Volume 5, Issue 3 (March 2012)
In This Issue...
"Each new year is a surprise to us. We find that we had virtually forgotten the note of each bird, and when we hear it again it is remembered like a dream, reminding us of a previous state of existence. How happens it that the associations it awakens are always pleasing, never saddening; reminiscences of our sanest hours? The voice of nature is always encouraging."
Henry David Thoreau
~Md. Khalequzzaman (LHU Geology Professor)
John H. Way, Ph.D., P.G., passed away on February 21, 2012. He taught at LHU for about 20 years. John retired as a professor of geology at LHU in 2004. He played a vital role in formulating the curriculum for a strong geology program. Before joining the LHU as a faculty member, John served the Commonwealth as a professional geologist at the Pennsylvania Geological Survey. As one of his former students, Phil Rider, writes, “It is a struggle to write the word “John” and “was” in the same sentence.” He was only 68 years of age.
With John’s sudden demise, our community lost a great teacher, scientist, environmentalist, mentor, community leader, and, above all, a great human being. I met John in fall of 1997 when I first joined the LHU family. His warm personality and deep knowledge of local geology attracted me immediately. Over the years, I got to know John more closely as a colleague, as a mentor, as a life-long friend, and as a collaborator in all my community-based research projects that involve water-related environmental issues in central Pennsylvania. Through his sage-like personality and philosopher-like approach to teaching, John gained a legendary reputation among his students and among his friends. He left an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of the thousands of lives he touched.
John had a vast knowledge of Pennsylvania geology. Most of what I know about the geology of central PA, I learned from him through numerous conversations and field trips that he organized for his students and various community organizations. His scholarly writings on local geology and the numerous field guidebooks he prepared will serve as an knowledge-depository for geology students and scholars in the future. His endless inquisitiveness about the natural world and the environment that surround us made him a great geoscientist.
John was always concerned about the quality of scientific data he gathered. He was of the opinion that it is very important to maintain objectivity in analyzing the data one gathers through field work and laboratory analyses. He always emphasized the importance of establishing the credibility of scientific findings among his peers and the community at large. He was of the view that it is relatively hard to earn credibility in the world of science, and it takes only one mistake to lose that credibility. Any scientist can benefit from John’s way (pun intended) of doing science.
John Way was not only a researcher, but was also a great community leader. He organized numerous workshops and field trips for various community organizations, school children, summer camps, geology majors, and professional geologists to highlight the various environmental challenges that we face in central Pennsylvania. With the help of one of our geology majors, John studied and documented a comprehensive list of potential environmental problems that exist in Clinton County. This work laid the foundation for several community-based research projects that are still ongoing in the geology program at LHU. He was a collaborator of several long-term research projects that involve study of the role that agriculture plays in surface water quality in central Pennsylvania and its contribution to the Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts; impacts of acid mine drainage on water and soil in Beech Creek watershed in Clinton and Centre Counties; the impact of Marcellus Shale gas-well drillings in the Beech Creek watershed; and baseline of water-quality parameters in the Hall Run watershed that supplies drinking water to more than 500 residents in South Renovo Borough. John served on the Clinton County Marcellus Shale Gas Task Force from its inception. He played a vital role in the Susquehanna Heartland Coalition for Environmental Studies, a.k.a. the River Group, which is a coalition of faculty members from six universities in central Pennsylvania who are involved in environmental research. He attended monthly meeting of the River Group for the last seven years. John presented a paper on geology of the Marcellus Shale at a conference held at Lycoming College in January of 2010 that was attended by more than 500 people.
John was always a hopeful person, yet he was concerned about the future of our planet. He recognized that our consumer-oriented life style and the exponential population growth are the root causes of most of the environmental problems that humanity faces today. He believed that for humanity to have a sustainable future, we will have to put more emphasis on a science-based education and knowledge-based policy making process.
