Saturday, February 27, 2010

The End of the World

Back when I had dogs I would take them for walks around Nanticoke. One place that we frequently visited was a spot I called The End of the World.

It wasn't, not really. It was just the end of the developments on the southeast corner of the city, marked by a place where the road abruptly stopped, as though planners were leaving the option open to keep going whenever they got around to it. New houses and cul-de-sacs on the border of the forest suddenly gave way to nothing but forest, with the mountains to the east visible through breaks in the trees. Civilization, at least Nanticoke's version of it, ended there. Beyond was wilderness. The End of the World.

As a kid growing up in Nanticoke the world was pretty simply defined: gentle rolling mountains to the North, gentle rolling mountains to the South, Wilkes-Barre and the cities beyond to the East, and a sparsely populated valley stretching off to the West, defined by mountains that continued to roll on forever. And forest, forest everywhere.

Most of our world was between these two sets of mountains. Virtually anything you could want or need for daily life could be found there, including an airport if you ever needed to travel to points well outside the valley. Not everything was to be found there; sometimes we would go on trips outside of the valley to see baseball games in Philadelphia or New York City or to Great Adventure in New Jersey or Hershey Park in far-off Hershey, PA. But those were special excursions, and rare. For the most part our lives took place within the valley between those two mountain ridges.

Even as an adult much of my life takes place within this valley. Aside from two years spent in Delaware, I have lived here for my entire life. I spent four years at the University of Scranton, and for much of the last eighteen years I have worked in Olyphant, just north of Scranton, near the other end of the banana-shaped chain of communities that form the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton metropolitan area, and comprise much of Northeastern Pennsylvania. My commute is along Interstate 81, on a stretch of it that runs from almost one end of the valley to almost the other. As I come close to Nanticoke the mountains still seem to roll on forever before me to the West, as though the entire world is made of nothing but forested corrugations of land.

But this is an illusion. Hard as it is to believe, the mountains gradually converge into a single ridge that terminates at a point not twenty-five miles west of Nanticoke.

At the foot of that terminus is a little place called Orangeville. I have never been there, as far as I know. But someday I would like to visit.

At the base of that mountain is a little parking lot. Someday I would like to go there, and set up my camera, and photograph that mountain, and think about how it would be possible to clamber up that mountain and walk along the ridge until you come to the spot where the mountain bifurcates into two ridges, one to the North and one to the South, with a little valley in between them. And how, as those ridges continue to diverge, they become the mountains that have defined the boundaries of almost my entire life.

And if anyone should come up to me while I am standing there in that parking lot with my tiny camera mounted on a tripod and ask me what I am doing, I would tell them that I have come here to photograph the End of the World. Because I wanted to see what it looked like from the other side.


Kayak Dude said...

Cool post & pics. Have you ever paddled through the Nanticoke Rapids?

D.B. Echo said...

No, my time on the water has been very limited. Where are the Nanticoke Rapids?

Kayak Dude said...

Right near Stookey's ( Shookey's ?) BBQ on Rte. 11. One of the largest set of rapids on the north branch.