Sunday, October 30, 2022

PA Hellam Hills Preserve: A Guided Hike

 #32 2022 52-Hike Challenge: Scout/Prep/Guided Hike - 9 miles

I'm including this one "work hike" for 2022 just because it represents what goes into offering a guided hike for the public. I've guided hikes my whole career in conservation education and interpretation and the plan is pretty much the same: a pre-hike scouting trip to make sure the trail is safe and clear, brush-up on natural history and human history to share with participants, and the admin that goes along with it (a team effort). So having hiked the route twice, once for prep (4.5 miles) and once with participants (4.5 miles), it is now a sample of a guided hike for this year. Off we go...

Bluffs over the Susquehanna 

The Hellam Hills area of North-Eastern York County, PA, is one of several very rugged regions of the county that includes this excellent nature preserve owned and managed by the Lancaster Conservancy. Jeri Jones has written a nice piece about the geology of Hellam Hills, see Notes. The standout areas of this preserve are geological gems like the great bluffs above the Susquehanna, the steep-creek ravines of Wildcat and Dugan Runs, and the dome-like Buzzards Roost.

Mason Dixon Trail blue blaze

When I scout a hike I look for seasonal things that may only be observed during the time of our hike. I spent some time nosing around for fall breeding salamanders and found just the place to share with my group the next day. Of course the colors were a-m-a-z-i-n-g. And, with leaves dropping steadily now we can begin to see further into the woods to observe some of the oldest trees and charcoal hearths. 

An old road is part of our trail to the river and back

I want to give Travis, the preserve manager, a huge shout-out for getting the trails cleared of leaves with his trusty backpack blower! He was moving just ahead of me as I scouted our route for the next day. It was great to have the leaves moved off the really rocky sections of the MDT so my group was able to navigate around all the ankle-twisters and steps. 

An old Witch-Hazel growing on the edge of the check dam

Several trails cross the preserve including a section of the long-distance Mason Dixon Trail that is being re-routed off roads to the wooded hills here. The preserve holds several historical gems as well, including an old quarry site and roads integral to the operations of the Codorus Iron Furnace. The furnace is still standing and can be found up Furnace Road from the preserve on the south side of Codorus Creek.

Wet-foot crossing at a Marietta Gravity Water Company check dam

The Marietta  Gravity Water Company once managed Wildcat Run impoundments for water supply that was piped under the river to the town of Marietta across the river in Lancaster County. The tumbling waters of the ravine creek were quite a tourist attraction and people would take a ferry to the Hellam Hills shores to climb rickety steps to the falls there and have lunch. To reach the falls today, it is quite a climb up or down the ravine (which is not on our agenda for this hike) but it was completely doable by ferry boat and a system of docks, decks, and stairs accessible only from the river. A tourist hotel and restaurant were built into the cliffs. All of it was burned in fire in the 1920s and never replaced. 

Wildcat Falls - rickety bridge and stairs - oof! Photo: Cleon Bernteizel 

Lunch on the deck at the base of the falls.  Cleon Bernteizel

Post card for the Wild Cat Ferry

Though the Codorus Iron Furnace (1765) is not on Lancaster Conservancy property it is easily visited just up the road. Reconstructed and cared for by the Conservation Society of York County, the furnace structure that remains is but a small part of a much larger iron industry complex that existed on this landscape including the quarries, ore pits, and tailings mounds that the MDT weaves through before coming to River Road, the turn-around point for one wing of our Y-hike. Across the road at this point will be one of Pennsylvania's newest parks, Susquehanna Riverlands State Park. 

Quarry rim trail that connects to the MDT

When our group hiked this section the next day, we spent some time calculating the age of the trees that grew along the deepest edge of the ore pit to discover when this quarry was closed. They nailed it - 150 years ago the largest of these Red Oaks began to grow, and our local historian and Volunteer Land Stewart Mike confirmed their findings that yes, the iron furnace shut down in the late 1860s. 

A dark phase Red-Backed Salamander - don't touch!

As we hiked near the place I'd found a dark phase Red-Backed Salamander the day before (above), I invited a young hiker to help me carefully lift some old stacked and rotting firewood to see if we could find another. And luckily we did! A beautiful little female Red-Backed Salamander with a rusty red racing stripe down her back allowed me to scoop her up on a tuft of soil so that I did not accidently touch her skin. This species is one of the lungless salamanders and they breathe through their skin so touching her would surely damage her soft, damp skin. I showed the young hiker how to lift the salamander and hold her safely on the little mound of leaf litter and soil in my hand. Everyone got pictures (except me) and we gently placed her under the log with the help of Volunteer Land Steward Brad who made sure the old firewood went exactly back into its leafy nest just as he had found it. 

Trace fossils of Annelid worms, 540-580 million years old

I alerted the group to the type of rocks we were walking on as we wobbled back across the top of Wildcat Run heading down the second branch of our Y hike. I explained we were walking on an old beach from Cretaceous times, 540+ million years ago when this area was covered by a shallow sea. Sand bars, beaches, sand shoals, and marsh sediments became sandstones and quartzites and some of it contains trace fossils of invertebrate burrows like Annelid marine worms common to that ancient environment. Soon we came upon a beautiful Skolithos linearis fossil that I had set aside on the white blazed trail along the ravine creek that showed clearly dozens of straight burrows that had filled with fine sediments. 

Main impoundment dam of the Marietta Gravity Water Company

Old NO TRESPASSING sign (reposted recently)

Travis had blown the leaves off the white blazed trail that took us down to the remains of the breached dam so it looked like a green carpet, easy underfoot compared to the rocky MDT. The trail passes right through a large charcoal hearth pit and I pointed out its features so the hikers could find them on their own. Figuring it took an acre of hardwood charcoal to keep a furnace in blast for one day, we tried to imagine this landscape as it must have looked in the 1840s - cut over and desolate, its forest reduced to carbonized chunks of Oak, Hickory, Maple, and Chestnut. The forest here has completely recovered, minus the Chestnut, so it took some imagination to picture the smoke-filled air, dirty colliers, and the teamsters driving their horses hauling wagonloads of fuel to the furnace up this steep road.

A bluff view of the Susquehanna

Finally we reached the bluff at our end point for this branch of our Y-hike. Everyone had a good long look at the river and excellent peak of fall colors across the River Hills. I explained how these bluffs act as the sides of a wind tunnel to funnel fall migrating waterfowl like Tundra Swans at night and Hawks and Eagles during the day. The Susquehanna Valley is a major flyway for birds migrating out of New England, New York, and Canada from August through December and IMHO these bluffs are every bit as exciting to hawk watch from as the venerable Hawk Mountain north of Reading, PA.

Scouting assistant, Amos 


Lancaster Conservancy's Hellam Hills Preserve is open to deer hunting Please wear blaze orange and keep dogs on leash as hunters are in the forest in autumn through winter. The hunting map shows areas that are for archery and mixed hunting. It is also a good map to use for finding the trails, several of which are still under development including the re-route of the MDT.  

Jeri Jones, geologist and excellent interpreter of all things rock in York County, has this excellent article about Hellam Hills and other rugged lil' mountainous places nearby. 

For more Wild Cat Falls tourist photos check out Extraordinary Stories blog post here:

Codorus Iron Furnace is preserved and cared for by the Conservation Society of York County. 

Sunday, October 23, 2022

PA Horseshoe Trail: Map 4 - Bucks Hollow (Dreaded) Road Loop

 #31 2022 52- Hike Challenge:  Horseshoe Trail, Berks Co. Bucks Hollow Road Loop / 6mi. 

Road walking

I couldn't decide whether or not to count this road walk towards my 2022 52-Hike Challenge, but given the history of the Horse-Shoe Trail which has significant portions on-road, I went ahead and counted it. I also really struggled with even doing this section because I hate road walking. I can't think of any long-distance hiking trail that doesn't have at least some road walking, however. So on this drizzly morning I thought what the heck, just get it done so I can eventually make it back into the woods. Maybe the rain will keep people home and I won't have to take my life into my hands, I thought. Turns out, I thought correctly. I didn't die.

Early 1700s log cabin (Beaver Run)

1800s school house

You really can't go too far in Berks County without bumping smack into historic structures. On this little loop I counted about a dozen structures - barns, log cabins, a school house, colonial-era farm houses, and an iron furnace (later). Thankfully I could stand safely off the road shoulder just about anywhere and not break any laws or get smashed by a car. Compare that to an earlier SHT road walk when I got yelled at for stepping into a driveway (private property) so as not to get smashed by a box truck. 

Ample shoulder 

The drizzle kept up as I topped the hill out of Buck Hollow but then the skies brightened a little once I made the off-HST turn towards Weaver's Tree Farm and Orchards, again very lucky that I was able to walk the farm road safely around and above busy Rt. 10. Sporting my blaze orange vest and orange baseball cap (thanks Keystone Trails Association!) I was very visible to oncoming traffic down Weavers Road. So visible in fact that two different people pulled up along side and asked if I needed a ride to beat the rain. Very nice, thank you, but no. One of those kind drivers was a long-time resident of the little community at the top of Quaker Hill Road and she told me how she remembered how the "old" Horse-Shoe Trail used to come right up her road and how she enjoyed meeting the hikers. Now the trail has been re-routed (thankfully) on to state forest land and though she knew it was safer that way she misses saying hello.  

Love me some Bully-Mack!

Weaver's Orchard

Weaver's Farm

The loop continued up and around Quaker Hill Road to Timber Ridge and then down to Overlook Road through older and newer neighborhoods. A kid tried to sell me some pink lemonade from her little stand at a yard sale. I don't carry cash, I'm sorry. She frowned at me and I frowned back. Looking at Map 4 I could see how  both of those roads were HST routes. Down the hill to come again to the log cabin and I turned back on to Buck Hollow Road for the lollipop section back to my truck at the state forest parking area.  

Back down Buck Hollow Road

New parking area at Buck Hollow Tract, William Penn State Forest

Having walked only six miles I had some extra time to go check out the Joanna Iron Furnace just a few miles south on Rt. 10. No one was there so I wandered aimlessly around the picnic grounds, demonstration area, and furnace structures. Everything was locked up tight but the deep red ironstone masonry was worth admiring. Two different building styles can be seen at the old furnace: the original cold blast stack and casting barn built in the 1790s, and the Engine House built to house the Weimer Blower Engine that replaced the billows and water wheel. It was looking rather a cross between Gothic Revival and a tad Victorian. What a stark difference in styles between the two! 

Joanna Furnace, 1791 - 1898

The original Joanna Furnace 

Finally done with this road section, I can stop gritting my teeth and look forward to a wooded stretch on my next hike approaching the boundary with Lancaster County. Looking back, this is one of those long distance trails that, like the Mason Dixon Trail my hiking pal Kim and I took four years to finish, is close to home. I think I started this trail in 2016 and so I am still going, a few sections and loops a year. 
There is so much great hiking in our region that the idea of road walking just puts me off, so I haven't been as serious about getting the HST done - like the MDT that had so much road walking. I'm only on Map 4 out of 10 so I guess I'll be doing this one for a few years more, LOL. 


Joanna Furnace is maintained by the Hay Creek Valley Historical Association. They have several big events here throughout the year including a very popular Christmas weekend. This was not one of their busy weekends, however!

Horse-Shoe Trail Conservancy maintains this 140-mile-long trails that links Valley Forge to the Appalachian Trail. It's taking me forever to complete it.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

PA Glenroy Preserve - Old Roads with A Figure

 #30 2022 52-Hike Challenge: Glenroy Preserve, Oxford, PA  7 miles

Close to home is a newly opened preserve (2020) that features old tractor paths, a tavern road, saw mill road, and some ruins. Most of the trails are simply repurposed old roads, some quite historic. Chester County is one of the oldest settled regions in Pennsylvania with long indigenous histories followed by rich histories of European settlement and colonial life. Before I did any research on the Glenroy Preserve, however, Amos and I spent the better part of four hours tracing every trail on the property for almost 7 miles. I made lots of notes about the lumps and bumps, ponds and roads, and curious mounds of cut stone and ruins all along the way.

