March Dusk

March Dusk

This week, the eastern sky reflected the sunset, highlighting waves of clouds on the horizon.

The snowpack in the backyard is well over 2 feet deep; the recent messy mix of weather, if anything, added to it’s depth.

Temperatures are back in the teens and forecasted to remain so.

Despite her best efforts, the snow is simply too deep for doggie to accompany me on all but the shortest skis. She is willing but simply lacks the ground clearance for trekking comfortably in bottomless snow.

Downhill skiing conditions are spectacular. Day after day of groomed corduroy, at times dusted with a couple of inches of fresh snow. Pretty much perfect.

The cross-country trails have been left to rest a few days until after the weather settles down.

Unless one is inclined to break trail through knee deep snow, The D&H Rail Trail seems to be the best option for adventure. Plenty of coverage for skiing, and the surface packed down by snowmobiles offers the best opportunity for skiing and snow shoeing.

Even for those of us who live for Winter, our thoughts are going towards hopes for a graceful snow pack reduction. Sunny days that will corn up the snow surface, and gently diminish the depth of the snow, followed by sub-freezing nights to halt the melting  is our hope.

Include a few light snowfalls to keep things fresh and festive, and Spring will seem to arrive at just the right time.





Too Winter?

Too Winter?
Too Winter?

A few weeks ago, someone was remarking how much shoveling they have had to do, and asked if I was in a similar situation.

“Uh uh, I just wear taller boots” I said.

Earlier this week, I awoke before dawn and was so happy that the temperature was much warmer than had been forecasted. Then I noticed the small dash in front of the 14 on the display – 14 below instead of 14 above.

That same morning, the Ski King’s auto thermometer reported a low of 26 below air temperature as he drove through the Elkdale valley.

On top of Elk, a mere 5 below as the rest of the cold air had settled into the valleys.

Frost has canted the back door just enough to render it unusable.

Temperatures in the lower 20’s had me perspiring, shedding layers to stay comfortable.

Nearly two feet of snow in the back yard; at least another foot higher up.

Too Winter? Nope, this is just how I remember winters from “the good old days”. Nice to have them back.

February Dawn

February Dawn
February Dawn

The weather station in the backyard reported a low of almost 11 degrees below zero this morning.

The thin, icy base of the snowpack is now buried under more than a foot of snow. One of the middle layers, comprised of several inches of such light, delightful snow, that the Ski King reported it to have provided one of the 5 best ski days at Elk ever; “Deeper snow on Monday, but lighter snow on Friday”.

Setting cross-country ski tracks in single digit weather through 12” plus snow, deepens the appetite. The usual nightly bowl of soup had to be replaced with some meat, a mound of mashed potatoes, and green beans. Even so, body fat keeps diminishing; episodes of nine and ten hours of sleep are barely adequate to keep soreness from settling into legs, arms, shoulders.

Hardly any time to fit in supper before the bed, trimmed in two thick comforters, beckons to it’s haven from the cold.

Faithful Labrador bounds through the snow like a seal through water. Earlier in the season, with less snow, her meanderings traced her interests as we proceeded on our adventures. Now, the snow so deep, she patiently follows me in the wake of my tracks rather than hazard the exertion of jogging through unbroken snow.

As we ascended a particularly steep pitch along a ridge corniced by the wind, she left my track and climbed the slope where the caprice of the wind had scoured almost all the snow down to near bare ground.

Our eyes met; hers curious as to why I continued on my straight and true strenuous course through deep drifts of wind deposited snow as she, only a few feet away, the snow barely to her dew claws, jogged easily up the hill.

We continued across the high meadow as swirls of snow, coaxed by a stiff 20mph+ wind, rose from the snowpack. On one end of the sky, far off bright orange betrayed the point at which the sun sank behind the distant horizon. The near skyline dominated by Elk as the night skiing lights became illuminated.

Upon awakening just before dawn, the view of Elk included the white of the moon, the snow, and the amber glow of the mountain lights reflected off of a solitary cloud.

Cold temperatures, near bottomless snowpack, no above freezing temperatures forecasted for the foreseeable future, plenty to eat, a warm dry bed for rest, and a faithful Labradorian companion with whom to enjoy all this; it may not be everyone’s vision of paradise, but it works pretty well for me.


by Karen Bernhardt Toolan   for

the Clifford Township Historical Society

CLIFFORD TOWNSHIP PA —    Born during the planning of the Township’s bicentennial celebration just a short decade ago, the Clifford Township Historical Society (CTHS) has tirelessly endeavored to collect, document, and preserve more than 200 years of local history.  Documentation and countless memorabilia relating to the early settlement of Clifford and the surrounding areas has continuously flowed into the Society to help build a flourishing local museum that educates, informs, and entertains visitors throughout the year.  The group has also renovated the Hoover School (circa 1861-1942), while also collecting, restoring, and preserving artifacts, photos and paintings that help share family stories and endless tales that would otherwise go unknown.  Currently, the CTHS is in the throes of also renovating the old Yarns Cider Mill, with definitive plans to have the original equipment pressing cider once again.

