Growing up, I had no sense of living in Bradford County. I did know my address before I went to school even, whether that address ended in Monroeton or Towanda, Pennsylvania, but I had no sense of it being in Bradford County or what that might mean.
However, after a lifetime of living all over the world, it came to me today. Jim suggested that we take a drive out to the mountains, read that out Schrader Creek Road, up over Barclay Mountain to Sunfish Pond State Park and back over some of the most scenic roads you can imagine. And some of those roads we saw twice because bridges we and our GPS had trusted would be there clearly were not, leaving us deep in State Game Lands, the kind of game lands you cannot get to from here with no option but to back down narrow untamed roads until we found a spot wide enough and safe enough to turn around.
Affection for a nearly dry and rock-filled creek washed over me as we turned off the hard top road, we call them that in these parts, to what had been a dirt road in my childhood. I practically leaned out the window checking out the creek where, at some point in its journey or another, my siblings and I had learned to swim. Then it struck me, who feels affection for a creek bed?
I did a quick life history check that took me back to my earliest memories, when among other jobs, my father served as a forest fire warden on out this road we now traveled, out this road and turning right, thread your way up a seriously rutted path now, less so when Daddy took us up in his post -WII rag top Jeep. I remember my mother holding as tight as she could to my little sister and me as we climbed the steel steps up to the box mounted on top from which my father surveyed the neighboring mountaintops and forests for signs of a fire.
Two things come to me in that memory, the first my mother’s fear taking us up those steps. I still sweat bullets looking over heights, and secondly, I love the mountains. I mean silly love the mountains, like I want to hug them sometimes, breathing in the smell of leftover snow and wet leaves in the winter clear round to the fall perfume of falling leaves and that breeze wafting off the lake or pond or creek, something undefinable, but nourishing to my soul.
So we drove out Schrader Creek to Big Lamoka, a wide space in the creek bed where my mother used to sit in a rock whirlpool set just so by the hand of God, where I cooked Jim hamburgers for the first time on a flat rock where he built his first, for me, Boy Scout fire. And humor me here, where we used to take Ivory soap in the summer and my little sister and I would wash our hair in the crystal clear water, little girls in matching blue and white polka dotted swimsuits…all these memories from the scrapbook hanging in the air when I search out the pull-off for Big Lamoka.
We drove on out the road, climbing up the face of one mountain peering through the trees, golden light slashing through the dark shadows revealing sister mountains so close I felt like I could almost reach one if I had a snowball to throw. And when I had the nerve to do more than look across at the sister mountain, I cautiously looked between them at the creeks and peaks, the stony cliffs and drop-offs they had birthed.
We rounded a bend and the thick forest gave way to an open meadow, dotted with young saplings, reminders of that time when lumber was king in these parts, and the mountains I so loved were clear-cut, the mature trees floated down the river past Williamsport and on to Philadelphia to be sold where rich people could afford fine furniture and homes from wood rooted in Bradford County.
For a time I fought tears as I searched through the forest as we drove on, searching for trees as thick as the beautiful willows on the lake edge as I type this. All I could see was young trees, and it occurred to me I should be thankful for the young trees that shelter the plenteous game here and that hold that dirt fast preventing the sliding away and down the mountain of the rich loamy soil. I had seen that happen in other parts of the country.
We drove across the top of Barclay Mountain, through what was once a thriving coal town, then lumber town. Now only the cemetery remains and that off the main dusty road. But on we drove through the game lands (thick forest challenged only by deer and bear hunters) on to Sunfish Pond.
We rounded the pond in search of our place, a picnic table on the edge of the water where we could watch the wind whisper ripples to us and where we had laid in many family memories – like the time I put my still hot from the fire cast iron skillet, now empty of its blueberry dumplings, and heard it crack. Don’t ever put a hot cast iron skillet in cold water!!
On our ride home I confessed my affection for the wild beauty of the creek, the forest and the mountains, as if my sweet husband didn’t already know, but I added that I loved as well the tamed beauty of the hills where we would soon sleep. There’s something calming and restorative about looking at the hills on the other side of the small valley, pastures and corn fields, barns and neat homes like green and gold appliqued quilt squares.
So now when someone mentions Bradford County, I know what they mean. They mean home.
11 thoughts on “Coming Home to Bradford County ”
I grew up outside of LeRoy … traveled to Sunfish Pond many times to fish and pick huckleberries.. was in 4H and the July4 parades back in the 50s… HOME!
I remember these things well as a teenager. I also have lived several places, but no place like HOME!
I am a Brad CCO native and really enjoyed our little trip together. would like to know who wrote this? I couldn’t find a name.
I wrote it, my name is Carol Brennan King. Born and raised in Bradford County, I now live in Wyoming County.
Carol Brennan King
I have those same type of memories except it is for the drive on Armenia Mountain. Starting in Morris Run driving to Fallbrook Road in Troy. MY dad and his siblings were born on Armenia Mountain. There is a Burguess Homestead it probably isn’t there any longer because of development. Our families Christmas presents were bought with money that my 5 siblings and I would spend our summers driving through Armenia Mts. on all the back roads looking for the ideal place to pick, a small plant resembling a very small pine tree called “Ground Pine”. We would spend hours on our hand and knees pulling the plant and putting it in a burlap bag, later it would be sold to make Christmas Wreaths. That was most of our summers after we sold the family farm. Kept us out of trouble. We did get to know a lot about the mountains, every now and then there would be an abandoned car left in the middle of no where. My dad would name each one of these cars by one of us kids names. Two reasons for that, one should we ever get lost it would give us some sort of land mark to look for and two it would serve as a life lesson he tried to teach us by telling us if we didn’t become good drivers that is what the car will look like.
What a Wonderful remembrance that is.
So Glad You have shared Your Love of Bradford
County. I actually felt I was in the back seat straining to see with You.
Oh Yes, Our Heavenly Father gives Us a
Glance of Heaven ,In Bradford County.
Growing up in Towanda, I’ve always loved the mountains and streams. Living around the country, I always find my way back to the mountains, rivers and spring creeks if they’re present.
Returning over the years to Bradford County has always been a welcome repast, taking in the natural beauty. However, I was disheartened to see the drilling and water trucks consuming the countryside.
Living in Montana for 8 years, I picked up fly fishing. I’ve enjoyed venturing into the Bradford county streams. There’s no better way to see the beauty of the area than wading a stream.
I look forward to my next visit as always.
Such beautiful words and memories of Bradford County. I grew up in Monroeton and my dad was the rural mail carrier for many years for much of the area you described. I have fond memories of him taking me on rides with him and of the fishing trips he would go on at the Schrader Creek etc. I now live in NYS but often think about the beauty and history of the area, and miss those mountains as well. Thanks for sharing your wonderful journey with us.