Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon area fully satisfies any outdoor pursuit
Every year for at least the past 20, I’ve spent the first week of spring gobbler season at the camp where I’ve been a member since I turned 21, hunting the vastness of Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon for elusive toms and fishing Pine Creek for the robust population of trout that swim in its waters this time of year.
From the farmland area I call home, a trip upstate at anytime of year always brings me to a world so dissimilar to where I live that it’s almost like entering a place one would believe to be another state — one that took a lengthy plane ride to reach rather than a few hours of driving.
Yet, it is Pennsylvania, and to arrive here just as signs of spring are breaking into the vision of any visitor who has suffered the drudgery of waiting out the boredom of late winter, it is a most welcome scene that elevates both the mood and spirits of all who witness the changeover.
Gobbler hunting started with some rather difficult conditions. The opener on Saturday was tough in that a strong cold front was moving across Pennsylvania with winds so wicked, it was like hunting next to a jet engine. The most important element of the hunt for me was to make sure no large limbs, or even entire trees, fell on my stationary backside.
Monday morning my truck thermometer read 22 degrees as I headed to a hunting spot in total darkness. Walking through a field of grass to the edge of a wood line where I was first going to set up, I left an unmistakable trail through heavy frost. Birds were silent in my area, but a friend hunting about a half mile away took a big tom that same morning.
The rest of the week I both heard and saw turkeys, but never called a gobbler close enough to shoot. A couple of hens came clucking by me one morning, but the excitement of their close passing was dulled a bit because they had no boy friend in tow.
All through the week I noticed plants of all types pushing leaves. Trees seemed to become a little bit thicker with foliage as the week progressed. Song birds called out their tunes from the first hint of light, and sang without stopping through every morning hour. Groups of deer, all young from last year, would offer occasional glimpses as they passed nearby.
Springtime in these big woods is easy to distinguish from the same places when I visit in fall.
Afternoons were for trout fishing the Big Pine. Recent rains had water levels high, and wading was difficult. Yet, the stream was clear, and at certain spots where I could bounce a nymph along rock crowded bottoms in faster runs, I experienced enough hookups and missed strikes to keep me happy.
Fishing the Big Pine is a different world from the streams that move through where I live. Here, it’s easy to locate a bend where the rush of faster water has cut into the mountainsides through the ages, creating deeper pools where fish wait in ambush for food bouncing toward them from the faster flow.
At so many of these type spots one is far away from main roads and houses, fishing without a hint of civilization, really. I’m always impressed when reaching these spots at the assortment of trees that line stream banks. Tall sycamores, standing above other trees, seem as guardians for these waters, and hemlocks, free of the diseases that has killed so many of their kin, offer shade over the stream’s waters as they grow at angles from the steepness of the canyon’s walls.
Of course I’m not the only one enjoying Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon. Plenty of kayakers and canoeists floated past me all week long, inquiring of my fishing luck, most laughing, fully happy with where they were and what they were doing.
I knew there were plenty of hikers on the numerous trails coursing through the mountains. People on bicycles, some just walking, some walking with dogs, moved along the Rail Trail which borders much of the Big Pine. Local hotels were filled all week, many with pickups parked outside belonging to hunters and fishermen, all there for the same gratification that brings me here.
It is a place anyone should attempt to visit at least once in a lifetime, this wide gorge with acres upon acres of public land, and a big stream curving through its bottom.