Old tavern road

I saved my research for when I got home after my hike and using the Library of Congress online archived map collection I was able to quickly find Chester County maps from 1840, 1847, and 1860. I noted that almost all the roads (now trails) show up on all the maps, as do the old ruins near the mouth of a feeder creek as once the site of a small textile mill and factory.

Dressed stone is there for a reason!

Using the maps I was able to confirm from my notes the existence of a bridge that crossed the Octoraro based on seeing one dressed stone on the rise along the bank, the original crossing point on the earliest map marked as an important fording. Upstream from where I parked my truck, the maps showed an iron forge, a rolling mill, and Pierces Grist Mill. Downstream the maps showed the location of a smithy and a saw mill. Like many Piedmont creeks, the maps confirmed that the Octoraro encompassed a semi-industrial landscape. It was fun to match my trail notes  to the old maps. But the maps also gave me a little shiver as I matched a strange sighting to a set of ruins and maybe my first actual experience of seeing a ghost.  

Octoraro Creek

The property comes with quite a pedigree.  The owner of this land, Sir John Rupert Hunt Thouron, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in the 1970s, with his wife Esther DuPont Thouron, cared for their thousand acres as only professional horticulturalists could. Throughout the property I saw details of the professional gardener's eye - ornamental landscaping, a field of Cosmos, a hillside of oriental grasses, selected specimen trees planted deliberately. Though current plans call for the culling of non-native trees like Ailanthus and the removal of an oppressive amount of invasive non-native species come in on their own, taking over every woods edge and sunny edge. Oh, the amount of invasive bittersweet was overwhelming. 

A creek that powered a factory

Ruins on the site of the woolen factory

Following the old roads here and there, the hiking was easy and the path wide. It was very pleasant hiking and after several hours we began our trek back to the truck. Amos was very excited after seeing some (more) deer cross our path and I was trying to slow him down, quiet him. Coming down a steep section of old road behind an old stone foundation ruins I was trying not to to trip and fall. I stopped Amos for a "timeout" and looked down to where the road came to an old bridge. I saw the figure on the bridge over the small feeder creek that flowed into the Octoraro. 

Beautiful Hickory!

The figure was dressed in dark grey overalls, a dirty white shirt, and wore a shabby grey brimmed hat. He appeared to be covered in fiber dust.  He stood looking out over the little creek, hands in his pockets. He didn't seem to know I was just twenty yards behind him and closing in being pulled downhill by my very excited coonhound. As I studied him, all grey and still, he didn't seem to me to be a hiker and well, honestly, didn't seem to be of this century. I even entertained the thought "Watch this be a ghost" and gave a little giggle. I looked down at Amos and asked him to not pull so hard on this steep road. I took my eyes off the figure for maybe five seconds to watch my footing then looked up and he was gone! I stepped on to the bridge where he had just been. I looked up and down the tavern road, looked back from where I came, looked up the tractor path along the feeder creek. I even climbed down the bank to look under the bridge. No one was there! 

Goldenrod Stowaway caterpillar, Cirrophanus triangulifer

Prairie Sunflower, Helianthus petiolaris

You can imagine what I must have thought as I zeroed in on that 1847 map when I got home, the one that shows Rays Woolen Factory at the bridge and base of the steep hill road. Was the figure a textile worker? I began to research the cotton and woolen mill industry in Chester County and found that it was quite robust with dozens of textile mills operating in the mid-1800s.  The now restored Chestertown Woolen Mill is one of the few remaining examples of a woolens factory left standing may be a great place to visit some time to learn more about the textile industry in Chester County. Scanning old pictures of textile mill workers I found a few that looked like the figure I saw on the bridge complete with overalls, brimmed hat, and young, covered in fiber dust. 


