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The Soul of Pine Creek Outfitters Keeps on Flowing By Lilace Mellin Guignard
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Volume 17 Issue 3
Where to Play, Stay, and Snack on Pine Creek
Pine Creek Jon
By Lilace Mellin Guignard
Your guide north to south, more or less.
By Lilace Mellin Guignard
The soul of Pine Creek Outfitters keeps on flowing.
18th Annual Maple Weekend 18
By Karey Solomon
EMMF Cabin Fever Festival brings Jackie Gillette back to town.
Pictures of an American Childhood
By Gayle Morrow Sap happens at Triple D Farms in Middlebury Center.
By Linda Roller
The Little Golden Book exhibit gleams in Williamsport.
Spring’s Emerging Colors By Chris Espenshade
Cold season bird watching at the Muck in Wellsboro.
Winter’s Last Dance By Bob Ross
Where the Bison Roam
Back of the Mountain By Paul Bozzo
Reflections of spring.
Cover photo: Jon Dillon, courtesy Pine Creek Outfitters. Cover design by Gwen Button. This page (top) Jon Dillon, courtesy Pine Creek Outfitters; (middle) courtesy Jared Davis; (bottom) courtesy Chris Guild.
By Karey Solomon Mud Creek Bison Ranch in Savona brings back a former native.
w w w. m o u n ta i n h o m e m ag . co m Editors & Publishers Teresa Banik Capuzzo Michael Capuzzo Associate Publishers George Bochetto, Esq., Lilace Mellin Guignard D i r e c t o r o f O pe r a t i o n s Gwen Button Managing Editors Gayle Morrow Karey Solomon S a l e s R ep r e s e n t a t i v e s Shelly Moore Circulation Director Michael Banik Accounting Amy Packard Cover Design Gwen Button Contributing Writers Maggie Barnes, Chis Espenshade, Carrie Hagen, Roger Kingsley, Don Knaus, Dave Milano, Brendan O’Meara, Linda Roller, Bob Ross C o n t r i b u t i n g P h o t o g r ap h e r s Gary Barrett, Paul Bozzo, Ileta Calcote, Bernadette Chiaramonte, Diane Cobourn, Michael Johnston, Holly Lawrenson, Linda Stager, Curt Weinhold, Ardath Wolcott
D i s t r i b u t i o n T eam Brian Button, Grapevine Distribution, Linda Roller T h e B ea g l e Nano Cosmo (1996-2014) • Yogi (2004-2018) ABOUT US: Mountain Home is the award-winning regional magazine of PA and NY with more than 100,000 readers. The magazine has been published monthly, since 2005, by Beagle Media, LLC, 39 Water Street, Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, 16901, and online at www.mountainhomemag.com. Copyright © 2022 Beagle Media, LLC. All rights reserved. E-mail story ideas to editorial@mountainhomemag. com, or call (570) 724-3838. TO ADVERTISE: E-mail email@example.com, or call us at (570) 724-3838. AWARDS: Mountain Home has won over 100 international and statewide journalism awards from the International Regional Magazine Association and the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association for excellence in writing, photography, and design. DISTRIBUTION: Mountain Home is available “Free as the Wind” at hundreds of locations in Tioga, Potter, Bradford, Lycoming, Union, and Clinton counties in PA and Steuben, Chemung, Schuyler, Yates, Seneca, Tioga, and Ontario counties in NY. SUBSCRIPTIONS: For a one-year subscription (12 issues), send $24.95, payable to Beagle Media LLC, 39 Water Street, Wellsboro, PA 16901 or visit www. mountainhomemag.com.
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Pine Creek Jon The Soul of Pine Creek Outfitters Keeps on Flowing By Lilace Mellin Guignard
or Jon!” was the rallying cry last year at Pine Creek Outfitters in Ansonia, as the staff, reeling from the loss of their friend and boss, launched into the 2021 season without their trusted guide. Jonathan Frederick Dillon, the owner, passed away from brain cancer on March 12, 2021. He was a father, son, husband, musician, philosopher, businessman, jokester, and adventurer. He was thirty-seven. See Jon on page 8
Courtesy Shannon Davis
Free spirit: Jon Dillon may not be here physically, but his spirit lives on throughout the Pine Creek Valley. 7
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Jon continued from page 6
Grief is life at flood stage. On Saturday morning, March 13, the PCO staff gathered at the store and headquarters for the yearly CPR and First Aid training. Stunned, red eyes peered at each other. Hugs were shared, covid-bedamned. Everyone waited to see what the plan was. Would they open? As the instructors set up, Chuck Dillon, Jon’s father and past owner of the business, came in. The room went quiet. “We go on as usual until Amanda decides what she wants to do,” he said. Amanda, Jon’s wife, is a fourth-grade teacher in Galeton and lives at PCO with their two daughters. “I’ll keep the books and write the checks. You guys do what you do.” What they do is provide opportunities for people to paddle, pedal, and hike in the Pine Creek Valley, offering guided trips, rentals, and shuttle services. PCO would open. But what was usual anymore? Staff went back to trying to breathe life into the training mannequin. A Childhood on Pine Creek The Pine Creek Gorge, also called the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, was carved by Pine Creek flowing from Ansonia south past Waterville. This is the Deep Valleys area in the Allegheny Plateau in the Appalachian Mountains. Here the interbedded sandstone and shale cliffs can be viewed from rim vistas on the eastern and western sides, the rail trail below, or the creek itself. Harder to see is the siltstone and mudstone hidden under wooded slopes. Almost invisible is how certain people have shaped the valley, their love as much a force of nature as the seasonal flows that rage with spring snowmelt and trickle with late summer droughts. Jon—his love of this place and the people here—was such a force. Chuck and Sue Dillon were living in Philadelphia when they fell under the spell of Pine Creek and began looking for land to homestead. Instead of a small farm, they bought Great Valley Floats in January 1984 when Jon was two months old. Chuck came up weekends from Philly, bringing the family when he could. In 1988 they moved here full-time. They’d been told the rafting season lasted six weeks, but soon found it could be three weeks or less. Having
Courtesy Dillon family
Brook buddies: Jon and his sister, Alison, grew up on Pine Creek and so did his love for the people and area.
