Editor's note: The following is a guest column by Carol Parenzan, the former Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper and founder of the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association.
The Sky River welcomed a new paddler on Nov. 7, when Allan Quant ran his final set of rapids here on Planet Earth.
Allan, with his wife, Betsy, and son, Jeremy, were Canoe Susquehanna, the paddle-happy outfitters connecting new and seasoned paddlers to our vast waterways. As I look back on on my four years as your Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper, I remember fondly two sojourns with the Quants.
In 2016, during my first year, we launched the Inaugural Sunrise Sunset Susquehanna paddle, which grew quickly from a small gathering of river rats spending a day on their beloved river to raise awareness of the challenges facing her to something larger, as the sojourn was selected as a national Toyota SPLASH event.
Allan, and family, came to my rescue as we quickly planned a 20-mile paddle from Berwick to Riverside for almost 50 people.
What I most remember, however, from this day on and by the water with the Quants was not their river knowledge and safety-minded approach, for which I was truly grateful, but their kindness and caring, captained by Allan. I remember hearing his encouraging words to paddlers who were struggling with their kayaks at the start of the paddle, I recall watching Betsy practicing her newly learned massage techniques on Allan’s shoulders during the lunch break, and I can still hear Jeremy singing a river song to rally the troops when there were miles to go. But most of all, I remember their love – for each other and of the river.
We would gather one final time in 2018, as we celebrated our Pennsylvania River of the Year, the Loyalsock Creek, along the banks of Rose Valley Lake.
More than 100 paddlers joined us that day, coming from numerous states, as we all knew that this was the Quants last paddle as Canoe Susquehanna, for Allan had been diagnosed with cancer just months before.
Equipment had already been sold, and some disbursed, only to be pulled back temporarily as the number of paddlers grew. There was a bittersweet presence that day, knowing that this was the beginning of the end of this river journey, and together we honored Canoe Susquehanna, remembered paddles past with Allan and Betsy, and gathered river souls to say farewell.
As I write this, I recall the sounds of laughter falling across the lake, notes of bluegrass music under the tent, an eagle whistling as it circled above us on the water and kind words shared between friends and Susquehanna neighbors. And I remember Allan, and the inner peace that emanated from within him that day. He was in his happy place.
Although we typically think of our rivers as running here on the surface of the earth, scientists call the currents of moisture circulating above us atmospheric rivers, and that is where I picture Allan today, on his sit-on-top kayak, paddle poised across his lap, bronzed legs stretch before him, with a smile so wide and bright it is illuminating the path of his fellow paddlers above.
They are dancing through the rapids and catching their newly found breaths within the eddy pools, and floating beside Allan is his daughter, Mariah, united once again in love and laughter and river spray.
I propose that when the waters of our Mighty Susquehanna run with wild abandon again in the spring that we gather together and honor Allan with a paddle – not a paddle for Allan but a paddle with Allan, for we all carry a piece of his spirit in our river hearts. I promise to return home to Pennsylvania for this joyful reunion.
So, today, go outside and raise your paddle to Allan and thank him one final time for being a steward not only of the Susquehanna River but also a steward of the people who called the Susquehanna Valley home.
Thank you, Allan. I will miss you. We will all miss you.
Paddle on, friend. Paddle on.
John Zaktansky is an award-winning journalist and avid promoter of the outdoors who loves camping, kayaking, fishing and hunting with the family.