Another spooky experience was walking through a mature bamboo forest that seemed so weirdly placed between two cornfields on the top of the ridge. Maybe it had been planted to serve as a windbreak or a soil conservation device, but it was old and dark and almost lightless. Beyond the dark tunnel was a mature plantation of spruce trees, not native to our region, but used like bamboo in the 1950s and 1960s to create conservation buffers on eroding land. I could see these types of plant assemblies clearly on Google maps with a satellite view.  The bamboo forest was just a few minutes before we came down the steep winding road to see the figure on the bridge. 

A field of Cosmos

I'm not saying I believe or I don't believe in ghosts. I've had odd experiences before and have been open-minded about what happened and why. I'm not a big fan of the paranormal at all and really dislike when good landscape history is mixed up with "sightings and frightenings."  But my own experience of seeing this young man standing on the bridge just yards from what would have been his workplace at the woolen factory was not scary at all. I didn't know anything about the woolen factory at the time I saw him except that he was there and then he wasn't. When I found the woolen factory on all the maps I had pulled up, I had a sense of relief that the figure fit the landscape so perfectly in place and time. 

High road and low road converge - this intersection appears on the 1840 map

Road down the Blackburn Branch from the mill pond

Road to Kirks Saw Mill site (1847 map) 

As I researched the history of the textile industry in Chester County a little further, I learned that by the 1830s mechanization and commercial factories and mills had all but eliminated the weaver's craft in South Eastern Pennsylvania. Cottagers who still worked their looms making linens and cloth by hand were almost completely replaced in rural areas by small factory enterprises. Workers were often immigrants or members all of a single family with ties to the textile industry in England, but the importance of a robust rural labor supply was critical to the success of the region's textile manufacturing. I went down a researcher's rabbit hole when I discovered Adrienne Hood's book The Weaver's Craft: Cloth, Commerce, and Industry in Early Pennsylvania (2003) and now am inspired to find out more about how this industry changed and impacted our landscapes. 

Gneiss showing extreme deformation

Basalt occlusion trapped in Gneiss 

Hood's work answered an important question for me regarding the dispersed nature of the textile mills and factories in the region as compared to New England where textile milling factories were concentrated in complexes of industrial towns.  Her research suggests that south eastern Pennsylvania retained its ties to England and its rural textile traditions well into the 1800s, thus patterning itself much like English and Welsh rural cottager transitions to small family-run factories throughout the agricultural landscape. Though just as productive and robust, the Pennsylvania transition to cloth-making at industrial scale was dispersed among the rural countryside located alongside small Piedmont streams. Ray's Woolen Factory was one example of that dispersed industrial pattern, every bit as important to the global textile economy during the early 1800s as those huge factory towns built along the Merrimack River. 

1847 map - can you find Rays Woolen Factory?


Property history and an impressive legacy of conservation at the new Glenroy Preserve

Chestertown Woolen Mill on Pickering Creek restoration site

Google Books online has an excellent preview of Hood's book The Weavers' Craft

Review of Hood's research on Economic History journal website. 

Thursday, October 13, 2022

PA Ricketts Glen State Park: Laurel View/Grand View/Evergreen Trails

 #29 2022 52-Hike Challenge: Ricketts Glen - Laurel View/ Grand View/ Evergreen Trails 4 mi.

I found my way to the Laurel View Trail on the west side of the park which includes the Grand View Trail connector. Some of the loop follows old roads which are wide enough for dog and human to walk side-by-side. The road meets up with the narrow connector trail where it is squeezy tight through mountain laurel and weaves down through glacial till cobble on a narrow path.  The connector reconnects to another old road again to make the loop. Sorry, no grand view. But the woods were full of color and a few critter encounters which more than made up for the lack of vista. This first loop of two I did today was just over 3 miles. 

Laurel View Trail

Striped Maple adorned the edges of the old road and with slender striped trunks and slim branches shimmering in golden light. Hay-Scented Ferns ranged in color from crisp khaki to brilliant yellow while my favorite, the Cinnamon Fern (true to name) popped deep red-brown against the deep green Mountain Laurel. After yesterday's challenging hike up and down the gorges, today mostly flat terrain felt good to walk. 