no input from large tributaries, Pine Creek only reliably flows in spring, though rain sometimes lengthens the season into June. Chuck grew the business by buying a bunch of used wet suits and renting them. They also started renting rafts and canoes and providing information and rides for hikers of the West Rim Trail. Sue was involved for years in trying to get the Pine Creek Rail Trail established, and when it opened in 1996, PCO started renting bikes and shuttling folks on the rail trail. As PCO grew, so did Jon and his sister, Alison. Jon took his first river trip with his dad at age five. Alison, who is two years older, says of Jon, “He was my buddy. Once we figured out we could get away with more by working together, we became a duo.” They’d be gone all day, riding bikes to Asaph to play kickball, to the Ansonia Gulf station to get ice cream, and then to Flat Rock swimming hole. She describes her brother as fun-loving. “He always found an excuse to start shenanigans with someone.” She and Jon were expected to help out with chores. The guides would entertain them, and Jon would mess with the guides, trying to keep them from their work. One
day when he took things a little too far, the guides took eight-year-old Jon, hog-tied him with one of the van seatbelts they’d removed, and hung him from the rafters with bungie cords. They took him down after a few minutes, but he seemed to learn his lesson. As Jon got older, he started really working there—once you got him out of bed. Many of his friends got jobs there too. Chuck had intentionally created a business that cared about their customers and employees. “I enjoyed the most working with young adults, giving them responsibility and standing back as they figured it out,” Chuck explains. “They kept me young.” One of Jon’s buddies who started working there in high school is Mark Cimorelli of Wellsboro. Mark tells about having to get Jon out of bed Saturday mornings to guide a trip. Mark would jump up and down on the mattress. One time the covers came off and Jon, who slept buck naked, started wrestling with Mark. “Sue passed the door, looked in, and just kept walking,” Mark grins. It wasn’t just a business. It was a family, full of quirky
people who didn’t fit any stereotype, who were all different in different ways, but who all found belonging at PCO. Jon started playing electric guitar at twelve, and played in the band, The Gaping Maw. His good friend, Jake Tomlinson, remembers “a bunch of young kids jamming out to Led Zeppelin. His talent on virtually any instrument, sometimes several different ones at the same time, always amazed me.” He played guitar, mandolin, banjo, suitcase kick drum, harmonica, ukulele, and the digeridoo. He read J.R.R. Tolkien and loved Star Wars movies. He played video games where you build villages and whole worlds. But Jon loved the world of Pine Creek best. He was a paddler, hiker, and mountain biker. Nevertheless, when Jon left for Susquehanna University to major in history, he didn’t plan on moving back. May the Forest Be With You “I’d just found a buyer for the business when Jon told me over Thanksgiving break his junior year that he wanted to take it over,” Chuck says. “He said he wanted to come back to the shire.” Alison was See Jon on page 10
Jon continued from page 9
relieved the business would stay in the family. But Jon was wild, unfocused, and no one was sure how this would work. In 2006, he and Chuck began a three-year plan, where Jon would shadow and observe Chuck for a year. The next year Chuck would cut back hours, and in the third, Chuck would be around only as needed. By the second year, Jon started to put his stamp on the place. Though Jon long resisted getting a cell phone or social media account, one of the changes he made was to bring PCO up to date with online marketing. He created a website posting all the information of the annual newspaper guide Chuck started in the 1980s, and eventually added an online reservation system. “He understood the changing demographics,” Chuck says. “Lots of people wanted twohour trips rather than all-day ones.” Jon advertised shorter paddles on the Upper Pine and offered tubing in summer when the water was too low to paddle. “I was nervous for him,” Sue says, “but once Jon got into his element at the outfitters, he grew into this amazing man.” Mr. Shenanigans
(3) Courtesy Pine Creek Outfitters
Amanda came into Jon’s life the year after college. Originally from Coudersport, she returned to teach at the elementary school. She saw how committed he was to the business. “I knew what I was getting into. He worked seven days a week, March through Fly like an eagle: fun, family, November.” music, and Pine Creek They got married on July 10, 2010, down the road were some of Jon's favorite behind Valley Alliance Church on the Upper Pine as things. (From top) Jon goofs an eagle flew over. The heat wave had been broken by a around while enjoying the storm the night before. It brought the creek up enough cool of the river; Jon stands for the wedding party to float away in canoes. with his wife Amanda and Friends and family comment on the irony of daughters Eliana and Lylah; Jon—a class clown who didn’t make things easy on his and Jon stands over his teachers—marrying one. But Amanda’s patience and “gray ribbon.” focus complemented Jon’s wildness. And when she did need to get his attention, she knew how. For example, when their first baby was due in April—the busy season—Jon was still going on the creek after-hours with the staff, where there was no cell service. Amanda kept asking, what if she went into labor while he was unreachable? “‘Oh, that’s not going to happen,’ he’d say.” One day close to her due date she decided to get his attention. “When he came in at dark—having had a beer or two—I was downstairs with my bag yelling, ‘We have to go! He was stumbling, trying to get the wet suit off. I’m yelling and watching him in full panic mode. Once we were walking out the door I turned and said, ‘I’m not in labor. But what if I was?’” Two weeks later he was at Eliana’s birth. There were advantages to living at the outfitters. Jon could take the baby when Amanda needed a shower. If she needed both arms to do something, she opened the door to the office and someone would be excited to hold the baby. Two years later, Lylah was born in January when both parents could stay home. Jon watched the girls in the winter, and Amanda in the summer. He continued the tradition of making the outfitters a family—one that played pranks. Sure, occasionally their car was stuffed with stinky life jackets and wrapped in plastic on a hot day, or a flaming deer head was hung in their yard, but when you’re married to Mr. Shenanigans you expect this. “Sometimes we thought of living elsewhere,” Amanda says, “but living here gave us the opportunity to eat meals together and for the girls to run out and see him.” Nothing meant more to Jon than 10
