In early autumn, we took a trip to northern Pennsylvania that included both Forest and Warren Counties.
The trip was a bit of memory lane for both of us, from different time periods of our lives. Alex had a college class or two that brought him here, studying things he partly remembers.
For me, the area around Tionesta and Titusville involved summer vacations at my uncle’s cabin. We’d pack the car and make the two-hour drive to rough it in a cabin with an outhouse, no running water and a bit of electricity.
We kids thought it was heaven. I’m guessing our parents enjoyed it since it was our go-to place.
This was my first time seeing it since I was twelve and it immediately evoked a good run of memories.
The cabin shows signs of a life well-lived and with my cousin’s grandson onsite, of a place set on giving many more years of good memories to those who stay there.
After chatting with my cousins, we continued north to Warren, a town neither of us had been to before. The grand, rambling historic buildings gave us an unexpected surprise and made me wish they’d have an Open Doors event like we’d just attended in Pittsburgh. I might have to send them that suggestion. People said hello and looked you in the eye. I love those momentary connections you make with others in small town America.
After a delicious and reasonably priced supper at Chiodo’s Ferro Cucina, we drove around a bit then rested for the next day’s exploration.
The Allegheny National Forest encompasses 517,000 acres and is Pennsylvania’s only National Forest.
The Hearts Content Interpretive Trail is a short 1.1 mile loop through the Old-Growth Forest. The mix of these white pines, hemlocks and beech includes trees as old as 400 years. Isn’t that amazing?
I got faked out by the Tionesta Scenic Area Trailhead, as I kept looking for a clearing with a majestic view. Trick is, you are walking through the scenery. This piece of forest is over 2,000 acres of virgin timber. Much of it is northern hemlock. I’m glad there was the foresight in 1934 to purchase the area, keeping man from his too-often inevitable destruction of nature in the name of progress.
We did another short hiking loop here, but if you’re up for backpacking, there’s a 15+ mile trek you can take.
Stepping into the forest on a hot autumn day, you’re immersed in the shelter of the tall trees with their often lichen-covered ragged bark.
The smells assault your nose and if you breathe deep, you can separate the colors and the leaves of the different trees and … okay, I’m kidding. But for me, the odors were deep and dark and evoked childhood memories.
Then there is the fungi.
I found lots of different names for these bits of growth sprouting out of tree bark and fallen logs, such as, “Polypore mushroom, decomposer, and fungi.” I especially like “decomposer.” What is that? Did the tree let music slip off the branches?
My dad always called these bits and hunks, “punk.” I’ve never heard anyone else call it that. Was the storyteller in him making things up as his kids asked endless questions or did he learn the word from his father?
Doesn’t matter, every time we go into the woods, I’m on a search for punk. Alex pretends he has never heard the word before. “What are you talking about? What’s punk? Why do you call it that?” It’s a thing.
Some punk is touchable, some is hard, some is gushy and some of it is a mushroom in disguise.
Where I grew up, pieces lying on the ground were fair game. They don’t age well out of the damp and darkness of the forest. If you shelve any, don’t keep them too long before passing them on, like I do, for a friend to paint. Deft artwork turns punk into a gift and preserves its life.
Each trip to the forest changes it, even with the pack in/pack out, leave things as you found them rules being followed.
Each trip to the forest changes us, old memories resurface and new ones are made.
Do you have a favorite piece of woodland to stroll through?
Read: Autumnal Beauty