John always exercised simple living. He was a “down to earth” kind of a person and always practiced what he preached. He always put his cause above his personal life. In a message before he left us for a place of eternal peace, John asked his friends to not bring any flowers to his funeral, but to donate the money to the charities he supported while he was alive. He was a perfect gentleman in every sense of the word. His vision of a sustainable earth included a simple living. The earth would be a better place to live if we had more people like John. Although it will be difficult to fill the void that John left in our lives, we can keep his legacy alive through adoption of the simple living he practiced. John, I will miss you every time I go out in the field to collect a water or soil sample. I already miss you. You were a constant in my life, and will always act as a lighthouse for me as I navigate through the ocean of knowledge that you left behind for us. I salute my friend of the environment --John Way. Let’s keep his legacy alive.
~Zach Fishel (LHU English Alum)
Blowing steam in March air
~Melissa Eldridge (LHU Recreation Management Major)
Invasive species - species of animals, plants, etc. that are non-native to a specific area - are a great threat to the biodiversity of ecosystems. Invasive species are primarily introduced to an ecosystem through human action, both intentionally and unintentionally. For example, purple loosestrife was intentionally introduced to the United States as an ornamental plant, but it competed with native plants and was unsuitable as food and shelter for the native animals. Species that were unintentionally introduced are known as stowaways or hitchhikers. For example, fire ants from South America were unintentionally imported by “hitchhiking” on cargo ships.
When invasive species are introduced to a non-native ecosystem, they cause harm economically, environmentally, and to human health. According to Alexandre Meinesz, a marine biologist and professor of biology at the University of Nice, more than 7,000 invasive species have been introduced to the United States and about 15 percent of them cause ecological and economic damages. In order for the economy, environment, and health of humans to flourish and remain in a healthy state, action needs to take place against invasive species and the threats they pose.
The introduction of invasive species may result in economic benefits, but overall results in economic damages and harm. For example, the intentional introduction of wheat to many parts of the world from Asia, carries great economic benefits as a staple crop. On the other hand, Kudzu, a vine that was introduced to the southeastern United States from Asia, was intentionally introduced to help prevent soil erosion. This species, however, has caused losses up to a million dollars in timber productivity due to its ability to crowd and choke the surrounding vegetation.
According to the Ecological Society of America, the damage caused by invasive species on United States agricultural grounds and rangelands costs over $54 billion annually. Although the intensions of introducing non-native species may be for good, they may result in economic harm to a country or nation.
The introduction of invasive species can threaten biodiversity to the point of the extinction of a species. When a non-native species is introduced, they typically reproduce and disperse quickly, can survive in harmful or extreme environmental conditions, and have no natural predator. As a result, they compete with the native species of that area for food, water, and a place to live and thrive. Non-native species may also introduce diseases and pathogens new to an ecosystem and its natural, native species. Since the native species of that area have never come in contact with those diseases and pathogens before, they do not build up immunities, resulting in sickness or death. Also, invasive species may prey upon native ones in an ecosystem. For example, the common pine shoot beetle was introduced to the United States unintentionally from Europe by “hitchhiking” on imported wood packing material. This beetle is a threat because it feeds on the shoots of pine trees in the United States and causes a reduction in the tree’s height and stunts its growth. Another example is the Northern snakehead that was intentionally introduced to the United States for consumption from many parts of Asia. The Northern snakehead is a threat to aquatic ecosystems because it has no natural predator and preys on native species. It can also survive on land for about four days without water, which allows it to disperse to other ecosystems, affecting them as well.
Invasive species can negatively and indirectly disrupt an ecosystem by disrupting the food chain and altering the conditions of an ecosystem. The conditions can be altered by the invasive species changing the chemistry of the soil, the intensity of wildfires, or the availability of nutrients for other species.
The introduction, reproduction, spreading, and thriving of an invasive species can eventually lead to the extinction of a native species of an ecosystem, especially since they have no natural predators. In order to protect ecosystems and their inhabitants, action against these threats need to occur.
Invasive species not only threaten the economy and the physical environment, but they also cause harm to human health. Some of these harmful effects include the spread of pathogens and diseases, skin irritation, and bites and stings. For example, the Asian tiger mosquito, which was introduced to the United States through the importation of tires from Japan, vectors or carries many viruses such as West Nile virus. This virus causes fever, headache, sore throat, vomiting, confusion, weakness, and even loss of consciousness or fatality in humans.
