Remembering Dad On A Father’s Day Hike In The Susquehanna Wetlands
Father’s Day has always a big day in my life. As a very young child I was filled with excitement and anticipation as it approached. My mom and my aunt Mary would always purchase some gifts, usually including Dutch Master or Bering cigars, wrap them, and tell me they were a gift for my dad on Father’s Day. I still remember the joy and excitement when handing these gifts to dad, early on Father’s Day morning and his “surprise”. Those moments are still so vivid in my memory. As I got older this day when we got to honor dad was a big day in our family. . The gifts changed (Dad stopped smoking when I was 10 years old) to items of clothing, bottles of scotch , steaks, and eventually just cards with cash. However it wasn’t the gifts that were the biggest part of the day, especially as we got older, it was the gathering together as a family with dad. He enjoyed this most on “his” day. His family was his life. I have so many precious memories of this day etched in my brain.
Well, dad is gone, almost ten years now, and Father’s Day has not been the same. No more gatherings at my parents house ( we lost mom too). So on Sunday I headed alone to my favorite hiking trail in the Susquehanna Wetlands in Salem Township Luzerne County. (I can’t hike the trails were dad taught me to appreciate, love and enjoy nature. They are gone now too, having been developed for homes and industry). It was a mild and mostly sunny morning with some smoky haze from the wildfires in Quebec Canada. Following my usual routine I walked down to the Susquehanna River,
As I entered the wetlands, I saw this cottontail rabbit, it was almost as if it were welcoming me to the wetlands. . At the time I didn’t make a connection between the rabbit and my dad but I would at the end of my five mile hike.
Other then the rabbit welcoming me it was pretty quiet for a June morning in the wetlands. I didn’t see the many wood ducks I had on my previous hike. Or hear a lot of song birds, just the noisy calls of a catbird,
And even more surprising, this pileated woodpecker flew to another nearby tree. However, just as I was getting set to watch and photograph this large, beautiful woodpecker, a mosquito bit my leg, I flinched and the pileated woodpecker flew away. The belted kingfisher eventually flew away too. However, I was amazed, and grateful that these birds approached me as I stood near the pond. This is when my thoughts first turned to my dad. They often do when I see something beautiful in nature, from an ant to a bald eagle or a dandelion to a duck flower. He, patiently and lovingly encouraged my curiosity and love of nature.
I continued to recall my memories of dad. I saw this turtle and I recalled the first visits to the Grape Run reservoir while picking mushroom. And it now seemed as I reflected on my memories of dad more critters would appear on my hike.
And this America robin landed right above my head. I remembered dad showing me my first robin in the Spring in our yard in Green Ridge when I was only three years old. I know it was the first Spring we moved to our home in Hazle Township. As the years went by he would show me, and my siblings spiders, stars, squirrels and so many of the wonders of nature. I spent many hours watching Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom with him.
as I watched it swim by, another muskrat swam directly toward me. I feel it had to see me but kept swimming toward me, then, quickly dived into the duck weed covered waters. It was another amazing wildlife encounter and once again I thought of dad ,and our patron Saint, St. Francis , and felt this is where our love of nature came from.
and this green heron that once again landed on a log in the canal near me. It was a good day for spotting wildlife and I felt like my dad was walking alongside me, enjoying this beautiful morning with me.
There were a lot of folks walking along the trail next to Lake Took-A-While, and a few families with young children. I am sure those children will have pleasant memories all of their lives from those hikes with their parents.
There were no big surprises as I walked along the lake. No bald eagles, ospreys, or hawks. I am always hoping to see some of these raptors soaring over the river. . However, I usually see something on my walk here, even if it isn’t the resident flock of Canada geese, who were here on Sunday,
On the way I noticed these ripening raspberries, and they once again, brought back memories of dad. He loved them. There were raspberries growing in his yard as a child. I remember picking those raspberries with him as a young child. My grandmother moved from this house when I was five years old. And, much later in life, when dad was old and pretty much homebound, I would gather wild raspberries for him. He really enjoyed them. I really felt he was walking with me on this beautiful June morning.
As I was leaving the wetlands I encountered a critter dad didn’t like, a snake, I think a garter snake. He was brought up to fear snakes and he said they would kill any snake when he was young. As much as I would try I could never convince him to appreciate these misunderstood creatures.
as I watched it’s mother arrived with a mid day meal. It was another cool animal encounter, all of them reminding me of dad. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog web page with some more photos of the birds I saw on my hiker. Susquehanna Wetlands birds. June 18 2023.
I was finishing my hike, and just about back at my Jeep when I saw this rabbit along the trail. It looked and me, and then something I never saw a wild rabbit do before. It just sat down in the grass in front of me as if I were it’s friend. I think it was the same rabbit that greeted me when I arrived. As I watched the a rabbit another memory of dad came to my mind, his nickname, as a young man was give to him because of his speed, it was “rabbit”.. I now knew for sure dad walked with me that morning. He is always with me. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos from my hike. Susquehanna Wetlands June 18 2023.
“Deeply, I know this, that love triumphs over death. My father continues to be loved, and therefore he remains by my side.” – Jennifer Williamson
“When a great man dies, for years the light he leaves behind him, lies on the paths of men.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow