Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Returning to Camp Michaux

On Monday, I decided to return to a spot I hadn’t visited all year.  Michaux State Forest is about a 17 mile drive between mountains with lots of hiking trails and a couple of state parks, lakes, reservoirs and lots of hemlock and white pine.  It’s mostly undeveloped forest, with some cabins in areas that are not on state forest land.  I love the smell of the pines, especially in winter or what’s passing for winter so far this December.
Stone, moss-covered steps in foreground.  Site of Zwingli cabin between the two trees
One thing I wanted to do was revisit the site of the camp that I attended as a 'tween and young teenager.  Camp Michaux was first a CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) camp and then a POW camp during WWII and lastly a church camp from 1946-1972.  Sometime not long after the camp closed, they removed all the buildings, which hadn’t changed since the CCC days—wooden clapboard barracks with metal bunk beds, an outdoor shower area (discretely fenced), a dining hall and a swimming pool.
I'm in the second row, second girl on the right (white headband)
So it has been about 40 years since the camp was occupied, and it’s amazing how quickly the forest has reclaimed the area.  The two-lane paved road that was the main entrance to the camp is now covered with pine needles, branches, a few small downed trees, and the macadam is only visible as a narrow path down the center.  The stone steps down to the cabins are filled with more pine needles and seem more like natural rocks than steps.  Even the stone block foundations are barely visible anymore.
Main "road" into camp. Macadam now mostly invisible
I walked down what used to be the main camp road and found the spot where the cabin that I stayed in used to be.  Nothing looks particularly familiar anymore, and I am rather happy about that.  I’m surprised that the reclamation is happening so quickly.  I’m happy that the forest is taking over what was originally its own.  At this rate, in another 20 years or so, even the little I found that remained will be gone, and nothing will remain but the forest. 


Scott said...

Very interesting post, Carolyn. Thanks for sharing. I'm surprised that the forest is recovering so quickly, too, because isn't this a fairly high altitude (for Pennsylvania) location with dry, rocky soils? If it were down here in the Piedmont, I could see a very quick recovery, but not under circumstances like I'm imagining.

SHG said...

Good to see you posting. From ruminating to reminiscing. Carry on.

Carolyn H said...

Hi, Sam! Hope you're well.

Carolyn H said...

Scott: The elevation at the camp can't be too high. It's less than halfway up the mountain, so I'm guessing it's notmore than 1000 ft. Soils are rocky. Hemlocks are still doing okay for the most part. Lots of pine forest.