This audio edition of John Burroughs’ classic essay, "Pepacton: A Summer Voyage," is the story of Burroughs’ journey down the meandering river he called Pepacton, the name native people gave the stream. Burroughs was in his 40s when he made the trip, on a raft-type craft he fashioned himself, a grown man playing Huck Finn, traveling his personal Mississippi.
This 19th-century Catskills tale is pure Burroughs, filled with the values and ideas that are at his core: simplicity of life, joy in small things, harmony with the natural world, connection with people, and outdoor adventure.
Original 2-disc set, produced in partnership with the John Burroughs' Woodchuck Lodge, is available at Silver Hollow Audio.
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Welcome to cats cast, a biweekly podcast delivering interviews, arts, culture and history from New York's Catskill Mountains. In this episode, an audio edition of john Burroughs classic essay pakhtun a summer voyage narrated by Brett Barry. That's me, and followed by an interview with Diane de Lucia. This is part of a two disc set that we issued in partnership with the john Burroughs with Chuck Lodge. In our next episode, we'll release the second essay, the heart of the Southern Catskills narrated by rollin Smith. We hope these full length audio additions by the Catskills most famous naturalist will be a welcomed diversion from our current state of affairs. packed in a summer voyage is the story of Burroughs journey down the meandering river he called pakhtun. The name native people gave the stream Burroughs was in his 40s when he made the trip on a raft type of craft he fashioned himself a grown man playing Huck Finn traveling his personal Mississippi. This 19th century Catskills tale is pure burrows filled with the values and ideas that are at his core, simplicity of life. Joy in small things, harmony with the natural world connection with people and outdoor adventure. But first, a word from our sponsor the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway. In this restrictive time, consider supporting your local restaurants and cafes by buying gift cards for future use, either for yourself or as a gift. Many eateries are offering online ordering with pickup at the door. He use the web to visit our hospitality businesses along the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway and discover special deals for future visits. make a contribution to your local food pantry to help those volunteers provide food for those in need, or who simply can't get out on their own. Most are delivering food so consider volunteering as a driver. And our wine and spirits shops are open with a very specific order and pick up requirements give them a call. At the moment our theater exhibit spaces and arts centers are taking a backseat and focused on planning for later in the season. make a contribution to be sure that doors open again, with all the cultural programs our communities Enjoy. Thank you. packed in a summer voyage. When one summer day, I be thought me of a voyage down the east or pakhtun branch of the Delaware. I seemed to want some excuse for the start. Some send off some preparation to give the enterprise Genesis and head this I found in building my own boat. It was a happy thought. How else should I have got underway? How else should I have raised the breeze. The boat building warmed the blood. It made the germ take it whetted my appetite for the voyage. There is nothing like serving an apprenticeship to fortune, like earning the right to your tools. In most enterprises, the temptation is always to begin too far along. We want to start where somebody else leaves off. Go back to the stump and see what an impetus you get. Those fishermen who wind their own flies before they go fishing, how they bring in the trout. And those hunters who run their own bullets or make their own cartridges. The game is already mortgaged to them. When my boat was finished, and it was a very simple affair. I was as eager as a boy to be off. I feared the river would all run by before I could wet her bottom in it. This enthusiasm begat great expectations of the trip, I should surely surprise nature and when some new secret summer I should glide down noiselessly upon her and see what all those willows screens and baffling curves concealed. As a fisherman and pedestrian, I had been able to come at the stream only at certain points. Now the most private and secluded retreats of the nymph would be opened to me every bend and Edie every Cove hedged in by swamps or passage walled in by high alders would be at the back of my paddle, whom shall one take with him when he goes according nature? This is always a vital question. There are persons who will stand between you and that which you seek. They obtrude themselves. They monopolize your attention. The blunt your sense of the shy half revealed intelligence is about you. I want for a companion, a dog or a boy or a person who has the virtues of dogs and boys, transparency, good nature, curiosity, open sense and a nameless quality that is akin to trees and growths and the inarticulate forces of nature. With him, you are alone and yet have company you are free. You feel no disturbing element, the influences of nature stream through him and around him. He is a good conductor of the subtle fluid. The quality or qualification I referred to belongs to most persons who spent their lives in the open air to soldiers, hunters, fishers, laborers, and to artists and poets have the right sort. How full of it to choose an illustrious example with such a man as Walter Scott. But no such person came an answer to my prayer, so I set out alone. It was fit that I put my boat into the water at arc Ville, but it may seem a little incongruous that I should launch her into dry Brook. Yet dry Brook is here a find large trout stream, and I soon found its waters were wet enough for all practical purposes. The Delaware is only one mile distance, and I chose this as the easiest road from the station to it. A young farmer helped me carry the boat to the water, but did not stay to see me off. Only some calves feeding along shore witnessed my embarkation. It would have been a godsend to boys. But there were no boys about I stuck on a rift before I had gone 10 yards and saw with misgiving, the paint transferred from the bottom of my little scout to the tops of the stones thus early in the journey. But I was soon making fair headway and taking trout for my dinner as I floated along. My first mishap was when I broke the second joint of my rod on a bass. And the first serious impediment to my progress was when I encountered the trunk of a prostrate lm bridging the stream within a few inches of the surface. My rod mended and the LM cleared. I anticipated better sailing when I should reach the Delaware itself. But I found on this day and on subsequent days that the Delaware has a way of dividing up that is very embarrassing to the navigator. It is a stream of many minds. Its waters cannot long agree to go all in the same channel. And whichever branch I took, I was pretty sure to wish I had taken one of the others. I was constantly sticking on rifts where I would have to dismount or running full tilt into Willow banks where I would lose my hat or endanger my fishing tackle. On the whole. The result of my first days voyaging was not encouraging. I made barely eight miles and my order was a good deal dampened to say nothing about my clothing. In mid afternoon, I went to a well to do looking farmhouse and got some milk, which I am certain the thrifty housewife skimmed for its blueness infected my spirits, and I went into camp that night, more than half persuaded to abandon the enterprise in the morning. the loneliness of the river to unlike that of the fields and woods, to which I was more accustomed, oppressed me in the woods, things are close to you, and you touch them and