Sunday, May 18, 2008

Springtime in Venangoland

(News-Herald, May 15) After a quick and cruel tease, spring appears to finally be arriving in Venangoland.

To tell the truth, spring is not my favorite season; I’m much more of an autumn guy. But I’m glad to live somewhere that actually has seasons, particularly after nine months of weather reports from my son in Southern California (“Well, today it was warm and sunny. Kind of like yesterday. But I think tomorrow it might be sunny and warm.”)

Spring in Venangoland is a big reveal. For a few weeks, you can climb up on the hills, clear of snow and slush, and find spectacular views unhampered by leaves and greenery. A few weeks back I discovered that Franklin Heights is still growing, with a small batch of houses now built where you can stand in the back yard and throw a rock that will land on Sixth Street. It puts you right on the old dirt road that snakes around the top of the hill. One end comes out at the spot known as “back the Gurney,” site of decades of various teenaged misbehavior; the other end winds around to the Third Street hollow (does anybody know the story behind the foundation and lot perched halfway up the hill above Fourth Street?). The whole length of that dirt path offers a fabulous view of Franklin and the river. Or at least it did until the recent eruption of leafery.

Down by the river, spring reveals what the waterways have been up to. Down in my neck of the riverbank, the water chewed its way through a lot of riverside growth and dirt (we lost a wide swath of lawn in my neighborhood).

To really see what the river has been up to, you have to get out on it. Personally, I follow the 100 rule—if the air and water temperatures don’t add up to 100, I stay on land—so I only recently dragged the kayak out of the basement and started paddling upstream.

Now, I love my bicycle. I think the bike trail is one of the great local resources. I look forward to many fine trips up to Oil City and down to the Belmar bridge. Traveling out the Sandycreek spur toward Van or pedaling all the way down to Emlenton reminds me that I live in the middle of a gorgeous park the likes of which the poor, deprived urban dwellers can only dream of. An active biker can see most of the county without burning a drop of gas.

It’s not perfect. The Great Missing Link in Venangoland bicycling is the cities themselves. We could bicycle to one of the three sister cities to eat out or shop—if we could get around the cities on the bikes AND if we had someplace to put the bikes when we got there.

There have been attempts to even out some sidewalks—great, if you want to get off your bicycle and walk beside it. For riding, the street works much better (provided you can avoid getting smushed by traffic). Some bike racks are popping up here and there. I hope more appear, but I still love my bike.

As much as I love it, though, the kayak is my recreational vehicle of choice. There is nothing like being out on the water, watching the wildlife as the great green gentle valleys slip by.

I’ve seen kayak traffic increase over the years, so other folks must be catching on. My neighbors at Wiegel Brothers Marina have even launched an entire Big House Full O’Paddle Sport Stuff across the street from their regular shop. (Since I live across the river from Country Pedalers, I am happily located at the nexus of bikes and boats in Venangoland.) These days, kayaks are made out of materials that will last until long after the last cockroach has keeled over, so a careful kayak purchase can keep you entertained for years and years (though, as with bicycles, there are plenty of handy accessories that can add to your fun and make you look really cool, too).

It should be said that water sports have to be taken seriously; our local waterways are not the most treacherous, but a heedless weekend warrior at the wrong time under the wrong conditions can still get in serious trouble. But approached with respect, the region’s rivers and creeks (don’t forget the Clarion River) can be an enormous source of fun and relaxation.

1 comment:

Mrs.C said...

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

-- Robert Frost

Ah, Spring in Franklin. . . I do miss home this time of year, and the autumn.

From my Flickr