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his girls, and he took them on adventures to the places he loved from the time they were babies. He talked to them about their spirit animals. His was the eagle. Rough Water Ahead In 2017, after several high water days, there were some tragic accidents on Pine Creek. Though they were unrelated to PCO business, Jon and staff assisted in the search and recovery efforts. The deceased man’s family and friends, who’d held vigil daily by the river, were so grateful for the volunteer efforts they requested memorial contributions go to the Morris Fire Company and PCO. Then when the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy and the Bureau of Forestry wanted to install water safety signs, Jon donated the money for the project. Under Jon, PCO also donated equipment and shuttle service for the Headwaters annual cleanup float. Just as the Pleistocene continental glaciers left their mark on the Pine Creek Valley, so did Jon. And like Pine Creek, which originally flowed northeast before glacial ice dams changed its course to southward, the trajectory of Jon’s life changed drastically when in 2018, two weeks before he turned thirty-five, Jon discovered he had a grade two brain tumor that required immediate removal. Knowing he’d need help running the business, Jon called Dan Shelmire, one of the guides he’d tormented as a kid. Dan had worked for PCO off and on as he moved in and out of the area. Now back in Stony Fork, the self-employed contractor didn’t hesitate to rejoin the family that retained many long-time employees, including Mark. Chuck says about the staff, “The extent to which they went 300 percent just blew my mind.” For five months after his surgery in November, Jon recovered as a highly medicated hermit. He emerged from his upstairs room in spring 2019 to reconnect. When PCO could finally open, more people came than ever before. He greeted return customers who were happy to see him behind the counter and on the river again. Despite being a shorter season, it was their best financially. Though he loved entertaining people, Jon always declined to perform on stage. Everyone was surprised when he agreed to do so at the 2020 July 4th celebration. Even though he’d started having seizures again, he didn’t change his mind. Alison says, “He dazzled the crowd with his signature move of playing “The Star-Spangled Banner” with his teeth, just like Jimi Hendrix.” After that night, his seizures came so frequently the family stopped calling 911. His tumor had recurred, this time a grade four glioblastoma.
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The Gray Warrior “It was so much worse than a nightmare,” Amanda says. Glioblastoma is the most common and deadliest primary malignant brain tumor in adults. She and Jon chose a research organization for PCO to support, StacheStrong, but he got worse before they could fundraise. Amanda says they were always a team. “Through all the ups and downs, we built a strong foundation. We were in it forever.” She takes a moment before adding, “And forever shouldn’t have ended at thirty-six”—Amanda’s age when Jon died. Alison calls Jon their gray warrior—gray is the ribbon color for glioblastoma awareness. The Upper Pine was a gray ribbon flowing behind Valley Alliance Church the day of his service on See Jon on page 32
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Courtesy Pettecote Junction Campground
Courtesy Slate Run Tackle Shack
The wild side: (from left) play in Pine Creek while visiting Slate Run Tackle Shack in Slate Run, stay in a luxurious glamping tent at Pettecote Junction in Cedar Run, and snack at Miller's Store in Blackwell.
Where to Play, Stay, and Snack on Pine Creek Your Guide North to South, More or Less By Lilace Mellin Guignard
he Pine Creek Gorge Natural Area, also known as the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, is the second largest natural area in the state—and that’s not counting adjacent state forests. Add in the recreational opportunities above the gorge on Upper Pine, and there’s everything you need to plan a vacation full of paddling, hiking, biking, and fishing. First, check out Pine Creek Outfitters just outside of Wellsboro on the Upper Pine, where you can put in or take out depending on what section you boat. They service the entire Upper Pine/Pine Creek area. Make online reservations for guided trips, or rent rafts, kayaks, canoes, and duckies (inflatable kayaks). Check the water levels online to see what’s offered. If water’s low and heat is high, tubing may be best. They have more than a hundred bikes of different styles to
rent for pedaling on the Pine Creek Rail Trail or elsewhere, and shuttle services that pick you up on the other side of the gorge. Want to hike the West Rim or other trail systems? Get the maps and guidebooks in their store at 5142 Rt. 6, where you can grab camping or paddling items—or books— that you forgot. They can ensure you don’t walk one step more than necessary by shuttling you or your vehicle. Reach them 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at (570) 724-3003 and find information at pinecrk.com. Upstream, you can camp at Crooked Creek Campground and put your boat or fishing line in right from your campsite or small cabin. Located at 112 John Deere Road in Gaines, they also offer standup paddle board rentals and instruction, tubing, and yoga. Find them at crookedrootsadventures.com or call
(814) 433-6100. A bit downstream, you’ll find Rough Cut Lodge at 2570 Rt. 6 where families and groups may choose from the main lodge or seven cabins. For information about holding your event there, go to roughcutlodge.com or call (814) 435-2192. Colton Point Motel at 4643 Rt. 6 has petfriendly rooms. Call (570) 724-2155 or see colton-point-motel.mydirectstay.com. If you stay at Great Valley Cabins at 5155 Rt. 6, you’ll be right across from Pine Creek. Find out more at greatvalleycabins.com or call (814) 433-6100. Other than public camping at Darling Run and Tiadaghton (dcnr.pa.gov), no services are offered in the gorge until you reach Blackwell where Miller’s Store at 730 Rt. 414, just up from the rail trail parking lot, has ice cream, sandwiches, used books, and local fiber arts. You can also rent bikes
Courtesy Miller's Store
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THINGS TO DO DURING YOUR STAY... or tubes. If you’re hiking the Mid-State Trail you can rent one of their apartments or cabins for a bed and shower mid-trek. Check out millersblackwell.com or call (570) 353-2258. One mile south is Ludwig’s Trailside B&B, at 150 Rt. 414 right on the rail trail. Book a room, or, for large groups, book the cabin or farmhouse at ludwigstrailside.com. Or call (570) 353-2013. A bit downstream is Cedar Run Inn at 281 Beulah Land Road. Call them at (570) 353-6241 to enjoy excellent dining and direct access to the rail trail. If you just need to stop for a snack and provisions, the Cedar Run General Store across the street will have what you need. Reach them at (570) 353-2740. Pettecote Junction Campground at 400 Beach Road is right around the corner on the creek with a variety of sites, including glamping tents. See pettecotejunction.com or call (570) 353-7183 for more details. Slate Run has groceries, souvenirs, and tasty subs at Wolfe’s General Store at 14167 Rt. 414, and right next door you can get your fishing gear at Slate Run Tackle Shop. Both can be reached at (570) 753-8551 or slaterun.com. Across the creek at 392 Slate Run Road, nine rooms are available at Hotel Manor, which serves drinks and meals on their deck. They are online at dev.hotel-manor. com or call (570) 753-8414. Even if you’re up the creek without a paddle, these businesses will take good care of you. Lilace Mellin Guignard raises her kids in Wellsboro where she plays outdoors, gets wild with community theater, and shakes things up at Sunday school. She’s the author of When Everything Beyond the Walls Is Wild: Being a Woman Outdoors in America.