Striped Maple bark, Acer pennsylvanicum 

Striped Maple twirl in the breeze

Fern and woods marks the shoulder of Red Rock Mountain

I found three kinds of Goldenrod:  Zig Zag, Canada, and Wrinkle-Leafed. I met the Wrinkled-Leaf again at the end of the trail where I parked my truck at the Slate Pit area. Since no other species were found in the slate scree, I assume the Wrinkle-Leafed is much more tolerant of xeric soils found in these old pits and quarries as well as on the hot dry summits, as it turned up en masse on the windswept, dry shale field at the base of the old fire tower. Zig Zag Goldenrod was plentiful in the shady woods where the soil was moist and rich. Canada Goldenrod was abundant in open meadows but not in the woods. Everybody has their favorite place to be, I suppose. 

Wrinkle-leaved Goldenrod, Solidago rugosa

Cinnamon Fern, Osmundastrum cinnamoneum 

Hay-Scented Fern, Dennstaedita punctilobula

The summit of the mountain is home to a modern cell transmission tower (not pictured) and the historic red Rock Mountain Fire Tower. I could just make out the standing waves of mountain ridges that appeared over the tops of trees from where the Wrinkled-Leafed Goldenrod grew but it is still too leafy to see a great distance. Better with winter views, I'm sure. As I stood gawking at the tower, I heard some one coming up towards the intersection of the Grand View Trail just down the old road. I'd parked next to one other truck at the Slate Pit area so maybe this was them hiking counter-clockwise on the loop? 

Red Rock Mountain Fire Tower, 2,449' 

At last count in 2020, there are still 63 historic fire towers standing in Pennsylvania and the Red Rock Mountain steel tower built in 1960 to replace a smaller wooden tower built in the 1940s, is one that is still (but rarely) manned for fire spotting during times of extreme drought. It is one of only 27 historic towers that remains in forest & park service use and it still contains its round-table map on which an Aledade device was attached for pinpointing the exact location of a fire. On special days - usually when maintenance crews are around or for events - the tower is opened for people to climb into the cab. Today was not one of those days. As I stood there imagining a Pennsylvania version of Edward Abbey living the writer's life at 2,500', Amos was distracted by the voices of people coming from the connector trail. 

Tower maintenance road

We turned on to the Grand View Trail and listened to what sounded like two young men having a serious chat. Amos was curious but cautious which made me the same. The giant plop of fresh bear poop I stepped over - and that he somehow ignored - should have been a clue. As we squeezed through a tunnel of Mountain Laurel and bright yellow Sassafras woods,  we rounded a little bend and came within twenty-five feet of two bear cubs wrestling in the path. They made the funniest "little men" sounds but then from the ridge about fifty yards away and above us was Momma Bear. She let out a sudden "OINK!" and those two cubs went scrambling up to her. All three quickly disappeared over the ridge leaving me holding on to Amos with all my might. He never made a sound, probably because I had such a tight grip on his collar he couldn't get a breath. Okay, don't strangle the dog! 

Bear cubs and Momma ahead!

I stood there blinking into the sunlight, excited by what I'd just seen but also really concerned for keeping control over my hound whose breed is known for tracking, chasing, and treeing large mammals. But Amos instead looked up at me and gave a little whine and sat down. I released his collar and just kept a tight hold of his harness and leash until I was sure he wasn't interested in pursuit.  He raised his head to get oriented to the scent of the cubs on the trail but walked calmly past the place where they had rushed up the hill. I grabbed some bear fur from the path and stuck it in my vest pocket. After a bit I wondered why my heart was still beating so loud. It's not like I've never seen bears before. This is my third October encounter with two-cubs-and-momma in the last few years, so I almost expect now to see bears on my PA mountain hikes in autumn. But yet, all I heard was "Thud-thud-thud-thud-thud!" Wait....that's not my heart. It was a Ruffed Grouse drumming on a log! I caught sight of it as it darted off once we came into line of sight. Feeling silly, I strolled a little slower to try to catch some late fall warblers (Black and White!) and was rewarded too with a Broad-Winged Hawk fly over as well.  What a great loop this was for critters! 

