2009-10-08 / Local & State

Poor Economy Affords PA Couple’s Kayaking Dream


WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) – When Tom Segeda found out he was being laid off for a few months, he and his wife, Sharon, made a quick plan. They would need kayaks, maps, some soup and help from a few friends.

Sharon and Tom Segeda of Hobbie, Pa., about 70 miles northeast of Harrisburg, decided to spend a month kayaking the Susquehanna River from Cooperstown, N.Y., to the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.

Both 50 years old, they decided they would use the free time to take an adventure they’d dreamed of for the past quarter century: Kayak the Susquehanna River from its headwaters to its mouth.

“It was just, ‘Hey, I’m laid off. We’ve got the time, let’s give it a shot,’’’ Sharon related by phone on Tuesday, Sept. 22, while floating along the riverbank about 50 miles north of Harrisburg near Danville. “Honestly, we didn’t really put a lot of planning into it.’’

The idea took root about 25 years ago when the couple went on an overnight canoeing trip on the river. It grew last year at their vacation home in Bradford County when they met a kayaker who was making the trip solo. It blossomed a few weeks ago when the free time became available, and they put in the river on Wednesday, Sept. 9, in Cooperstown, N. Y.

“It’s like a creek when it starts out. Actually for about three days it’s like that,’’ she said. “We’ve never been up there before, and there’s no map put out for sale in the state of New York, so that kind of made it difficult. All through the state of New York, you never knew where you were or what to expect.’’

That made for some surprises, like the time they came across an unmarked, 9-foot dam. “You see the water level drop off, and you hear the fast water,’’ she said.

Crossing into Pennsylvania, however, their maps finally became useful, and they were able to find places to stop, scout out islands for camping and be prepared for upcoming hazards, like dams and fast water.

“It’s been a lot of fun. There’s nobody else around you most of the time. It’s very relaxing and comforting,’’ Sharon said. “It’s so beautiful. I wish more people would be using the river ... The mountains, it’s like they cradle you in their hands.’’

Paddling up to 10 hours a day, they usually travel about 30 miles. On Sept. 19 and 20, they passed through the Wyoming Valley, stopping to meet up with family at a public park situated along the river as it winds through Wilkes-Barre.

They had also hoped to catch up to a crew of people navigating a homemade barge down the river, but they found the barge docked south of Wilkes-Barre.

“We were hoping to hook up with him and just chat,’’ she said. Instead, they sat on the barge and talked with the landowner who was looking after the barge until members of the crew returned to take the craft farther south.

The couple planned to make the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland in early October. They’re documenting their journey only sparsely, scribbling short notes into a journal. “It’s kind of hard to jot stuff down,’’ Sharon said. “You have to pull off and write, so we keep little notes here and there.’’

A luxurious cruise, it’s not – “We’re kind of living on soup,’’ Sharon said – but it’s also one that the Segedas don’t know if they’ll ever top.

“People think it must be hard sleeping in a tent ... I’m kind of used to it already, and I’m gonna miss it when it’s over,’’ Sharon said. “It’s going to be hard to come back to that daily routine.’’

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