Monday, October 1, 2018

A Morning on the Lackawaxen

This rail and river excursion made for the perfect outing

A blue heron flushed from the river bank, its wings beating over the water as we slowed our kayaks and watched in silence as it moved downstream.
Five of us kayaked the Lackawaxen that day, taking part in the Rail and River Excursion from Honesdale to Hawley, a good ten mile stretch of water. It gave a sense of peace and excitement to paddle downstream as our guide Dan Corrigan pointed out native medicinal plants and ancient stone walls still standing from the D&H canal. The air breathed cool and refreshing; now and then the water quickened and the boats sped along. Bald eagles lit from treetops. A kingfisher -- A green heron -- A red-tail hawk.
Corrigan, owner of adventure sports outfitter NorthEast Wilderness Experience, in Honesdale, PA, knows the Lackawaxen River: the wildlife, history, plants. He also knows where caution is the rule, and is always vigilant on the water. Dan stands to help with a friendly push at launch or a pull at landing, or to give a hand in and out of a boat.
We pulled up for a couple of stops, one for lunch that was included with the trip and felt just right. Another stop took us to Lock 31, a historic point on what had once been the D&H Canal, which predated the city of Scranton, and was used to transport coal to America’s budding industrial regions.
This river and rail outing was developed as a joint venture between Dan Corrigan and railroad operator Tom Myles. Myles began his career in 1963 with the Pennsylvania Railroad and now operates the Stourbridge Line, a historic twenty-five mile rail route overlooking the Lackawaxen River Valley. Corrigan and Myles are also working together with the State of Pennsylvania on a “Rails and Trails” hike and bike byway abreast all twenty-five miles of the Stourbridge Line.  
Near the end of our river trip fish started rising, some next to the kayaks, and small rapids made for a bit of wet fun. Traveling all morning felt effortless; it consisted mostly of steering downstream.
We pulled out of the river at the Settlers Inn in Hawley, PA, then took a short jaunt to the Stourbridge Line rail platform still sporting cast 19th century benches. The whistle reached us long before the train came into view… right on time! Myles’ beautifully restored 1946 engine, one of the earliest diesel locomotives built, pulled up to the siding and we embarked the passenger car filled with chatting riders.
The train was a restful and interesting contrast to paddling, with lots of conversation. Views of the river came from one side of the car, beautiful northern Pocono woods and cliffs from the other side. As the train pulled into Honesdale we got an intriguing and uncommon look at the town.
The rail and River Excursion turned out to be a morning perfectly spent, one we were woebegone to have end.

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