Friday, November 3, 2023

PA Union Canal Towpath



It was windy and brisk, an exhilarating day for a scenic out-and-back ten miles on the Union Canal Towpath.. Berks County Parks maintains this 4.5 mile section of trail but I started at the Blue Marsh Lake dam stilling basin upriver at the Army Corps Blue Marsh Lake to add a few extra miles of that trail system to my ride. The Union Canal and connected heritage area define Pennsylvania's "Americana Region" with its old stone-built homes, mills, covered bridge, and barns. This is both the historic and mid-century working landscape that, along with the work-a-day world of Reading just a few miles south, inspired writer John Updike who was born and grew up in a small town near here. 

Coal shuttle/ house boat conversion

I didn't have John Updike in mind when I was riding south from the dam, through woods and fields, along the sunken remains of the canal on one side and the glittering Tulpehocken (The Tully) Creek on the other. I enjoyed stopping at the Berks County Heritage Center to admire the restored wagon factory and covered bridge. When I got to the end the trail at Stonecliffe Recreation Area, however, I dismounted to have a snack (it was chilly!) and got caught up watching a couple half-argue/half-laugh about some situation they clearly disagreed about, he in his work clothes, her in nursing outfit, both trying to eat their MacDonalds lunch in the twenty minutes they had together. 

Wertz's covered bridge, 1867

Watching the couple eat, argue, and joke with each other, for some reason John Updike popped into my head and I tried to imagine the novel he might build around the scene before and around me. I kept people-watching on the ride back to Blue Marsh and past the old homes and barns I was reminded of his short novel Of The Farm which describes the visit of a middle aged son to the Berks County farm he grew up on and meeting his aged mother who remained there to defend it from what was to come to so much of the Berks County landscape. The story is full of those half-argue/half-laugh conversations where an entire life's story evolves.

Burr truss engineered

What to do with the old farm, the son asks, because surely she won't live much longer and we need to make plans to sell it for a golf course? a housing development? a county recreation park? As I rode past the Heritage Center, formerly a dairy farm with it's high arched barn cloaked in the makings of a visitor and education center. I wondered about the conversations that family must have had when the dairy was failing and its lands were being eyed by greedy developers aiming to make a killing on quarter-acre plots.

Gruber Wagon Works

The quiet drama of losing an old farm to re-development while serving up a Pennsylvania lunch of steaming pork sausage and cabbage and shoo-fly pie to people not-from-here made the novel resonate with me. We'd had such conversation ourselves once and we certainly couldn't get enough shoo-fly pie when we were young. I watched nearly all my elder neighbors on their own farms wring their hands with worry when no one in their families wanted to take on the work to keep them up. I could imagine this scenario playing out time and time again as I rode past newer developments built on old farm lands, past the stories of dozens of families who may have inspired Updike's little novel of ordinary but sorrowful Berks County memories of the land in the 1950s and 1960s. 

The "Tully" - Tulpehocken Creek

From Of The Farm

"What's the point," Richard asked, as I told him to, "of a farm nobody farms?"

I feared we had gone beyond hushing, but my mother seemed unexpectedly pleased with the question, and moved her head still farther forward above her folded arms, to give herself breath for a full answer. "Why," she said rapidly, "I guess that's the point, that nobody farms it. Land is like people, it needs a rest. Land is just like a person, except that it never dies, it just gets very tired.

Gring's Mill

Bridge over the Tully

Rolling past the Heritage Area, heading north, I could feel ever so slightly an uphill. I shifted gears and thought there must be a lock around here somewhere that helped canal boats level the gradients of the stream as it flowed to Reading and the Schuykill and eventually, the Delaware River. Further on I  stopped to admire the work of a construction crew to repair Lock 48, to clean it of flood muck and overgrowth. A big scoop bucket swung back and forth, clearing the floor of the lock clear of log jams and mud. What a job it was, dredging out history and making it relevant again.

Remains of a dam

I stopped to admire the remains of a paper mill dam recently demolished to allow Plum Creek, a tributary of the Tulpehocken, to run free again. Huge chunks of concrete were piled almost to the edge of the towpath where trucks will load it up and take if off to a crushing yard. Swim free, fish! I called, pedaling on. 