seem to interchange something with them. But upon the river, even though it be a narrow and shallow one like this, you are more isolated, farther removed from the soil and its attractions and an easier prey to the unsocial demons, the long unpeopled VISTAs ahead, the still dark Eddie's be endless monotone and soliloquy of the stream. The unheeding rocks, basking like monsters along the shore, half out of the water, half in a solitary Heron starting up here under there, as you routed some point, and flapping disconsolately ahead to last to view or standing like a gaunt specter on the unbraid just side of the mountain, his motionless form revealed against the dark green as he passed, the trees and willows and alders that hemmed you in on either side, and hid the fields and the farm houses and the road that ran nearby. These things and others aided the skimmed milk to cast a gloom over my spirits that argued ill for the success of my undertaking. Those rubber boots to that parboiled my feet and worklogs have led about them, whose spirits are elastic enough to endure them. A malediction upon the head of Him who invented them. Take your old shoes that will let the water in Then let it out again rather than stand knee deep all day in these extinguishers. I escaped from the river that first night and took to the woods and profited by the change in the woods. I was at home again, and the bed of hemlock boughs self to my spirits. A Cold Spring run came down off the mountain, and beside it underneath birches and hemlocks, I improvised my Hearthstone. In sleeping on the ground, it is a great advantage to have a backlog it braces and supports you, and it is a bedfellow that will not grumble when in the middle of the night, you crowd sharply up against it. It serves to keep in the warmth also, a heavy stone or other point resistance at your feet is also a help or better still scoop out a little place in the earth a few inches deep, so as to admit your body from your hips to your shoulders. You thus get an equal bearing the whole length of view. I'm told the western hunters and guides do this. On the same principle, the sand makes a good bed and the snow you make a mold in which you fit nicely. My birth that night was between two logs that the bark peelers had stripped 10 or more years before, as they have left the bark there and as hemlock bark makes excellent fuel, I had more reasons than one to be grateful to them. In the morning, I felt much refreshed. And as if the night had tided me over the bar that threatened to stay my progress. If I can steer clear of skimmed milk, my said, I shall now finish the voyage of 50 miles to Hancock with increasing pleasure. When one breaks camp in the morning, he turns back again and again to see what he has left. Surely he feels he has forgotten something. What is it? But it is only his own sad thoughts and musings he has left the fragment of his life he has lived there, where he hung his coat on the tree, where he slept on the boughs where he made his coffee or broiled his trout over the coals, where he drank again and again at the little brown pool in the spring run, where he looked long and long up into the whispering branches overhead. He has left what he cannot bring away with him the flame and to the ashes of himself. of certain gamebirds It is thought that at times they have the power of withholding their scent. no hint or particle of themselves goes out upon the air. I think there are persons whose spiritual pores are always sealed up, and I presume they have the best time of it. Their hearts never radiate into the void. They do not yearn and sympathize without return. They do not leave themselves by the wayside as the sheep leaves her will upon the brambles and thorns. This branch of the Delaware, so far as I could learn, had never before been descended by a white man and a boat, rafts of pine and hemlock, timber or run down on the spring and fall fresh. It's been of pleasure seekers and boats. I appeared to be the first. Hence my Advent was a surprise to most creatures in the water men doubt. I surprised the cattle in the field and those ruminating leg deep in the water turns their heads at my approach swallowed their unfinished cubs and scampered off, as if they had seen the specter. I surprised the fish on their spawning beds and feeding grounds. They scattered as my shadow glided down upon them, like chickens when a hawk appears. I surprised an ancient fishermen seated on a spirit of gravelly beach with his backup stream and leisurely angling in a deep still Eddy and mumbling to himself. As I slid into the circle of his vision, his grip on the pole relaxed, his jaw dropped, and he was too bewildered to reply to my salutation for some moments. As I turned a bend in the river, I looked back and saw him hastening away with great precipitation. I presume he had angled there for 40 years without having his privacy thus intruded upon. I surprised hawks and herons and kingfishers, I came suddenly upon muskrats and raced with them down the rifts. Bay having no time to take to their holes. At one point as I rounded an elbow in the stream, a Black Eagle sprang from the top of a dead tree, and flapped hurriedly away. A King Bird gave chase and disappeared for some moments in the gulf between the great wings of the eagle, and I imagined him seated upon his back delivering his puny blows upon the Royal bird. I interrupted two or three MCs fishing and hunting along shore, they would Dart under the bank when they saw me then presently thrust out there sharp weasel like noses to see if the danger was imminent. At one point in a little Cove behind the willows, I surprised some school Girls with skirts amazingly abbreviated, waiting and playing in the water. And as much surprised as any I am sure was that hard worked looking housewife, when I came up from under the bank in front of her house, and with pale and hand appeared at her door and asked for milk, taking the precaution to intimate that I had no objection to the yellow scum that is supposed to rise on a fresh article of that kind. What kind of milk do you want? The best you have? Give me two quarts of it, I replied. What do you want to do with it with an anxious tone, as if I might want to blow up something or burn her barns with it? Oh, drink it, I answered, as if I frequently put milk to that use. Well, I suppose I can get you some. And she presently reappeared with swimming pale, with those little yellow flakes floating about upon it that one likes to see. It passed several load dams the second day, but had no trouble. I just mounted and stood upon the apron and the boat with plenty of line came over as lightly as a chip and swung around in the eddy below, like a steed that knows its master. In the afternoon, while slowly drifting down along Eddy, the moist southwest wind brought me the welcome odor of strawberries, and running ashore by a meadow a short distance below. I was soon parting the daisies and filling my cup with the dead ripe fruit. berries, be they red, blue or black, seem like a special Providence to the camp are out. They are luxuries he has not counted on, and I prized these accordingly. Later in the day at threatened rain, and I drew up to shore under the shelter of some thick overhanging hemlocks, and proceeded to eat my berries and milk. Glad have an excuse not to delay my lunch longer. While tarrying here, I heard young voices upstream. And looking in that direction, saw two boys coming down the rapids on rude floats. They were racing along at a lively pace, each with a pole in his hand dexterously, avoiding the rocks and the breakers and schooling themselves thus early in the duties and perils of the craftsman. As they saw me one observed to the other bears the man we saw go by when we were building our floats. If we had known he was coming so far, maybe we could have got him to give us a ride. They drew