Retreat to the Forest

After the decimation of the landscape by the lumber industry and wildfires, the lumber companies who owned the land were willing to sell at a low price.  A state act was passed in 1897 which authorized the purchase of any unseated land for the creation of Forest Preserves.  The object at that time was to preserve water supply at the sources and to protect people and property from destructive floods.  In 1898 the first tract in the state was purchased for the Forest Preservation and in 1899 the Commissioner of Forestry was authorized to purchase any suitable land offered at less than $5/acre.  Pennsylvania even created their own forestry school in the early 1900’s to train foresters to manage their expanding Forest Preservations.  It makes a person wonder what the land may look like today were it not for these actions by the state more than one hundred years ago.

With warm weather and the fall colors at their peak I drove to Asaph on Saturday afternoon of Columbus Day weekend 2013 to catch the setting sun and check out Asaph campground at the base of the Asaph Natural Area in the Tioga State Forest.  I turned on Marsh Creek Road in Wellsboro Junction, which parallels the Pine Creek Rail Trial to get to the turn onto Asaph Road.  When we last visited the Pine Creek Gorge area we drove past the US Geological Survey building in Asaph and this day I stopped for a photo as the building was beautiful against the blue sky.  The entire drive along Marsh Creek Road was enjoyable this afternoon – the marsh was noisy with birds and the Sassafras trees along the road were full of all the best of autumn’s colors. Once in the park I was surprised to see a number of tent campers set up in the campground.   There was also a family using the picnic pavilion.  I wandered around the park a little before being stopped by a young man conducting a survey on behalf of Penn State & PA DCNR.  After completing the survey I drove up Right Asaph Road with my state forest map in hand to find the setting sunlight.  I had never been to this area prior to today but I do have a fascination with maps.  If I know I am going somewhere you may find me pouring over the map recording its patterns in my mind for future recall. I own most of the PA State Forest maps and some of them I have studied long.  Tioga SF being the closest to my home, this map is the most worn and even has a hole thorough it in one place.  My path of choice this day was a road that dead-ended/became a trail where I was lucky enough to find a landscape bathed in the setting sun.  I also found these great large rock outcroppings like so many other places in Pennsylvania.  These rocks are large but lack the height of most others I have seen.  While exploring the rocks region I enjoyed hearing a pair of Barred Owls calling to one another close by. The discovery of the millstone and sign were just an added bonus to a great afternoon.

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