Restoring Lock 48

I could hear cars crossing the metal deck of Reber's Bridge up ahead where I would soon cross the road to finish my ride a few miles further on at the modern dam at Blue Marsh. Another Updike moment occurred, however, when I stopped to take a photo of an old historic marker along the road that paralleled the towpath. A young woman appeared walking around the curve of the trail. She was dressed in classic 1950s thrift store attire and it made me smile. Dark blue vintage dress, dark hose, and sensible black leather shoes with a slight heel. (Was she off to work in the parachute factory?) A three-quarter length beige Peter Pan overcoat trimmed with dark fur around the neck and down the lapels, a most perfect pillbox hat on her head, the nostalgia that I felt for the characters in Of The Farm come to life. 

"For many men, work is the effective religion, a ritual occupation and inflexible orientation which permits them to imagine that the problem of their personal death has been solved. Unamuno: ‘Work is the only practical consolation for having been born.’ My own chosen career — its dispersal and multiplication of the self through publication, its daily excretion of yet more words, the eventual reifying of those words into books — certainly is a practical consolation, a kind of bicycle which, if I were ever to stop pedaling, would dump me flat on my side. Religion enables us to ignore nothingness and get on with the jobs of life."
 - John Updike, Self-Consciousness: A Memoir (1996)


Walking History Tour pamphlet for the Berks County 4.5 mile section of the Union Canal Trail:

Gruber Wagon Works is a beautiful addition to the Berks County Heritage Area

Monday, October 30, 2023

PA Michaux State Forest - Meeting of the Pines Natural Area

On this dreary, overcast Sunday there was nobody else except Amos the Coonhound and me and a fat Black Bear on Brickers Clearing Trail. The Black Bear didn't stay long, however, as Amos gave it a bone shattering bay (I call it yelling) that sent the bear galloping up and over the ridge. It was all the excitement we needed for this otherwise quiet 4.5-mile out-and-back along the edge of Michaux State Forest. 

Company dance pavilion at Mont Alto

Our hike began at Mont Alto State Park opened in 1902, the state's oldest and one of the smallest state parks in Pennsylvania. The grand old dance pavilion still stands but little else remains of this destination-by-rail attraction that, in the late 1800s, drew thousands of visitors a day each summer. The park was built originally for the workers and their families of the Mont Alto Iron Furnace (1815 - 1893) of which little remains except for the heavily quarried landscape, now Meeting of the Pines Natural Area. The Penn State Mont Alto Campus occupies the site of the iron furnace, just a stone's throw from the little state park. Bricker's Clearing Trail is all that remains of the ore wagon road that delivered tons of iron ore a week to the furnace at the foot of the mountain.  

Mont Alto Iron Works, c.1880. 

In 1902 the Commonwealth purchased the dilapidated, shuttered iron furnace and the little company park. Another thousand acres of surrounding cut-over slash and deforested mountain was added to the purchase, including the 8 open pit quarries on the mountain that is now the Meeting of the Pines Natural Area. The Bricker Clearing Trail, the former ore wagon road that connected all of the quarries on the mountain, serves as the main trail into the preserve. 

Scrap of ore wagon 

Meeting of the Pines Natural Area was established as the only site where all five of Pennsylvania's pine species occur in the same place. I came to visit with the Table Mountain Pines (Pinus pungens), however, an endemic species of the Central Appalachian Mountain range which is near its northern extent in its home range at altitude from Georgia to Pennsylvania. They grow on the highest, rockiest, and most exposed outcrops in the  Blue Ridge Valley and Ridge Province and are a wonder to see. 

I had a while to hike before reaching the Table Mountain Pines at the very top of the mountain ridge  but the bear sighting and Amos' enthusiastic response to being growled at helped break up the long slow slog uphill. A post-industrial landscape of quarry pits and wagon roads is now completely reforested in hardwoods but the characteristic pit-and-pile topography will endure for centuries.

Pit-and-pile landscape of former quarry lands

Pit entrance

Old pit road

The freshly fallen leaves of Chestnut and White Oak, Maple, and White Pine needles softened the dips and edges of the excavated landscape and muted the contours of trenches and pit holes. Rain pattered down in little fits and starts while the wet lushness of the trail underfoot absorbed the sound of my boots as I went slipping and tripping up the rutted forest road. Two miles up and the hardwoods began to shift to the evergreen of the pines. White Pine became interspersed with Virginia Pine, while  Huckleberry and Blueberry became the dominate understory.

Eastern White Pine, Pinus strobus 

Slope, exposure, and soil chemistry determined what pine communities came next. The scrappy Pitch Pines and Virginia Pines grew stubbornly on steeper pitches where Mountain Laurel came into the picture and everything seemed to have twisty trunks and grappling limbs, hanging on the sloping walls of the bluff above me. Twisty Shortleaf Pine took over from the straight poled Virginia Pine while Mountain Laurel thickets grew dense beneath. Pitch Pine with its crooked tops and trunks grew doggedly in the scrappy clearings of boulder and talus as I neared the top. 