near, guided their crafts to shore beside me, and tied up their poles answering for hosers. They proved to be Johnny and Denny Dwyer, aged 10 and 12. They were friendly boys, and though not a bit bashful, we're not a bit impertinent. And Johnny, who did the most of the talking, had such a sweet musical voice. It was like a birds. It seems Denny had run away a day or two before to his uncle's five miles above. And Johnny had been after him and was bringing his prisoner home on a float head it was hard to tell which was enjoying the fun most the captor or the captured. Why did you run away? said hi to Danny. Oh, cause, replied he, with an air which said plainly, The reasons are too numerous to mention. Boys, you know, will do so sometimes, said Johnny, and he smiled upon his brother in a way that made me think they had a very good understanding upon the subject. They could both swim, yet their floats looked very perilous. three pieces of old plank or slabs with two cross pieces and a fragment of a board for a rider and made without nails or width. In some places, said Johnny, one plank was here and another off there, but we managed somehow to keep a top of them. Let's leave our floats here and ride with him the rest of the way, said one to the other. All right, may we Mr. I assented, and we were soon to float again. How they enjoyed the passage, how smooth it was, how the boat glided along, how quickly she felt the paddle. They admired her much. They praised my steersman ship. They praised my fish, Paul and all my fixings down to my hateful rubber boots. When we stuck on the rifts as we did several times, they leapt out quickly with their bare feet and legs and pushed us off. I think, said Johnny, if you keep her straight, and let her have her own way, she will find the deepest water, don't you, Denny? I think she will, replied Denny. And I found the boys were pretty nearly right. I tried them on a point of natural history. I had observed coming along a great many dead eels lying on the bottom of the river, but I suppose to died from spear wounds. No Sajani. They are Lampre eels. They die as soon as they have built their nests and laid their eggs are you Sure, that's what they all say. And I know they are lambers so I fished one up out of the deep water with my paddle blade and examined it. And sure enough, it was a lamprey. There was the row of holes along its head, and it's ugly suction mouth. I had noticed their nests to all along where the water in the pools shallowed to a few feet and began to hurry toward the rifts. They were low mounds of small stones, as if a bushel or more of large pebbles had been dumped upon the river bottom. Occasionally, they were so near the surface has to make a big ripple. The eel attaches itself to the stones by its mouth, and thus moves them at will. An old fisherman told me that a strong man could not pull a large lamprey loose from a rock to which it had attached itself. It fastens to its prey in this way and sucks the life out. A friend of mine says he wants saw in the St. Lawrence pike as long as his arm with a lamprey eel attached to him. The fish was nearly dead and was quite white, the eel had so sucked out his blood and substance. The fish when seized darts against rocks and stones and tries in vain to rub the oil off, then succumbs to the sucker. The lappers do not all die, said Denny, because they do not all spawn and I observed that the dead ones were all of one size and doubtless of the same age. The lamprey is the octopus, the devil fish of these waters, and there is perhaps no tragedy and acted here that equals that of one of these vampires, slowly sucking the life out of a bass or a trout. My boys went to school part of the time. Did they have a good teacher? Good enough for me, said Johnny. Good enough for me. Echo Denny. Just below Barca boom, the name is worth keeping. They left me I was loath to part with them. Their musical voices, and their thorough good fellowship had been very acceptable. With a little persuasion, I think they would have left their home and humble fortunes and gone are roving with me. About four o'clock, the warm, vapor laden southwest wind brought forth the expected Thunder shower. I saw the storm rapidly developing behind the mountains in my front. Presently I came in sight of a long covered wooden bridge that spanned the river about a mile ahead, and I put my paddle into the water with all my force to reach this cover before the storm. It was neck and neck most of the way the storm had the wind and I had it in my teeth. The bridge was at shaver town, and it was by a close shave that I got under it before the rain was upon me how it poured and rattled and whipped in around the abutment of the bridge to reach me. I looked out well satisfied upon the foaming water upon the wet unpainted houses and barns of the shaver towners, and upon the trees caught and cuffed by the Gale. Another traveler, the spotted winged Nighthawk was also roughly used by the storm. He faced it bravely and beat and beat, but it was unable to stem it, or even hold his own. Gradually he drifted back till he was lost to sight in the wet obscurity. The water in the river rose an inch while I waited about three quarters of an hour. Only one man I reckon, saw me and shavertown and he came into gossip with me from the bank above. When the storm had abated. The second night I stopped at the sign of the elm tree. The Woods were too wet, and I concluded to make my boat my bed. A superb Elm on a smooth grassy plain and a few feet from the water's edge, looked hospitable in the twilight, and I drew my boat up beneath it. I hung my clothes on the jagged edges of its rough bark, and went to bed with the moon and her third quarter, peeping under the branches upon me. I had been reading Stevenson's amusing travels with the donkey, and the lines he pretends to quote from an old play, kept running in my head. The bed was made the room was fit. By punctual Eve the stars were lit, the air was sweet, the water ran. No need was there for made or man when we put up my ass and I at God's green caravanserai. But the stately Elm played me a trick. It's lively and at long intervals let great drops of water down upon me. Now with a sharp smack upon my rubber coat, then with a heavy thud upon the seat in the bow or stern of my boat, then plump into my upturned ear, or upon my uncovered arm, or with a ring into my tin cup, or with a splash into my coffee pail that stood at my side full of water from a spring I had just passed. After two hours trial, I found dropping off to sleep under such circumstances was out of the question. So I sprang up in no very amiable mood toward my host, and drew my boat clean from under the LM. I had refreshing slumber thenceforth and to the birds were a stir in the morning, long before I was. There is one way at least, in which the denuding the country of its forests has lessened the rainfall. In certain conditions of the atmosphere, every tree is a great condenser of moisture. As I had just observed in the case of the old Elm, little showers are generated in their branches, and in the aggregate, the amount of water precipitated in this way is considerable. of a foggy summer morning, one may see little puddles of water standing on the stones beneath maple trees, along the street. And in winter, when there is a sudden change from cold to warm with fog, the water fairly runs down the trunks of the trees and streams from their naked branches. The temperature of the tree is so much below that of the atmosphere in such cases, that the condensation is very rapid. In lieu of these are boreal rains, we have the do upon the grass, but it is doubtful if the grass ever drips, as does a tree. The birds I say were a stir in the morning before I was and some of them were more wakeful through the night, unless they sing in their dreams. At this season, one may here at intervals