Sunday, June 29, 2008

Corryville Swamp Adventure – June 28, 2008

Did you ever see a road and just want to know where led. I did and I decided to find out where it went. I drove past it every day as I took a detour to work. It was a small dirt road beside a railroad track that disappeared into a swamp. I was intrigued and thought that this has the makings of an adventure. Janette had wanted to go fishing but it had been a rainy week and the water was up. Not bad enough to preclude fishing but just enough to make me decide to explore this road instead. Saturday morning we took off. Headed through Turtlepoint on the back way to Corryville. We crossed Marvin Creek just south of the village and stopped at the railroad grade where the road begins. Seeing no postings or warnings to stay off the road we headed west toward Smethport. The road was narrow with just enough room for the car. At one section the Multiflora Rose and Mulberries were so thick that they pushed the side mirrors flat against the car. Rabbits were everywhere, cottontails raced us down the road in short stretches before veering off into the thick underbrush. The bed of the road was fairly clear seemingly seeing much use from what I expect would be ATV’s. The foundation of the road reminded me of a railroad grade made up mostly of golf ball sized porous cinder. About three quarters of a mile in we encountered a low flat railroad bridge. Confirming our thoughts as to the origin of the road. The bridge bed had been replaced with railroad ties probably from the original tracks. It seemed sturdy and solid so we crossed. A side road on the far side of the bridge looked recently mowed so we followed it on foot for several hundred yards. We found a couple of gas wells and returned to our vehicle to continued our journey. The growth was even thicker further on . The railroad bed became uneven and we encounter much more debris. At one point a fallen tree limb almost precluded our passage but we were just able to get under it. We were now well over a mile into the swamp. The road just seems to go on forever. Straight as an arrow with overgrown backwater coves on either side. I was entertaining the idea of turning back when I realized that there was not enough room to maneuver the Honda around. The rail bed took an abrupt rise and out of the thicket emerged a large train trestle. At the entrance to which were side roads and thankfully, enough area to turn around.

This span crossed over a section of Potato Creek and is much longer then the first bridge. The bed of the bridge was of the same construction as the last but much more deteriorated. Metal post had been installed to keep large vehicles from crossing. Across the bridge the trail continued as straight as before and as far as we could see. The bugs were somewhat severe and were quickly draining us of fluids. We decided to leave the discovery of the other end of the trail for another day.

On returning to the vehicle I noticed a male ruff grouse in the roadway. I let out a few turkey clucks and he seemed to respond. I called for Janette to bring the camera and document the event. I continued to cluck and the bird got increasingly agitated. His amourous advances were direct toward Janette.

When good grouse go bad. I am not sure whether my expert calling offended the animal or Janette’s rendition of the “bird dance”. Either way, the bird’s aggression was turned toward Janette. The above video is not for the squeamish or the faint of heart. Parental discretion is advised.

Epilogue: The following day I purchased a good quality bug spray. It is in the “Adventure Bag” to stay. The flora of the narrow roadway was brutal to the finish of our Honda CRV. I had to promise Mary Janette that I would give it a wash and wax this week. Hence forth, due to this trial by fire, the Honda CRV will be known as the “Adventure Car”. Janette is seeing a therapist to work through the issues regarding the grouse attack. We are expecting a full recovery. The night mares are already starting to subside.

Sizerville Nature Trail - May 24, 2008

We are on the trail of a new spot for our harvest hike. After our Susquehannock disaster I thought I would be proactive and explore several possibilities to ensure success. I figured if I was ever to get my family to follow me back into the woods I would have to have some credibility. Janette was brave enough to accompany me on this first excursion into the unknown.

I chose the Sizerville nature trail, located in the Elk state forest adjacent to the Sizerville state park. It was fairly short (three miles) and well marked, at least on the map.

Janette and I arrived fairly early on Saturday morning. The weather was cool but had the promise of a warm day even for May. We headed up a dug road off the parking area. The grade was fairly easy but got steeper as we neared the top of the Hill. The road was crossed by many small spring and the trees were festooned with large grape vines that were thicker than my arms.