From swimming to wine tasting, glass blowing to exploring nature, and museums to casinos...we have something for everyone in our area!
Call 607-527-3001 or visit campbellcampground.com for full event listings and more information
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Coufrtesy Jared Davis
Sweet smiles: Jared and wife Rachael Davis with their children (from left) Lainey, Letty, and Judd.
Sap Happens at Triple D Farms in Middlebury Center By Gayle Morrow
e don’t really know how it all began, do we? Perhaps a millennium ago, more or less, someone was walking through the woods and thought, “Hmm, I guess I’ll taste some of this maple tree juice.” And then, upon discovering it was a little sweet, went on to say, “Hmm, I bet if I boiled it, it would be sweeter and taste really good on my waffles.” Okay, that’s probably not quite the way it was. We all know pancakes were invented before waffles. But with the requisite cooperation from Mother Nature, the evaporator in the sugar house at Triple D Farms will, by the time you read this, be fired up and working overtime to transform maple sap into maple syrup, with which 16
you can drown your pancakes, waffles, popcorn, ice cream, etc. Jared, who in his day job is a fifth grade math and science teacher in the Northern Potter School District, seems to be fine with the “overtime” part of it all. He and his wife, Rachael, who have three kids, ages two, four, and six, offer horseback riding lessons, trail rides, horse camp, and a fall roundup during the warm weather months. But on the cold mid-winter day I visited, Rachael and the kids were at a birthday party, and Jared had just completed several hours of snowplowing. The sugar house was visible from their house, along with quite a bit of snow and ice to move to make it accessible for the upcoming season. As a kid on the same French Hill Road
property where he lives now, Jared helped his family with their maple business. He hauled sap. And hauled more sap. In those days, their sap went to a processor in return for shares of the finished product. When he decided to get into the production end of things, he also decided his hauling days were over. “I built the sugar house so I could do it by myself,” he says. With a network of blue tubing connecting a sugar bush of about 100 taps per acre over thirty acres, a vacuum system, a couple of “lifts” for the trees that are lower in elevation than the sugar house, a reverse osmosis system, and an evaporator that is a marvel of pipes, valves, and gauges, he can. With the patience of a teacher, Jared
explains in detail how each part of his complex system works. Certainly there are syrup makers who have been in the business longer than he has, and with so much information available online it’s easy to pick the brains of those with more experience. But, Jared notes, “everything in everyone’s bush is different,” which can make getting the specific parts or equipment you need a challenge. There is usually some on-site fabrication or tweaking necessary. Obviously, it all starts with the annual tapping of the tree, but there are variations and digressions on the “right” way to do even that. “I tap in a spiral,” he says, adding “there are lots of different ways to do it,” but it’s most important to not just tap around the tree with all taps at the same level. He uses “seasonal spouts” with his tubing—they’re the end pieces that connect the tap to the tubing. It’s important to remove them and replace them each season to help minimize bacteria in the lines. The vacuum system Jared devised keeps the sap flowing through the lines. It turns on and off automatically once things are up and running, and even detects leaks. The “lifts”, for the lines that are below the sugar house’s elevation, maintain the vacuum in those lines. At the sugar house, the sap travels through various pipes and tanks before it hits the evaporator, but nothing stays in one place for very long. “I process everything we get the same day,” Jared says. “I come in here after school, start the RO [reverse osmosis], go have supper with my family, then come back and start boiling.” (See his afore-mentioned comment about liking to keep busy.) The reverse osmosis machine removes about eighty percent of the water from the sap before it gets to the evaporator. Boiling time can vary with the sap’s sugar content, which, in turn, can vary with where we are in the season (sugar content is usually higher at the onset), and, of course, with the weather. Jared has a “sap app” on his phone that uses altitude, barometric pressure, and other environmental factors to quickly compute the correct temperature for drawing off the finished product. Each syrup season is unique. Jared says last year was “a very weird year,” with the flow and the boiling happening in fits and starts. Nevertheless, they made 825 gallons in 2021 at Triple D, selling 480 gallons in bulk, and keeping the balance to sell locally, online, and for making maple candy and maple cream. He and Rachael do the bottling in a separate kitchen in their home, and typically make a batch of candy once a week—that’s 300 to 400 pieces—usually at night after the kids are asleep. Between the three—syrup, candy, and cream—it’s been a good year for online sales, Jared says. They ship all over the world. “We sent quite a bit to the U.K. and to Romania,” he muses. And he confesses to being a little amazed at the popularity of maple candy. “It’s something different, and people like it,” he says, although he disagrees with the assertion from some that the candy melts in your mouth. “I don’t think it does.” You should probably make that judgment for yourself. For more information, call (814) 258-7690 or go to tripledmaple.com. Keystone Press Award-winning columnist Gayle Morrow is a managing editor at Mountain Home.
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All that jazz: Jackie Gillette brings her clarinet to Wellsboro so that you can enjoy the music even if you don't know the tune.
