Loren Anne Barnett—CBF’s Director
of Creative Services—has traveled the
watershed by foot, car, bicycle, raft, kayak,
canoe, sailboat, power boat, helicopter,
plane, zip line, buggy, and horseback.
(left) Even in the rain, Overlook Trail at Leonard Harrison State Park offers great views of Pine Creek Gorge. (center) Bear Mountain
Lodge is a cozy retreat after a day exploring Pine Creek. (right) Peter Petokas handles a hellbender in his laboratory at Lycoming College.
Driving to Wellsboro, the view from the highway was
densely timbered peaks and Whoville-dotted valleys. But,
on the smaller roads, the presence of exposed streams on
farmland was common. A few of the waterways had newly
planted trees, still in their protective tubes, a reminder of
the important work ahead for CBF and our partners in the
Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership (page 20).
It’s not the first time tree planting was a priority in the area.
The original virgin forests that cooled the land and creeks,
enriched the soil, and filtered rainfall were clear cut in the
19th and 20th centuries when lumber was a leading industry
in Pennsylvania. The second-growth forests that cover the
gorge now can, in part, be credited to the work of the Civilian
Conservation Corps in the 1930s.
I left my new friends at Tioga Trail Rides with a plan to see
Pine Creek Gorge from below and above. Don recommended
Blackwell, a few minutes south, as a great place to experience
creek level. From an access area for the Pine Creek Rail Trail,
I soaked in the picturesque cabins with smoking chimneys
and the feeling of being dwarfed by the landscape.
On the way to a bird’s-eye view at Leonard Harrison State Park,
I stopped at The Native Bagel in downtown Wellsboro. The
town, founded in 1806, is a quaint setting for year-round events
from music festivals to barbecues. Snack in hand, I hurried past
the shops on Main Street, ready for more adventure.
In addition to ordering sunshine, I would have done one other
thing differently on this trip: taken a map. Cell reception is
sketchy in the area, and you can’t rely on your phone for way
finding. Nonetheless, I found Leonard Harrison State Park.
The 585-acre park on the gorge’s east rim was very quiet the
day I visited. I had learned at the bagel shop that Turkey Path,
a steep path that runs 1. 25 miles from the top of the canyon to
the river, was closed due to ice. I walked through the passage
marked “Entrance to Views.” The spectacular panorama
got better the farther I ventured down Overlook Trail, and I
wondered why this was my first time visiting. There are plenty
of other places to view the gorge and plenty of things to do:
hiking, biking, fishing, hunting, canoing, rafting, kayaking,
and cross country skiing. And, you can’t go far without seeing
a campground, cabin, or lodge.
On the way to my accommodations, I stopped for dinner at
the Log Cabin Inn. The rustic decor, fireplace, and server
Sabrina were warm and friendly. Even more enjoyable was
the homemade tomato soup with macaroni.
Back at Bear Mountain Lodge, I got even cozier, enjoying the
in-room fireplace and private hot tub. Although I had also
considered the owner’s two other properties, the Midtown
and Meadows Lodges, this well-appointed, four-bedroom
log cabin was just right. When I left the next morning, the
charming bear decor in and around the lodge reminded
me that devoid of trees, the gorge had also been devoid of
wildlife. Fortunately, today’s forests and creeks are habitat
for creatures like black bear, ruffed grouse, and the elusive
eastern hellbender. Luckily, I knew where to find the latter.
On the way home, I stopped at Lycoming College in
Williamsport for a visit with Research Associate Peter
Petokas and Odysseus, a giant salamander that also thrives in
a just-right habitat. From his temporary aquarium, Odysseus
gave us quite a show, molting and wriggling out of his filmy
skin, which he proceeded to eat. Petokas said we were very
lucky to see this event. This summer, some lucky CBF Student
Leadership participants will get to work with Petokas on a
hellbender restoration project.
I plan to visit the hellbender exhibit at the Maryland Zoo and
keep tabs on the progress of the Keystone 10 Million Trees
Partnership from CBF headquarters in Annapolis.
LOREN ANNE BARNETT/CBF STAFF BEAR MOUNTAIN LODGE LOREN ANNE BARNETT/CBF STAFF
SAVE THE BAY 7