A few weeks ago I was in State College for a conference. After I was done for the day, I decided to take a ride to see some sights in the beautiful Rothrock State Forest.
My first stop was the Alan Seeger Natural Area. This natural area was named after Alan Seeger, a poet who was killed in World War I. Naming the natural area after him is somewhat of a mystery as he had no known connection to the area.
With its old growth forests, massive pine and hemlocks, rhododendron tunnels and shaded streams, this natural area is incredibly beautiful. The trail is a loop and very easy; children would love this hike. The Great Eastern Trail passes through the natural area on its way from Alabama to New York.
On my hike, the sun was setting after a day of rain. Sunlight streamed through the wet forest that smelled rich with a scent of mulch. Every space, every foothold was enveloped with something living, growing. Footbridges crossed meandering Standing Stone Creek, which was almost completely hidden by rhododendron jungles.
I had the place to myself until I passed an older man hiking in the opposite direction. He said hello quietly, as if he were in a church. Forests like these are so beautiful and rare, they hold the spirituality and serenity of a place of worship.
After the short hike, I drove to Penn Roosevelt State Park and then Bear Meadows Natural Area. Darkness was quickly descending as massive, billowing storm clouds rose beyond the horizon. The cacophony from the spring peepers was utterly deafening as their unrelenting peeps echoed and bounced between my ears.
As I was about to leave, I encountered a young couple with a small dog. He had tattoos and she looked bohemian. They looked over the meadows, teeming with life, and the forested ridges that surround the meadows, masked in darkness. A slate gray evening sky was quickly being drained of light.
“This”, the young man said, “is what I love about Pennsylvania.”