Virginia Pine, Pinus virginiana

Pairs and threes needle cluster of Shortleaf Pine, Pinus echinata

Eastern White Pine cones and five-needle clusters

I huffed and puffed and was glad for Amos to be pulling me up by his lead. I took a long breather at a charcoal hearth, a circular flat level carved out of the slope. The ground scuffed up beneath my boots still showed its rich black char soil. From this level perch I looked down the hillside and could see four different pine species all at once, Pitch, Virginia, Eastern White, and Shortleaf.  Now all I needed was one more push up the steep trail to add Table Mountain Pine to complete the Meeting of the Pines.

Pitch Pine, Pinus rigida  and Table Mountain Pine, Pinus pungens

The bluff almost glowed in the low light. The dark trunks of the pine stood stark against the cliff edge of white Antietam Quartzite while the golden yellow canopy of hardwoods laid like a carpet across the valley below.  Facing into the west wind were the Table Mountain Pines, twisted and contorted at the edge of the bluff, while somewhat straighter Pitch Pine grew on a level shelf of white rock that sloped down from the crest. I took a seat on a quartzite block and let this iconic Appalachian scene soak in. 

Antietam Quartzite 

Mouse-tailed cone of a Table Mountain Pine

Knobby little stems and short paired needles, Table Mountain Pine

Table Mountain Pine anchored tightly to the edge

Each Table Mountain Pine had its own version of twist and lean, each weirdly bending out into the air beyond the cliff edge as if they are both of sky and  mountain.  Buddhist teacher Thich Naht Hahn once wrote "Enlightenment is when a wave realizes it is the ocean," and maybe this is why I love the Table Mountain Pine, shaped by wind and ice, its roots claw down deep into clefts and cracks to draw sustenance from rock itself. It grows on thin or no soils, reaching deep into the interior spaces of the mountain's edge, grown of two worlds, rock and air, knitting them together as it arcs and twists into the light. I spent some time admiring these pines at the edge, so much time that Amos grew weary of it and begged to head back as a light rain began to fall. 

Blackhaw Viburnum 

Crossing West Antietam Creek at Mont Alto to a waltz

As we came down the mountain, I stopped to admire a Blackhaw Viburnum, which I felt like there should have been more of had there not been so many non-native and invasive Bush Honeysuckle crowding the edges of the road as we dropped in elevation. Maybe I was distracted by the clear melody of music coming from the dance pavilion across the Antietam Creek bridge to notice any others. As we approached the bridge leading back to the park, we could see a beautiful young couple - students maybe from the nearby Penn State campus? - waltzing under the dome. Amos was curious and watched from the bridge as the couple glided between the picnic tables, one-two-three, one-two-three... 


DCNR Meeting of the Pines flyer (pdf) 

DCNR Mont Alto State Park

Monday, October 23, 2023

MD Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway Trail - On Solitude


Floodplain forest

Despite an incident (again) with two off-leash pit bulls at the halfway point, my down time with Amos walking the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway Trail was uneventful, quiet, and alone. I'll leave it to the reader to link in to a better explanation of this trail in the Notes below. My focus for this quiet mid-week/morning walk was to experience some time unplugged and unencumbered. Just walk. I do my best thinking when walking and with now two big writing assignments looming ahead of me this November, I needed this time to start thinking about them. This kind of time is rare in  my life and I crave it more and more.  Just walk.

I've picked up one of my favorite books again and note that it must be almost November. I happened to mention May Sarton to a group of nature journal workshop participants the other day and I haven't been able to shake her off since. Her work moves me. Her work speaks to the challenges of managing depression, social anxiety, exhaustion. Poet and journal writer, Sarton laid these personal vulnerabilities and fragilities at the feet of her readers. Kick them around, she invites. Stomp on them. Tease or taunt, if you want. This is how it is and this is what helps and I dare you to sentimentalize. Of course, she is speaking to herself.

Stafford Flint Mill furnace

"So much of my life here is precarious. I cannot always believe even in my work. But I have come in these last days to feel again the validity of my struggle here, that it is meaningful whether I ever “succeed” as a writer or not, and that even its failures, failures of nerve, failures due to a difficult temperament, can be meaningful. It is an age where more and more human beings are caught up in lives where fewer and fewer inward decisions can be made, where fewer and fewer real choices exist. The fact that a middle-aged, single woman, without any vestige of family left, lives in this house in a silent village and is responsible only to her own soul means something. The fact that she is a writer and can tell where she is and what it is like on the pilgrimage inward can be of comfort. It is comforting to know there are lighthouse keepers on rocky islands along the coast. Sometimes, when I have been for a walk after dark and see my house lighted up, looking so alive, I feel that my presence here is worth all the Hell."  