Another example is the introduction of wild boars to the United States from Eurasia for consumption. This species spreads diseases such as brucellosis to humans and also livestock. Also, their feces may contain E. coli, like the contamination of baby spinach in 2006, which can cause serious food poisoning in humans. Africanized honey bees were intentionally introduced to the United States from Africa to increase honey production. These bees, however, are aggressive and painfully bite and sting humans.
The introduction of invasive species not only causes harm economically and environmentally, but also to human health. Although the introduction of a certain species may have been for beneficial reasons, invasive species can spread diseases and inflict injuries on humans that can be serious or fatal. It is time to take action against the spread of invasive species in order to reduce the threats they pose.
Many simple steps can be taken to stop the spread of invasive species and to save ecosystems and their inhabitants, including us: humans. One simple step that you can take is to educate yourself of the many kinds of invasive species in your area. When planting, choose to plant native species instead of invasive, ornamental ones. This will allow other plant species to thrive as well. After recreating in the outdoors, clean any equipment or gear such as boots, tents, tires, bikes, and boats to remove plants, seeds, and insects. When camping, buy firewood close to that area to minimize the introduction of a species to a new area. If you wish to buy exotic fish or any other aquatic animals, learn to care for it properly and do not introduce it to a local stream or any other ecosystem. Educate others! Educate others about the dangers of invasive species economically, environmentally, and to human health to your local community. Spreading the word will greatly help reduce the spread of invasive species which will help reduce threats.
For more information on invasive species and how to take action against them, please visit the following sites:
~Barrie E. Overton (LHU Biology Professor)
My wife was running late for work, which meant I got to use bathroom last, but it was ok: class didn't not start until 9:00 a.m., and I had already prepped for it. My day went about as expected: students turned in their projects, I had lunch with a few faculty members, and I worked on a manuscript. My wife texted me at about 6:00 p.m. and asked if I would stop and get a few groceries after work. After dinner (Mexican takeout), we cleaned up the house. I decided to do some grading before bed, and I fell asleep on the couch in a pile of papers. The next morning the dance continued.
Jump forward a few weeks. It is 4:30 a.m. and fall is about midway to winter. It's archery season, and I have to get to the woods well before dawn's first light. I stop at Sheetz for a coffee and granola bar, but at the last minute, I put the granola bar back and get a cream-filled donut. Today is not routine. I have class at 9am, so this will be a short hunt. I showered with scent-free soap, so I can hunt till about 8:15 and still get to class, but I'll be wearing blue jeans--oh well. I enter the woods, and after walking nearly a mile to my favorite spot on Fox Hollow Mountain, I have an hour before it gets light. To maintain my night vision, I use my flashlight with red tape over the lens to find my way, and as dawn approaches, my eyes are gathering and detecting as much light as possible. It really is amazing how much you can see in the darkness just before dawn, if you are not exposed to artificial lighting. I find my spot, an old-growth hemlock that is broken about 6 feet up. The trunk is so big I can’t fit my arms around it. The tree fell down the side of the ridge and provides a great place to sit. I don’t hunt from trees. Perhaps if I had a tail for balance, I would, but balance and coordination are not the strong suites of many biology professors—at least that is what I tell myself. When previously scouting this location, I moved some of the branches while wearing rubber gloves, coated in doe urine to conceal my scent, making a small blind to hide my presence. In the darkness, I climb into my concealed area. If there were any deer in the area they had to hear me, as my entrance to the blind was far from graceful. Small fibers from my ghillie suit became tangled in branches, breaking several of them as I moved into position. I sit with my back to a large limb of the fallen tree, cross my legs, and load my crossbow.