The Map is marked with several scenic overlooks but we were unable to locate them. There are numbered posts every hundred feet or so. We assumed someone had a guide that went with them, probably available at the park ranger’s office. Large rock outcrops litter the top and the dug road turns into a more traditional hiking trail. This gave me a moment of Déjà vu to the point of hesitation. The continuation of the numbered post gave us the confidence to carry on.

The trail off the hill ran much steeper than the ascent. Footing was tricky and the fatigue of the climb up made the decent quite difficult. The trail was bordered by a picturesque stream that made the treacherous trek worthwhile. Our consensus was that if we chose this trail for our hike we should start on the more difficult end.

The foot trail turned back into dug road and continued to the parking area. It was a good hike and would seem to be quite acceptable for our fall hike.


Although the hike seemed quite uneventful Janette did manage to pick up a couple of deer ticks. She found one without getting bit the other was able to successfully attach itself to her. We captured both and stored them in the freezer in case they were needed later for testing. To date she has suffered no ill effects and has not exhibited the signs associated with lymes disease. We will be adding repellent to our “Adventure bag” for use in the future expeditions.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Susquehannock Trail Adventure - October 2007

Our family has a tradition going back close to fifteen years. In the fall right around the end of October near a certain pagan holiday which we don’t celebrate, we all go on a “harvest hike”, to celebrate all the beauty and glory of God in nature.
Last year our typical three mile tour of the wilderness took and unsuspecting twist. We got lost on the Susquehannock Trail system. We left our car at the ranger station on top of Denton Hill at approximately 4:00 p.m. Our daughter Janette had rendezvoused with us on her way home from college.

I had obtained a map from the ranger station. I chose what I believed to be a suitable trail that would go several miles into the woods and loop back to the parking lot. The trees seemed to be well marked and the trail was warn enough that I was sure we were on the right path.

After about three hours, the sun was going down and the end of the trail was nowhere in sight. The tree markers led to a section of ATV trail. After a short time on the narrow roadway the signs beckoned us back into the woods. With darkness falling and no lights other than our cell phones (which had no signal) we decided to continue on the ATV trail. We kept moving down into the valleys hoping to come to civilization. We sent text messages to family and friends telling of our predicaments in hopes they would contact 911 and attempt a rescue.
Fortunately, it was unseasonably warm for October but cool enough that we had to walk constantly to keep warm.

I attempted to keep spirits up by stimulating conversation. No one seemed to appreciate my thoughts on how the game commission is reintroducing mountain lions into Pennsylvania to reduce the deer herd or whether relocating nuisance bears into uninhabited areas is effective.

After hours of walking everyone was getting too tired to continue. I decided that if we were going to stop for the night it would be at the top of a hill, where possibly we would have enough phone signal for our text messages to send.

We found a side trail off the ATV road that went up the hillside so we followed it. About half way up I thought I heard a noise. I saw a light reflect off the overcast sky, and then the sound of a car. We all but ran up the trail until we encountered a gate and then a two lane road.
The road was deserted, our text messages had sent but no one had enough signal to make a voice call. We waited on the road not knowing which direction to go. No cars in sight, no sound or lights from houses or a town. We had not waited all that long when the lights of a car appeared. I stood in the center of the roadway waving an open cell phone determined to stop whoever it was. They stopped, a huge pickup with extended cab and four people in it. When they told us we were on route 44 near Cherry Springs State Park we said no way. We told them we had walked from Denton Hill they said the same. They were happy to take us to our cars and we piled into the back. Traveling at 50 mph I would say it took a good 15 minutes by road to get back to the cars. I do not know the route we traveled but we found the road at 10:00 pm and had walked for the better part of those six hours.


If you send text messages to family make sure they know how to access it. Our family received the text but no one knew how to read it.

If you go on the Susquehannock Trail be advised the rangers’ maps are no good. Their website even lists a private group as a source of accurate maps.

Susquehannock Trail Club
PO Box 643
Coudersport, PA 16915

They suggest you plan to spend a week if you walk it completely.

We went on the hike with little or no supplies. We were fortunate to have extremely good weather and plenty of water with us. We carried no lights, matches, or extra clothing. I had a gps but the batteries were dead. I now keep all these things and more in my pack with me at all times. We learned nobody plans on getting lost.