A Weekend in The Wilds

I said I would return to Pennsylvania Elk Country so I chose Fathers Day 2013 weekend to take Matt for a weekend away.  Matt enjoyed the drive, passing by Austin Dam, Sinnemahoning State Park and the Bucktail statue in Driftwood on our way to Elk Country.  I rented a small inexpensive cabin that I was not impressed with at all – it was sufficient and I will leave it at that.  We stayed in Friday night and planned our activities for the next day.  Saturday morning we drove to Parker Dam State Park where we further investigated the park and hiked two different trails.  It was a beautiful time of year; the forest was verdant and the mountain laurel in full bloom.  The park office was open and we got some great, inexpensive T-shirts and some walking stick medallions.  Since SB Elliott State Park is so close we drove to the park and checked it out more thoroughly than I had the month before.

After leaving SB Elliott we headed to the Marion Brooks Natural Area in the Quehanna Wild Area.  I had read about this 975 acres of white birch trees in an almost pure stand but it was amazing to see.  There are no trails but we wandered just inside the area and it was spectacular.  White birch indicates a young forest and eventually, these trees will die out and mixed hardwoods will take their place.  For now, it is an incredible natural wonder.

Next I took Matt to the PA Elk Country Visitors Center and we were excited to see elk grazing so close to the parking area.  The only elk I had seen on my last trip were in the distance.  Inside the visitor’s center I spent more time with the displays than I had previously & enjoyed the gift shop with all the items made in the US.  We ate at the Benezette Hotel and on our way back to our cabin we saw a few elk in the Benezette Campground so we just had to turn around and get some photos.  We see deer all the time where we live but to see these huge animals roaming about like deer was very strange!  It was getting to be shortly before sun down and the elk usually graze at this time of the day so I took Matt to Hicks Run Wildlife Viewing Area where I had stopped briefly in May.  Before even reaching the parking area we saw a bull elk, in full velvet, in a field near the meadow.  I should have turned off my digital zoom and I would have had at least a few good photos!  From the viewing platform we saw a group of deer in the distance but no more elk.

The following morning we returned to the Quehanna Wild Area.  This area has fascinated me since I got my hands on the state forest maps for this region.  The Quehanna Wild Area is a perfect sixteen-sided polygon and the maps show a small octagonal area within marked “restricted.”  On one map, the road leading to this restricted area is named Reactor Road.  Piques one’s curiosity, does it not?  The landscape in Quehanna is unlike any have ever seen and difficult to describe.  This area was once known as Pennsylvania’s desert after the destruction caused by the lumber boom and subsequent wild fires.  At a later date, during the “Atoms for Peace” push, the land was leased by Curtiss Wright Corporation for jet engine & nuclear research (and subjected to a lot of chemical waste.)  We had hopes of hiking to the remains of the Curtiss Wright Corporation buildings & parking lot but found the trail not well marked and decided we needed a more detailed map.  We drove to the barricade on Reactor Road but did not venture any further on foot.  There was a nuclear reactor here and it cost the state millions of dollars to clean it up.   The shape of the wild area is the original fence line for the Curtiss Wright Corporation which was guarded by guard towers.  I spent hours online learning about the history of Quehanna Wild once I returned home.  I now own a detailed map so will return in the future for some hiking trips.

I had promised Matt that we would visit Kinzua Bridge State Park on the way home so we drove through Saint Marys and Johnsonburg (A.K.A. Godfart, but it wasn’t stinky this day) and north on Route 219. Once we got there, Matt was in awe with the damage done to the bridge & trees.  The sky walk has now been completed so he trekked out to the end while I gladly stayed behind and walked around on the viewing decks.

We drove home along Route 6 and I was reminded of our trip on that road in 1999.  There is a once lovely stone building built into the rock cliffs outside of Port Allegany called Lynn Hall that never fails to interest me and one more thing I can (and did) spend hours learning about online.  We stopped at the Black Forest Trading Post because I have always wanted to … a touristy kind of thing.  Matt bought a really high quality Guinness T-shirt as the shop has an Irish section… go figure!

We stopped in Mansfield and had dinner at Yorkholo where Matt sampled some of their brew.  When we were done we still had a considerable amount of daylight left so we drove east on Route 6 to Armenia then up the mountain road to see the wind turbines up close.  I am continually in awe of these giant things whenever I see them and this was the closest I have ever been.  I continued along the road we were on and eventually it turned into the kind of dirt forestry road I have driven so many times.  I turned on my GPS and surprised myself to actually know where I was and where I would come out.  The road became the Fallbrook Road and ends up near Fallbrook Falls in the Tioga State Forest where I had visited in April.  I was anxious to show Matt this cool place but disappointed that there was a group of younger people in a Jeep illegally entering the old park and apparently preparing for a party.  We did walk in and check out the falls but did not linger.

Home again with no new parks to add to the list but a lot of photos, great memories and desire to return.

Hiking at Parker Dam Mountain Laurel at Park Office Mountain Laurel More Mountain Laurel Matt and a Large Fern Birch Trees at Marion Brooks NA Moshannon SF A08_ElkAreaSign A09_YoungBull A10_CampgroundElk A11_ElkBullInVelvet A12_ReactorRoadBarricade A13_Kinzua A14_MattAtKinzua A15_WindTurbines

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