The chickadees were the first to stir at dawn. They flit from branch to branch. One landed right in front of me, looked me square in the eyes, and began calling to the others that something was out of place. It is cold, and Mother Nature can’t decide if it is going to rain or snow, so I am pelted with a mix. I begin surveying the area, slowing moving my head from side to side, as deer can spot quick movements. My legs are numb, beginning to fall asleep, and I feel the cold in my feet. I should have worn my other boots, but they are not scent free, and covering my scent is more important than comfort. I notice two squirels peeking out of a hollowed-out hole in the broken hemlock. They begin their morning routine: one stands guard, while the other goes out for an acorn. They exchange places and dance the morning away. Their movements are no less coordinated than any attempts my wife and I make at the waltz or the merengue. My legs are mush, fully asleep, and my mind is crying out for me to move. But if I move, I will make noise and scare any deer off that may be in the area. I have to do something to take my mind off the discomfort, so I let my arms go slack, slow my breathing, and stare at the squirrels. I am in a trance-like state, awake, but all my attention focused on the squirrels. I hear an oak leaf fall from a tree behind me. I hear the chickadees flitting from tree to tree, always keeping their distance from my position. The squirrels keep to their routine, and I continue to get pelted with a wintery mix. Then, as if magically appearing into existence (quantum mechanics postulate just such a possibility), I see a doe and fawn appear from the forests just along the ridge. They are heading right toward me. A coyote howls in the distance, and the doe and fawn react. They decide to bed down about 10 feet from me, near the branch where the chickadee spied me. The yearling fawn pushes its body against the length of the fallen hemlock not to far from where it snapped from the base and goes out of sight. The doe’s head is just visible from the log and she scans the area looking for danger, ears twitching at every sound. She looks right at me several times, but I fight the urge to make eye contact, and use my peripheral vision to spy her. I refuse to harvest a doe with a yearly fawn, because I'm afraid the coyotes would get such a young deer without the mother around, so I watch them. We dance the morning hours away. They are so close I can hear their breathing and their chewing. In the distance I hear a grunt and see a buck, a nice 8 point about 80 yards away, far out of range of my crossbow. He does not linger and quickly moves away. It is 8:00 a.m. and time for me to leave. I move to my side, slowly untangling my legs, as they are rubber, and the throbbing, itchy-tingling sensation begins. The doe and fawn leap up, surprised by my movement. My ghillie suit and lack of scent confuses them, and they don’t run. Instead, they slowly walk away. I begin my hike down Fox Hollow Mountain as blood begins to pump to my legs. It is back to reality, time to go gather the nuts. I chuckle out loud.
I definitely will return to this place for a reprieve from my dance through life, seemingly more complicated, but in all reality, not so different from the dance of the squirrels.
~Guy Graybill (Author of Prohibition's Prince )
~Lou Bernard (Curator, Clinton County Historical Society)
I’m getting older. I admit it. Most of the time I don’t notice, but when I begin thinking of the Mid State Trail, it occurs to me. In my younger days, I always wanted to hike the entire Mid State. Now, just short segments at a time will satisfy me. Beginning on the north end of the state, in Tioga County, the Mid State runs clear across the state to the Mason-Dixon Line. It’s a challenging, fun trail to hike, though I have not done the whole thing. Because, as I said, I’m getting older.
Someone else who may have noticed his age was Henry Shoemaker. Shoemaker was born February 24, 1870, so he would have been celebrating his birthday last month if he hadn’t interrupted the process by dying in 1958. Shoemaker, from McElhattan, was a state archivist, folklorist, and writer, he copied down a lot of old legends and stories. Ghosts, buried treasures, monsters, and other weird legends were Shoemaker’s interest.
Shoemaker would have enjoyed the Mid State Trail, especially as it seems to have magical properties. Sources do not agree on how long it is, meaning that depending where you look it up, the trail changes from ninety-two miles long to over three hundred. What a weird, magical trail. Shoemaker would have loved it. Part of the Mid State goes through Woolrich and McElhattan. These are segments I have hiked, and the McElhattan section is the subject of one of Shoemaker’s stories.
To get to this section, take 150 to the McElhattan Bridge. Once you cross the bridge, turn sharp right onto Old Bridge Road. By the river, turn onto Spook Hollow Road, and you’re there. That’s the Mid State. As you walk, all you have to do is follow the orange blazes. And as you walk, keep your eyes open for the ghost of a headless Frenchman. That’s one of Shoemaker’s stories.
