"Dad, look, a swan!"
Suddenly, my younger daughter, Samantha, plunged her paddle into the calm waters of Lake Chillisquaque and took off toward a small cove, hoping for a closer glimpse.
"I always wanted to see a real swan up close," she said afterward with a huge smile. "I guess I can mark that off my bucket list."
Earlier this year, I wrestled with the decision to leave a 14-year career as Features Editor with The Daily Item. I enjoyed my work, the strong friendships built with many of my co-workers and the opportunity to help others by sharing their stories.
However, one of the main attractions of taking on the role of Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper was the opportunity to get out of the office, engage my family and savor new outdoor experiences together.
As I watched Samantha's mad dash across the Montour County lake, I felt a certain amount of gratitude for this position and its opportunities to develop deeper connections with all sorts of passionate, outdoors-appreciating people with a vested interest in improving the greater watershed -- including my three amazing kids.
In early June, my son, Peito, and I enjoyed a trip down the Penns Creek. A variety of circumstances had limited our chances to hang out together over the past several years, and the Penns Creek adventure provided the perfect opportunity to catch up and bond over a smorgasbord of cool wildlife sightings with a backdrop of alternating forests and farmland.
A fawn splashed out in front of us from a small, weedy island in the middle of the creek. A great blue heron swooped ahead of us, circling back to a large tree behind. Turtles basked in the sun along exposed branches and rocks, massive carp swam below us and a diverse variety of birds fluttered around us.
There is no place better than a kayak to have deep conversations with our kids, unplugged from the chaos of day-to-day life, negative news feeds and social media drama. Life is simpler, and our kids know while we are on the water that they have my undivided attention. We are together on the same page, tackling a common goal without the distractions that everyday life provide.
Today, August 11, is unofficially considered "National Son and Daughter Day," a reminder to " take a step back from the whirlwind of paying the bills, surviving the maelstrom of current events, and meeting what seem to be thousands of daily obligations, and spend time with our children," according to an article at National Today.
What better way to do so than via the Susquehanna River and the diverse network of tributaries that tie together the Middle Susquehanna Watershed? Not only can it be a valuable time of family bonding, but an opportunity to develop a greater vested interest in our water-based resources for the next generation of oudoors stewards.
The Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association encourages all families to get involved by sharing photos of their adventures along the Susquehanna River or any of the tributaries throughout our region (marked in the tan region below). Simply snap a family selfie and share it on social media (Facebook, Instagram or Twitter) using the #SusquehannaFamily tag or email us your images and information about where the photo was taken to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will enter all submissions posted (or shared via email) by Monday, August 31, into a random drawing for a few prizes from the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association's Sunbury office.
We can't wait to enjoy hearing about your family's adventures within the watershed, as you spend quality time with your children with what's left of our summer!
John Zaktansky is an award-winning journalist and avid promoter of the outdoors who loves camping, kayaking, fishing and hunting with the family.