Remembering Dad On A Father’s Day Hike In The Susquehanna Wetlands

Remembering Dad On A Father’s Day Hike In The Susquehanna Wetlands

Susquehanna Wetlands (24 of 38)
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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, 

then walked on the trail  into the now green and lush woodlands of the wetlands. 

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 a few song sparrows. 

As usual, I walked to the Waterfowl pond hoping to see an eagle, heron or at least some wood ducks. Again, it was quiet at first. Then I heard the chattering call of a belted kingfisher., and

two of them landed on a tree branch overlooking the pond. They weren’t close enough to get  good photos but I watched and waited hoping they would fly closer to me. 

While waiting this cedar waxwing  flew toward me and landed  on a branch above me. I  love seeing this birds with their distinctive profiles. 

The kingfishers remained on the tree branch, occasionally chattering loudly, when this downy  woodpecker  flew to another tree above my head. 

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. 

Leaving the Waterfowl Pond, and walking toward the river lands area of the reserve ,

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. 

This yellow throated  vireo ,

started singing on a branch above the trail. 

This brown thrasher, a bird i seldom see in the wetlands, was walking on the grass ahead of me,

and this blue gray gnatcatcher landed on a branch above me with  a meal in it’s beak. 

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.

But back to my hike, it continued through the  lush green wetlands. 

There were not many wildflowers blooming now, just a few remaining Dame’s rocket flowers. 

As I walked with my memories  I saw this muskrat carrying some plants in its mouth,  I wasn’t sure if they were nesting materials or breakfast, 

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. 

Soon after seeing the muskrats, I saw a house wren, 

a few red-winged blackbirds, this is a female, 

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. 

I walked into the river lands area of the nature preserve, 

and was greeted by this gray squirrel. 

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,

and I also saw  a few American goldfinches ,

a warbling vireo, and,

this great blue heron that flew away as I approached. 

I walked to the end of the lake and started my hike back to the wetlands. 

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. 

It was now near noon and I was   walking through the wetlands when, I saw this bird, I now know it is a fledgling red-winged blackbird, It was siting on a log,, when it started chirping, 

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

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