busloads of youngsters from inner-city Philadelphia arrived to visit a potato chip factory. It was the first time most of them had been out of the city. “We saw cows!” several of them reported excitedly.

The secret to seeing

The secret to seeing

I always have preferred to aimlessly wander, even on seemingly well-defined pathways, with little or no clear destination in mind. My Partner-in-Travel says I’m always looking everywhere except where I’m going. She exaggerates, but not by much. I look also where I’m going. There is so much going on out there, and I don’t want to miss any of it, and it’s not really difficult to look in multiple places at one time.

Between a rock and a …

Between a rock and a …

My latest wandering find was last week along a creek I had to walk a bit to get to, leaving my gasoline-powered chariot just off the hard road, where ATVs, apparently driven by youthful, if not actually young, drivers, had churned the mudhole. When the place dried, the remaining ruts were too deep for the Outback’s clearance.

It’s a privilege

It’s a privilege

The legal description of the 50-acres of wooded shore front my parents owned noted a huge boulder at one edge and a brook at the other. The watercourse was called Smelt Brook because every spring the smelt – anchovy-size minnows used mostly for bait to catch larger fish – would run into it to spawn. Fisherfolk from town would show up, as well, and that’s the crux of this tale. They would bring their beer and build small campfires next…

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Anthracite black blankets and rustling leaves

Anthracite black blankets and rustling leaves

It was a dark and stormy night. The day had started the way a nice motorcycling day should start, sunny but not too much heat. My then 13-year-old son and I had spent two nights at Locust Lake State Park, near Mahanoy City, Pa. The stop had given us a tour of a coal breaker plant. LJ came away with a small bag of samples, one piece for every size the plant broke and sorted: stove, nut, pea, barley, and…

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Fantasyland just down the road

Fantasyland just down the road

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.  That line has rolled around in my ear for days, though my calendar is nearing summer and Robert Frost wrote “Snowy Evening” about a woods filling with snow. [pullquote]the floor is carpeted with last year’s leaves and this year’s ferns[/pullquote]Butterflies, small ones, like miniature Emperor Moths only drab-hued, flitter around clover blossoms. Higher in the trees, a flicker of yellow catches my eye, and is gone. I would like to believe it was a…

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Me, the forest and Grady the Golden

Me, the forest and Grady the Golden

One of the many things I’ve learned is a truly good wandering companion cannot be bought. I have tried, and none have worked out. On he other hand, there have been three … I met Dutch at a friend’s house on Adak, an island about halfway out the Aleutian Islands chain. One day, Dutch – a Yellow Lab and Irish Setter mix – wanted to go home with me. It turned out my friend was leaving the island, and Dutch…

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The solution to pollution …

The solution to pollution …

Several years ago, a friend with whom I often went wandering called me to meet her behind Lake Auburn. She said she had found something in which she thought I’d be interested. [pullquote]When that trapper’s nearest neighbor was miles downstream, his sewer arrangement worked.[/pullquote]At the appointed day and time, we met and headed into the woods. About a half-mile, more or less, into the woods, she stopped and pointed. There beside a swiftly running stream was a rock foundation, the…

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The mountains are calling …

The mountains are calling …

“The mountains are calling, and I must go,” John Muir wrote in a letter to his sister, Sarah. There is a ridgeline a few miles from my home that appears to be a naturally created rock wall. The ridge was created from the eastern U.S. crashing into Scotland thousands of years ago. In some places, one can see the layers folded like a carpet laid flat, then pushed at the edge until it curls into several folds, lain over each…

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A new walking stick

A new walking stick

Peavine bought himself a new walking stick. A dandy specimen it is, too – a really nice five-section telescoping stick with a compass on top. Each section is accented with, in his case, a bright orange ring. He bought it, he said, because it came in orange. It also is available in black, blue, green, purple, red, gold and titanium, but as long as we’ve been hanging around together, I’ve never known Peavine to go for those flashy colors. Besides,…

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Guides, science, say Susquehanna safe for recreation, but smallmouth fishery needs help

Guides, science, say Susquehanna safe for recreation, but smallmouth fishery needs help

In 2005, the Susquehanna River was listed by American Bassmaster magazine as one of the top five smallmouth bass fisheries in the United States. No longer. Young smallmouth bass have, for the past several years, been displaying spots, lesions and decreasing populations – though the problem’s severity depends on who is describing it. Some sportsmen who earn their livings guiding and supplying fisher folk on the river acknowledge the bass are in substantial decline, and what once was a world…

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DCNR on its way to being DR

DCNR on its way to being DR

A bill in the Pennsylvania legislature has conservationists on high alert. House Bill 2224, some fear, will open the way to sale of public lands without the normal path through the courts. All they would have to do is declare the “parks, squares or similar uses and public buildings … no longer necessary or practicable.” Which appears to many to be what Gov. Tom Corbett, R-Marcellus, declared his award winning state park system director, John Norbeck. It seems Norbeck’s “no…

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State and national parks and forests: a great value for taxpayers’ dollars

State and national parks and forests: a great value for taxpayers’ dollars

Michaux State Forest encompasses more than 87,000 acres of woodland, including a reservoir, several streams and a section of the Appalachian Trail. The Pa. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website still claims about 85,000 acres, but I think that does not include 2,500 acres purchased from Glatfelter’s paper company circa 2008 and donated to the state. Continue reading …

Storm troopers on gossamer wings

Storm troopers on gossamer wings

Something caught my eye, something that didn’t quite belong among the long green needles. I don’t know why I looked up for it, except that I habitually wander around with my eyes pretty wide open, the better to see stumps and other things I might run into while walking through the woods or paddling close along the shore. Then I found it, a volleyball-size wasp nest hanging from a Pitch Pine, about 10-12 feet up from the ground. And about…

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A walk in the woods

A walk in the woods

Rain had fallen in the overnight, and the piece of low-lying forest through which I wandered was mostly wetland, at the edge of a cattail-filled meadow. Beneath my hiking shoes the path was cushioned – not soggy, but like a carpet with a nice sponge under it. Ahead of me – he’s always ahead of me – Grady the Golden Retriever kept looking back to be sure I was following. If I stop, he’ll come back to me. If I…

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Late may not be better than never

Late may not be better than never

Last month, the EPA announced new regulations that will require natural gas drillers to capture the methane they ordinarily allow to escape before they cap their well. The new rules take effect in 2015. Last week, the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, announced proposed regulations that would require drillers to tell us what chemicals they are pumping into the ground – and sometimes spilling onto the ground and into our waters – to release natural gas by…

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Computers are good at step-by-step, but only a human can be, well, human

Computers are good at step-by-step, but only a human can be, well, human

We had picked up the Messeder Space Pod in Myrtle Beach on a Thursday afternoon and headed home. Somewhere a little south of Petersburg, Va., we decided to start looking for a place to pull in for the night. So we asked Sally G, our faithful GPS, to find one. She found several. We picked the closest one and dialed the phone number. A fellow whose gravelly voice came from National Geographic’s “Swamp Men,” only friendlier, listened patiently while I…

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Kids need (outer) space for dreams

Kids need (outer) space for dreams

I went for a walk in the woods one day with the granddaughters, in search of the source of a creek which flows from the county where I live in south-central Pennsylvania, across the state line into Maryland, and joins the Monocacy River east of Thurmont. A paper company once owned the particular piece of forest, 2,500 acres of the first tree farm in the state that gave birth to the nation’s forest conservation movement. There was a time when…

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