Welcome back. Although this issue features our normal
diversity of articles, several of them focus on the topic of hunting.
One of the interests of the Environmental Focus
Group is the culture of central Pennsylvania,
and in late fall, nothing defines that culture more clearly than
hunting. While some might find it troubling that a
journal devoted to environmental issues would endorse hunting,
it is important to remember that the split between "tree-huggers"
and "Bambi killers" is relatively recent. As
John Reiger points out in American Sportsmen and the Origins
of Conservation (1975), the early
conservation movement was driven by the hunting and fishing
community, and many of the
patron saints of environmentalism--Henry David Thoreau, John Burroughs, Aldo
Leopold--were avid hunters. At a time when our state
forests and game lands are threatened, those who love being in
the outdoors--hikers, hunters, anglers, and
environmentalists--need to work together to protect those areas
for future generations.
You may have noticed that our web address
is different. Thanks to Scott Eldridge and John Reid
(The Hemlock's new webmaster), there is now a Hemlock
site on the LHU server. We hope to add features to
Hemlock home page in the near future. And, in case
you missed it, Jason Seyler wrote an excellent
article on The Hemlock for the October 15th Eagle
Eye. As always, we encourage you to contact
Bob Myers if you'd be
interested in contributing to The Hemlock. Perhaps
a short article on your favorite state park and why you love it?
A review of a book that deals with the outdoors or
environmentalism? Reports on your outdoor-related club's
Outdoor Recreation Equipment Available
Thanks to the hard work of Student Rec Center Director Brad
Dally, LHUP students can rent outdoor recreation equipment at a
reduced price. Brad has worked out an agreement with Lock
Haven's outdoor outfitter, Rock River & Trail, to make equipment
available to LHUP students at a 10% discount. Available
equipment includes kayaks, backpacking gear (tents, sleeping
bags, backpacks), bikes, and snowshoes. A shuttle service
is also available. The complete list can been seen
--by Paul Leah (LHU Elementary Education Major)
time spent as a hunter is not in the woods, but in the cabin.
Don’t get me wrong; I love to be in the woods, but when the day
is over, I know the fun has just begun. While I am in the
woods, I am looking forward to sitting next to a nice fire with
my close friends and family. After all, the cabin holds all of
the essentials to a hunter, such as heat, shelter, food, water,
friends, family, bragging, cocktails, poker, toilet paper, and
of course, a place to lay his head at night.
I believe I
was ten years old when my father took my brother and me to our
first hunting camp. I still remember walking into the cabin and
being intoxicated by the smell of the food that was lingering in
the air. When I got over the wonderful smell, I began to look
around and saw a bunch of my dad’s friends; they were all
smiling at us. I met everyone and was shown where to put all of
my clothes and hunting accessories. When I was unpacked, I
stepped into the main room and was told that it was time to
I have never
liked to participate in chores, but eager to please the men
around me, I jumped right into the task. It was a beautiful,
sunny day with about ninety percent humidity. I worked for
hours cutting, splitting, and stacking wood. The sweat was
continuously beading on my brow, and the pile of wood that
needed to be stacked only got bigger. There was one point when
I looked around and saw that everyone was as dirty and sweaty as
I was, but they were all smiling and having fun. After that
point, I decided to listen to them as they were talking; it
helped me enjoy the laborious task that was still in front of
me, and we all started joking with each other, which led to a
great time. When all of the wood was cut and stacked, we all
stopped almost simultaneously and marveled at all of the work
that had been completed. It was a good day of work for sure;
and there was only one thing that was wrong with the work being
done. My stomach had been twisting and turning for the last
hour. It was calling for me to eat something, but the work that
I had been enjoying had not allowed me to feel hungry.
It did not
take long to find out that everyone else was starving, too.