The man was named Gaston Bushong. He was commanding a fort in the area that is now McElhattan. When a Native American named Two-Pines was killed in the Renovo area, he received word that there was going to be an attack in retaliation.
Bushong attempted to defend the fort, but to no avail---The best he could do was to make a retreat with his best men and his niece. They all climbed on a raft in the river and began to escape, but were caught by the enemy. Bushong’s men were killed, and his niece kidnapped by the Indians. As he fought, Bushong was attacked by one of the Indians, who beheaded him and threw the head into the water. The river, it was said, ran red with blood. His niece was taken captive, and eventually escaped. Bushong’s headless ghost, according to the story, still roams the area that is now that section of the Mid State Trail, searching for his lost head.
Up further on the route is a monument, also placed by Shoemaker. The monument shows the location of Fort Horn, once home to the Fair Play Men. During the Revolutionary War, a group of men gathered together to form a temporary local government, settling disputes among the local farms. These men signed their own Declaration of Independence, known as the Pine Creek or Tiadaghton Declaration. It was similar to the Philadelphia Declaration, except it had different phrasing and didn’t have a treasure map on the back. (As far as I know.) It was signed the same day as the other one, on July 4, 1776.
The men sent it to Philadelphia, but were delayed by Indian capture. When they got to Philadelphia, in a Monty Python sort of moment, they were told,”A Declaration of Independence? We already sent one of those.” So they brought it back to the Fort Horn area and buried it somewhere around the fort. And there it remains….A mystery, only noted by the monument that Shoemaker placed along what is now the Mid State Trail.
So if you’re hiking in that area, whether you’re interested in a ghost trying to get ahead or a historic document that may still be buried in the neighborhood, you have Henry Shoemaker to thank for preserving the story. Thank you, Henry. And happy birthday. You can also access this site through the April 201 Hemlock Hike: Henry Shoemaker's McElhattan.
~Michael Neff (Radio Producer and Lock Haven native)
[This article was first published in the Lock Haven Express on September 10, 2008]
Recently, I learned of an amazing accomplishment by a 76-year-old man named Weldon C. Cohick Jr.
Either on foot, on a bicycle, or by canoe or raft, he has made 300 trips through the Pine Creek Valley. From Darling Run to Blackwell, and MapQuest coordinates beyond, Mr. Cohick is a Keystone State treasure.
While I cannot equal his record of enthusiastic adventure, I can easily identify with why he (and so many others) love this scenic section of the Pennsylvania wilderness.
Long before the rail-trail was constructed, I would look forward to my own annual walk from Darling Run to Blackwell. Occasionally, I would have to step aside to allow a Conrail freight train to pass by. One year, to my surprise, the railroad tracks were gone, allowing my stroll to be much more comfortable.
Now the rail-trail is a reality, I eagerly plan any reason to explore (on foot or bicycle) any leg of the Wellsboro Junction to Jersey Shore terrain.
This July, I convinced many classmates from my Mansfield High School Class of 1970 to bike from Darling Run to Blackwell. We had so much fun, we are planning a Blackwell to Slate Run trek in October.
People (mostly skeptics) often ask me, "What's so enticing about exhausting yourself in such a desolate area? Doesn't it all look the same?"
These doubters are missing the point. For me, the Pine Creek Rail-Trail is a mental exercise. It's an opportunity to get away from the "conveniences" of modern life and refresh one's spirit with the natural wonder that surrounds you in the beautiful Pine Creek watershed and valley.
Whether making the trip with good friends, or as a solo venture, you will feel great while under way, and especially when you reach your destination.
My fellow Pennsylvanians: Clear your head. Open your eyes and ears. Exert easy effort for an invigorating experience. The Pine Creek Rail-Trail (no matter which direction you're pointed) is worth every step or rotation of the bicycle pedal.
~ Melinda Hughes-Wert (Nature Abounds President)
Join Nature Abounds on Saturday, April 28th, 2012, for the first annual Forest Summit for education, inspiration, and networking in Central Pennsylvania! The event will be held at the SB Elliott State Park from noon until 6 PM.
