Getting through Pennsylvania was challenging due to some of the worst roads we have encountered yet. It was bad enough that we are going to plan around it on the way back to Florida in the fall. Weather and truck damage to the roads goes unrepaired, waiting to shake and jar your vehicle down to the last nut and bolt. The camper bounced along behind the poor truck like a tantruming child being dragged by the arm out of Wal-Mart. It seemed to creak, groan and screech in protest to having to roll across the potholes and breaks in the road.
But we seek the Wildwood and the Riverbank, so I have to admit that there are rewards for the wild ride getting here. River Beach Campground and Kittatinny Canoe Company is just off the highway and very near the Delaware Water Gap. It seemed like an appealing place to pull into and use as home base while we explored the Gap as well as the historic town of Milford, Pennsylvania. We were looking for a mix of nature and culture on this stop off and found it here.
Arnie had a Chance Encounter with Mrs. Jones, the spirited owner of Kittatinny Canoe Company, who grew up in the business. Her son now manages the operations for this 76-year-old business that conducts canoe tours and white-water rafting on the Delaware River. For the past 26 years, this company had spearheaded the drive to cleanup the Delaware and they host an annual event for about 100 volunteers who clean up a nearly 70 mile stretch of the river. On this coming Saturday, there will be a film crew coming in from California to video a white water trip and with the river up as high as it is, Mrs. Jones anticipates that it will be a great trip.
After setting up camp and settling the critters, we headed out to explore Dingman Falls in the Delaware Water Gap. We had done some research on this area of the country and really wanted to make it a way-stop. The 330-mile Delaware River is the centerpiece of a 12,765-square-mile watershed located in the states of Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. Though a relatively small watershed compared to other river systems in the United States, it provides water to 20 million people–almost 10% of the nation’s population. Dingman Falls is a centerpiece of the park. The Appalachian Trail passes through this park and boasts a reputation as one of the toughest parts of the AT.
Go figure…….unlike the state highways, this back road into the wild wood was just fine! We reached the trailhead to Dingman’s Falls on a beautiful morning that was brisk and headed out for a walk in the woods. The hike passes through a hemlock forest, along a tributary stream that runs into the Delaware River. It is prime brown trout habitat.
We hiked up to Silver Threads Falls first. This smaller fall is a sharp cut in the rock that falls right out of the mountain in a steep verticle descent, sending gossamer threads of mist into the air. It splashes down into the stream, continuing on into the Delaware. Right around the small fall, is a micro-climate created by the mist, that nurtures ferns, tiny moisture loving plants and ground cover.
All along the way, the tiny spring wildflowers were starting to bloom and blanketed parts of the forest floor.
Silver Thread Falls
Continuing through the forest, we spotted a Pileated Woodpecker, some red-winged blackbirds, Baltimore orioles and a red-headed woodpecker. The path goes along the stream, so the whole hike is accompanied by its music. We chuckled that anyone who needs blood pressure medicine should try coming here first!
Arriving at Dingman’s Falls, visitors are awed by the beauty of this pristine fall nestled in the forest setting. Waterfalls are an aesthetic that requires no technology. It is kinetic art with no artist, only a creator. It is a conversation between the rock and the wind that we can ease-drop on and perhaps take away some comfort. The fall create an extra rich and moist environment in the immediate area surrounding it. Arnie commented that it was like looking into a terrarium. All of the unique plants that found a niche in the rock crevices are tiny and beautiful. This is truly a place to protect.
There is a quote from Heraclitus that I first encountered in Dr. Clark’s class at Plymouth State University. I took graduate courses during summers and his course, The Philosophy of Education was memorable. He was a wonderful teacher and a fascinating lecturer. This morning reminded me of it. Heraclitius said, “No man ever steps into the same river twice for it is not the same river and he is not the same man.” The water running so fast reminded us that each moment in life passes quickly and becomes a memory in only an instant. I have so many cherished memories of times beside a stream just like this one.
The smell of the northern forest, the sound of the running rocky stream and the brisk air brought me right back to cherished days fishing the New Hampshire brooks and streams with my Grandfather. He took me fishing for native brookies all through my growing up in woods like this. He was a very gentle man and a perfect guide for a small girl. My love of being in nature and the confidence that I can negotiate it was one of the gifts he gave to me. He taught me to move quietly and slowly in the woods, so as not to disturb its balance. He instinctive knew which rock the salamanders and snakes would be under and instilled curiosity where fear might have been as he turned over rocks carefully so as not to hurt any creature while he introduced me to them.
Barta’s good-humored, down home teaching on these fishing trips were really life lessons in consequences. He never said, “Don’t do that.” He simply stated what would happen if I chose to do that. And, sometimes I did.
- If you want to fish, you have to dig your own worms. If you want to eat, you have to clean your own fish.
- If you step on that slippery rock, you risk getting a dunking.
- If you stick your finger in his mouth, you will see how sharp his teeth are.
- If you fish in the running water instead of the pools, you may run out of daylight with no fish in basket.
- If you tell your Grandmother what you did, she might not let you come next time.
I did 1-4 despite the warnings. I never did number 5.
On today’s hike, I found myself instinctively looking for good pools and noticing what flies were near the surface. I could hear the creak of the lid on Barta’s smelly old reed fish basket. I saw forked sticks that would have made perfect trout carriers. As Arnie and I await the birth of a new Grandchild, it was a beautiful morning to meditate on the lessons learned many years ago in New Hampshire woods from a beloved Grandfather.