numerous bird voices during the night. The whisper Willow was piping when I lay down, and I still heard one when I woke up after midnight, I heard the song Sparrow and the King Bird also, like watchers calling me hour and several times I heard the cuckoo. Indeed, I am convinced that our cuckoo is to a considerable extent a nightbird and that he moves about freely from tree to tree, his peculiar guttural note. Now here, now there may be heard almost any summer night in any part of the country, and occasionally his better known cuckoo call. He is a great reckless by day, but seems to wander abroad freely by night. The birds do indeed begin with the day. The farmer who is in the field at work while he can get see stars catches their first matten hymns. In the longest June days, the Robin strikes up about half past three o'clock and is quickly followed by the song Sparrow, the Oreo, the cat bird, the Wren, the Wood Thrush, and all the rest of the tuneful choir along the Potomac. I have heard the Virginia Cardinal whistle so loudly and persistently in the treetops above. That sleeping after four o'clock was out of the question. Just before the sun is up, there is a marked low, during which I imagine the birds are at breakfast, while building their nest, it is very early in the morning that they put in their big strokes, the back of their days work is broken, before you have begun yours. A lady once asked me if there was any individuality among the birds. Or, if those of the same kind were as near alike as two peas. I was obliged to answer that to the eye. Those of the same species were as near alike as two peas, but that in their songs. They were often marks of originality, caged or domesticated birds develop notes and traits of their own. And among the more familiar orchard and garden birds, one may notice the same tendency. I observe a great variety of songs, and even qualities of voice among the Orioles and among the song sparrows. On this trip, my ear was especially attracted to some striking and original Sparrow songs. At one point, I was half afraid I had let pass an opportunity to identify a new warbler, but finally concluded it was a song Sparrow. On another occasion, I used to hear day after day of Sparrow that appeared to have some organic defect in its voice. Part of its song was scarcely above a whisper, as if the bird was suffering from a very bad cold. I have heard a bubbling at a hermit thrush with similar defects of voice. I have heard a robin with a part of the whistle of the quail in his song. It was out of time and out of tune, but the Robin seemed insensible of the incongruity and sang as loudly and as joyously as any of his mates. A cat bird will sometimes show a special genius for mimicry, and I have known one to suggest very plainly some notes of the Bible link. There are numerous long covered bridges spanning the Delaware and under some of these I saw the cliff swallow at home. The nests being fastened to the undersides of the timbers, as it were suspended from the ceiling, instead of being planted upon the shelving or perpendicular side as is usual with them to have laid the foundation indeed, to have sprung the vault downward and finished it successfully must have required special engineering skill. I had never before seen or heard of these Nast's being so placed, but birds are quick to adjust their needs to the exigencies of any case. Not long before I had seen in a deserted house on the head of the rondout. The chimney swallows entering the chamber through a stove pipe hole in the roof, and gluing their nests to the sides of the rafters like the barn swallows. I was now on the third day, well down in the wilds of Colchester, with a current that made between two and three miles an hour, just a summer idlers pace. The atmosphere of the river had improved much since the first day was indeed without taint, and the water was sweet and good. They were farm houses at intervals of a mile or so. But the amount of tillable land in the river valley or on the adjacent mountains was very small. Occasionally there would be 40 or 50 acres of flat, usually in grass or corn. With a thrifty looking farmhouse. One could see how surely the land made the house at its surrounding good land, bearing good buildings, and poor land. Poor. In mid for noon, I reached the long placid Edie a downsville. And here again fell in with two boys. They were out paddling about on a boat when I drew near, and they evidently regarded me in the light of a rare prize, which fortune had wafted them. Ain't you glad we come, Benny? I heard one of them observed to the other as they were conducting me to the best place to land. They were bright good boys, off the same piece as my acquaintances of the day before, and about the same ages, differing only in being village boys. With what curiosity they looked me over. Where had I come from? Where was I going? How long had I been on the way who built my boat? Was I a carpenter to build such a neat craft, etc. They never had seen such a traveler before. Had I had no mishaps, and then they be thought them of the dangerous passes that awaited me. And didn't good faith began to warn and advise me. They had heard the tales of craftsman, and had conceived a vivid idea of the perils of the river below, gauging their notions of it from the spring and fall fresh its tossing about the heavy and cumbrous rafts. There was a whirlpool, a rock Eddy, and a binnacle. within a mile, I might be caught in the binnacle or engulfed in the Whirlpool or smashed up in the Yeti. But I felt much reassured when they told me I had already passed several whirlpools and rock Eddie's but that terrible binnacle What was that? I had never heard of such a monster. Oh, it was a still my replace of the head of a big Eddie. The current might carry me up there, but I could easily get out again, the rafts did. But there was another place I must be aware of where to Eddie's faced each other rafts. Men were sometimes swept off there by the oars and drowned. And when I came to rock, Eddie, which I would know, because the river divided there, a part of the water being afraid to risk the eddy I suppose. I must go ashore and survey the past. But in any case, it would be prudent to keep it to the left. I might stick on the Rift. But that was nothing to being wrecked upon those rocks. The boys were quite an earnest and I told them I would walk up to the village and post some letters to my friends before I braved all these dangers. So they marched me up the street pointing out to their chums what they had found. going way to fill what places that near where the river goes into the sea. Philadelphia. Yes, thinks he may go way there. Won't he have fun. The boys escorted me about the town, then back to the river and got in their boat and came down to the band where they could see me go through the Whirlpool and pass the binnacle I'm not sure about the orthography of the word but I suppose it means a double or a sort of mock Eddie. I looked back as I shot over the rough current beside a gentle vortex and saw them watching me with great interest. Rock Eddie also was quite harmless and I passed it without any preliminary survey. I knew that saddam and found good milk in a humble cottage. In the afternoon, I was amused by a great blue heron that kept flying up in advance of me every mile or so as I rounded some point, I would come unexpectedly upon him till finally He grew disgusted with my silent pursuit and took a long turn to the left up along the side of the mountain and passed back up the river, uttering a horse low note. The wind still boded rain at about four o'clock, announced by deep tone thunder and portentous clouds, it began to charge down the mountainside in front of me. I ran ashore, covered my traps and took my way up through an orchard to a quaint little farmhouse. But there was not a soul about outside or in but I could