I get the feeling every year when I first start noticing summer is collapsing.
Even when June and July are hot and sweltering – and they certainly were this year – one cool August breeze is all it takes for me to realize that my mental summer checklist is still full of empty boxes.
One such glaring omission was my self-made promise to take pipeline at the new and improved Sickman plant in Pekea. all summer between work, weddings, affairs and responsibilities, I’ve seen people posting on Instagram from this idyllic spot – just 20 minutes from my house – tubing all day on Pequea Creek.
With only a few weeks left until the mill closed for the season in the days following Labor Day weekend, I took advantage of the open Sunday and finally did it.
Sickman’s Mill has two main pipe options – “Classic”, which lasts about two hours, and “Guided” which takes four hours (depending on in a stream levels) and features, as the site promises, “local guide”. Both options take place on the Pequea, but the guided tour is three and a quarter miles, compared to a mile and a half for the regular float.
luckily for me my guide for the day was local Man of the People Matt Johnson who split his time between Sickman’s Mill and Church World Service for the last two years. Johnson is no only knowledgeable, as his name suggests, but also has a desire to share that knowledge and make it enjoyable.
Our tubing journey began in front of Jimmy’s Place Open Bar Sickman’s Mill owners Joe Devoy and Dana Papara built and named after their recently deceased dog. One of the many thresholds along Pequea Creek it just forms here, which helps to provide initial feeling similar to Hot Wheels car running a booster track, albeit a bit wetter and at a more relaxed pace.
Although I have a lifetime of tube memories, the first half hour on an unfamiliar tube always takes some getting used to. this it’s good to hit the first pitfall as soon as possible because if the first push hits the tail, you will do everything in your power to avoid the second one, even if it means returning art oldfor the first time since 2011.
It was a sunny August day and vibrations on water were happy No one – not the family of five I saw desperately trying to connect their handsets, not the silent couple singing Beyoncé and Slim Tug’s 2005 hit ‘Check’ incl It” at full volume on a small Bluetooth speaker – it seemed to be in a bad mood if they accidentally floated down a stream
Even if I could imagine it, the scene seems ridiculous – a man with his legs up in the air but his arms crossed, pouting, waiting for it to be over? No chance.
The best thing about tubing on Pequea is that you never move so fast that you I can’t appreciate the nature around you. Among the trees and foliage is a half-forgotten story, including a few incredpainlessly smooth stones left over from a magnetic ore mine that operated in the 1800s. As Johnson explains the story, you can almost imagine the old railroad and imagine the mine workers who probably deserved it a nice float or two after a hard day’s work.
Johnson says it only took a few rounds to learn in route and the history of rivers. From about 1881 to 1913, the Pequea Magnetic Iron Mining Company – one of many possible company names – employed hundreds of Lancastrians to work on both sides of the Pequea to mine ore. Hi knowwith about what happened historically on the creek but he also very aware of its current residents. At one point, Johnson told me to watch up on the trees where i saw an eagle’s nest big enough for both of us to take an easy afternoon nap. From horses, bison and even tiny midges who build a house a few inches above still water, this it’s easy to feel that Pekea’s animals reluctantly accept the presence of foolish humans in their waters.
A little more than halfGeorge appeared, as if ready to take over the touring baton from Johnson. I should point out that George is a great white heron, a large white bird with a wingspan of four to five feet. He came without a tube but seemed to know the area better than anyone else. At first we thought he flew away down for a treat from the water, but George keeps landinged on the left bank of the stream, inited for us to withdraw a few yards, and then etPhew ahead to the next bank on the left, obediently waiting for the water to push our pipes back to it. this It’s hard to say how long he did it, but it felt like it as George graced us with his presence for about an hour.
I purposely kept my watch and phone in a waterproof bag, happily time pass without a care in the world while I was on the water. In quiet moments, I would the oar lies halfway in the shade and in the sun, amazed at the difference in temperature. It probably could it goes without sayingbut Pekea The Creek isn’t necessarily water you want to stick your face in, although I did briefly at one point when we stopped to jump turned off a few stones into deeper water. Water shoes there is necessarilyif only to avoid it perfectly unknown brown “dirt” under our pipes.
The swim ended in the evening, jonce my back started showing signs of wear and tear. Back to Jimmy’s Place, what evening could not felt more joyful – Matt Woodson and his excellent band the Woodson Steel Experience were playing live at the bar, and the leftovers from the picnic lunch were still playing with jimmy juices in hand. A small part of me felt ready to just jump in and do it all over again, although next time I’ll wait for the evening tide for another experience.
With simple a short time with Labor Day remaining, I was excited to finally check off that summer box in front of him swam too much far, unreachable.