Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fall hike - part 1

 I took so many photos on my walk down into the forest valley this weekend that I’ve decided to post them over two days instead of just one. I simply can’t choose only a few. Today’s batch will show my walk down to the pond deep in the valley—a favored spot of mine, both for its quiet and its beauty.

Sunday was a day of blue skies, abundant sunshine and no wind—perfect for a hike. A forest can be a noisy place when there’s even a slight breeze. All those leaves rustling in unison can easily hide the sounds of the forest’s birds and animals. It’s a rare treat when not even a hint of a breeze dulls the sound of the rest of the forest. The only sound most of the time was that of my own footfalls.
Between Roundtop Mountain and Nell’s Hill runs a narrow valley that also contains Beaver Creek. The valley is not developed in any way, except for this old woods road that once led to a long-abandoned summer camp for girls. The mountains on either side help to block sounds from outside the forest but also keep the valley in shade for much of the day. Sunrise is late coming here, and sunset is early. This is especially so during the short hours of winter, but even in fall the valley doesn’t get more than about 6 hours of sunlight. The valley also holds water and dampness more than up on the mountains, so ferns are lush here and the more shade-loving trees grow tall and large.
Beech trees predominate over the red oak, which here is more prolific than white oak. Sassafras and tulip poplar are more common than hickory. Deer are less common here than higher up, perhaps preferring the more open spaces with more grazing. Chipmunks and squirrels are the animals I see the most, and they aren’t shy about warning every soul for half a mile around that I am invading their territory. In spring and summer, the valley is a haven for forest birds. Scarlet tanagers are yearly nesters, as are wood thrush, ovenbirds, pewees and phoebes. In fall, only the year-round avian residents remain. I am frequently scolded by titmice and chickadees.

Most valleys in this part of Pennsylvania are developed in some way. Flat land is at a premium here, and is of course preferred for everything from houses to farmland. That this valley has remained undeveloped is partly due to luck, though I’m sure its narrowness is also a major factor. The valley is so narrow that building a two-lane road through it is probably impossible, and even if that were not impossible, any houses would need to be perched on the steep hillsides, not an ideal situation in any case. So the valley has remained forested and undeveloped, for which I am eternally grateful.

 The valley and the two mountains that surround it are forested havens in the midst of the long-cleared surrounding farmland and the encroaching housing developments that threaten to gobble up our open land. The valley is also my own personal haven, where I can imagine and experience, on some level, the depth and breadth of the eastern forests before our population leveled many of them. Here, I can’t even hear the sound of cars, though the nearest public road is probably only a mile away. The forest is as quiet as it has been for millions of years, and it is here where I can feel that sense of the earth’s timelessness as I feel the closeness of its narrow valley.


John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

A little piece of heaven you've found there. And you've captured some of the magic in your photos. Thanks for the walk.

Cathy said...

Your pictures are just wonderful.

Cicero Sings said...

Some beautiful fall shots. How fortunate such a day fell on a day off!!

Carolyn H said...

John: Yes, the valley certain is a little piece of heaven. Sometimes I think I shouldn't tell anyone about it.

Cathy: Thank you! Down here it looks as though it will be rain tomorrow and snow on Saturday.

Cicero: You're right about having such a wonderful day on a day off. That hasn't happened too much this year. Although as much as it has rained, there weren't many nice days even when I didn't have the day off!

Scott said...

Two beautiful posts--Fall Hike Parts 1 and 2. I'm glad I got a chance to "join" you on your ramble. Who owns the valley? Is there a chance that the owner might be tempted to sell for development?

Carolyn H said...

Scott: Much of the valley is owned by Ski Roundtop, so it is probably safe or at least safer than most places. They use the little pond to draw water out for snowmaking--at least they used to before they dug a big pond. Nothing in the southern tier of PA is really safe anymore, I feel, but there's certainly no forseeable threat to this valley, either.