find, though the door was unfastened, so I went into an open shed with the hens, and lounged upon some straw while the unleased floods came down. It was better than boating or fishing. Indeed, there are few summer pleasures to be placed before that of reclining at ease directly under a sloping roof after toil or travel in the hot sun, and looking out into the rain drenched air and fields. It is such a vital yet soothing spectacle. We sympathize with the earth. We know how good a bath is, and the unspeakable deliciousness of water to a parched tongue. The Office of the sunshine is slow, subtle, occult, unsuspected, but when the clouds do their work, the benefaction is so palpable and copious, so direct and wholesale, that all creatures take note of it, and for the most part, rejoice in it. It is a completion, a consummation of paying of a debt with a royal hand. The measure is heaped and overflowing. It was the simple vapor of water that the clouds borrowed of the earth. Now they pay back more than water. The drops are charged with electricity and with the gases of the air and have new solvent powers. Then how the slate is sponged off and left all clean and new again. In the shed, where I was sheltered, were many relics and odds and ends of the farm. In juxtaposition with two of the most stalwart wagon or truck wheels I ever looked upon, was a cradle of ancient and peculiar make an aristocratic cradle, with high turned posts, and an elaborately carved and molded body that was suspended upon rods and swung from the top. How I should have liked to hear its history, and the story of the lives that had rocked as the rain sang, and the bows tossed without. Above it was the cradle of a Phoebe bird saddled upon a stick that ran behind the rafter. its occupants had not flown, and its story was easy to read. Soon after the first shock of the storm was over, and before I could see breaking sky, the birds tuned up with new ardor, the Robin, the Indigo bird, the purple Finch, the song Sparrow, and in the meadow below, the bubble link. The cockerel near me followed suit, and repeated his refrain till my meditations were so disturbed, that I was compelled to eject him from the cover. I'll be it. He had the best right there. But he crowed his defiance with drooping tail from the yard in front. I too, had mentally crowed over the good fortune of the shower. But before I closed my eyes that night, my crust was a good deal fallen, and I could have wished that friendly elements had not squared their accounts quite so readily and uproariously. The one shower did not exhaust the supply a bit. Nature's hand was full of Trump's yet. Yay, and her sleeve too. I stopped at a trout Brook, which came down out of the mountains on the right, and took a few trout for my supper. But its current was too royally from the shower for fly fishing. Another farm house attracted me, but there was no one at home. So I picked a cord of strawberries in the meadow in front, not minding the wet grass. And about six o'clock, thinking another storm that had been threatening on my right had miscarried, I pushed off and went floating down into the deepening gloom of the river valley. The mountains densely wooded from base to summit, shut in the view on every hand, they cut in from the right and from the left, one ahead of the other matching like the teeth of an enormous trap. The river was caught and bent, but not long detained by them. Presently, I saw the rain creeping slowly over them in my rear, for the wind had changed, but I apprehended nothing but a moderate sundown drizzle, such as we often get from the tail end of a shower, and drew up in the eddy of a big rock under an overhanging tree till it should have passed, but it did not pass. It thickened and deepened and reached a steady poor by the time I had calculated the sun would be gilding the mountaintops. I had wrapped my rubber code about my blankets and grow groceries and bared my back to the storm. In sullen silence I saw the night settling down and the rain increasing. My roof tree gave way and every leaf poured its accumulated drops upon me. There were streams and splashes where before there had been a little more than a mist. I was getting well soaked and uncomplimentary in my remarks on the weather. A saucy cat bird nearby, flirted and squealed very plainly. They're there. What did I tell you? What did I tell you? Pretty pickle, pretty pickle. Pretty pickle to be in. But I have been in worse pickles, though if the water had been salt. My pickling had been pretty thorough. Seeing the wind was in the northeast, and that the weather had fairly stolen a march on me. I let go my hold of the tree, and paddled rapidly to the opposite shore, which was low and pebley drew my boat up on a little Peninsula, turned her over upon a spot which I cleared of its coarser stone, propped up one and with a seat and crept beneath. I would now test the virtues of my craft as a roof that I found she was without flaw, though she was pretty narrow. The tension of her timbre was such that the rain upon her bottom made a low musical hum. crouched on my blankets and bows, for I had gathered a good supply of the ladder before the rain overtook me, and to dry only about my middle. I placidly took life as it came. A great blue heron flew by and let off something like ironical horse laughter. before it became dark, I proceeded to eat my supper, my berries, but not my trout. What a fuss we make about the holes upon strawberries. We are hypocritical. We may yet be glad to dine off the holes alone. Some people see something to pick and carpet and every good that comes to them. I was thankful that I had the berries and resolutely ignored their little scalloped ruffles, which I found pleased the eye and did not disturb the palate. When bedtime arrived, I found undressing a little awkward. My birth was so low, there was plenty of room in the aisle, and the other passengers were nowhere to be seen. But I did not venture out. It rains nearly all night. But the train made good speed and reached the land of Daybreak nearly on time. The water in the river had crept up during the nights to within a few inches of my boat, but I rolled over and took another nap all the same. Then my arrows had a delicious bath and the sweet swift running current and turned my thoughts toward breakfast. The making of the coffee was the only serious problem with everything soaked, and a fine rain still falling. How shall one build a fire I made my way to a little island above and crust of driftwood. Before I had found the wood, I chanced upon another patch of delicious wild strawberries and took an appetizer of them out of hand. Presently I picked up a yellow birch stick the size of my arm, the wood was decayed, but the bark was perfect. I broke it into punched out the rotten wood and had the bark intact. The fatty or resinous substance in this bark preserves it and makes it excellent kindling with some seasons twigs and a scrap of paper. I soon had a fire going that answered my every purpose. More berries were picked while the coffee was brewing and the breakfast was a success. The camper out often finds himself in what seems a distressing predicament to people seated in their snug well ordered houses. But there is often a real satisfaction when things come to their worst. A satisfaction in seeing what a small matter it is. After all, that one is really neither sugar nor salt to be afraid of the wet and that life is just as well worth living beneath a scow or a dugout as beneath the highest and broadest roof in Christendom. By 10 o'clock it became necessary to move on account of the rise of the water. And as the rain had abated, I picked up and continued my journey. Before long however, the rain increased again and I took refuge in a barn. The snug tree and powered farmhouse looked very inviting just across the road from the barn. But as no one was about and