EMMF Cabin Fever Festival Brings Jackie Gillette Back to Town By Karey Solomon
he program for last year’s Endless Mountain Music Festival’s two weeks of summer concerts had already been set…and advertised…and printed. Orchestra members were already inbound from all corners of the globe for the annual little Brigadoon in our mountains, the soloists a veritable musical who’s who. And featured on the EMMF program for the first time was Artie Shaw’s Concerto for Clarinet. But, in those crazy days of covid, all of a sudden there was no clarinet soloist arriving for the challenging Shaw concerto. Enter EMMF violinist Karen Banos, who had a clarinetist friend she’d played with in the South Florida Symphony Orchestra. And so it was that Jackie Gillette came to the stage at Mansfield University’s Steadman Auditorium to belt out Shaw’s hip, jazzy, slidey clarinet concerto. The
audience loved her. “It was unbelievable that she was able to step in when she did,” says conductor and EMMF Artistic Director Stephen Gunzenhauser. “She came to my attention, and I found out she had done the concerto a few months previously, and it was terrific. I’m a clarinetist by instrument. I’ve played the concerto, and I’m particularly critical. She did an absolutely remarkable job and she made it sound easy.” Jackie is returning to Wellsboro the first weekend in March as a headliner at the EMMF Cabin Fever Jazz Weekend. Last summer, her partner, fellow clarinetist David Valbueno, also joined Jackie in performance with EMMF. “Coming out of the pandemic, to be given the opportunity to travel and play the concerto, it was like a dream,” she reflects. “I love it. It’s such a fun piece to play! The conductor
and everyone at Endless Mountain took a chance on me. And it was a blast. Everyone was so friendly. I’m so happy to come back and play for the jazz festival.” “Jackie Gillette & Friends” opens at 7:30 p.m. on Friday evening, March 4, at the Penn Wells Hotel in Wellsboro, with a program of music by old time jazz greats like Bennie Goodman and Boniface Ferdinand Leonard “Buddy” DeFranco. She’ll be accompanied by drummer Andres Valbuena, David’s brother, and jazz pianist Bram Wijands, EMMF’s beloved, perennial performer who will be the headliner on Saturday night. “He’s known as ‘The Swing King of Kansas City,’” Jackie notes. “The venue and performances are cabaret-style,” says Cindy Long, Executive Director of the EMMF, about their annual fundraiser. Seating is limited to about See Gillette on page 20
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a hundred people, so for tickets and more information visit endlessmountain.net or call (570) 787-7800. “People come because they love the festival. A lot of people follow our guest artists. It’s a lot of fun.” Dinner reservations for either night should be made directly at the Penn Wells at (570) 724-2111. “I’m classically trained, even though I grew up listening to this music,” Jackie says, adding, “The pieces I chose are an homage to those original jazz clarinetists.” She’s delighted with the opportunity to build her own concert. “This music is definitely fun, and also very free,” she says. “It has a form, but there’s a lot you can do with it.” Included in the performance are Buddy DeFranco’s evocative “Autumn Leaves” and Benny Goodman’s rollicking 1928 classic “Clarinetitis.” Jackie is a graduate of the Eastman Conservatory of Music in Rochester and the Lynn Conservatory of Music in Boca Raton, Florida. Coming from a family of non-musicians, she has a particular motivation for making the music she plays accessible. “Any time I do something with music, I want the audience to enjoy it, whether they know the music or not.” And putting together her own program is a particular joy. “It’s seeing the whole process from beginning to end. You start with the music and then you rehearse and it becomes real.” In mid-spring 2020, Jackie and David began a chamber music series called “Sunday Serenades” on Facebook Live. “We saw our friends were losing work as gigs were cancelled, so we set up concerts, created posters, and created an event each Sunday. It was something we could do to help.” There were about twenty concerts. Performers were compensated for their work with viewers’ contributions. When not organizing or making music, she’s often teaching it. In 2015 she traveled to Zimbabwe and South Africa as a guest artist to teach young musicians and perform with the Music Inspire Africa organization. She also gives private lessons in piano and clarinet. She currently works as program coordinator for the Youth Orchestra of St. Luke, scheduling rehearsals, workshops, activities and lessons, writing a newsletter and facilitating music for students drawn from five schools in the Hell’s Kitchen area of New York City. “I love that I can work with kids and put my energy and creativity into it,” she says. Bram will be doing a workshop at Williamson High School from 10:00 a.m. to noon on Friday, March 4, where he will be helping the students write a world premier for their school. Jackie will be giving a master class for young local musicians with Bram and the jazz band at 1:00 p.m. at Wellsboro Area High School. “My goal as a musician is, whatever I do and whatever I create, I want to put myself in it and I want people to say, ‘That’s Jackie!’” She and David had only one regret last summer. She says they hadn’t realized how much beauty surrounded them, so they didn’t bring a car or budget time to explore the region. Fortunately, they’ll be back this summer to make up for the omission. Karey Solomon is a freelance writer and needlework designer who teaches internationally.
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Iconic images on tour: The Poky Little Puppy and other classic Little Golden Book illustrations take a walk in the wide, wide world.
