An excited expression on my daughter's face framed by her Barbie fishing rod, trailing red-and-white bobber and pink ballcap tagged with one of my old fishing licenses popped from a pile of photos we sorted through earlier this week.
The image came from a long-ago trout fishing expedition along the Little Shamokin Creek near Augustaville as she showed off her casting skills just before landing a small rainbow trout.
The picture was moved into a growing folder used recently for a small gathering celebrating Paige's 16th birthday.
There is an image of her navigating the Penns Creek with her brother in an inflatable kayak -- barely old enough to look over the side.
Also, a photo of her firing a pink BB gun. And a picture of her proudly holding up a large trout next to her Pappy -- a shot made even more poignant after his death eight years ago. There are images of horseback rides, campfire smores, snuggles with her favorite bird dog and numerous other outdoor milestones that have marked the time over the past 16 years.
Sixteen is one of those ages that elicit a certain amount of nostalgia, especially as priorities change. Playtime is replaced with searching for a job, obtaining a learners permit and other tasks that require quite a bit more responsibility, maturity and morality.
All three of those qualities can be learned via outdoor adventures like the ones scattered through Paige's photo collage. Confidence built through repetition and practice in an unstable kayak or from the saddle of what may seem like an unpredictable horse. Responsibility and ethics developed through real-world problem solving when deciding when to take the safest shot while hunting or preparing for a rustic camping experience. Independence fostered through an appreciation of our natural resources and education how to survive on the bare essentials regardless of what life may throw at you.
Reflecting on 16 years of being a parent, there certainly have been numerous mistakes, hard lessons learned and desires for a few do-overs. However, none of them come from our outdoor adventures and the trial-and-error, processing and trying-again routine of exploring the natural resources within our greater Susquehanna Valley. Camping and kayaking. Hiking and hunting. Fishing and foraging.
These are the sort of activities we are excited share with young people throughout the watershed via our upcoming HERYN (Helping Engage our River's Youth with Nature) program. We still are looking for a few additional sponsors, volunteers and a few more pieces of equipment to pull together the series of program days we have in store starting this spring. For more information, click here.
In the meantime, take your kids for a hike, spend some time fishing or just splashing around in a nearby creek (when the water is warm enough) and make sure to take a bunch of photos along the way. You never know what sort of memories you will capture, or what photos you'll want to pull out at your family's next milestone moment.
Send a message -- and share a few of your favorite photos -- with Riverkeeper John Zaktansky by clicking here.
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John Zaktansky is an award-winning journalist and avid promoter of the outdoors who loves camping, kayaking, fishing and hunting with the family.