Wildcat Gap, Centre County, PA   Ernie Ostuno
  Jul 25, 2004 03:38 PDT 

Wildcat Gap is in the Bald Eagle State Forest and contains a narrow
strip of scattered old hemlocks, white pine, beech, and oak along a
stream. This surrounding area was cut over, as evidenced by old,
fire-scarred stumps. The largest hemlocks were about 2-3 feet dbh and
around 100 feet tall. There are also some big hemlocks and hardwoods
growing on a rock outcrop extending up from the stream to a ridgetop.
Apparently, this boulder field was avoided by the loggers. Total acreage
of old growth is probably around 10 acres. A ranger from the Bald Eagle
state forest mentioned this site to me when I inquired about potential
old growth that had not been designated as natural areas. I visited it
in April 2002. It is located a few miles from Poe Valley State Park and
is readily accessible by an unpaved forest road.


RE: Dale   Ernie Ostuno
  Jul 26, 2004 14:50 PDT 

I'll try to answer all your questions at once:

Wildcat Gap...

Best way to get there is to use the Bald Eagle State Forest Map. Find
Poe Valley State Park on the map and then you will see Wildcat Gap (in
very small lettering) labeled a couple miles west-southwest of the
park. From the park you can go west on the paved Poe Valley Rd. to where
it becomes dirt and ascends the ridge. There is a scenic overlook
labeled on the map and the road turns south here. I think you can start
to see the tops of the big hemlocks in the stream valley just to your
west from the road here. If you drive ahead a bit to where the road
curves back to the west and look to your right you can see a few big
hemlocks about 50-100 feet into the woods. I went in early April, before
the trees leafed out, so the hemlocks were easy to spot. It might be
harder to see them in the summer. Park here and walk north into the
woods towards the stream (which may be dry this time of year). Follow
the stream east into the gap, where it soon turns north. You will begin
to see more old growth hemlocks. You should note some tall, gnarled old
hemlocks growing on the boulder field covering the western slope of the
gap (to your left as you face north). To your right will be the eastern
slope which includes the road cut that you just drove in on. The DNR had
recently cleaned up the western slope of the gap of a lot of garbage
that was dumped here, but people are probably still dumping there. I
found it a challenging climb up to the hemlocks on the boulder field. I
recall big old hemlocks and a few hardwoods (oak I think) growing all
the way to the top of the ridge. If teetering on rocks isn't your thing
then continue down the stream and you will see more hemlocks, beech and
at least one or two good-sized white pine (30 inches dbh and maybe
90-110 foot tall). Follow the stream down until you reach a dense forest
of second growth hemlock, and then backtrack your way out. I can't think
of any benchmark trees, but the hemlocks on the boulder field were
pretty nice. If you are feeling adventurous you might want to follow the
boulder filled slope all the way to the top and check for old growth
oaks up on the ridgetop. I suspected they were there from what I saw
about halfway up, but didn't make the full ascent.