Since its fledgling inception in 2005, many of the initial mission-stated intentions of this non-profit organization have literally become dreams fulfilled.  How has this happened?  “Clifford Township is known for the wonderful volunteer spirit it has,” said Sandy Wilmot, CTHS President.  “We wanted to collect, document, and preserve our precious history.  Our goal of fostering in our residents an appreciation of this area’s rich history through community programs, exhibits, and events has fulfilled the interests of those who live here and those who regularly come to visit.  This past year especially has been very productive for our group.  Without the generous monetary and in-kind donations — along with some of the grants we’ve been fortunate to receive — it’s doubtful that much of our success would have been achieved.”

Early in 2014, the Township’s Community Center, which houses the Museum of Local History, benefitted from a 50 percent donation of butternut boards from Ordie Price’s Sawmill to add wainscoting to the site.  “Produced in the early ‘60s, the boards needed planning, edging, sanding, and staining,” Wilmot explained.  “Twenty-six stalwart volunteers helped with all this work, and the results are very impressive.”

Last Spring, CTHS added an authentic reproduction of Lott’s Blacksmith Shop to the museum, where, again, donations brought this to fruitimage002ion.  The shared contracting skills of Jerry Lewandowski are especially evident on this project.  “James and Janet Corey donated all the vintage wooden board and beams for the shop,” said Wilmot.  “The interior items came from folks throughout the township who scoured their barns, basements, and attics for vintage items.  The original bellows were from Lott’s Blacksmith Shop, which operated near Clifford corners in the 1880s.  They were generously donated by Walter Spedding who’d stored them for decades in his garage in Connecticut.

“The museum’s exhibit of our treasured Elk Mountain fire tower map has been complimented by a colorfully realistic mural painted by Michelle Jaconia McLain.  It depicts the westerly view that would have been seen by the wardens stationed in the fire tower atop Elk Mountain during the fall fire season.  We’re also in the process of adding a verbal narrative to the museum’s canoe display and an exhibit portraying the typical family farm at the end of the nineteenth century.”

Renovation of the Yarns Cider Mill at the Suraci Farm continued through last Fall.  “This is our biggest and most laborious project to date,” Wilmot eximage004plained.  “It was initiated with grateful thanks to Gloria Suraci Bilotta who signed a 100-year lease with the Society for just a dollar a year.”  During recent months, Wilmot explained that the building’s exterior has been totally reconstructed with a new steel roof and new hemlock doors and siding, to which batten and red paint will be added this year.  “The original windows were patiently restored by volunteer Hank Wildenberg,” she added, “and he has done an amazing job.  The mill parking area is nearly complete, too, with handsome fieldstone work and signage.  Renovation work on the original equipment inside the mill will continue this year, with our goal of pressing cider once again.  Everyone is really excited at the prospect of seeing more of our local history literally come alive.”

Also this year, the CTHS has been invited to establish an agricultural museum in the large building at the Clifford Volunteer Firemen’s Picnic Grounds.  “This will be another long-term project,” said Wilmot, “but this year we’ll see many farm items on display.  Toward this end, we’re looking for any old farm items – from machinery to hand tools and pictures – that can be added to our collections to further enhance the agricultural museum.”

The CTHS invites anyone with items and information of local and/or regional area historical significance that could be lent or donated to the museums to contact them at 570-679-2723 or on their newly designed website,   Known locally as “the little society that does big things,” Wilmot added that “our group’s residents and the volunteers themselves are the backbone of our rural Society.  We’re grateful to all of them for their time, talents, and donations.  Without each one, we wouldn’t be able to preserve our history.”

January Dawn

January Dawn
January Dawn – “Red in the morning, sailors take warning” or “The start of the best day ever!”

Refuged in our homes from the season’s deepest cold and dark, absent focus, minds can turn listless or anxious.

A brilliant scarlet dawn can be seen as a threat to “take warning”, harbinger of a day probable with difficulties. Or, it can be seen as bright evidence of an extraordinarily beautiful start to a day ripe with possibility.

It is easy to see life as a constant struggle – that we are rarely presented with what we expect or what we feel entitled to on our own terms. Closer to the truth is that we are almost always presented with the opportunities to get exactly what we want or need. Whether our desires are realized or not is based on the choices we make.

There is a story of a very devout, but stubborn man who lived in a modest house along a river. A storm provoked the river to compromise it’s banks, and the man, trying to escape the flood waters, found himself on the roof of his home.