Pictures of an American Childhood The Little Golden Book Exhibit Gleams in Williamsport By Linda Roller
t’s billed as art, but the exhibit currently at the Gallery at Penn College (on the third floor of the Pennsylvania College of Technology’s Madigan Library) just might be a time machine. Golden Legacy: Original Art from 75 Years of Golden Books shows us the original art that made the Little Golden Books special. Grouped by decade, you will find a place in the exhibit where a time portal opens and you are a child again, seeing this art for the first time. For me, it happened in the books of the early 1960s. Suddenly, I was back in Tony’s Market in Montour Falls recalling the cheese wheel, the peanuts in the barrel, and the rotating rack of Little Golden Books. There’s magic in these small books. “The exhibit appeals to our collective sense of nostalgia, and will likely evoke fond memories,” says Penny Griffin Lutz, director of the Gallery. “Golden Books trigger strong
cultural associations with childhood for many adults as they connect to the stories and images. Younger audiences may not be as familiar with the classic images, so the exhibit will serve as an introduction to an incredible group of iconic illustrators.” The magic was made by a group of bright young publishers in Racine, Wisconsin, trying new formats for inexpensive books. They created the “Big Little Books,” a square format of longer stories from the characters that ran in the “funny pages” of newspapers across the country. The covers were brightly illustrated, though the color did not continue inside. Still, at only ten cents, they could be bought and read by people in the middle of a depression. The books were popular, especially with younger readers. Western Publishing also wanted to bring out books for children. These would be smaller and much less expensive than
the traditional children’s books found in libraries. According to Leonard Marcus, curator of the exhibit, Western Publishing felt they needed a New York publishing house to push the project forward and partnered with Simon & Schuster, a publisher making their own reputation for innovation. Leonard notes an added dash of “pixie dust” arrived in the form of Walt Disney, looking to raise capital for new featurelength films. Disney became an early backer of the Little Golden Books. Disney titles appeared early in the publishing history, continuing through several decades. When Disney opened Disneyland, Little Golden Books invested in it, and the bookshop on Main Street stocked the colorful books. This combination of publishing know-how, distribution, and visibility helped to make these colorful, inexpensive, well-designed
children’s books instantly popular. The first twelve books included: Three Little Kittens, Mother Goose, Prayers for Children, The Little Red Hen, and This Little Piggy. One of the original titles, The Poky Little Puppy, remains on the children’s best seller list. All were uniform in size and format, and inexpensive at twenty-five cents. The illustrations made these children’s books so popular, and in the early 1940s, several new, exciting illustrators became available. In fact, the publishers sought notable artists to lend prestige to the books, which at that time got little respect from librarians. A few were artists who were leaving Europe ahead of the Second World War, like Garth Williams, Feodor Rojankovsky, and Tibor Gergely; others were people who made their name at the Disney Studios, like Gustaf Tenggren, Martin Provensen, J.P. Miller, and Mary Blair. There was also a fresh crop of new American originals like Leonard Weisgard, Eloise Wilkin, and Richard Scarry. Today, these and many other Little Golden Book illustrators are instantly recognized. Some artists were already Caldecott Medal winners. Others went on to win awards for their work. The illustrators were contracted and paid outright, not receiving royalties for their work, and the original illustrations, with a few exceptions—Gustaf Tenggren, for one—belonged to the publishers. Although many illustrators became iconic, the names of the author and the illustrator do not appear on most covers. Due to consolidation in the publishing world, Random House, who bought Simon & Schuster, now owns most of this collection. The exhibition, featuring sixty-five original illustrations, was organized by the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature in Abilene, Texas. According to Penny, “The initial appeal of the Golden Books exhibit was for our graphic design students, so they could study and learn from the illustrations.” In preparation for this exhibit, the students from the illustration (ART 340) class were presented with thirty-three Little Golden Books from various decades and assigned the task of creating their own illustrations for these beloved works. The project allowed the students to get away from electronic graphic illustration and create artistic works in many different mediums. Their results are delightful to see. Find them on the first floor of the Madigan Library, two floors away from the Gallery and the Golden Books exhibit. A small portion of each student’s work has been made into a bookmark to be distributed. Penny adds, “The further we progressed into researching and choosing the show, it became clear that it could be used in many other classes including English, children’s literature, history, sociology, and more. And, equally important, this show is for our community. We believe all visitors will enjoy the artwork and accompanying educational information. The Gallery has received positive reviews from visitors, with some returning a second time.” Entry to the exhibit is free. It runs until March 30 (hours only by appointment March 6 to 13). The gallery is open Monday through Thursday 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Find more information at pct.edu/gallery, or call (570) 320-2400 or (800) 367-9222. Mountain Home contributor Linda Roller is a bookseller, appraiser, and writer in Avis, Pennsylvania.
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Spring In Sight
e’re watching for spring— knowing there could be a little snow first, but it’s coming. Find an oasis in the woods where streams have thawed and water begins to trickle and listen to that music. Be amazed again as colorful blossoms waiting inside a bulb begin to unfurl, stretching toward the sun. Gaze patiently and see snow melt and winter recede. With each shift in the weather, we want to ask, “Is this the corner we have to turn before spring comes?” Then we stop, take a deep breath, and realize—spring is already here. Linda Stager
Couresy Chris Guild
Where the Bison Roam
Mud Creek Bison Ranch in Savona Brings Back a Former Native By Karey Solomon
hris Comstock and his father Mike began the Mud Creek Bison Ranch on Robie Road in Savona, New York, in 2013 with four animals. “That’s when we said goodbye to family vacations,” Chris jokes. Through a vigorous breeding and brokering program, they’re now up to 300 bison. Mike’s goal is to keep building the herd until they have at least 1,000 calves every year. They’re also selling bison across the United States. Eventually, he hopes to re-introduce bison to the Adirondacks area they once called home, back when parts of upstate New York were the Wild West. Lightning, a rare white bison—though his adult years have mellowed him to pale gold—gets to his feet to keep an eye on us from a distance as we drive slowly
past the enclosure where some of the younger animals live. The light colors of eight youngsters mark them as Lightning’s offspring. If he decides we’re a threat, he’ll posture aggressively, then herd the others to a safe distance. We stop and the animals stare at us curiously. Apparently, we’re here for their amusement. When we start moving again, Lightning stands down while keeping us in his sights, with what Chris Guild calls “the death stare.” In their shaggy, five-layered winter coats, they look soft and cuddly, but make no mistake—these are wild animals with no intention of becoming domesticated. They may be observed by visitors, and they’re often interested enough in humans to spend time watching us just as raptly,
but they’re not to be fed or petted. Treating them with caution is essential for everyone’s safety. When Chris Comstock goes into the pasture to deliver hay or check on animals, he’s in a utility task vehicle with a reinforced cabin. Self-guided tours resume mid-April from Thursday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. The cost is $5 per car load. Like any tour involving wild animals, observers stay in the car. “The bison are fun to watch,” says Chris Guild, who sold his auto-repair business to join the enterprise as a co-owner this January. After a tour—or before it if they’re hungry—visitors may visit the gift shop stocked with a variety of bison-related merchandise from snack sticks (bison jerky)