no faces appeared at the window that I might judge of the inmates. I contented myself with the hospitality the barn offered filling my pockets with some dry birch shavings I found there where the farmer had made an oxy oak against the needs of the next kindling. After an hour's detention, I was off again. I stopped at Baxter's Brook, which flows hard by the classic hamlet of Harvard and tried for trout, but with poor success, as I did not think it worthwhile to go far upstream. at several points I saw rafts of hemlock lumber tied to the shore, ready to take advantage of the first freshet. rafting is an important industry for 100 miles or more along the Delaware. The lumbermen sometimes take their families or friends and have a justification all the way to Trenton or to Philadelphia. In some places, the speed is very great, almost equaling that of an express train. The passage of such places as contract and falls and foul rift is attended with no little danger. The raft is guided by two immense oars, one before and one behind. I frequently saw these huge implements in the driftwood along shore, suggesting some colossal race of men. The rafts men have names of their own. From the upper Delaware, where I had set in small rafts are rundown, which they call cults. They come frisking down at the lively pace. At Hancock they usually coupled to rafts together, when I suppose they have a span of cults or due to cold to make one horse. Some parts of the framework of the raft they call grubs. much depends upon these grubs. The lumber men were and are a hardy virile race. The Honorable Charles Knapp of deposit now at three years of age, but with the look and step of a man of 60 told me he had stood nearly all one December day in the water to his waist, reconstructing his raft, which had gone to pieces on the head of an island. Mr. Knapp had passed the first half of his life in Colchester and Hancock. And although no sportsmen had once taken part in a great bear hunt there, the bear was an enormous one, and was hard pressed by a gang of men and dogs. Their muskets and assaults upon the beast with clubs had made no impression. Mr. Knapp saw where the bear was coming, and he thought he would show them how easy it was to dispatch a bear with a club. If you only knew where to strike. He had seen how quickly the largest hog would wilt beneath a slight blow across the small of the back. So armed with an immense hand spike, he took up a position by a large rock that the bear must pass. On, she came panting and nearly exhausted, and at the right moment, Down came the club with great force upon the small of her back. If a fly had alighted upon her, said Mr. Knapp, I think she would have paid just as much attention to it as she did to me. Early in the afternoon, I encountered another boy, Henry Ingersoll, who was so surprised by my sudden and unwanted appearance, that he did not know east from West. Which way is West, I inquired to see if my own head was straight on the subject. That way, he said, indicating East within a few degrees. You are wrong, I replied. Where does the sunrise there? He said, pointing almost in the direction he had pointed before. But does not the sun rise in the East here as well as elsewhere? I rejoined. Well, they call that West anyhow. But Henry's needle was subjected to a disturbing influence just then. His house was near the river, and he was its sole guardian and keeper for the time. His father had gone off to the next neighbors. It was Sunday, and his sister had gone with the school mistress down the road to get black birch. He came out in the road with wide eyes to view me as I passed, when I drew rain and demanded the points of the compass as above. Then I shook my city pail at him and asked for milk. Yes, I could have some milk, but I would have to wait till his sister came back. After he had recovered a little, he concluded he could get it. He came for my pail, and then his boyish curiosity appeared. My story interested him immensely. He had seen 12 summers, but he had been only four miles from home up and down the river. He had been down to the east branch, and he had been up to trout Brook. He took a pecuniary interest in me. What did my pole cost? What my rubber coat and what my revolver the ladder he must take in his hand. He had never seen such a thing to shoot with before in his life, etc. He thought I might make the trip cheaper and easier by stage and by the cars. He went to school. There were six scholars in summer, one or two more in winter. The population is not crowded in the town of Hancock, certainly, and never will be. The people live close to the bone. As Thoreau would say, or rather close to the stump. Many years ago, the young men there resolved upon having a ball. They concluded not to go to a hotel on account of the expense, and so chose a private house. There was a man in the neighborhood who could play the five. He offered to furnish the music for 75 cents, but this was deemed too much so one of the party agreed to whistle history does not tell how many bows there were bent upon this reckless enterprise, but there were three girls for refreshments they bought a couple of gallons of whiskey and a few pounds of sugar. When the Spree was over, and the expenses were reckoned up, there was a shilling, a York shilling apiece to pay. Some of the revelers were dissatisfied with this charge, and intimated that the managers had not counted themselves in but taxed the whole expense upon the rest of the party. As I moved on, I saw Henry's sister enter the school mistress, picking their way along the muddy road near the rivers bank. One of them saw me and dropping her skirts said to the other, I could read the motions. See that man. The other lowered her flounces and looked up and down the road, then glanced over into the field. And lastly, out upon the river. They paused and had a good look at me, though, I could see that their impulse to run away, like that of a frightened deer was strong. At the East branch, the big beaver killed joins the Delaware, almost doubling its volume. Here I struck the railroad before Lauren Midland. And here another set of men and manners cropped out what may be called the railroad conglomerate, overlying this mountain Freestone. Where did you steal that boat and what you're running away for? greeted me from a hand car that went by. I paused for some time and watched the fish hawks or Ospreys of which they were nearly a dozen sailing about above the junction of the two streams squealing and diving and occasionally striking the fish on the rifts. I am convinced that the fish Hawk sometimes feeds on the wing. I saw him do it on this and On another occasion. He raises himself by a peculiar motion and brings his head and his talents together and apparently takes a bite of a fish. While doing this, his flight presents a sharply undulating line. At the crest of each rise. The morsel is taken. In a long deep Eddy under the West Shore, I came upon a brood of wild ducks, the hooded merganser the young we're about half grown, but of course entirely destitute of plumage. They started off at great speed, kicking the water into foam behind them. The mother duck keeping upon their flank and rear. Near the outlet of the pool. I saw them go ashore, and I expected they would conceal themselves in the woods. But as I drew near the place, they came out and I saw by their emotions, they were going to make a rash by me upstream. At a signal from the old one on they came and passed within a few feet of me. It was almost incredible the speed they made. Their pink feed were like swiftly revolving wheels placed a little to the rear. their breasts just skimmed the surface, and the water was beaten into spray behind them. They had no need of wings. Even the mother bird did not use hers. a steamboat could hardly have kept up with them. I dropped my paddle and cheered. They kept the race