At the Forest Summit, we’ll look at issues the Pennsylvania forest is facing such as: hydraulic “fracking,” wild animal rehabilitation, climate change, environmental health, urban sprawl, invasive plants/pests, and what citizens can do to help.
We’ll also discuss public lands, recreation opportunities, as well as your rights and responsibilities as Pennsylvania citizens.
Guest speakers will discuss many varied topics from forest health to native tree species also wildlife and natural habitats and even how modern technology can fit into your conservation efforts.
You can also network with other activists and volunteers from around the state, and possibly from surrounding states as well. Also during the gathering, Nature Abounds will launch our new Keepers of the Forest Initiative and Citizen Watch opportunity.
For more information or to register for the event, go to www.natureabounds.org and click on the “Forest Summit” tab. You can also call 814-765-1453 or email email@example.com for more information.
~Maribeth Hanna Long (LHU Counselling Professor)
On Sunday, February 18th, Lenny and I hiked one of the trails featured in The Hemlock (March 2008 and March 2010). The hike we chose was the “Donut Hole Trail/Lick Run Loop." From the name, we were fully expecting a donut shop located somewhere along our trek! Thankfully, during this wonderful hike four of our senses were blissfully bombarded and we had no need to taste any donuts! It’s an easy and short drive to this hiking destination. On your way to the state game land at Lick Run, you’ll drive through the village of Farrandsville and passed the Farrandsville Iron Furnace before coming to the parking area.
The early segment of our hike was a gradual incline running through forest ravaged by storms that left massive trees unearthed on either side of our path. The sheer power of such a storm in toppling these giant trees was awe-inspiring. I had spoken with John Reid at our LHU Admissions Open House the day before, mentioning to him a shorter hike that Lenny and I had done at Lick Run a few weeks ago. John gave me sage advice about navigating with care the mid-point of our Donut Hole journey. Shortly after Lenny and I began to feel that we had gone astray, I told him about my conversation with John, sharing “You know, Lenny, John said to make sure that we uhhhhh … I didn’t catch the rest of it.” Fearing that we just might be susceptible to such a navigational snafu, we brought the directions from The Hemlock with us and were able to see the error of our ways and right ourselves very quickly. The transition from the orange blazes to the blue blazes was where we had gone wrong. We do want to stress caution in this portion of the hike because we often found the blue blazes to be quite faded & difficult to see, prompting us to exclaim, “What in blue blazes!” I’m so sorry, I just couldn’t resist.
The most breathtaking part of our hike wound through spectacularly lush stands of rhododendron that dwarfed our rhododendron at home on Terrace Drive. While I had always referred to our rhododendron as bushes, this plant seen along the Donut Hole Trail was no bush! A quick visit with Webster’s revealed that rhododendron comes from the Greek, rhodon, meaning rose and dendron, meaning tree. We all know that rhododendron is common in our region, but I would venture to say that I’ve never seen rhododendron like this. We estimated it to be 20-30 feet tall! At times we were literally stopped in our tracks just gazing in wonder at the lush sea of green that blanketed the landscape around us. Of course, time and time again we lamented that we had forgotten our camera – I urge you not to make the same mistake. The final leg of our hike found us walking with the babbling stream beside us as it serenaded us in its journey onward to the Susquehanna. The tranquility of this part of our journey silenced our jabbering to one another so that we could simply enjoy the peace and natural beauty all around us!
As we marveled at the sights and sounds of nature, I reminded Lenny of a book we read to our children when they were wee ones. The Story of the Root Children by Sibylle von Olfers was originally published in 1906. It’s a fanciful tale of the seasons with Mother Nature waking the Root Children from their winter’s sleep to begin preparing for spring. Though we’ve had a ridiculously mild winter with little snow, this landscape along our hike was intermittently snow covered and revealed at times the stirrings of spring in the stream’s algae covered rocks and the rich green groundcover peaking through the snow – alas, the Root Children at work!
