Pine Creek , although the largest “creek” in the US, is not a prepossessing stream. I mean, it hasn’t the clarity of Idaho’s Lochsa River (somewhat the same size). It’s certainly not got the pomposity of the Willamette or the gravitas of the Mighty Columbia. And, when I look at my photos of Pine Creek, I find that they are really not PC at all; they are effects of “the Crick”, not Pine Creek.*
Take, for example, the famous views:
Above is a photo of the Owassie Rapids, taken from Barbour Rock, showing mountains carved by Pine Creek and rapids foamed with the Crick, but the view — well, it’s of lush green and blue ridges, dropping away to something far below.
Pine Creek from Bradley Wales State Park
View of the Crick from Leonard Harrison State Park
The point here is that we aren’t looking at Pine Creek; we are looking at the results of the creek, at the ravines, the gouges into the plateau, looking at trees, green and blue-green and blue, soft, with a bit of water meandering flatly and mostly invisibly, through the lush falling hills.
It is, of course, that way with all the streams in the ancient Allegheny Plateau region. Here’s the Cushman Hollow Vista, showing Cushman Run hollow and other gouged hollows made by such streams as the Frying Pan and Slide Island Draft; the Cushman flows into Slate Run, which is a tributary of Pine Creek , which is a tributary of the Susquehanna, which forms the Chesapeake Bay.Point of photo (besides the fact that I liked the view well enough to paint it)? — no water, just its effects.
Even when I’m at Crick level, the impact of the water is less than the impact of the things I see above, beside, or around it.
Of course, I painted this last scene and many of the others (which is why I have photos of them.) The stump here caught my eye, especially with the marriage tree (the basswood) in the background. But there is the Crick, too, a sliver moving through the canvas and the photo. The stump is a product of a small tornado, which followed the crick upstream and took out about 75 % of the trees on the Cedar Pines property. That’s where the snags come from and maybe why there are so many interesting birds about. And it was because of the Crick that the tornado took this path — but the crick just mumbles along, a bit threadbare this time of year, unprepossessing in spite of its impact.
Even when I think I’m looking at the crick, I’m really looking at something else:
Here’s the Crick after a big rain, with red mud run-off — red being a great complementary color to all that green.
The Crick at times looks rather European with its avenues of sycamores along the rail-trail on its banks.
So as I worked on “painting Pine Creek,” I really found myself painting all around it but seldom the thing itself.
Of course, the Crick is essential and basic. It gives children immense pleasure and provides them with a sense of the natural world that may never leave them. It’s a grand showcase for wildlife, and gives naturalists, biologists, and other scientists as place to research and test theories. It provides all kinds of nutrients and home space for myriad critters — and is the source of all the painting material that I’ve been used. It was a way to get from central PA to New York state for Native Americans and early settlers (although not a very good way until the railroad was built). But Pine Creek itself seems to like being a quiet presence, not puffing itself up except during the proper seasons and weather conditions.
In the end, I guess Pine Creek is content not to be about itself:
It might be said that in the end, and in our limited view (however scientific, environmental, ecological, artistic and playful) it really is all about ourselves.For me, being here for this last month and a half, it’s been a personal historic journey. But as I see what has happened in and around the Crick over the years, I realized that it has a larger meaning.
Ultimately, I suspect that if we treat the Crick right, we are treating ourselves right.
*Pine Creek (located in northern PA, in Tioga and Lycoming Counties) is known locally as The Crick. “Crick” is nominally a generic term for a small stream, but here ( least in the mind of the speaker) it is “the Crick” and is used invariably in sentences such as “Tomorrow I’m going up the Crick.” Or, “Last time I was up the Crick it was so low, you could walk across it,” or “I saw two bald eagles up the Crick last week.” Unfortunately, this usage does not seem to have made it to style sheets, so perhaps it’s not “the Crick” but rather “the crick.” And it’s likely that there are those who would say that “crick” is simply another vulgar term for “creek” and so should be “the creek” or “Pine Creek” and naught else. I myself, being slip shod, use the phrases willy-nilly; let the etymologists fight it out. I’m staying up The Crick.