Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Day in the Forest - Part 2

As I said in my last post, my only goal for this walk in the woods was to walk on woods roads or trails that I don't often walk. I simply wanted to enjoy the day and see the fall colors.

I walked down the hill and down into the valley, which is entirely forested. I walked west as far as the the base of the mountain in the distance but mostly stayed in the valley between this photo and the mountain. The valley is owned by Roundtop and the Pa. Game Commission. I don't know how many acres it totals, but it's a good bit, and it's rare in this area to have a valley that isn't developed or at least doesn't have a road going through it. To have that valley just out my back door is like hitting the lottery.

I spent much of my walk telling myself that I'm a fool for not spending more time down here. At the base of Roundtop, I found a trail heading south that I don't usually walk because it fairly soon reaches posted private property. But I vaguely remembered a trail leading off from that follows the Gamelands/Roundtop property line, and I decided to follow see where that went. I found it soon enough and followed it over to the base of this mountain, passing several more trails that I wanted to explore after I saw where the trail I was on went. On the boundary trail I soon crossed Beaver Creek, upstream far enough where it was not wide enough or deep enough to have ever supported beavers.

I saw signs of old, old logging here, including one stump that would have needed three people holding hands to reach the whole way around it. The roads that were built to log out the trees more than 100 years ago still exist. Some are no longer passable and can barely be seen. But often, they are still there, especially when they follow boundary lines that get walked at least occasionally. Or maybe a farmer used the woods road as a short cut to somewhere. There are lots of reasons why these roads still exist in good enough condition to allow walking over them 100 years or so after they were built.
I saw the first white-throated sparrows of the season--several flocks of a dozen or so. Blue jays were common, as were the usual small birds--chickadees, titmice, downy woodpeckers. I still haven't seen any juncos, and these birds are now starting to be late in arriving, though as warm as it's been, their late arrival shouldn't be a surprise. All the birds I came across were not very wary, and I suspect that they see few humans. I certainly didn't see any human footprints in the soft spots, though I saw plenty of deer and raccon tracks.
The forest down here is now at least 120 to perhaps 140 years from being logged and is starting to look fairly mature again. Every now and again I come across a very large, old tree--usually an oak--and I wonder how this one avoided being cut. Perhaps it was still deemed too small 100 years ago or perhaps it was simply in a spot that wasn't easily accessible.

These old woods roads keep me from having to bushwhack through undergrowth. Also, these roads always go somewhere, even if it's only to peter out in some clearing. The benefit to me is that getting lost or turned around or confused is pretty difficult. I can always retrace my steps. I simply pay attention to the direction I'm walking in and when I want to go back I just find a road that heads in the direction where I want to end up.

After following one of these roads west, it eventually came out onto the road that parallels the base of the next mountain, so I turned around and headed back to find one of the roads I'd seen earlier that headed north and back in the direction I wanted to go. But I'll leave that piece of the walk for tomorrow.

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