Wellness Wednesday: Pennsylvania Grand Canyon

Last weekend Noah and I hiked the West Rim of the Pine Creek Gorge, AKA the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, and then canoed back down the gorge. One thousand feet deep and 16 miles long, this gorge features a variety of ways to get around: there’s the creek itself, for canoeing, kayaking, or rafting; the rail-trail next to the creek for riding your bike, and the 30-mile West Rim trail for hiking.

Our trip went like this: we ditched a Canoe at the northern (upstream) end of the canyon, drove around to the southern end, and then spent three days hiking up the ridge along the west rim, and then paddling back down the canyon in the canoe. This isn’t a trip report or an instructional guide on how to do such a trip, but rather a philosophical piece on why we did it the way we did. My point isn’t that we did it in the way other people should, but to show the thought process that went into selecting and planning this trip. I hope this will inspire you to look at your own life and do something fun and good for your soul, whatever that means for you!

Noah and I both tend to spend way too much time staring at digital screens. I try to schedule things with the kids outside, in order to get them and myself out into nature. It’s often hard to pick something outside with fluctuating weather and unpredictable schedules, so I use two tricks to ensure we do it: I plan just to do something, committing a half-day every weekend to the kids, even if I don’t know when it will be in advance. I also keep a running list of things I’d like to do with them. That way, when the time is right, I can pick something from that list. I’ve already done the basic planning, so I don’t have to scramble with logistics at the last moment.

With a new baby on the way, I am planning on doing a whole lot of trips with all three of the current kids, to give Lindsey time at home alone with the baby. So, although it was tough to fit into our schedule, I made room and committed to spending the weekend with Noah, so that we would have some serious one-on-one time. I had a few different options for the weekend, but they all involved at least two days of camping, to force us to leave our electronics behind and actually talk to each other. With the baby coming, I opted to rent a satellite phone and pack that. This eliminated me checking my cell phone for service and getting sucked into emails and texts, while still keeping us able to check in at home. Normally I’d prefer to just go totally off the grid, but this was the only way to make this trip work at this point.

The weather cooperated, and we were able to do my primary goal, the Pine Creek trip I already described. I was able to plan something like this because of all the time I’ve spend adventuring outside on my own, but it still took research. Ask around, search the web, and make some phone calls – there’s probably a guide service near you that can take you on an amazing weekend outdoors. Ask about weather contingencies, and whatever you do, don’t let yourself get bummed about rain or cold – that’s part of the experience!

Not only didn’t I have my phone, I didn’t even bring a camera. I had Noah carry a camera, so that we’d see the trip through his eyes. I’ve made a resolution this year to do a lot less photo-taking and social-media posting of the things that are really meaningful to me. During my long and excellent backcountry ski season, there were a bunch of views and lines that stood out. Instead of viewing the moment through my phone and posting it on IG, I left the phone in my pocket, and made a conscious decision to soak it in, and really remember it for how it was. I continued that on this trip, but encouraged Noah to take photos to help him remember, and also so I could see what he found picture-worthy.

In the end, Noah and I had an experience that I’m sure we will remember forever. We shared snacks while sitting on trail-side logs, played long card games by headlamp next to a dying fire, got wet and a little scared in some rapids, and enjoyed some long, comfortable silences.

So no matter what your experience level or interests, find something fun this weekend, and get outside! If there’s some activity that’s always looked fun (or interesting but too scary) to you, find a local guide and give it a shot. If you have a passion that you rarely make time for, call in those babysitting favors, silence your cell phone, and dedicate a day to it. And then post up and let me know what you did!





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