~Jamie Walker (LHU Distributed Systems Manager) and the PA Trail Dogs
I am an avid long distance trailrunner and completed this hike in preparation for the Hyner Trail Challenge 50k, which is run in April. The trail is about 10.5 miles and can be run in two plus hours or hiked in four hours. My first trip to this trail was on Sunday January 17th. The starting temperature was around 20 degrees with 3-5 inches of fluffy, powdery snow on the ground. The temperature warmed to a balmy 25 degrees by the end of the trek. The snow made the run awesome with amazing views at the vistas and chandelier-like formations of ice along Ritchie Run. I hope you can make it to this remote part of the West Branch and enjoy the scenery as well. You should have all- or 4-wheel drive to reach the trailhead before April 1st since there will probably be snow and ice on Ritchie Road until then. The trail is marked with orange survey ribbons in preparation for the Hyner Challenge. If you have traveled more than 50 yards and do not see a ribbon you are off course and should backtrack until you find the last ribbon then forge ahead. What follows are the directions developed by the PA Trail Dogs with my added two cents.
Driving Directions from LHU: Drive east on Water St. Take Left onto Jay St. Bridge Turn right onto PA-664 N/Swissdale Rd. Continue to follow PA-664 N for 17.4 mi. Merge onto PA-44N and follow 5.2 mi. Turn Left onto Hyner Mtn Road follow 1.1 miles. Turn Left onto Ritchie Road and follow 3.5 miles to the Nature Conservancy Kiosk on right side of road (Google map and directions). Park near the kiosk, but please allow room for visitors to access it.
Mile 0-2-- The Nature Conservancy Kiosk is the starting point. Follow the forestry road under the gate and out to the top of Middle Mountain where you will come to the Pipeline Trail at the top of a moderate grade. Turn left onto the Pipeline Trail which offers some nice, soft terrain for almost 1.5 miles. This trail travels south and brings one out to an awesome vista overlooking the river. Take a second to see the second best view in the area!!! The Trail Dogs named the vista after fellow Trail Dog, Bob Farley. You can see the Susquehanna below and Hyner View to the right.
Mile 2-4-- Hikers will leave the Farley Vista and descend through a winding trail into the top of Bear Pen Hollow. This trail cuts backs north as it follows an old logging trail for about a mile and a half before switching back and heading south again towards the river. We refer to this area as the "zig-zag". Bear Pen Trail is a two-mile downhill in which hikers/runners can make up some time if they are in a hurry or meander along if they are not on a schedule. After making a turn at the last switchback out of Bear Pen, runners will descend a steep fire line trail down into Ritchie Run. A quiet run is quickly interrupted by the sounds of the raging stream below. I saw coyote, deer, and turkey tracks when I traveled this section.
Mile 4-7-- Hikers/Runners will now start the journey through the remote Ritchie Run. It’s a 2.5 mile grind up through the hollow with stream crossings around every corner. Waterfalls are aplenty as runners meander through. Unless we have a severe freeze or a dry spell, feet are going to be wet!!! Gore-tex footwear are critical to keeping your feet dry in this section. The last half mile follows an old log flume to the top of the mountain. The flume is subtle at first until you notice the symmetrical U shaped profile and the presence of trickling water. It’s amazing to think that when in use, the flume was a muddy or icy channel used to slide two-ton logs at significant velocity down the mountain to Ritchie Run and eventually to the Susquehanna.
Mile 7-9.5-- Hikers/Runners will follow a dozer trail for a half mile out to Sugar Camp Road. Just follow the ribbons -- the trail doubles back on itself. Cross the road for a few hundred more yards to the Camp Trail. Camp Trail veers off to the left and follows a single-track path through the Chestnut Orchard for a few hundred yards. This trail is easy on the feet and will meander through some dense forest and bring runners out to the West Branch Nature Conservancy Camp. This camp was built in the early 1930's by the CCC men. I was impressed by the beautiful stonework on the camp. Follow the camp lane to Sugar Camp Road.
Mile 9.5-10.5—Relax. The trail is all downhill from here. Follow the road for about a mile to the TNC Kiosk. You have just completed the middle segment of the Hyner Challenge. If you are up for another 20 miles see the maps below. On the topo map the trail head is east of mile marker 20 and then follows the trail from 9 clockwise back to 20. On the aerial photo the trail head is near the tail of the white arrow at the top of the map.
Environmental Focus Group