Unnamed Ravine, Wintergreen Gorge, PA   djluth-@pennswoods.net
  Nov 07, 2006 13:23 PST 


Over the weekend I was able to explore a previously unvisited ravine system in
Wintergreen Gorge behind Penn State Behrend. Found a new stand of dwarf E.
hemlock old growth forest. The forest floor was absolutely incredible... it
was totally covered with a species of pin cusion moss. It was like walking on
sponges. It was just incredible to find dwarf old growth like this with no
human enduced trail erosion. Old growth species were mainly dwarf E. hemlock
with a scattering of dwarf scarlet and N. red oaks. Awesome stuff. I'll have
to go back and get pictures once I get my digital camera repaired. I'll have
to map out all the old growth here too. This last ravine system will probably
add another 5-10 acres of old growth.

The trip was a great workout too. It was actually more workout than it
should've been though. I was about 15 minutes out and down at the bottom of
the first of two 230 vertical foot ravines before I realized that I left my
laser & clinometer back at the car! Talk about breaking an Ents commandment...

Once I got back to my turn around point, it took me awhile to devise how to
cross a steep slate bottom raging torrent that was at the bottom of this side
ravine. The water was only about 6" deep by about 6' across, but was traveling
about 10mph across a slick shale substrate. I was envisioning myself getting a
brisk Fall bath and being washed down into the main ravine if my jump wasn't
long enough. It looked like one of those waterslides at an amusement park!
Even if I made the jump, I could've easily slid back into the main channel.
The sides were so steep, the only way out once I crossed was to climb up the
bank on sparsely placed saplings on shallow mud that was on top of the steep
shale banks. Started getting flashbacks from my Marine Corps days... 'Once you
start, there ain't NO turning back!'

Anyway, made the leap safely, crawled out of the ravine (another 230 vertical
feet) then off to the next steep ravine drainage about a half mile out south
and towards I-90. Made it to the edge of the new drawf old growth area
explained above and couldn't believe my eyes.

I worked my way down a steep knife edged finger down into the ravine, but
couldn't make it down into the bowl at the bottom. It was almost vertical at
about 2/3 of the way down. There was a "deer" path down a mudslicked contour
that wasn't quite as steep to my right, but it must have been a species of
Billy goat that put it there... way too steep to descend on saturated ground.
So, I headed back up the finger, then upstream, all dwarf old growth by the
way, to a powerline right of way. Found a way across the steep ravine here,
then worked back down to where the two feeders came together. Still couldn't
get to the bottom bowl due to steepness and lack of time, but again, still
dwarf old growth most of the entire way.

On my way back up to the powerline, came upon 7-8 turkey (2 jakes, ~6 hens).
They were so close I could've had my Thanksgiving turkey. If there was a small
stone nearby, I'm sure I could've hit one. After about 10 minutes, they had
enough of me and headed off.

Worked my back to a main road south of campus, then cut back into the main
ravine trail behind the maintenance complex. Counted rings on a number of
small trees that were cut off the trail:

Species       Circ at 'x' height           ring count

E. hemlock    1.7ft Circ at 4.2ft fm base      108
E. hemlock    4.5ft Circ at 13.8ft fm base     183
E. hemlock    1.8ft circ at 5.5ft fm base      76

The older ~183+ year old hemlock suggested some type of stand thinning at ~100
years ago, then closing of the canopy for the last ~20 years of its life. I'm
not sure when this tree came down, but it appeared that somewhere between
1900-1925 there was some selective logging in the area, but the dwarf hemlocks
were left standing.

Also was able to get a partial ring count on an old Am. chestnut stump. The
stump was 5.7ft Circ at 1.6ft fm base. I counted about 20 rings at only 0.08ft
in from the outside edge. The rings/rays appeared fairly consistent, but
uncountable to about 1/2 way to the center of the stump. It was hollow the
rest of the way.

Was greeted by a great horned owl on my way out. Didn't get to measure any
trees, but still was a great day to be in the woods. Probably will be the last
warm day in the woods before I'll have to wear thermal underwear for the winter.


Back to Dale   Robert Leverett
  Nov 09, 2006 04:58 PST 


   You had me riveted. Will he or will he not jump? Very entertaining
description. We want more! You must make one foray per week in to new
territory for our reading pleasure. This is ENTS at its best.

Re: Back to Dale   Michele Wilson
  Nov 17, 2006 09:51 PST 

The detailed ravine description reminds me of the time I was hiking
somewhere in West Virginia during a late winter and walked to the edge of a
precipice deep in the woods and looked down below about 40 or so feet and
noticed a frozen/still intact dead sheep, yes, a sheep deep in some woods.
I figured the poor thing must've inadvertently fallen off and killed itself.
I did not go down to investigate...and am still wondering why the sheep was
deep in the woods to begin with...
Re: Back to Dale   Fores-@aol.com
  Nov 17, 2006 10:08 PST 

In the days before Coyotes started infiltrating the woods of WV you could
find all sorts of farm animals deep in the woods. For nearly a year we had a
band of feral sheep running through the woods of Crummies Creek until they
finally got eaten but it took almost a year for all five of the sheep to become
coyote food. Fencing is expensive and often the best feed is on your
neighbors property.