Furnace look-alike: Shaggy Mane 

My friend Joy, who was my former graduate school professor for a class called Ecological Thought, and who sadly has recently passed away, introduced me to May Sarton under the premise of ecological pilgrimage, a term we framed together as we did some post-doc work on long distance walking and solitude. Sarton's "inner pilgrimage" (from her book Journal of a Solitude ) to find and re-find solitude after busy weeks of teaching, public speaking, or traveling for her publishing house was only possible by returning to her little farmhouse in Nelson, NH. There she would recuperate from the outside world. She could only write when in solitude and she could only achieve that space when she observed and immersed herself in the nature of her rural homestead and let everything else go - every angry outburst, every thought of suicide, every fear of failure or criticism taken in so deeply and painfully to heart.  The way the October light slanted into her "cozy room"  (her writing studio) or watching the meadow shiver with blustery November wind fwould illuminate her darkest days into the hopeful and prayerful space of aloneness she craved and how she wrote! How this touches me, a salvation.

Broad-leafed Goldenrod

May Sarton craved Octobers and Novembers. She loved giving attention to the transitions of sky and flowers and trees. She loved watching the nearby mountains transform under cloud cover and sunsets. the clouds were "gifts" and brought the promise of longer nights and less travel and more time to just be alone.   "There is only one possible prayer: Give me to do everything I do in the day with a sense of the sacredness of life. Give to me to be in Your presence, God, even though I know it only as absence," she writes in the closeness and quiet of her cozy room, for "Tomorrow the world crashes in again."

Conowingo Dam

I have another one of Sarton's books, The House By the Sea  lined up for when I finish A Solitude but it may be a while before I start in. Though her journals are small books, I savor them line-by-line and sometimes I can only handle one day's entry one day at a time to allow her words to nestle inside me as I too crave what she craves and sometimes I feel what she feels. November is on the doorstep and winter awaits. And after a mostly peaceful and alone walk, I begin leaning in to her heartfelt longing for the deep peace this time brings. 

Meditation in Sunlight

In space in time I sit
Thousands of feet above
The sea and meditate
On solitude on love

Near all is brown and poor
Houses are made of earth
Sun opens every door
The city is a hearth

Far all is blue and strange
The sky looks down on snow
And meets the mountain-range
Where time is light not shadow

Time in the heart held still
Space as the household god
And joy instead of will
Knows love as solitude

Knows solitude as love
Knows time as light not shadow
Thousands of feet above
The sea where I am now

- May Sarton, 1948


Trails Link for Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway Trail

The Marginalian on May Sarton

Sunday, October 22, 2023

WV Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge


My path into environmental history began when I was ten. That was a long time ago. So was the Pleistocene epoch to a ten-year old tom-boy who roamed the woods and old sand mines near her home almost like a feral animal. On one of those energetic expeditions found a shard of fossilized tusk. It was only about four inches long and heavily weathered but I knew right away what it was since I had been immersed in the Ice Ages at the local library, studying pictures of short-faced bears and saber-toothed tigers. My imagination burned with excitement when I learned that the piece of tusk belonged to a Wooly Mammoth. 

Add a short-faced bear and a few tapirs to complete the scene

The Pleistocene really wasn't that all that long ago. It's only been a geologic blink-of-an-eye since the great megafauna roamed this region as it was then, tundra, savanna, boreal forests, and vast wetlands. That piece of tusk I found when I was ten was gifted to a family dentist in my thirties because "it's a tooth and you should have it!"  since it was he who identified it for me. It was Dr. Silver who lent me several yellowed copies of Academy of Natural Sciences Journals to "graduate you from picture books" when I was in my teens. 

Canaan Valley NWR Visitor Center

I can easily rekindle that childhood excitement when I have the opportunity to explore a landscape that, minus its Ice Age animals, is pretty much as it was 75,000 years ago. Currently under ongoing restoration to revive historic Red Spruce forests that were destroyed by intensive logging in the early 20th century, I spent a day fully immersed in the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge. I wanted to see what spruce forest restoration looks like thirty years in. 

