A creek lover carves out a spot for time along the water

Nature // July 29, 2021

By Karen Plourde, Weavers Way Co-op

In last summer’s FOW newsletter, I wrote about my first walk through the Wissahickon in eight years. For this issue’s assignment, I decided to take another walk in the park.

I chose an entrance off Monastery Avenue in Roxborough, a short drive from my house. I previously thought of it as an out-of-the-way spot, but once I got there, I saw I was at the Jannette Street entrance, complete with signage, and a trail map indicating that the main trail led to Forbidden Drive. I hadn’t planned on taking a well-worn path but decided to explore this trail anyway. Once I got to Forbidden Drive, I realized I had another option for exploration: Wissahickon Creek. I congratulated myself on my selection of waterproof footwear and headed down to the water.

I’ve been fascinated with creeks and streams forever. As a child, my cousins and I would explore the South Branch of Eighteen Mile Creek in Eden, New York, when we visited our Uncle Dick and Aunt Jo, whose property ended uphill from the creek. In warm weather, we waded in it and tried to skip stones across its pools. I learned to love that heady creek smell, along with the bubbling of rivulets and the whoosh of brooks.

The source of Eighteen Mile—a tributary of Lake Erie that starts in Concord, New York—is over 350 miles from that of the Wissahickon Creek. “Eighteen Mile” refers not to the length of the creek, but its distance south from the Niagara River in Buffalo. Its watershed is 120 square miles, compared to the 64 square miles of the Wissahickon watershed. There’s even a separate Eighteen Mile Creek (all of 26 miles), located in Niagara County, that is a tributary of Lake Ontario.

Back on the banks of old “Catfish Creek,” as the Lenape referred to it, I watched a school of minnows dash across a small pool and noted a lone Canada gander taking a drink at the water’s edge. I gave him a respectful berth and focused on getting a photo of a yellow Monarch butterfly floating along the shoreline. And I breathed in that familiar creek smell—no different, to my olfactory memory, from that of the stream 350- plus miles to the northwest.

On my way back up to Jannette Street, I wondered when I could squeeze in a trip back to the Wissahickon Creek without a deadline looming. The time spent in nature, taking in its sounds, paying attention to tiny things, nourishes the soul. If nothing else, this last COVID-ravaged year should have taught us that. Going forward, we need to make room for it to help us weather our busy, complicated lives.

Karen Plourde is editor of the Weavers Way Shuttle. Did you know? Weavers Way Co-op members earn working member credit by volunteering for FOW!