Here are a few statistics the readers may be interested in concerning our state forests and trails.
Pennsylvania has 20 state forests, totaling 2.2 million acres. These are located in 48 of the 67 counties.
The largest is Sproul State Forest, at 307,000 acres, and is located right next to the Susquehannock State Forest, which encompasses 265,000 acres.
The Susquehannock State Forest includes the Hammersley Wild Area, the largest “roadless” wild area in the state. The Quehanna Wild Area is the largest, at 30,253 acres, but has roads throughout. Nevertheless it is a fantastic area in which to hike, so I have heard and read. The Hammersley also includes the Dutlinger Natural Area which has some very large old-growth hemlocks — it’s worth a hike in there just to see these trees.
Pennsylvania boasts about 10,000 miles of trails, surely enough to delight any hiker for a lifetime. I recall hearing the story about some folks from Cornell (Ithaca, N.Y.) saying how about we go down and hike some Pennsylvania trails and one of them said, “Aw, Pennsylvania is all paved.” Much to their delight they found out differently.
The beauty of a trail such as our STS is that sometimes you could hike nearly the entire 85 miles and never see another person. Backpackers can camp just about anywhere they like, just not close to cabins. There is plenty of clean water just about anywhere, although you still should treat it.
Even the bears are timid. We recently heard from some campers who they were worried about the bears but believe me the bears are much more afraid of you than you of them. If you are lucky enough to even see one, you’ll mostly see a black rump getting as far away from you as he can. Oh he may stand and look at you for a second, but when you say “Boo” he’s gone.
Of course they are mostly looking for food, so it’s not a good idea to camp with food in your tent.
And hear this — all of Pennsylvania state forestlands are certified to the Sustainable Forest Initiative Forest Management Standard. This means they are managed to protect water quality, biodiversity, wildlife habitat, species at risk and areas with exceptional conservation value. This means the hills will never again be stripped bare and allowed to erode and foul the streams.
Just as importantly, with more than 2 million acres of trees sucking up carbon-dioxide and giving off oxygen, how can we go wrong? If you ever are feeling down, just take a walk in the woods and breathe in all that oxygen. It’s guaranteed you’ll feel better.