Familiar tree seeds and nuts from the Port Kennedy Cave (Mercer, 1899)

Ringed by the mountains of the Monongahela National Forest, the valley is a center of tourist and outdoor recreation activity - ski slopes, resort-style communities, and golf courses. But there are many small farms, too, and the small Mon-Town of Davis. For the day's exploration, I brought my favorite Ice Age stuffy -my grandkids named him "Woolsey" to take fun pictures in his ancestor's native habitat. I also brought on my tablet a pdf copy of an 1899 article by Henry Mercer, a Pennsylvania  who worked in the Port Kennedy "Bone Cave" site at Valley Forge. I first learned of the exciting finds of the Bone Cave and Henry Chapman Mercer, a Pennsylvanian archeologist and historian, while reading those old copies of the ANS Journal. I am happy to see that Journal has been archived online at the Biodiversity Heritage Library

Add Mastodons and 

Mercer had been part of a crack team of celebrated American archeologists that excavated one of the richest troves of Pleistocene animal and plant remains ever found in North America at the time. His 1899 report is a classic telling of the dig site and what the remains meant to the developing story of North America's paleo past. It's a great read if you love the history of American paleontology (which I do) but it is also a trove of information about the plant communities that covered the Mid-Atlantic between 15,000 years ago to as far back at 2 million years ago, a period known as NALMA (North American Land Mammal Age). 

Bracken fern

I can imagine Teddy Roosevelt sitting on his veranda at Sagamore Hill in NY glued to a reading of this issue of the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences Journal (for a copy sits on a table in the NPS restored Roosevelt home) and sharing his excitement with his children. What readers discover is that the plant material recovered from the Port Kennedy site represent ancient landscape populated by plant communities all very familiar to us today, plants that co-evolved with their herbivore mammal cohorts like Hickory, Walnut, Locust, Oak, Crab Apple, Red Spruce, Pine, Aspen, Poplar, Ash, Gum, Tamarack, Willow, Heath Berry (Bog Bilberry, Blueberry, Huckleberry, Cranberry) among others.

Remains of the Beale Road Bridge over the Blackwater River

To include the restoration of Red Spruce to the Canaan Valley, the forest and open grasslands  within the refuge is claimed to be a nearly intact Middle Pleistocene landscape minus its NALMA mammal assemblage, of course. The conserved landscape within refuge boundaries is classified as a high altitude post-glacial ecological complex that represents the climatic conditions, flora, and fauna of hundreds of thousands of years ago as glaciers to the north came and went. Everywhere I wandered I saw the efforts of the NFS and USFWS to restore the Red Spruce. But I also saw evidence that the restoration efforts were being challenged by invasive plants, habitat degradation, and development. 

Hornbeam and Hickory compete with Red Maple

Technically today we are still in the Late Pleistocene, still locked into the cycle of ice ages but challenged by rapid changes brought about by human-caused global warming. I asked a staff person at the Visitor Center about those challenges and what's ahead for the restoration of these sub-alpine environments. He explained that invasive plants arrive all the time with the landscape industry often destined for developments and resorts and are a constant threat to preserving the ecological integrity of cold-adapted landscapes. "These plants spread from more developed areas and are surviving and spreading into places that maybe a hundred years ago they wouldn't have thanks to warmer conditions and changing soil chemistries." 

Restored Red Spruce glades

Dr. Maria Wheeler-Dubas of the Phipps Botanical Garden in Pittsburgh states "It is important to note that while, yes, the global climate has always changed, we humans have caused a change in climate that is unprecedented in speed due to our greenhouse gas emissions over the past one hundred and fifty years. It is not accurate to compare the naturally changing climate to the human-made climate change we are unfortunately seeing today."  Knowing this, the park staffer explained, the effort to protect and preserve these very old landscapes is proving to be a real challenge. He described the constant battle against non-native and/or non-regional trees, grasses, and shrubs that spread into the refuge as ongoing and never-ending.

Restoration area reducing Red Maple.

He pointed out one of the areas that I had hiked around that morning on the Beall (pronouced as Bell) Trail where active restoration of a wet meadow grassland involves toppling hundreds of invasive Red Maples to make open ground for Alder, Witch-Hazel, and other wetland shrubs. While conditions now favor the rapid expansion of this southern native tree into the refuge's northern hardwood forests, he warns that Red Maple threatens to become a monocrop as it claims once open grassland. "It's the onslaught of Red Maple that threatens the biodiversity of our remaining hardwoods and meadows. Since periodic 'low' fires have not been part of the natural cycles of this landscape for over a century and saplings are surviving in conditions made even more ideal by warming,  Red Maple now seems to take over open ground and forest edges faster than ever."

