Sunday, June 24, 2012


Sojourn on Susquehanna provides for memorable day

For the past few years, I've wanted to ride a kayak down the Susquehanna during RiverFest. And for whatever reasons, I never got around to it. I have a busy life with two young children and a wife that also works some weekends, so sometimes the time required just wasn't there. One year, the event sort of snuck up on me, and by the time I realized it was happening, I assumed it might be too late to register.

This year, I made the time. I called a few weeks in advance to make sure I was signed up. In 2012, a sojourn on the Susquehanna at RiverFest was a Father's Day gift from my wife. And it was one of most memorable days of my life.

I've always loved the river. I enjoy walking along the levees and the River Common, and as a person whose earliest memories of life include the "Agnes" flood of 1972, it's just something that has always interested me. I think kids that grew up around the time of "The Flood" were made to think that the river is bad: "It's dangerous. It's dirty. Don't go near it." This, unfortunatley, still seems to be how a lot of people think.

It's nonsense. As my friends and I used to say back in high school: "The river is good." It's absolutely beautiful. And I've always loved to look at it.

My cousin West, who loves the outdoors, agreed to join me on my kayak journey. His brother-in-law, Dave, also joined us. And though I've always enjoyed the Susquehanna, it wasn't until RiverFest 2012 that I took her for a ride.

More than 200 people also took the ride. Many of us were picked up near Nesbitt Park in Kingston, the site of RiverFest, and were taken by bus to Harding. Our transportation came in the form of school buses, and since I don't think I'd been on one since 1985, that in itself was kind of fun. Once we arrived in Harding we were given kayaks, as well as some safety and paddling instructions, and then off we went on a 14 mile journey.

It was remarkable.

Up North, near the Harding area, the scenery was gorgeous. We had picture-perfect weather, and while enjoying the tranquility of the water and the surrounding mountains, one couldn't help but think of how some of this journey - at least where each side of the river was undeveloped - probably didn't look much different than it would have to an American Indian making the same trek 300 years ago. Later, when we came into the Pittston area, you could see more familiar landmarks, and I joked with my cousin as we passed Brews Brothers that we should pull in for a beer.

Ironically, our sojourn took place on the 40th anniversary of the "Agnes" flood, and though the river was calm and mostly shallow on our journey, we did have a few reminders of just how mighty the Susquehanna can be. Trees, from last September's flooding, could still be seen lodged against a few bridges. A demolished house sat in some trees near the river's edge. And when I came around a big bend near the Forty Fort Cemetery, I certainly thought about how - 40 years ago to the day - the levee had broken in that exact location.

Still, I found the entire experience to be relaxing and enjoyable. It was fun to see the Luzerne County Courthouse and the Wilkes-Barre skyline from the perspective of being on the river itself, and to pass underneath bridges that I'd been driving over my entire life.

At the end of our journey, when we pulled in near the Market Street Bridge, my wife, kids and sister-in-law were waiting. I could see them smiling and waving as I got closer to the docking point. We ended up staying at RiverFest for quite a while. We had lunch and enjoyed the music, vendors and the activities for children. My daughter even went on a pony ride.

I've put together a little slideshow of some photos and video of our ride down the Susquehanna, set to some music. You can check it out here. I hope you enjoy the photos:

Did you know that "Susquehanna" is considered to be one of the most beautiful words in the English language?

Well, after spending four hours with her yesterday, I can say that, in some spots, it's also one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. I am glad that I finally made the time for her. And I will be going back.

Thank you, RiverFest.