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Dirt roads offer a great route to serendipity TOM VENESKY OUTDOORS


February 16. 2013 3:34PM


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Put me in the middle of a city with no map or GPS, and I'll get lost in a second.


The asphalt streets turn into an urban maze with left and right turns that seem to offer no way out.


While I admit my navigational skills are lacking on the paved city streets, it's a different story on a dirt road.


I never get lost.


I'm right where I want to be.


When the tires hit the gravel, driving doesn't feel like the stressful chore that it is in the city.


And I know exactly why.


Dirt roads offer a sense of adventure and anticipation. Surrounded by mountains or fields, you never know what you're going to see along a dirt road.


Last week I spent much of the day driving the dirt roads in Bradford County. My friend Keith Goyne and I went up for a day of farm pond bass fishing, which is about as relaxing an activity as there is.


But the enjoyment doesn't begin with the first cast. It starts when we turn off the pavement and onto the dusty, dirt roads.


That's when the foot eases off the gas pedal a bit, the air-conditioning is turned off and the windows go down to let the fresh air in.


But the truck isn't the only thing that slows down on a dirt road.


Life does as well.


Our destination was a farm pond in Wilmot Township that Keith and I have fished for years. It's loaded with feisty largemouths, slab panfish and chunky bullheads.


And the best part about it is it takes miles of dirt roads to get there.


As a light dust cloud kicked up behind our slow moving pickup, the stress and hurry of everyday life oozed away. We spotted does with fawns out in the hayfields, a buck standing in the shade of an apple tree and a hen turkey with poults chasing insects in the tall grass.


We marveled at the towering mountains in the distance and the ancient barns that still stood as landmarks along our route. We reminisced about all the years we traveled these very dirt roads, beginning not long after we turned 16, and felt relief to see familiar sites that hadn't changed.


When you travel a dirt road, you have time to observe, recollect and appreciate.


Highways and interstates may be the main arteries to and from a destination, but if you really want to get to know an area in it's purest form, take a dirt road.


They'll take you over mountains, through shaded hollows and across expanses of farm fields – places that are nothing but a blur along a highway.


Dirt roads are the heart of a rural area, but they are becoming fewer and fewer as "progress" buries them under a layer of asphalt.


It's a shame to think that future generations may never know what it's like to hear the gravel crunch and pop under the tires and see the dust rise up in the rear view mirror.


Much like old barns, dirt roads are vanishing from the rural landscape.


After fishing until dark, we loaded the boat in the back of the truck and reluctantly began the drive back home.


The dirt roads that welcomed us earlier in the day now guided us back, though neither of us would've minded getting lost and prolonging the trip a little bit longer.


But we didn't.


We couldn't.


I just can't get lost on a dirt road.


Surrounded by trees, fields and wildlife, if I'm on a dirt road I'm always exactly where I want to be.


Tom Venesky covers the outdoors for The Times Leader. Reach him at tvenesky@timesleader.com




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