When October rolls around, I sometimes start thinking about some of the tales that have come out of the Hammersley Wild Area.
First of all, in case you’re wondering, it is the largest “roadless” wild area in the state. The Quehanna is larger, but has roads throughout. And come to think of it, I haven’t yet heard any tales about the Quehanna. I’m sure there are some and I would love to hear them if anyone is so inclined.
Some of the tales are quite common knowledge by now and some are covered in the STS guide-books.
Take the Murdocks for example: it was a freight yard at the bottom of Road Hollow. Here the eight-car log trains were divided in half and pushed up Road Hollow, along Darling Run, on a 7% grade. Typically the RR grades were kept at 3% or less, so you get a picture of how steep this was.
The cars were then reassembled and hauled down Long Hollow to the B&S mainline. I imagine this is where the big Shays earned their keep. These locomotives were built with gear drive to the drive wheels, which gave them superior pulling power for the hill country and the log trains.
Then in the area of Twin Sisters Hollow, it is said that a Frenchman, Etienne Brule, mined smelted silver (silver is not indigenous to Pennsylvania and it was more likely pig-iron he mined).
It seems the Indians killed one of his men and cut off his head. A headless Frenchman, carrying his head under one arm, haunts the area during the full moon in October. So caution is advised if camping at around the 20th of October, maybe sleep with one eye open.
Then there was a fire which burned 275 acres in this same area along the Twin Sisters Trail, which connects to the Hammersley Trail. Also a plane crashed here at one time; I’ve not heard the details of that.
It is said that some campers have awakened in the morning only to find a warm apple pie by their campfire ashes. Could it be that one of the ladies who cooked at the logging camps, maybe Ida Red or Granny Smith, still makes the rounds of the Wild Area?
Other campers have seen a big bright light shining through the trees and wondered if it might be the old Shay coming for another load of Potter County hemlock, only to realize of course that it’s the moon.
The best story I believe I’ve heard (and this is a true one) is one of our members liked the Hammersley so much so he named his golden retriever “Hammersley Run.” They say one of his favorite things was to “see Hammersley Run.” Good point, as it’s awesome to watch a golden or an Irish setter for that matter, in full stride.
So hike this 10-mile stretch when you can, and ponder the history and the ice cream that awaits at Kinney’s Store.