up for a long distance, and I saw them making a fresh spurt as I entered upon the Rift and dropped quickly out of sight. I next disturbed an eagle in his meditations upon a dead tree top and the cat sprang out of some weeds near the foot of the tree. Was he watching for posts while she was watching for some smaller prey. I passed Partridge Island, which is or used to be the name of a post office unwittingly and encamped for the night on an island near Hawke's point. I slept in my boat on the beach and in the morning my locks were literally wet with the do's of the night. And my blankets too. So I waited for the sun to dry them. As I was gathering driftwood for a fire. A voice came over from the shadows of the East shore. Seems to me you lay a bed pretty late. I call this early, I rejoined, glancing at the sun. While it may be early in the for noon, but it ain't very early in the morning. A distinction I was forced to admit. Before I had re embarked, some cows came down to the shore and I watched them forward the river to the island. They did it with great ease and precision. I was told they will sometimes During high water, swim over to the islands, striking in well upstream and swimming diagonally across. At one point some cattle had crossed the river and evidently got into mischief for a large dog rushed them down the bank into the current and worried them all the way over part of the time swimming and part of the time leaping very high as a dog will and deep snow coming down with a great splash. The cattle were shrouded with spray as they ran, and altogether It was a novel picture. My voyage ended that for noon at Hancock, and it was crowned by a few idyllic days with some friends in their cottage in the woods by Lake oquawka. a body of crystal water on the hills near deposit and a haven as peaceful and perfect as Voyager ever came to poured in. Hi, this is Brett Barry, the narrator and to learn a little bit more about this essay and the man who wrote it. I sat down with Diane Galicia in parkville, New York where john burrows unloaded his boat from the train and began his journey. My name is Diane Galicia I am a resident of Margaretville in Delaware County since I moved to Delaware County in 1982. been a big fan of john Burroughs and have been on the board at Woodchuck lodge Inc, now known as john Burroughs would Chuck lodge since about 2002. I work at the Catskill watershed Corporation as the communications director and the education coordinator. Tell me a bit about the Woodchuck Lodge, which Chuck Lodge is a nonprofit organization that was established in the mid 1970s, to maintain the beautiful 1862 farmhouse in Roxbury. That was john burrows kind of summer home, his retirement place between 1910 and 1920. He was born in the vicinity just up the road and a farmhouse on a homestead where he and his siblings were raised. And he left early though when he was 17 or so and became a school teacher, and returned as an old man to first rent and then purchase this little rustic farmhouse that was in the family. It was on one end of the family homestead farm. That's where he returned each spring, like may or so starting in 1910. And you would spend the summers in it well into October in his old stomping grounds, so john Burroughs seems a little less known than other nature writers like Henry David Thoreau, and john Muir. Why is that and I understand that in his time, he was more famous than those other writers. I think it might have to do with the fact that john Burroughs wrote and thought, and philosophized more about an individual's connection to and response to nature. And that, you know, all you had to do was sort of reach out and touch it and, and in order to appreciate it and thus to love it, and thus to protect it. I think, throw Thoreau was a more of an ascetic he was, I think, not perhaps as people oriented. And he wrote books that became famous in and of themselves, and his legacy endured, and murer was more of a wilderness champion. And, and I think that struck a chord with some folks this whole conservation ethic to protect and preserve the wild places that are all are in all of our imaginations, and there's little, a little sexier, maybe then, you know, Burroughs talking about going outside and, and you know, taking a look at, you know, insects or a plant or paying attention to a bird in your backyard, you know, although for that very reason, burrows was very famous in his own day, because that was a message that resonated with people. And he wrote essays he kind of perfected the, the short nature essay that were published in a lot of the popular magazines, literary magazines of the day. And so a lot of people read them and then a lot of people bought the the volumes of these compiled essays as He, he was kind of a naturalist of the people very revered, because he was so accessible and his work was so accessible. So reading this essay, he's talking about places that I've never heard of before, like Barca boom and shavertown. And I noticed that there between the towns of basically art Ville and Townsville, can you tell us what happened to this river, from the time that that, that Burroughs navigated it to now, these branch of the Delaware River, which was memorialized in this essay, and in history, really, with by the name of pakhtun, was dammed to in the late 1940s, to provide water for New York City. And the dam was constructed in Townsville, and by 1954, all of the communities and there were four of them, plus all the farms in the valley, backing up from Townsville, about 22 miles, almost a Margaretville were cleared, that area was all cleared and is now a giant reservoir, actually the largest by volume in the New York City system, which includes something like 18 reservoirs, you know, for generations. Prior to that it was a farming Valley. And there were several Hamlet's there, he said in an arc Ville and he would have gone past Margaretville, and then arena, and then union Grove, which is where the Barco boom stream comes in. It's still known as the Barco boom, but union Grove was where the Barco boom stream came out. And that was one of the Hamlet's that was taken. And then shavertown and which is where he spent a rainy rainstorm under the shavertown covered bridge. And then the hamlet of pakhtun, which was a few miles from Brownsville, and the covered bridge where he sought shelter from another rainstorm in Townsville is still there, actually, and you can still drive over it. But all of those farm folks and the, the, the Hamlet's that he passed, were gone, subsequently. And what strikes me about this essay, and what happened, since he wrote it, is the focus on water in all its guises. I mean, he was paddling down this river, and as a trout fisherman, and he was really attracted to it, it was good fishing, and it sustained all kinds of bird live, which he refers to, and attracted all kinds of other folks, you know, the boys on their handmade rafts and the other of the man who was fishing on the boulder and the the farmers whose cows were watered by the river. And then it rains and it rains and rain, there must have rained a lot on that week long journey down to Hancock. And so he sets him to musing a little bit about the treasure that is water. And, you know, it kind of gets him to thinking about how resilient we are. And it's not so bad to be out there. And then in the midst of nature, and he makes it all the way to Hancock, that is where the East branch of the Delaware River joins the main stem of the Delaware. And that that river then proceeds, you know, between Pennsylvania and New Jersey and ends up in Delaware Bay. So there is this sense of connection, I think that he felt with the larger world. And then, you know, to know what became of that river some years hence, I think he would have been devastated by it. I and now though I don't think he he would could ever have imagined when he