The Delaware Water Gap

The creek and trees in the Delaware water gap national recreation area

The Delaware Water Gap helps form the border between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. This is where the Delaware River has been busy carving through the Kittatinny Ridge for more than 400 million years.

The gap itself is about a quarter of a mile wide near the river, but about a mile wide at the top of its two sides, according to park information. The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, a 70,000-acre park, allows visitors to explore this natural wonder in many different ways. The park celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.

Created by Congress on September 1, 1965, Delaware Water Gap was established to preserve the natural, culture, and scenic resources and values of the Delaware River valley and provide opportunities for recreation, education, and enjoyment in close proximity to the most densely populated region of the nation,” according to the park’s website.

Appalachian trail marker on tree
Keep left for the Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail passes through, along with more than 100 miles of other hiking trails. People visit each year for hiking, boating, swimming, picnicking, biking, fishing & hunting, exploring historical sites, and for special events.

When I was little, my family went to this park for hikes and later for backpacking. After he retired, my dad walked through on his journey to complete the Appalachian Trail in its entirety.

Mossy rocks and the creek in the Delaware water gap park

The gap is also significant to me because from a young age it was a marker for my sisters and me on our family’s long drives to Ohio to visit my grandparents several times each year. After about an hour of driving through New Jersey, we would pass through the gap into Pennsylvania’s miles of endless oblivion, with the promise of nothing to good look at and nowhere fun to stop.

Creek and trees in the Delaware Water gap park

This was where the real journey began. Would we ever make it to Gramma and Grandpa’s, or would we succumb to whining and madness? Would we find the strength to behave ourselves in the backseat, or would the sport of sibling taunting bring out the bullies and the tattle-tales in us? Would we push mom so far that she would tell us we weren’t allowed to get a happy meal?

Trees and sunlight in the Delaware water gap park

As a child, I didn’t appreciate the panoramic views of the gorgeous rolling farmland, mountains, rivers, valleys, unspoiled wilderness and all that the beautiful state of Pennsylvania has to offer. I only knew it was 6 hours of impossible boredom. And it all started with the ancient and enormous Delaware Water Gap.

Last year, I made three trips through the gap when my Gramma got ill and when she passed. Grampa has been gone for years, and the time had come time for Gramma to complete her long journey. Those were the last of the visits to Gramma by way of the Delaware Water Gap.

A trail in the Delaware water gap park

Finally, in summer, I drove to the gap and stopped there for a couple hours of peace and tranquility. A walk through the park was what I needed. The sounds of the water rushing over rocks calmed me as I watched the creek flow past old rhododendrons and hemlocks. They have been growing since I was a kid. Probably before. On the ground, ferns bobbed on breezes under tall trees. Summer’s sunlight and heat was diffused by the forest. It was perfect. Just like it’s been for the past 400 million years.

Peonies Are Different This Year

Peonies and rosesLast year I was in love with the bunch of peonies I got at the farm, but this year was different. The first half of the month, when the peonies came out, I was visiting my gramma to say goodbye. And then back again several days later, after she passed away, for the funeral.

When we buried my gramma, her casket was adorned with peonies and roses, two of her favorite flowers. I didn’t realize that she loved peonies–I knew she was always proud of her roses. She grew so many different kinds of flowers in her gardens, and I never knew that peonies were second in her heart to her roses. I also learned that I inherited my love of brownies from her. We always enjoyed some sweets when we visited her, but I never knew that brownies were her favorite, too.

This year, all the peonies are for my gramma.

Old Feet

Pink rose

I rubbed your old feet just the other day. I hope it brought you some comfort as you groaned and winced in your hospice-issued bed while we waited for the morphine to take effect. I hope that, if only for a few moments, your 91-year-old feet felt good. Loved. Looser and freer like they did when you were younger. Before disease crept into your mind and body. Before you watched as your siblings and husband died throughout these last years. Before your feet took you to their funerals and graves, leaving you feeling lonely.

Your feet have walked you through a long and full life. Carried you through your childhood on the farm, through school, marriage, jobs, and three pregnancies. They helped you chase after your children, and later, your grandchildren, and even later, they helped you to hold and bounce your great-grandchildren on your knees. How many hours did your feet spend standing in the kitchen? Cooking delicious food for your family, your children’s families, and their families, too? All the cooking, cleaning, caring, playing, bathing, dressing, diapering, working, shopping, and living that those feet have helped you do have made so many people happy.

Your feet have not been used for standing or walking for several days now, and they never will again. For now, for a little longer, we share the same world, but soon you will move on. I am grateful, as is my mom, as are my children, for all that you have done for us. Please know that we will love you forever, Gramma.