Karey Solomon Couresy Chris Guild
to wearables, bison art, even yarn spun from bison and alpaca fleece, and a few items knit from the yarn by Chris Comstock’s mom, Lin. Meat is also available for sale. “Bison meat is leaner than fish or chicken, with more protein than beef. It also has a more mineral flavor and less fat than beef,” Chris Comstock says. The farm butchers only a few of the young males annually. The Comstock family—and now Guild’s family too—is sold on the flavor. During the height of the pandemic, the Comstocks were eating bison meat from their freezer instead of shopping. When Chris decided to grill beef steaks as a treat for his children, his daughter complained her meat “tasted funny” and refused to eat it. Having gotten accustomed to the good stuff, there was no going back. “Bison carries its flavor in the protein, not in the fat,” Chris Comstock says. “We’ve modified beef so much, we get our flavor from the fat, like in a well-marbled steak. But bison is lean.” In illustration, he compares a bison burger to a chopped beef patty. Before grilling, you’d start with a beef patty significantly larger than the bun it will be served on in order to have the burger not get lost on the bun. But with bison, the size you start with is very close to the size of the finished burger. The bison are mostly grass- and hay-fed, with occasional treats of apples, sugar beets, and past-its-prime produce donated to the farm by local growers and food pantries. On New Year’s Day, the bison happily feasted on expired-for-human-consumption coleslaw mix. Groups of up to four who want to extend their adventure and test their mettle can reserve a half-hour session in the “bull cage.” This eight-by-ten-foot cage is locked with participants inside, then brought to the pasture where the bulls graze. It’s an opportunity to get safely eye to eye on the same Oh, give me a home: Chris level as the animals. “It can be intimidating to be that Guild (top, left) and Chris Comstock stand in front close to such powerful animals,” Chris Guild says. of the gift shop and future The barn behind the gift shop, home of a restaurant; (bottom) one of future restaurant on the ranch, currently serves as a 300 bison calves born at workshop where five cabins are being crafted. Later Mud Creek. this month they’ll be moved to the 600-acre as-yetunnamed pasture and woodland farm in nearby Prattsburgh. After babies are born, bison will be moved there where they’ll have more pasture to roam, and campers hiking through the property will be able to enjoy their company—from a respectful distance. Each cabin and its site will be equipped with furniture, bedding, cooking equipment, a firepit, a propane heater for indoors, and a luxury porta-potty. To retain the wilderness experience, they will not be plumbed or have electricity. “It’s not going to be a campground,” Chris Guild says. “There will be no driving around. We’ll escort you to the cabins and the parking lot. You’ll see ponds and groomed trails. Around every corner it’s like a different world. It’s geared toward people who want to enjoy nature without having to sleep in a tent on uneven ground.” Cabins, at $225 per night, may be booked on VRBO, Airbnb, and at mudcreekbison.com. The “Frontier of the Southern Tier,” as they call it at Mud Creek, lives again. Karey Solomon is a freelance writer and needlework designer who teaches internationally.
(5) Chris Espenshade
Spring’s Emerging Colors
Cold Season Bird Watching at the Muck in Wellsboro By Chris Espenshade
atience and persistence go hand in hand when it comes to birdwatching at the Muck. The payoff will be the species you miss if you give up too soon. Last January, after deciding to go home, I found myself discussing muskrat trapping with two guys in the parking lot. Right after I told them I had not seen a bird, a bald eagle glided past at tree-top level. Returning to the Muck weekly allows the birder to capture changes in conditions, daily species count, number of birds, and the diversity of behaviors. Only through returning on a regular basis can one observe
and photograph the changes encapsulated in March from frozen wasteland to verdant, avian nursery, from silence—except for a bitter wind—to red-wing blackbirds and Canada geese competing to be heard. This theme of transition is appropriate to the Muck, a 640-acre state game land (State Game Lands 313), located about two and a half miles from downtown Wellsboro off Dresser Road. When the first European settlers arrived in Tioga County, the Muck was a wetland formed from a series of beaver ponds, with a braided, meandering stream.
Too wet for normal farming, in the 1890s, it was ditched and diked for use as celery fields. By 1970, the celery market had collapsed, and it was becoming increasingly expensive to maintain the field system. The abandoned celery fields were purchased as a state game land, and the area has reverted to various forms of emergent wetland habitat. The Muck was designated an Important Bird Area by the Pennsylvania Audubon Society. And its presence contributed to Wellsboro being certified as one of thirtyfour Bird Towns in Pennsylvania by the National Audubon Society. It features a See Gillett on page 30
tiny-house-sized blind with glassless windows on three sides. The blind is accessed from Route 287, taking Dresser Road to the parking area. It’s a short, easy walk leading onto a former dam from the celery-growing days, and looks out onto diverse habitats. A combination of covid lockdowns and my first serious camera led my wife, Linda, and I to the Muck last year. We visited almost weekly through the winter so Linda could look for birds while I took photographs. It was an excellent escape in a time of self-isolation. By the last week of February, you may see large flocks of geese begin to appear in Tioga County fields. Most are passing through, but there is one large flock that makes Tioga County home. Over the next few weeks, they separate into pairs and start to claim nesting locations throughout the Muck. Last year by March 13, the wetlands were alive with goose calls, with multiple eagles aloft or on the ice. Hooded mergansers, already pair-bound, also arrived early. Kingfishers showed once the ice was gone. Just a week later, we saw kildeer starting nests in the gravel at the southern end of the Muck. Geese were abundant, and mallard pairs were picking nest locations, often atop the plentiful muskrat mound-shaped lodges. Three swans were present, great blue herons were fishing, and we saw a beaver—there is a beaver lodge about sixty feet from the blind. Although we’d heard an occasional call the week before, the cattails were now covered with dozens of raucous, male, red-winged blackbirds claiming their territories and displaying their colors. We watched a pair of hooded mergansers, and we were surprised when a mink swam between them. Muskrats were out in force, even mid-day. Teal were flying about, and the first bluebird of the season could be seen in the walkway fringe. The day after the official beginning of spring, the Muck seemed to embrace the new season. Other species waited until spring to return. For example, we did not see the marsh wrens, who make their nests in the top of cattail reeds, until May last year. Likewise, ring-necked and bufflehead ducks, swallows, swifts, and grebes were late arrivals. Ospreys could be seen a month or two after the eagles. It is also spring to early summer before the rails, bitterns, and snipes are generally spotted. These are commonly seen from the walkway, so it pays to take your time approaching the blind. Linda and I focused on the blind. In the thirty visits last year, we found the blind occupied only twice. There are a number of muddy paths along the western edge of the Muck, heading south from the parking lot, which provide alternative watching spots. Rubber boots are strongly recommended. In addition, the Muck can also be viewed on foot or from car on Muck Road, on its southern end. A number of ditches run perpendicular to the road, allowing good views of the interior wetlands. For birding in any season of the year, the Muck is a grand asset for residents of our area. The month of March may start with thin pickings, but it ends with a dizzying array of birdlife. Patience and persistence. I hope to see you there soon. Chris Espenshade is a professional archaeologist, an outdoor columnist, and a resident of Wellsboro. He is working to add wildlife photographer to his resume.
