Friday, September 28, 2012

Simple joy

I spent this spring and summer riding my bicycle around a bit of the United States coming across many beautiful natural and urban scenes.  High elevation, low elevation, no elevation, forests, plains, streams, ocean, cottages, skyscrapers... I saw a lot.  But as the old saying goes, "There's no place like home."

Unbeknownst to me, it would take over two weeks to get my bike shipped from the Oregon coast to Pennsylvania.  Two weeks of me wandering around town, not getting more than a handful of miles away from my friend's house where I was crashing.  For many of you, this confinement would be similar to having your car in the shop for two weeks.  But at long last, I received the bike and quickly reassembled it.  The beginnings of autumn in Pennsylvania awaited me.

Yesterday, I took the opportunity to ride up to Black Moshannon State Park carrying my Alpacka Raft Denali Llama packraft on the rear rack.  My plan was simply to ride up some big hills to the park which sits atop a plateau and paddle around in the bog area there.  As I have tried to advocate before, stuff doesn't have to be complicated to be fun.  The simpler the better.  Certainly biking around the country is great, but there are still magical experiences to find in your backyard.

Consider the day:  Meet a friend for breakfast, talk about fishing and drink enough coffee to leave us shaking like a leaf in a hurricane.  Ride twenty odd miles along quiet, damp back roads under overcast grey skies.  Shoot the breeze for a bit with the park rangers as one of the few weekday visitors.  Paddle through acres of bog, complete with lily pads and old stumps, in complete silence save the dipping of paddle blades and the occasional frightened fish.  Contemplate incoming storm clouds after hours of paddling and head for shore.  Ride the asphalt roller coaster of ridges back home to a hot shower and fresh burritos.

Simple joy.

This.  This is exactly what I love the most in Pennsylvania.  Quiet back roads in the fall.  Whether its for fishing, hunting, climbing, biking or whatever, I never get enough of them.  Riding up Beaver Road towards the top of the Allegheny Plateau
My able vessel is inflated and ready to go.  Their website mentions this, but it warrants a reminder.  The floor is just a single sheet of material so it is well worth padding and insulating with something like a 3/4 length self inflating sleeping pad.  Which you'll obviously already have with you on your backcountry overnight packrafting adventure.
Out on the open waters as the only boater in sight.
And the not so open waters of the bog area.  As you paddle through areas of lily pads, they make a faint rushing, scratching sound below you.  At any pause in the paddle stroke, the vegetation grabs at the hull, gently bringing you to a halt.
Looking out across the acres of lily pads, water lilies appear here and there like errant ping pong balls scattered about.
The bog awaits all those that care to visit.  Make sure that you do.  I would certainly welcome company the next time that I go.

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