The Susquehannock Trail Club President Wanda Shirk and Co., which included Lori Szymanik, Susie Gribble, Corrie Amick and Tom Oliver, pushed the measuring wheel through the Hammersley section of the STS, on Monday, May 11, finishing the trail measuring and marking project which they began on March 19.
This is about an 11-mile stretch, when you figure it began in downtown Cross Fork, where the crew left off after measuring the Lieb Run Trail. And it was an 11-hour day for them, counting travel time. While Wanda measures and puts up the mile markers, the rest remove blowdowns, lop limbs, briars and tossed debris — anything to help clear the trail.
As of yet, there are no bridges in the Hammersley. The preferred method of stream crossing is to remove shoes and socks, wade the stream, dry the feet and put footwear back on. They had to do this twice and then managed to rock-hop across Elkhorn Run, and got away with only a wet foot or two.
The stream is not very deep, but wide and cold — and when you have on six-inch hiking boots and the stream is seven inches deep — well, you get the picture. Our club has long planned to put log bridges across, but somehow other trail care has taken precedent so far. Maybe this is the year.
Many hikers and backpackers look forward to hiking through and camping in this section; the Hammersley is one of those mystical places. There are many stories about this area, like silver mining, airplane crashes, the old logging days and the list goes on.
Not many nights pass without campers hearing the coyotes and owls talking to each other. Bears make the Hammersley Wild Area their home, but don’t be concerned; they are well-mannered and timid. Consider it a treat if you get to see one
One legend has it a Frenchman named Etienne Brule mined silver and smelted it in one of the valleys (silver is not indigenous to Potter County). Well, the Indians captured one of his men, and cut off his head. The legend goes on that the headless Frenchman haunts the valley during the full moon in October. So be aware when camping during a full moon in October.
Then there are some campers who may wake in the morning to find a warm apple pie by the cold campfire. Wait a minute, what’s this? Could it be that some of the logging camp ladies still travel some of the trails hereabouts. Maybe Granny Smith or perhaps Ida Red?
Some campers may peek out of their tent to see a bright light shining through the trees and wonder: Could it be the old Shay coming for another load of Potter County hemlock? They soon realize, of course, that it’s just the moon.
Aside from the STS, there are a great many other trails throughout the Wild Area. A hiker could easily spend the summer exploring. In the lower section of Hammersley Fork, there was quite a logging camp during the days of taking out first the hemlock and later the hardwoods.
Rails were strung up many of the valleys, and over the ridges to get the logs to the mills. About halfway through there was the freight yard at Murdocks, where eight-car log trains were divided in half and pushed up Road Hollow/Darling Run, on a 7% grade. That’s steep for a railway as the usual grade is no more than 3%.
At the top they were reassembled and taken down Long Hollow to the B&S mainline. This is where the Shays earned their keep. Being gear-driven, they had the pulling power for logging in these hills. You can see one at the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum on Route 6, just east of Denton Hill.
There is a possibility that our club will have a meeting in June, but for now it’s wait and watch and abide by the guidelines of the CDC. The last thing we need is to let our guard down and have the virus spread with a vengeance. If you need to get rid of your anxieties, just head out on the trails. There’s lots of space to practice social distancing and it’ll clear your mind.