Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve written a post. First semester of grad school and all.
Anyway, last weekend I finally got out for a short hike. The weather was beyond lovely last week, low humidity and in the 70s. Just perfect. On Labor Day, I had originally wanted to check out Black Moshannon State Park. Then I remembered it was Labor Day, probably the biggest camping weekend of the year, and decided that was a bad idea. Maybe this weekend. So, I decided to pair work and fun. I went out to Ag Progress Days, one of my bluebird box sites, and set out a sound meter so record ambient sound levels for the site. Since I like to have a couple hours of readings to average, I made my way to the back of the site and began hiking up Schall’s Gap.
I honestly couldn’t believe that this place had been hiding behind my site all summer without me knowing. It was a little surreal going from the experimental fields of Ag Progress Days to a forest of hemlocks surrounding a tumbling mountain stream. I know I’ve mentioned that I like streams before, but I think this one was particularly beautiful. It’s made up of large moss-covered boulders that seem to glow in the sunlight. The water has to make its way around these rocks, forming tiny waterfalls and pools at intervals. A big part of its appeal is the sound. It’s just that perfect, typical rushing water sound that they try to capture on noise-producing sleep aids and never quite do. There were tiny frogs everywhere, so every few steps I’d see one leap away to avoid my feet. I spent a long time just wandering up the stream taking it all in.
The path eventually leaves the stream and goes slightly uphill, with a steep ravine to your right. The slopes are covered with ferns and large hemlock trees. A little internet searching about the trail told me that someone estimated at least one of the hemlocks at around 500 years old, similar to those at Allen Seeger Natural Area. There are rockfields on the surrounding slopes, and one area where a large rock formation juts out of the side of the mountain. Other people had clearly enjoyed the area because I ran across three different fire rings along the trail.
It was a little jarring to come across a cabin, but the trail takes you practically right behind one before reaching Kepler Road. There weren’t any people around on this occasion, just a couple of deer that fled at the sight of me.
I turned around at this point because I had spent too much time ambling around the stream and needed to head back to collect my sound meter. Next time though, my goal is to walk along Kepler Road to the Indian Steps Trail and go up to the Mid-state. If those trails are anything like this one, it will become a regular route for me. Pennsylvania, you continue to impress!