American Crabapple (Malus coronaria) adapted to cold and wet conditions

The Beall Loop Trail winds along an old logging road close to the restoration area where tree crews have felled hundreds of Red Maples to allow an Alder wood to grow. A lone Red Oak stood against a backdrop of toppled trees and to someone who might not appreciate the work going on here, it does look destructive. But is also difficult to understand just how challenging this work is when even the rain that falls seems to be working against the effort. Acid rain, polluted by coal-fired power plants of the Ohio Valley to the west, falls here year-round and Red Maple, more tolerant of acid soils, seems to have the upper hand as regeneration of Oaks and Hickories are suppressed by leached soils. One strategy calls for felling of Red Maple in conjunction with application of lime-based fertilizers, selective use of herbicides, and prescribed fire. "It's an extremely complex restoration effort," he tells me.

A banded marsh - layers of native heath, grasses, alder, and forest glades

I visited the new Freeland Boardwalk Trail that offers a wonderful immersion into a vast wetland complex at the south-center of the refuge. Over 8,500 acres of wetland are protected across Canaan Valley with twenty-three different wetland types identified. The boardwalk trail gives a glimpse of some of the wetland complexity and biodiversity as well as a distance view of Red Spruce reforestation. It's pretty impressive and I have a newfound and great respect for the work being done here.

Prickly-tree Clubmoss 

There were many birdwatchers out and I spoke to one who seemed disappointed by the lack of birds today.  He said it should have been chock full of migratory songbirds, sparrows, and hawks. "No matter," he said, "That's what birding is all about, the spontaneity of those really good days against the days when it seems like nothing with feathers wants to show up." Just then a family of Ravens coursed overhead and they stirred up three Meadowlarks that flew into brush from the grass tussock marsh. Then a low flying Rough-Legged Hawk appeared and disappeared. "Oh! He's early!" And everything seemed right again. 


The sun was low in the sky when I finished the third of three hikes on the refuge and besides the group of birders out on the boardwalk and the staff  person I  met at the Visitor Center, I met no one else on the trails. This was the solitude I had been aching for over the past several months and for a few moments at my truck, packing to leave, I realized that I really didn't want to go. Instead and now at dusk, I walked down a short paved trail to an old dilapidated bridge across the Blackwater River as clouds filled the sky and the winds began to bluster. Rain was on the way. Can you imagine, I asked Woolsey, if we were to see a herd of  Wooly Mammoths plod through this floodplain or hear a Giant Ground Sloth crushing walnuts with his powerful jaws? 

Hickory Tussock Moth

As if someone had listened in to my talking to a plush toy, I jumped at a nasal growl followed by a big kerplunk. A Beaver cruised under the old bridge, annoyed by my presence, grumbling as he went and when I failed to vacate my sit spot, he gave the water another huge slap with his tail. Much smaller than his distant and extinct Pleistocene ancestors that grew to seven feet in length, this modern Castoroides has a much bigger brain than his long-gone giant-sized relatives. The decline of the Pleistocene Beaver coincided with the arrival of the Clovis people 75,000 years ago, the first of many human incursions into past and present landscapes of the Canaan Valley. That little guy under the bridge was not only smarter but part of a success story in the modern conservation landscape, restored to wild populations in West Virginia in the 1930s after having been extinct in the state since 1830. 

The Red Spruce forest restoration effort across the Dolly Sods and Canaan Valley high altitude landscapes is impressive and guardedly optimistic. Of the thousands of Red Spruce saplings that I observed while visiting the Appalachian Highlands I acknowledged that they had been planted by human hands. Started by the CCC in the 1930s, during a period of some of the first landscape-level restoration efforts to include forests and wildlife, the rewilding of West Virginia has been a multi-generation, nearly century long process. I can't wait to go back and see more.


Henry Mercer's 1899 report "The Bone Cave at Port Kennedy" (Article IX, pp 269 - 286) in the Journal of the Academy of Natural Science, Philadelphia, Vol XI 1897 -1901.  Biodiversity Heritage Library online. Of the ANS Journal's most enthusiastic readers was Teddy Roosevelt.

National Park Service History Bulletin #23 (2) Fall 2005 "On the Trail of an Important Ice Age Fossil Deposit" by Matt Daeschler, et. al. 

"The Pennsylvania of Yesteryear" by Phipps researcher and educator Dr. Maria Wheeler-Dubas in Western Pennsylvania. 

Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge