Cool and Green and Shady

The wild woods and waters of central Pennsylvania are dear to me; none more so than those of the Shade Mountain in Juniata County, where I grew up. Every July, my father's family has a reunion on the Sunday closest to my grandmother's birthday, at a nearby hunting camp where my father and brother and cousins are members.

While my grandmother has been gone from us for many years now, my father and his two sisters and the remaining families continue to uphold the family reunion tradition (more about them in a Blip from last year's reunion: My Father and His Two Sisters, Laughing). These days, it is still an opportunity for all of us to enjoy some time together, perhaps a walk in the woods or a wade in the creek, and some good food.

My own contribution to the feast on this day was ranch-style baked beans, cooked in a crock pot for about four hours on high, containing a pound of ground beef and a half-pound of bacon. Traveling with a hot crock pot is always a bit of a challenge. I try to let it cool off for at least a little while before wrapping it in clean towels, placing it in a laundry basket, and then putting all of that into one of the large soft-pack coolers I keep in the trunk of my car. Have baked beans, will travel! Then, when I get there, I plug the crock pot back in and set it on low until it's time to eat.

But just before the meal, my cousin and I hiked up Lost Creek to see some water falls that are locally famous. The hunting camp is within walking distance of my parents' home, and so the trail to the falls is one that I've been walking ever since I was big enough to toddle along. I have talked about these woods before in at least one prior Blip, Caution: Ent Crossing! When I am there, I am home.

The water fall in this scene is not the main, large one at the top of the trail, but one of the side ones we stopped at along the way. My cousin, whom I hardly ever get to see, owned an earlier generation of the same camera that I started out with when I joined Blip, long before I owned mine. I upgraded just before Thanksgiving, and she recently upgraded too; now she and I use the same model of camera, the Canon SX 50 HS. "Let's go shoot our Canons together!" she said. "Yes, of course!" I replied.

With a common sense of esthetics and a shared love of the woods, we had a grand time trekking up the stream bed, stopping anywhere and everywhere for photos. But we were moving expeditiously because we knew we just barely had time to make the hike up and back before dinner would be served!

We did not know it at the time, but a sad event would darken our day. My oldest sister (the one I just went to the beach with) wrecked her car, a 2004 Ford Taurus, on the way to the reunion. There was some kind of mechanical problem with the car, she lost control of it, and the car hit the guard rails. But she managed to drive the injured car to my parents' drive way, where it sits even as I type this; a family member arranged a ride home for her from there.

My sister was shook up and sore (and probably will be for a while) but she apparently escaped the event without serious injury. The prognosis for the car is uncertain. And while cars can be replaced, big sisters can't. We thank God for my sister's life and for her safety; while the accident was plenty bad, it could have been much, much worse.

But at the time I took this picture, I didn't know any of that. My cousin and I were blissfully exploring the stream bed, enjoying our time together, and doing something we love more than almost anything else: taking pictures. During the years that I lived at home, my cousin and I used to like to play guitar and sing together. John Denver songs were among our favorites. And the song that we found ourselves singing on this afternoon was perfect for these mountain scenes we love: Cool and Green and Shady. So that is the soundtrack for this day.

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