The man’s neighbor rowed to his house in a boat, and offered to give the man a ride to the safety of higher ground.

The man declined, stating “I have faith in God; he will protect me here on my roof”.

Later, as the flood waters continued to rise, officials came by in a motor boat ordering the man to evacuate so they could deliver him to safety. The man refused, again stating that his faith would protect him.

Darkness fell, the waters continued to rise as a helicopter’s powerful search light spotted the man, now clinging precariously to the very peak of his home’s roof.

The rescue crew was astonished when the man refused to be hoisted to the safety of the helicopter, again stating that his faith would protect him. They tried at length to talk the man into joining them, but the helicopter ran low on fuel putting the entire crew in peril; finally they abandoned the man in the dark.

As the helicopter returned to it’s base to refuel, the flood waters rose over the peak of the roof, washing the man away into the dark swirling waters. Exhausted from clinging to the roof for hours, the man soon drowned.

When he reached the pearly gates, the man said with a somewhat indignant air: “God, I lived a devout life, I had faith in you – why did you forsake me and let me die in the flood? I am disappointed and surprised that you let me drown.”

God replied “I too am disappointed and surprised that you drowned. After all, while you were on the roof, I did send you two boats and a helicopter…”.

Whether God’s ways seem mysterious or obvious, it is good to keep in mind that along with faith and devotion, we still have to do our part.

Clipper Snow

Clipper Snow
Clipper Snow

Darn cold here on The Hill the past few days; wave after wave of arctic air continues to wash over the neighborhood.

Sailing on these waves, Alberta Clippers – fast moving weather systems that come from the high dry far north, pulling only a bit of moisture from across the now cold Great Lakes, delivering not much more than a coating of snow by the time they reach the backyard.

These repeated dustings have brightened things up. Though not of much depth, the scenery is once again winter white.

Elk, however, has transformed dramatically.

After the rain and high temperatures last week, these few inches of snow have “met-a-morph-a-sized” (to use The Ski King’s word) the skiing surface into a true delight.

The Sk’boardin’ farmer reports that “The Tunkhannock is amazing… bumping up nicely.” No doubt the fruit of Nick and the snow crew’s handiwork: Mother Nature’s frigid temperatures have caused the continually running snow guns to bury the slopes with “Pennsyltucky-white hi-grade”.

If all this sounds a bit cryptic, best come on up to the Big and Friendly and make some turns. See for yourself. Best skiing yet this season!

Best Year Ever


Certainly, all of us have had days when, even if nothing particularly unpleasant occurs, we feel sad; we get “the blues”. It happens. Human nature.

There were several days last year when I experienced the opposite. I found myself smiling, giving the dog extra belly rubs, and just being “happy for no reason”.

I liked those days. When I decided to try to set myself up to have more of them, I remembered a conversation I had a few years ago.

During a time of particularly painful mental anguish, I told a trusted counselor, “Put me in a room with several people, and after chatting a while, I can tell you exactly what this one’s problem is, why that one is so fearful… but I can’t see my own affliction, and my life seems to be getting worse and worse and I don’t know why!”

“That’s easy.” she said. “You don’t live in the moment.” I rolled my eyes at her, feeling the reply was impractical – some new-agey philosophical stuff.

Then she elaborated. “You continually rue the past, playing over and over in your mind what wrongs you feel people have visited upon you. When you’re not thinking about the past, you’re worried about the future, constantly on the lookout for how people might hurt you again. When your mind is so constantly occupied with fear, it distracts you from really enjoying the moments of your life as you experience them, instead you feel worried and anxious. And besides, if you look back, almost everything you worried about never happened. Worry is a terrible waste of imagination.”

“It’s a matter of fact that no matter how much you think about the past your thoughts cannot change it. Think of how small your auto’s rear view mirrors are compared to how large the windshield is. Yes, we must acknowledge the past to avoid repeating mistakes, but most of your attention and mental energy is best spent observing what is being presented right in front of you as you continue on your journey… down the road or through life.”

“People don’t seem to realize that their life is one continuous self-fulfilling prophecy.” she continued, “If you stop dwelling on what you are afraid is going to happen, and instead focus on what you’d like to happen in your life, the future will unfold in ways more wonderful than you could have ever imagined.”

With the intent of having more “happy for no reason” days, I’m trying to watch my thoughts more closely. When I notice a fearful thought arising, I now allow myself to ignore it. This seems to have made more room in my mind for appreciating simple sources of joy: how beautiful the color of the sky is, how I smile at my dog’s goofy gait when she walks up the stairs.

Watching your thoughts is simple, free, and has no negative side effects.

Welcome to 2015 – the year that’s better than you could have ever imagined – enjoy!!