Sunday, June 3, 2012

Memorial Lake, PA

You all know my interest not just in the water, but the history of the areas I paddle.  Part of that history is the architecture of the places where our predecessors lived and worked.  We had just crossed a blind intersection when Jean said, "There's a beautiful brick farmhouse and barn." As soon as I could find a place to make a turn-around, we headed back.  Several knocks at the door produced no sign of life, so I left a card in the door and snapped a few shots before leaving. 

Part of the beauty is the simplicity and rugged sturdiness that insures a permanence expected to span many generations.  Some of these brick and stone homes and farms predate the Civil War, with some reaching back to the Revolution.

Again, every effort is made to insure good ventilation through the barn, from fancy brickwork venting designs in the ends, to louvered vents in wood planked sections, to vented cupolas on the roof.  The dark circle on the side of the barn is a hex sign.  Many of those following William Penn to this area for religious freedom came from Swiss and German areas, and brought the hex sign with them.  Most think of them just as a beautiful  art form, but they are also supposed to bring good luck by warding off evil spirits, lightning, and other mishaps.

Okay, on to Memorial Lake.  Memorial Lake, DeLorme P.69, D-5, is an 85-acre lake at the base of Blue Mountain. It is located in the Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation. The lake and park were created in 1945 as a memorial to Pennsylvania National Guardsmen killed in World Wars I & II.
Being overcast and dark, these mallards testify to it being a good day for a snooze.

The area was home to the Susquehannock Indians, who cultivated the land for over 3,000 years. The Susquehannock were initially hostile toward the encroaching settlers, and used the passes through the Blue Ridge Mountains to conduct raids on colonial settlements. This prompted the colonial governments to establish a chain of fortifications from which to try controlling the problem. One of these was Fort Indiantown Gap, created in 1755. The relationship turned during the French and Indian Wars, when the Susquehannocks became allies of the colonials.


The purchase of lands for a military cantonment was authorized in 1929, and was added to until it reached its current 16,000 acres.

Memorial is a small lake, but since powerboats are banned, it’s quiet. While the problem at Conewago was boulders, here it’s trees and stumps that have undoubtedly covered the lake bottom since its was dammed. The water had about a 2-foot visibility, however, so they were always avoidable. Memorial made for a relaxing paddle of somewhat over an hour and a bit over two miles. It is a warm water fishery, and contains popular game fish such as largemouth bass, muskellunge, northern pike, yellow perch, white crappie, black crappie, bullhead, channel cat, carp, sucker, trout, and various species of panfish.

An arched wood bridge on a jogging trail, spanning a feeder stream,
through a bumper crop of skunk cabbage.

Pennsylvanians are not too different than most people I guess. They’re very friendly when you approach them one-on-one, but they’d rather have an arm amputated than use it to wave to someone. Being old enough to have spanned a few generations, I’ve seen this evolution. Perhaps it’s the result of over-population, or being more and more absorbed in our electronic devices than relating to real people. My daughter, a Pennsylvanian, says they’re just not a warm and open people. An attempt at waving to one of them in greeting will usually be met with a blank, dead stare like you’re sending them semaphore, and they no habla semaphore. Some actually respond with disdain as though you’re not worth the effort of a greeting, but I was in no way ready for what we met going into Pinchot State Park the other day. Jean and I saw a woman out for an early morning walk with her dog. We both smiled and waved. She not only did not return the greeting, but shot us the sourest scowl the likes of which I guarantee you’ve never seen. We both recoiled immediately as though we’d been struck. If there had been a diary within five miles, I know all the milk was instantly curdled. The farmer had to be puzzled as to why, for the rest of the month, his cows could produce nothing but soured curd.


Here at Memorial Lake, I met something different. There’s a jogging path around most of the lake. As I paddled, I could see military personnel, men and women, running through the woods that surrounded the lake. I saw a young woman stop on a wood bridge as she did some leg stretches. She was standing there among the trees watching my canoe glide by, so I smiled and waved. Wow! She waved and returned the biggest, friendliest, warmest smile imaginable. I had to do a double take. It was like the sun had just come out. If only everyone could understand how humans respond, how our dispositions are lifted and our day improved by something as simple as a friendly, genuine smile. And, who could have guessed that the warmest, friendliest, not to mention sweetest, smile I would get during our entire month’s visit in Pennsylvania would come from a U.S. Army soldier. She must have been there on TDY.


We wanted to visit the national cemetery while there, but a military funeral was going on just inside the gates, so we looped around and left rather than risk disturbing the ceremony. It shortly began to rain, and showers continued through the evening and night. Memorial was a small lake, but a nice visit.
My favorite at Memorial Lake was this green-backed heron. It moved not
a muscle, assured it was invisible perched in the brush.

Gateway back to the lake from the feeder stream
where I found the heron.

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