On Saturday I visited the Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art, just outside of Millersburg, Pennsylvania, where I took a 6 mile walk along the trails there. Ned Smith was one of Pennsylvania’s best-known artists. He specialized in nature and the outdoors and was for many years the artist for the Pennsylvania Game News, which is where many people saw his work every month. He also created artwork for many national outdoor magazines.
Ned Smith was a gifted writer, and his book Gone for the Day, a field notebook illustrated with his pen-and-ink drawings, is still in print. After his death in 1985, land along the Wiconisco Creek was purchased and eventually the center was built. Today, the center is a haven for both outdoor education and recreation, and the gallery houses many of Smith’s paintings and sketches. It sits on more than 500 acres and has over 12 miles of trails.
Saturday was one of those moist, almost dreamy, April days where spring growth seems impossibly lush, and spring warblers flit from tree to tree. Fly fishermen plied the creek, while birders haunted the edges, eyes turned upward into the trees. In other words, it was a perfect day to get out and walk.
The center is about 40 miles northeast of Roundtop, and my first thought as I headed down a trail was that spring looked further along up here than it seems back on my mountain. Perhaps the Wiconisco Creek, which runs just below the center’s headquarters, helps hydrate the plant life more than is possible in the drier landscape of Roundtop.
The flowers and plants I saw here were much the same as the ones back home, but they were larger or further developed. For example, the violets here were in full bloom, while back at home, the blooms are just opening.
As I walked above the creek, I soon heard wild turkey, pileated woodpeckers, phoebes and towhees, just to name a few. The forest was thick with rue anemone, ferns, violets and lovely, well-marked trails. I looped around a trail that was perhaps 100 feet above the creek, then I headed down to the creek itself. It was along the creek that I saw the most people, fishermen and birders both. I followed the path of an old railroad bed for a while, found a side trail that wound through hemlocks and reached a small rill that rolled into the main creek.
I walked another trail that headed very sharply straight up the side of the mountain, had to pause for breath more than once and was very glad when the trail turned and headed along the mountain. The trail turned again, this time to head straight down the mountain, and I was forced to inch my way slowly back down on a carpet of slippery leaves and hidden rocks. Returning to flatter ground again, I walked a trail that headed out of the woods and along the nearby fields, but providing great views back towards the mountains.
I looped back to the center and visited the gallery and the shop. I headed home a bit reluctantly, wishing the center was closer in both miles and travel time. I found the visit and the center rich with possibilities, the kind of place that would be wonderful to visit regularly throughout the year.