|"PA Grand Canyon"|
When I was a young child of six or seven, my father brought me to the home of his dear friend Dr. Rachel DuBois, an esteemed author and educator, for a summer visit. She was diminutive in stature but enormous in terms of wisdom. Dr. DuBois also happened to live on one of the highest hills in South Jersey. We drove up and up and still further up a long gravel driveway. Why, we were above the very treetops themselves!
How far up are we Dad? I asked astonished.
Well, we are on one of the highest points in South Jersey, He answered surveying the view.
WOW, was all that I could muster...
Years later in the 80s, I would travel to see my grandparents, Leslie and Lavina Haynes, who lived in Pueblo, Colorado. We would drive out through farmland, ranches, and desert as far as the eye could see. I even once say a tornado miles away slowly making its way across the horizon.
The view was suddenly overtaken by the great looming Rocky Mountains running straight through the middle of Colorado. Pikes Peak, 14,000 plus feet in all of its glory, rose up over the prairieland and the surrounding Rockies. It's height was awe-inspiring and at the same time unfathomable to this South Jersey born kid. I had never seen anything like it.
When I turned 21, I moved into Philly. Prior to this my family would take day trips to the Brandywine Valley in Chester County or the Amish County out in Lancaster County. Brandywine farms and fields are interspersed with a forested ruggedness cut through by many a lively brook forcing its way through the lands. Amish country in turn is a patchwork of extremely well manicured farms being worked by the salt of the Earth.
The rolling hills of the coastal plain are dotted by many towns or villages, white or stone farmhouses, barns and silos. The green hills eventually stop at the foot of the last Appalachian chain, the long Blue Mountain. This formidable wall stretches diagonally for 255 miles from Maryland to New Jersey. Beyond that, the old Appalachians continue their drive through the Wilds of Pennsylvania to the top of the state. During one of my many "teachings" and discussions with my father, I specifically remember him telling me of how the Appalachians curved their way northward. And now how ironic that I live in a community named Lake Wynonah nestled between these ranges.
I love my state of Pennsylvania with its ancient mountains rising up North as far as the eye can see, one after another. The rolling hills and farmland of Eastern Pennsylvania are cut in two by the mighty Susquehanna River meandering through the state, ever widening to an impossible width at the southern most portion. Countless waterfalls and rocky, mountain streams eventually make their way into this incredible river.
|"Winter in Lake Wynonah, PA"|
Due to my frazzled nature, part of me loves Pennsylvania because it always seems to be a safe stable state to live in. Sure we have the occasional rare earthquake or tornado. Major rains and storms barrel through from the West and sometimes floods follow. Heat waves struck in July or August. In fall and winter, a nasty Nor' Easter or a late hurricane spin through the state sometimes causing destruction. Our winter blizzards, ice and snow storms dot the cold winter months. But we seem to be very lucky. I count on the stability of the four seasons and look forward to each one bringing it's own distinct beauty and unique experiences.
I am continuously delighted by the flora and fauna which I come across in my hikes and travels. Eastern hemlocks and mountain laurel abound statewide. I have been lucky to spy or view many of our state's animals in their natural habitats: black bears, countless deer, elk, skunk, raccoons, coyote, porcupines, weasels, beavers, grey and red foxes, flying squirrels, eagles, hawks, owls, falcons, turkey vultures, pheasants, many wild turkeys and our state bird, the ruffed grouse. I have yet to spy a bobcat but have seen evidence of several while hiking. I would also love to see an otter one day, or a mountain lion ... from the safety of my car.
South Jersey will always be my original home state but I've settled quite comfortably in Pennsylvania, now having lived here longer than New Jersey. I am very lucky to reside in such a beautiful state.