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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Pennsylvania Wildest: Exploring the designated wild areas in the PA Wilds

Quehanna Wild Area – Elk and Moshannon State Forests in Elk, Cameron, and Clearfield Counties (Tom Hanes)

There are many ways to access this vast, and I mean vast, 48,000-acre patch of serene second-growth forest in the most unpopulated part of the entire state. The Wykoff Run Natural Area occupies 1,215 acres within the wild area and contains a large stand of paper birch, giving the impression of a much more northerly forest.

The Quehanna also supports large open meadows which boast exceptional wildflowers in spring and summer. It is the largest Wild Area in the state.

Hunting excels here as does the cross country skiing for those seeking a no-groomed trail experience. See vestiges of the impact of a tornado that struck 24 years ago. Look for elk at Hoover Farm. Watch waterfowl at the Beaver Run Dam shallow water impoundment. Try geocaching at Wildcat Rocks. Last and maybe least, beware the creatures that glow in the night or so legends say (the Curtiss Wright Company tinkered with nuclear powered aircraft years ago but the land has been cleansed of any radioactivity).

Perhaps the area’s best activity is long-distance hiking on the Quehanna Trail, with a convenient trail head at Parker Dam State Park, five miles off of Interstate 80. Most suitable for experienced hikers and backpackers, the trail creates a strenuous 75-mile loop ready for multiple-day expeditions.

Memories are for the making in the Quehanna. I once encountered a cow elk at close range on the Foley Trail. If you are game for a visit, watch out for ticks, rattlesnakes, and frisky male deer and elk (you don’t want to have a close encounter with a bull elk!). There are several books available offering maps and details for exploring the Quehanna Trail and Wild Area.

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