Courtesy Bob Ross
Winter’s Last Dance* By Bob Ross
What’s gray and white But out of sight Until you wake tomorrow? And only when You listen hard Will you cast winter’s sorrow.
t was an early March evening in Tioga County, Pennsylvania, cold but no windchill, overcast but not yet dark. As I stepped outdoors, I immediately felt the moisture in the air, a sign that winter was starting to lose its grip on this northern forested landscape. Exasperated by the bleak weather for so many months now, I did not even check the next day’s forecast to gage my activity options during the stillshort days ahead. What good would it do? Just another wearisome winter day. Over the years I’d learned that March was always the most disappointing month of the year. Thinking of spring’s warmth and sun-filled days was a cruel hoax, for rarely did they come then. Whether tired or just bored, I found myself in an “about face” toward that winter bedroom comfort zone and fell asleep almost before finishing the next chapter of a John Muir anthology.
When I awoke the next morning at first light, I was greeted by something as strange as hen’s teeth: almost total silence. Blinking to clear my eyes I glanced out the French slider. It snowed overnight! Rising to the occasion for a better view, I saw half a foot of snow on the ground. But not just the ground—trees were laden with the white stuff, two to three inches on every branch I could see! Hurriedly I dressed as warmly as I could to get out there. No coffee, no breakfast, just a run to the woods trail. It was a winter wonderland in March, with fluffy white snowflakes everywhere. My trail was a tunnel of lovely gray and white twisting branchlets leading me through a winding cavern of subdued light and short paths. This woods was totally unfamiliar to me, a woods I’d never experienced before, yet a woods I’d walked through uncountable times in my many years living here. The only signs of life were small mammal tracks of nocturnal rodents and perhaps a cottontail or two. But most unusual was the silence surrounding me. By now traffic noise from the highway, only one-third of a mile away, would have woken up even a late-night teenager on a
typical early morning day here. But the snow covered the road and was still falling. Tire noise from any car that did pass by was completely absorbed by the fresh snowfall. By now black-capped chickadees had broken the silence with strangely muffled “dee-dee-dee” calls. Clouds of snowflakes wafted from small tree branches as the chickadee family moved about above me. After marveling at such sights and the near lack of sound, I returned to my cabin in awe. This silence was so relieving of the frenetic pace of life as to let me know peace that few others will ever know. It was the most glorious outdoor morning of my winter, in fact, any winter I had endured here in Penn’s northern woods. Thus solved is the riddle posed at the beginning of this essay. (This essay was inspired by Muir, J. 1912, “In the Midst of the Yosemite Fall,” The Yosemite, The Century Co., New York.) Bob is an ecologist retired from the USGS facility near Wellsboro. He remains active with the local birding community and travels extensively throughout the Americas.
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Jon continued from page 11
March 19, 2021. Two of Jon’s friends spotted eagles circling overhead. Alison isn’t sure why Jon felt his spirit animal was the eagle, but Chuck thinks it’s because of The Hobbit. In the novel, when all is lost the Great Eagles fly in to save the day. That year, the staff saved the business. “I feel like Jon left the girls and me this support network to see us through,” Amanda says. Alison worked with PCO staff to organize a river float to raise funds for glioblastoma research. In trying to name it, they came up with Regatta because Jon would say, “We gotta, we gotta regatta!” On May 23, 200 people floated down the Upper Pine while an eagle perched not in a tree but on the bank, watching while the boats paddled past. Many more people bought T-shirts. They raised $6,300 for StacheStrong. The 2022 Regatta will be held on May 22. When June came, it was clear the folks who’d discovered outdoor adventure during the pandemic were coming back for more. Numbers were up, and staff got the word that Amanda wanted to keep the business. “I couldn’t imagine not staying,” she says now. “It’s all the girls have known.” Living attached to the outfitters provided support. “We didn’t have to ask them to step up. They just took care of everything when I couldn’t even think.” The girls could still run into the store to hang out or bounce on the rafts piled out front. Staff let the dogs out when Amanda wasn’t around. The PCO family remains a collection of gifted misfits with various worldviews and political affiliations. In a year when the country, even the county, was more divided than ever, it’s easy to imagine Jon watched with pride at how the staff focused on their commonalities: love of the outdoors and of a young man who seemed to know exactly what to do with his short time here. PCO not only made it through the year, they had a very successful season. At the employee appreciation dinner in November, they showed slides of Jon and PCO’s past. After Mark shared some memories, he looked at Chuck and Sue and said, “I got a lot more than a job out of this place.” In 2022, Dan, now the operations manager, is ready to steer the business in the direction Jon wanted. Jon talked to Dan a lot about his ideas to expand, things to try next. This year more guided options for paddling, biking, and hiking will be offered. On Jon’s birthday last year, Alison visited one of his favorite vistas at Bradley Wales, about half-way along the West Rim Trail. “I didn’t believe in signs,” she says, “but I asked him for one. An eagle came and rode the air currents for two minutes. The leaves swirled in the breeze and glistened.” She left flowers. There’s geologic time, and there’s human time. Perhaps Jon’s spirit exists somewhere in between. Certainly, any heaven worth his soul includes the Pine Creek Valley. “Sometimes it just hits you,” his sister says. “The place breathes Jon. He’s still there, laughing at all the shit we do.” And no doubt watching over his creek and the people finding the peace on it that he did. Lilace Mellin Guignard raises her kids in Wellsboro where she plays outdoors, gets wild with community theater, and shakes things up at Sunday school. She’s the author of When Everything Beyond the Walls Is Wild: Being a Woman Outdoors in America.
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B A C K O F T H E M O U N TA I N
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