Evergreen Trail 

It was still early so we drove a few miles to the Rt. 118 parking area at the south end of the park. Here we walked the one-mile long Evergreen Trail Loop to celebrate the finish of our bear-like fast escape to the mountains this week. Amos was a little wary of those slab steps, however. He'd had enough of them yesterday and was somewhat hesitant to go down towards yet another waterfall. "Momma, really? This again?" He carefully padded down to the stunning Adams Falls, where the trail begins its ascent into the slot canyon. I explored the ferny ledges, pools, chutes, and rock formations while he stood obediently on flat ground. Soon my hiking hound was back to his stride as the ledges gave way to forest path. 

Adams Falls 

Being Tuesday morning there were few people but I've heard from others that on weekends and holidays when the park fills with visitors that this most accessible of the great waterfalls, being right off of the road, can become overcrowded and noisy. I was very happy to have the whole slot canyon and falls almost to myself so I savored the quiet woods. Except for a very loud Pileated Woodpecker which I added to my list, the forest echoed only the falling waters and shushed in a light breeze. Up from the creek we slipped by into a stand of huge White Pine.  Two deer bounded up the hill and Amos gave them a little "whisper" bay which, if you've ever heard him whisper, sounds like someone screaming into a pillow.  

Slot canyon sluice and pot holes

Red shale walls

Maidenhair Spleenwort, Asplenium trichomanes

Old growth surrounded us, over our heads and on the ground. Massive trunks taller on their sides than I am tall, laid criss-cross over the ground. Some were fallen Hemlock, victims of the Woolly Adelgid. Some were ancient White Pines thrown over by strong winds. Many of the older fallen hulks served as nurseries for tiny Hemlock saplings. I found a little stand of young White Ash near its very old parent towering above. Here was healthy regeneration of the older forest community that included all age ranges in a multi-layered forest.  

Old growth White Pine, Pinus strobus

The entire Glens Natural Area is an old growth haven and the area is member site of the Old Growth Forest Network. 200+ year-old White Pine reach up to 130' feet with 14' diameter breast height. I had to pose Amos among them for scale at base. He looked like a puppy against the closest pine. Three-hundred year-old Eastern Hemlocks, though showing substantial stand decline due to Woolly Adelgid infestation, soared 120' and higher. Even the dead standing trunks, bare white and barkless, were impressive, full of woodpecker holes and cavities that made them animal condos.  Even older second growth areas, untouched by the last wave of logging activity in the early 1900s contained massive, mature specimens just as impressive as the virgin forest. My neck started hurting from staring up and up and up.

Nurse log for a Hemlock sapling

On the ground there were entire gardens of Honey Mushrooms growing at the bases of standing, decaying or dying trees. Many mushrooms were just now releasing their white powdery spores, triggered by the last few days of cooler temperatures. Everything looked like it was covered in a dusting of frost. Lichens formed dense blankets of green, grey, and white over rotting limbs. Looking closely I found tiny colonies of Wolf's Milk, their fruiting bodies erupting from slime molds embedded deep in dead wood. With a careful poke using a pine needle, I was able to make a few of the fruits bleed their hot pink juice. So wonderfully weird!

Honey Mushrooms releasing spore

Wolf's Milk, Lycogala epidendrum

As we rounded the bend to complete the loop of the Evergreen Trail we turned once again towards Adams Falls. It was now about 11am and the sound of traffic and people was growing as we neared the trailhead. Boy am I glad we got here early since the falls area now had several dozen people maneuvering around the ledges and canyon features. I couldn't look. The parking lot was almost full but most folks had gone up the Ricketts Glen Trail across Rt. 118. Amos was so tired! He's a great hiker but after a few days on trail he is ready for a break. He was fast asleep even before I pulled out of the parking area and stayed snoozing for the entire three hour drive home. I wish I could do longer and bigger hikes with him but he's a coonhound who loves his long rests between adventures. 

Champion Tulip Poplar stands at 160' with 10' diameter trunk!


Ricketts Glen Park Map:  Laurel View Trail Loop with the Grand View Trail connector are to the west (left) of Rt. 487 while the Evergreen Trail and Adams Falls are at the trailhead parking on Rt. 118 to the south (bottom)