was voting down the east branch down the pact and that it would one day be a giant lake. Aside from the reservoir, what else about that stretch of the river would surprise him now where the river remains the same is between arc Ville and the end dunraven which is a stretch of probably four miles or so. And you know, clearly it's there are no farms there any longer and that stretch. You know, it's pretty much built up. He would be paddling past the village of Margaretville and the recreation field and the way water treatment plant that the city built the school big school. In his day, of course, the schools were all one room schools. Bridges now that cross the river are, are made for heavy trucks and cars which of course were not there in his day, and there'd be no horses to see him be quite a different scene for sure. And then what about the stretch from Townsville to Hancock? Is that still river? Yeah, actually, that's true. downstream from the Townsville dam, I won't say it's exactly the same, because there have been a lot of floods. And that's another interesting point that the river has changed over the generations. It, you know, nature has its way. And there have been a number of storms and floods that have changed its course from time to time. So I'm not sure that he would actually recognize this the same course that the river takes today, but it is not as developed, that's for sure. It is still pretty wild country. There are a lot of vacation homes and cabins and things but I wouldn't. I don't know. I don't know if it's if he'd he'd really recognize it. If I wanted to put a canoe into the East branch of the Delaware River and try to replicate some of what burrows did, would I be able to on any stretch of it? Sure. The recreational boating businesses is a big one actually. In in the Catskills and particularly on the perfekten Reservoir today, you can actually put a kayak and a canoe on the reservoir itself and paddle around although it'd be quite a different experience than then being in the river, you're on this giant Lake, below the reservoir below the dam, you can put in a canoe and kayak and go and take the same journey really down to East branch and the main stem and Hancock one thing I'm sure you couldn't do, which really struck me reading this is knock on farmers doors and ask for milk. And you know, take take kids aboard and for a stretch of the of the journey without their parents knowing he seemed to forage for most of his food, trout berries, what was the connection with all this milk, there seems to be this constant search for milk and requests for milk yet this bucket that he carried around, and not just milk but milk with yellow flecks of cream in it, he didn't want the blue skim milk that this one lady gave him I think was he was a farm boy. And that's what he was raised on. That's what he did as a kid was milk the cows in the bucket and probably drank right out of the bucket. as a as a youngster. And maybe this was you know, a harkening back to that era when you were when he was a kid and wanted a little adventure and, you know, wanted to kind of run away from home like one of these little boys that he encountered had done. And his older brother went and collected them and is bringing them back. I'd love to know what the parents thought when they these two boys arrived back. I thought I loved those two encounters with those children and the the other pair of kids who, who took them around Townsville, and kind of introduced him to people and we're all excited about this strange visitor in their midst. But yeah, I think that familiarity, the ease with which, in that era, you could stop at someone's house and ask for help or directions or water or milk or whatever it was an egg or a place to sleep in the barn. I mean, even not ask them you could just stop and find nobody at home and go climbing the haimo and taking a nap. Today you'd be arrested or shot or or something. But then it was accepted. You know, it was a neighborly thing to do to be accommodating in that way. So aside from the couple of kids that he took along with them for that brief stretch, I understand there was a more concerted effort to find a companion for the trip. Can you tell us about that or maybe read a little bit of that letter. JOHN Burroughs had written to a friend of his Myron Benton in who lived down in the Hudson Valley was a farmer as well and a fisherman and he thought Benton would be a bunny companion, I guess. And so he wrote to him in June and told him of this trip that he thought he might like to take and invited him to come along. So I'll read from that letter. I have just finished a boat for a trip down the Delaware, the East branch of which is called the pakhtun. And I want you to come and go with To me, I suppose the absurdity of the proposition fairly takes your breath away. But I mean it. My farm is not my master yet and I hope you dare to snub yours. I say to my berries and my garden and all the rest get behind me Satan. Do you do the same? I want to start soon after the 15th and go down to the Delaware water gap. We could make the trip from where I should put the boat in in Delaware County to Hancock in about five days. It will take us through a wild picture us country and we will just live on locusts and wild honey. Write me by return mail and say you will go well, he didn't go. He either didn't have the time or he couldn't leave his farm as Burroughs proposed to do and but he wrote later in August and suggested that Burroughs perhaps had gotten a lot of grist for some future writings, which he did, which he did and Burroughs had replied, I had no adventures and no hair breadth escapes and but little to write about. But you know, a writer gets only the seed corn of his article from without, he grows the main crop himself, as he writes, at least I do. And we know he did. Can you tell me a little bit more about the significance of this immediate region today especially the protection reservoir, which grew out of this stretch of river? Well, this region of the Catskills is now recognized as kind of the the lifeblood of New York City. It is the New York City watershed. We are in the middle of it here in Roxbury, Margaretville, Middletown area. And the pakhtun reservoir is one of six huge reservoirs in this region that supplies New York City with 90% or more of its water over a billion gallons a day. So there is much activity on many programs in the watershed to protect the quality of this water and to preserve the communities that are here, who the people who live here really are the stewards of this water. And so, this region, which not only has these reservoirs, but a lot of protected lands, the Catskill Forest Preserve, which is state land in new york city owns a lot of of land also which is which will never be developed, makes this a very green oasis. It always will be and in that respect, it would be familiar to Burroughs. Coming back today. The mountains that he tramped many of the rivers that he fished are the same and we are blessed to to live here. living and working in the Catskills. Do you feel that spirit of Burroughs still alive in some way? Oh, yeah, I I definitely believe that Burroughs spirit still lives here. Particularly at Woodchuck Lodge, I have to say if you if you walk in the door there, it's very much a place where his spirit is evident. And I will say that his reputation, if you will, is building again, I think there is a groundswell of of new interest in Burroughs. There's been a lot of scholarly attention to him and his writings. There are environmental education efforts underway, that that call him to mind and and introduce a whole new generation of children to the wonders of nature that he promoted. And so yeah, his spirit lives on as long as the dandelions bloom and the trout are swimming in the East branch. He'll be here
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