Groans of men about their hunger were getting louder as we went
inside, and to our satisfaction, we found out that dinner had
been served. There was food mounded high on what seemed to be a
buffet of deliciousness. There were elk roasts, sausage
sandwiches, ham, gravy, soup, mashed potatoes, and about all of
the other wonderful “man food” you can have in life, which
included my mom’s “camp famous” chocolate cookies. The “man
feast” was great, but the company was even better. Everyone
talked as if we were one family. We told stories of past hunts
and fishing experiences and learned new and interesting facts
about each other. The best part was that I got to sit right
between my father and brother and talk about all of the day’s
events and dream of the opening day of deer season.
All of the
men at the camp that had unfamiliar faces seemed to be turning
into friends and family as the day went on. If I had just
one point in my life that I could go back to, it would be that
day, because it felt like Christmas morning when I was a child.
Actually, it did turn to Christmas when “Santa” came to visit.
It seems that two of the camp members owned beer distributers.
The beer companies gave them free promotional hats, shirts,
posters, coats, and key chains. Also about fifty percent
of everyone there smoked cigarettes. Just before “hunting
day eve,” they all got together and came up with as many items
as possible with their cigarette points. These items then
turned out to be presents that “Santa” would hand out. The
camp’s founder, Tom Fed, Sr., who is now in the great hunting
cabin in the sky, came out in a red Budweiser hat and red
Budweiser shirt, ready to give all of us the mound of presents
he had. We all gathered around and received presents. I only
remember the one t-shirt that I got, which was the last one
given. It was a blaze orange t-shirt with the camp logo right
on it. The shirt was big on me then, but it now fits me
perfectly, and I wear it with pride on every opening day of
rifle season. When that night came, I was over stuffed from
piles of food and as happy as could be because of new friends;
and well, the presents were just icing on the cake. The best
part of that day was getting closer to my father and brother and
getting to know them better.
and I now have the same thing in common as we did back then, the
love for the outdoors that was given to us by our father. Going
to cabins was and still is the glue that keeps us together. We
now have our own cabin, and when we are there after a day of
hunting or fishing, we always have something to talk about.
Remember when Santa came? Remember when you got your first
buck? (Me) Remember when I took you to get your first buck? (My
brother) Remember when I took you out and we both shot bucks
from the same tree in half an hour? (Me) Yes, there is always a
running competition. He is up on me right now, but as I tell
him, he has hunted for four more years than I have, and I think
I am winning the buck-to-year ratio. And I do have the biggest
fish in recorded Leah history. I can’t remember a time at any
hunting or fishing cabin that I haven’t had a good time. Cabins
have been places where I could relax, think, and have fun. In
going to cabins, I have grown into a man. They have taught me
communication skills with new people, the rewards of hard work,
patience (sitting alone in the woods for ten hours straight),
and what it means to have true friends. I can’t wait for this
next season to start so I can laugh, smile, and frankly, brag
all over again.
Creek Rail Trail
--Sandra Barney (LHU History Professor)
A visit to
the Pine Creek Rail Trail gives me hope. In an era of vicious
political wrangling, eroding funding for public institutions,
and an apparent abandonment of the social contract, a day of
bicycling along Pine Creek reminds me of the good that public/private
ventures can produce. Part of the national Rail Trail system
Lenny Long in a previous issue of the Hemlock, the
Pine Creek Trail is an often overlooked treasure located only
half an hour from Lock Haven.
along Pine Creek served as a thoroughfare for Native Americans
for centuries before Europeans arrived on the continent. In the
Ulster Scots immigrants, or Scotch Irish as they are often
labeled, settled along the creek and forged a living from the
land. Isolated from the broader river
valleys and their burgeoning agricultural and commercial
development, Pine Creek Valley was not a focus of economic
exploitation until the 1820s. In that decade developers became
aware of the expanses of uncut timber in the region and an era
of unrestrained deforestation began. Between 1820 and 1920
millions of trees were cleared and sold. To move timber from
isolated sawmills along the creek, the Jersey Shore, Pine Creek,
and Buffalo Railroad was opened in 1883. According to the
Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources,
“by 1896 [the train] was carrying seven million tons of freight
and three passenger trains on daily runs between Wellsboro
Junction and Williamsport.” In 1988, after more than a hundred
years of rail traffic, the line was closed. Local supporters
initiated the establishment of a multi-use rail trail along Pine
Creek soon after rail service was terminated.
can be accessed at many points along its 60-mile length, but the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania
serves as the northern entry point. Entering the trail at
Wellsboro), a bike rider is soon engulfed by the tranquility and
majesty of the canyon. This is the most isolated section of the
trail, although Leonard Harrison State Park and Colton Point
State Park anchor the hills above the valley floor. The joy of
biking a rail trail is that, unlike true mountain biking, a
rider of any ability or fitness can successfully navigate the
gradual grades and broad paths of an old rail line. When biking
through the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, the rider is able to
experience the delights of being deep in the woods without
facing the daunting physical challenges of an extended backpacking or biking trip.
leaving the Pine Creek Gorge Natural Area at Blackwell, the
creek and the trail, are paralleled by highway 414. Traveling
so close to a paved road may seem unappealing, but the road’s
unobtrusive presence makes it possible to park a car or to be
dropped off in a number of different locations. At Rattlesnake
Rock, for example, you might park your car, ride ten miles out
to Tiadaghton, return, and slip your canoe or kayak into the
water for an afternoon of paddling. Hoffman Campground is just
across the creek so you could settle in for a weekend of
paddling and riding. This section of the trail would be
particularly attractive to someone looking for water sports
or fishing since Cedar Run and Slate Run both enter Pine Creek just south
of Rattlesnake Rock.
Run the trail settles into a mixture of forest and agriculture.
It is easy to imagine the damage that was done to this land
when the trees were being cut a hundred years ago. Second and
third generation reforestation efforts are impressive, but it is
clear that the land has been permanently transformed by
timbering and agriculture. As the trail winds down towards
Waterville the rider observes a number of small hunting camps
and second homes. These serve as a wonderful reminder of the
rich history of hunting and recreation in the Pennsylvania
woods. Such camps, as well as the deer and black bear that
regularly show up along the trail, serve to remind the rider to
wear orange during the appropriate times of the year and not to
stray from the established path.
Shore is the southern terminus of the trail, but many riders
might want to drive the additional ten miles to Waterville.
Little Pine Creek State Park is located nearby, and offers camping,
hiking, and lake activities. An old fashion general store offers
supplies in Waterville and there are restaurants available for
those who want someone else to do the cooking after a long day
on the trail.
are underway to link Castanea to the rail train in Jersey Shore,
putting the Pine Creek Trail within even easier reach of Lock Haven
residents and students.
"The Story of Job":
The Drawings of
--Bob Myers (LHU English Professor)
I was coming out of Sloan Auditorium a few weeks ago, I was
immediately struck by the exhibit in the Sloan Gallery, a
collection of drawings by Williamsport artist Jeremiah Johnson.
How could I resist an artist whose primary theme is central
Pennsylvania history and monuments?
exhibit, which runs until November 7th, is well worth seeing.
The collection is entitled "The Story of Job" and is the work of
Johnson's alter ego,
Job Johnson, a fictional/historical artist
who lived in central Pennsylvania from 1860 to 1937. Jeremiah
notes that with this project, he is
blurring the lines between fact and fiction through art,
history, and folklore."
works are graphite drawings on hand-made paper and they are
beautifully framed with branches. The initial impression is
that the drawings seem like primitive folk art, but closer
examination reveals a sophistication of both technique and
goes through a complicated process to create these works. "I
start with making paper from scraps of mat board that I get from
the frame shop. I make about 10 to 20 sheets at a time in my
basement and lay them out in the sun to dry. Then I make the
drawings, from a variety of sources--landscapes from life and
photographs, old photographs of places that don't exist. I also
make drawings from stories that people tell me and a lot of
folklore that I read from different books. I collect all of
this information and make thumbnail sketches in Job Johnson's
Sketchbook, and then work on the finished drawings. After the
drawings are done I build the frames from collected scraps of
wood, either raw wood from tree branches from fallen trees in my
pap's woods, or old used scraps of wood like old apple crates or
central theme is the environmental history of central
Pennsylvania. Johnson is interested in "People
that were inseparable from their environment. They were
dependent upon nature for survival."
my favorite is "Last Great Pine," which was allegedly drawn in
1923. Johnson invokes the sadness of this solitary remnant of
the huge white pine forest that covered Pennsylvania. Johnson
is also fascinated with the folklore of this area, including
ghost stories. He explains that his inspiration for this work
came after a trip to Ireland: "When
I came back I started taking walks with my dad and my brother in
the woods; we'd go exploring for different places that were
talked about by family or in various regional history and
folklore books. I wanted a way to preserve these lost landmarks
before they all disappear. I also got lost in the old
photographs from past decades. They only provide a glimpse into
a dark and mysterious past. The way people used to live and
work each day just to survive. These ideas sparked the Job
who can trace his central Pennsylvania roots back to the 1760s,
was born in Jersey Shore and grew up in Clinton and Lycoming
counties. He received a B.F.A. in Printmaking from the Tyler
School of Art of Temple University, and then a Masters in Print,
Paper and Book Arts from Syracuse University. Currently he
teaches arts and crafts courses at Pennsylvania College of
Technology and the Public Art Academy at the Pajama Factory in
Williamsport. For more information about Johnson, visit
where you can see more of his works. He can be contacted by email at
--Bill Shetler (LHU English Major)
it’s raining, it’s almost always a good time to go hiking.
Such were my thoughts when I decided to take my three-year old
daughter for her first real hike.
It was a
typical cool and cloudy day in May. We strapped on our
backpacks. Mine was filled with the usual essentials and hers .
. . well, she had need of extra goodies, which consisted mostly
of Crabby-Patties (gummy candy) and juice boxes.
set off into the mountains south of McElhattan. We hadn’t gone
very far when I heard her sweet little voice, floating like soft
bubbles in the air, “Daddy, carry me.” She was tired, so I
loaded her into my kid carrier backpack. As I was lugging her
down the trail, she had a good time singing and tapping on my
head. I was smiling because she was happy, and yet I also felt
a little worried. I usually hike alone,
and this trip was to be my chance to share with my daughter how
much I enjoy the outdoors and to have her
develop an appreciation for the
forest. I was afraid that she was bored and would want to go home. I wanted this day to
be different. I wanted to see some magic happen for her.
as we passed a patch of flowers, she cried, “Daddy,
I want down!” She ran to the patch of Johnny Jump-ups and dandelions
and immediately began examining them with interest. As it
turned out, this was the beginning of her desire to know the
forest. The day
turned out to be wonderful for both of us. Our hike became
a majestic exploration of the wonders of nature. As we hiked
along, she would stop to inspect anything that caught her eye.
As many of you know, an intelligent three year old can find
countless questions to ask. And “because” is not an
At one point, she
fell behind, and when I walked back I saw
stems and petals of a few flowers. In her hands were the
remains of several. “Emily, please stop decapitating the
dandelions,” I said when I recognized what she was doing. “Why,
dad? It’s fun,” she replied. I tried, “Because the flowers are pretty,
and if you don’t pick them, they might be here for you to see
another day.” It was a sound answer, but
didn’t seem to quash her desire to pop the heads off of
the dandelions. She kept it up all day long.
for five hours that day, climbing the southern side of Round Top
Mountain, exploring and having a great time at it. Her little
legs weren’t up for the climb up or down the mountain, but she
sure was a little trooper that day. We took a few
snack breaks and I have to admit that those juice boxes and crabby
patties actually do make a good trailside snack.
It was utterly amazing to see the “magic” of my
daughter’s consciousness awakening to the simple, but exquisite
beauty which is so readily available and accessible to us. I
had hoped to teach her some of my love of nature that day, which
I did, but in the process I also became a student. As I viewed
her enjoyment along the trail, I regained some perspective which
I had lost. I relearned what I had forgotten for so many years
of hiking alone, that no matter how lovely or beautiful a
mountain or forest is, it is made so much more so when you have
someone to share it with.
information on the importance of introducing children to nature,
see Richard Louv's Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our
Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, which was reviewed in
May 2008 Hemlock by Melissa Novak.
--by Zach Fishel (LHU English Major). Photograph by Kerrie Kegg (LHU
Exploratory Studies Major)
leaves have changed from fiery fingers that caressed their
loving sky to the dead brown grip of a bruise on the back of the
now gloomy sky. I walk across the campus in awe. I see the
last of autumn breathing a dying gasp as the strangling frost
begins to thicken around the throats of those maples and
cornstalks. The poor scarecrow wishes he had more than a flannel
on. Thanksgiving nears and I wonder if anyone will
be thankful. I get to the student houses and see guard dogs and giant pumpkins with sharp crooked grins, assuring me that there
isn’t any trick to this treat. In a few days these giant orange
faces will shrivel and turn black, the jagged teeth becoming
I often take this short time for granted,
the time between celebrating the harvest and the start of fresh
snow and shortened days. There is a beauty in that moment before the
burning sun is swallowed by the black assuredness of winter. I
try to hold on, like the last of the corn stalks, fighting
against the frigid future. I feel stuck in between the freshman
of fall and the graduates of winter. Like the seasons, I used to
be bright and willing, now I am becoming cold and tired.
Thankfully, I see the transition, and can feel life once again.
--by Bob Myers. Photograph courtesy of the
As I indicated in the last issue, I will
be providing regular updates on the environmental impact of
natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale. Since the
last Hemlock, Pennsylvania's 101-day budget battle has
finally come to an end, and throughout the debate, the Marcellus
Shale issue played a major role.
At first Governor Rendell and the
Democrats supported a severance tax on natural gas, which would
have put Pennsylvania in line with every other state where
natural gas drilling occurs. The
Republicans, on the other hand, supported leasing an additional 390,000 acres of
state forest land to the natural gas companies. On September
1st, Gov. Rendell indicated that he no longer supported the
severance tax. The subsequent compromise that was worked
out by House and Senate leadership on September 18 would have
opened up 90,000 acres of the state forest to drilling. On
October 2nd, in a surprise move, House Democrats rejected the
compromise, and instead passed a bill with a severance tax.
A key player in that move to protect the state forest was Rep.
Mike Hanna. With little chance of success in the
Republican-controlled Senate, the impasse dragged on until
October 9th, when Gov. Rendell signed the budget.
The final budget is deeply disturbing for
anyone concerned about the environment or outdoor recreation.
The budget of the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP),
the agency who will be responsible for regulating the burgeoning
gas industry, was cut by 27%. The budget of the PA
Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), who
manages the state forests and parks, was cut by 19%.
Furthermore, the DCNR is directed to lease sufficient acres of
the state forest to produce $60 million--at the current leasing
rates, that means about 10,000 acres (Philadelphia Inquirer,
Cuts Hamper"). Finally, the Oil and Gas Lease
Fund, which was created in 1955 to direct the money raised from
leasing state lands to conservation projects, has been put on
hold for this year--all money goes to the general fund.
Thus, while the worst nightmares were
avoided through the efforts of several key lawmakers, this
budget still represents a deep wound to the wild Pennsylvania
that many of us love. To prevent an even worse scenario
next year, it is important that Pennsylvania hunters, anglers,
and environmentalists become politically active and vote out
those legislators who have demonstrated their opposition to the
preservation and protection of the woods and waters of our
state. The Philadelphia Inquirer has published an
excellent, and disturbing, analysis of the politics behind Gov.
Rendell's decision to abandon the severance tax: "How
Marcellus Shale Came to be Tax Exempt in PA."
The following is a
funny story that will remain in my family's
hearts forever. My uncle, Don Kramer, loved animals and
nature. On any given day, he would drive to the mountains to
feed the wild animals on his land. He wrote this story in 2003
and submitted it to the Pennsylvania Game News (I don't think it
was ever published). --Tammie Houser (LHU Secretary to the
Department of History, Political Science, Economics, and Foreign
presently a Farm Game Manager for the PA Game Commission, with
25 years of service. As I look toward retirement in the not so
distant future, there are many memories that I will take with
me. But none as bittersweet as the time in 1980 when I hunted
bear with my son.
dawned with heavy rain. As my wife packed sandwiches and hot
tea for our lunch, I could hear the rain pounding heavily on the
roof, and I remember thinking that I should just go to work and
forget about hunting. But then my 14-year-old son, Dan, emerged
from his room carrying his Savage single shot 30-30. The
excitement on his face told me that I could forget going to
reached the woods, the rain came harder than ever. We had
scouted the area and had seen plenty of sign that the bear were
in the area. We entered the woods and when we came to a large
hemlock that looked like it would provide some protection from
the weather, I told Dan that this would be his spot. I reminded
him to make sure of his shot and to make sure that the bear stays
down. Little did I know he would do just that.
another hemlock for my spot. The first hour was uneventful,
until I saw a beautiful 8-point buck, just 20 yards away.
Suddenly a gun shot rang out, causing me to jump. As I started
towards Dan's spot, I heard a second shot, and heard Dan
shouting, "Dad, Dad!" As I ran toward the sound of his voice,
the mountain laurel slapped my face and the rocks caused my feet
to slip. But within minutes I was there.
standing in the spot I left him. He was shaking, perhaps from
the cold, or perhaps from excitement. He told me that a bear
came through the laurel and he shot at him. As he tried to
reload his rifle, the shell flew onto the ground. By the time
he picked up the shell, the bear appeared again, so he shot a
second time. I pushed through the laurel and saw the bear. As
I turned to congratulate Dan, I saw a second bear.
sank as I realized the gravity of the situation. This was my
first year as a deputy game officer and my son just shot two
bears. We unloaded our guns, and Dan took them back to the
truck. Meanwhile, I figured out what had happened. After he
shot the first bear and was trying to pick up his shell, another
bear appeared and he thought it was the same one. When Dan
returned, I jokingly said, "Of course you know you're under
arrest." We dragged the bears out, and when we arrived home I
called the regional office and explained what happened. I was
told to pay a fine of $50 for a mistaken kill. Some time
later, my father, Loyd Kramer, wrote a poem, "The Saga of
Deadeye Daniel" to have some fun at our expense. The poem
Well the moral of the story is
Don't go hunting with your Dad
Even tho you kill two by mistake
You're liable to be had.
A case in point I'd like to make
Please allow me your permission
You see young Danny's father worked
For the PA Game Commission!
He turned young Danny in of course,
The proper thing to do
But Danny being under age
Dad paid the field fine too.
--by Mark Smith (LHU English Professor)
October, those who know me pretty well start asking if I’m still
sleeping outside or not. I tell them I’m holding out as best I
can, but I foresee the end of it. It’s getting chilly out here,
and I’ll be heading indoors for winter soon enough.
I sleep outside nearly half the year, from May through October,
in a big screened-in porch and I love it. When I first started
this, I bought a cot for sleeping, but later found I much prefer
an old couch since it blocks the wind during rainstorms and the
cushions hold the heat better. This couch is too short though,
so my feet stick out. I don’t care. I love it. The cats like to
sleep out here with me, mostly on me. Sleeping outside, I tune
in to the slow progression of the summer, noticing the way the
nights get shorter then longer again once we pass the solstice
in June, and the way the nighttime temps reach a humid crescendo
in August before slowly crawling down again. I
have become very attuned to what goes on at night, and when.
clearest, brightest nights are always early on, in May and June,
so that’s when, on nights when I have trouble sleeping, I set up
my spotting scope out in the driveway, pull up a lawn chair, and
look at Jupiter and its moons. Once in a while I can even see
the rings of Saturn, though that’s pushing the limits of my
little scope. I watch these distant planets move slowly westward
through the night, and also through the year. One evening in
June 2008 my father suffered a heart attack while visiting our
farm out in Iowa. Here in Pennsylvania I was too far away (865
miles as the crow flies) to be there with him that night. When I
tried to sleep I couldn’t, so I just looked at Jupiter instead
and found all four of the Galilean moons lined up perfectly at a
distance of 390,414,000 miles. I watched them for a long time,
thinking about my father, until some clouds moved in and blotted
out the scene. My father and I have never been very close and
when I finally pulled the blanket up to my chin that night, I
drifted off while thinking about distances. 390,414,000 miles.
865 miles. How much of the distance between us is his? How much
of it belongs to me? How much is the universe itself?
summer, usually between two and three in the morning, a
neighborhood skunk has made his rounds through the yard. I call
this my “skunk hour,” after the well-known poem by Robert
Lowell, but my skunk hour is nothing like Lowell’s. His was a
confrontation with mental illness; mine just brings a smile to
my face. Usually I smell the skunk first, then I sit up and wait
for his imminent arrival. A creature of routine and habit, he
always comes round the side of the house, and walks close beside
the porch, right up against the screen generally, before sidling
off to the compost bin where I often leave him some choice
leftovers. If I forget the treat, he loves to dig his way under
the bin and make a mess of things. When he’s done with the
compost he’s off again, trundling through the neighbor’s yard,
just an undulant white stripe disappearing into the darkness.
night, the mind focuses on sounds and smells instead of sight.
The smell of rain in the distance. The sound of a sudden
downpour hitting the porch roof. Wind in a spruce tree.
Late-summer crickets. Even the street sweeper that comes by
every Thursday morning at precisely four a.m. As the summer
progresses we get more fog in the mornings, and it comes on
surprisingly fast, usually after three in the morning. By four
or five a.m. when I rouse from sleep I can smell the dampness of
the fog and tell, even without opening my eyes, how thick it
will be that morning.
to hear trains coming out of the west along Bald Eagle Creek,
then turning to cut through the heart of town with horns
sounding at every crossing. Each conductor has his own style of
laying on the horn. Some use sharp staccato blasts while others
prefer a sort of mournful, modulated wailing. One conductor
always rings the bell—a very relaxed and quaint sort of sound.
After the horn sounds, the reverberating, roundabout echoes
bounce back from Bald Eagle Mountain, the Highland Cemetery
hill, and the hills of Lockport across the river. The echoes
last four or five times longer than the horn itself and slowly
taper off into the distance.
my favorite night sounds are the nocturnal flight calls of
migrating birds. These quick, sharp calls help the birds stay in
touch with each other and stay on course through their night
journey. Flight calls are very short notes, maybe a tenth of a
second or less, but very sweet, often sounding like “cheep,”
“tweet,” “weet,” or “sheet.” Every bird has its own, distinct
call, but to us humans they often sound so much alike that
ornithologists, and amateur enthusiasts as well, use computers
to generate spectrograms of the calls in order to identify them.
This technology is used to monitor migrations, determine flight
patterns, even determine populations of particular songbirds.
But I confess, I love most just to listen to the night calls and
think about those tiny birds—the warblers, the thrushes, the
tanagers—flying overhead on a journey that may take them all the
way to South America. Living rivulets of birds in the night sky.
Bright and brave sounds to hear at midnight.
this going on, you might think I don’t get much sleep out here
on the porch, but I sleep very well indeed. Indoors I
immediately miss the softness of the night air, and the open,
aural spaciousness of it. I miss the giant presence of the
outside of the world and feel rather confined in the silence of
lathe and plaster, the dull rush of the furnace.
seasons turn of course. The night notes of the birds are nearly
gone now. A few laconic crickets cling to life, but with the
nightly threat of frost the end is near. They go down singing,
by the way, singing till the end. And with nights dipping down
into the thirties, I’ll be moving indoors again and hunkering
down for the long winter. But even then, at night as I drift off
to sleep, I’ll be remembering all the night notes of the summer.
information about nocturnal flight calls, and to hear samples of
them, check out
"Migrating Birds" by Bill Evans.
Hike of the Month: State Game Lands
--by Bob Myers
Last month's hike introduced you to the
Pennsylvania State Forest; this month takes you to one of
Pennsylvania's many State Game Lands. The hike is about 3
miles round trip and takes about an hour. Since we are in the
hunting season, I recommend that you take this hike on
a Sunday, when hunting is prohibited. If you do go during
the week, be sure to wear florescent orange and be respectful of
those who are hunting. Since there are several stream
crossings, boots are recommended. First-rate maps of the
state game lands can be found at the
State Game Commission (SGC) site.
To get to the trailhead, begin at Walmart and turn right onto PA
150 South. Go .4 miles and after you cross the bridge,
turn left onto Rt. 64/Water Street. Go .6 miles and turn
right onto Church Street. Continue on Church
Street/Mountain Road for 3.7 miles--on the left you will see a
parking area with a portable toilet.
Go through the gate and proceed up the
hill (southeast). Follow the broad path of clover up the
hill as it passes several SGC food plots. These plots are
what the SGC calls "habitat improvement," and they are designed
to attract deer and provide them with forage throughout the
winter. After about a half mile, the path turns left
(east) and then reaches an intersection. Turn right and
follow a pretty mountain stream up the hill (southeast) for
about a third of a mile. At the next intersection, turn
left (east) and follow a small stream uphill. For this
part of the hike, you are between the twin ridges of Bald Eagle
mountain. The path continues uphill for about a half mile,
gradually leveling out, until it reaches a large clearing.
You have now hiked about 1.5 miles. You can return to your
car, but if you bushwhack to the left (north) for 700 feet, you
will reach the top of the ridge--there are too many trees for a
good view, even when the leaves are down, but you can see a bit
of the Bald Eagle valley and even Lock Haven.
PA State Game Commission was created in
1895 to restore the dwindling wildlife population. At the
time, it was estimated that there were only 500 white-tail deer
in Pennsylvania (the current population is about 1.5 million). Black bears and wild turkeys were nearly
extinct as well. By regulating hunting and protecting
wildlife habitats, the SGC has been able to restore
or reintroduce the populations of deer, turkey, bears, bob cats,
river otters, wood ducks, geese, beavers, fishers, and elk.
The first State Game Land (SGL) was purchased in 1920; currently there
are 287 SGLs. The SGC is not supported by tax revenues; instead its funding
comes from hunting license fees, federal grants, and funds
collected from the sale of oil, gas, coal, and timber obtained
from State Game Lands. Wildlife protection is conducted by
approximately 200 Wildlife Conservation Officers.
Thanks to John Reid, Elizabeth Gruber,
Michael Myers, and Max for helping me plot this hike!
Bob Myers (chair), Md. Khalequzzaman, Lenny Long, Jeff Walsh,
Danielle Tolton, John Crossen, Sandra Barney, David White, Tom
Ormond, Ralph Harnishfeger, and Barrie Overton. The committee is charged with promoting and
supporting activities, experiences, and structures that
encourage students, faculty, and staff to develop a stronger
sense of place for Lock Haven University and central
Pennsylvania. Such a sense of place involves a stewardship
of natural resources (environmentalism), meaningful outdoor
experiences, and appreciation for the heritage of the region.