We recently drove out to the PA Wilds along Route 6 with the goal of seeing the Coudersport Ice Mine. We couldn’t have chosen a more perfect day with the heat and humidity. I love driving out to the PA Wilds, one of my favorite places. It is one of the largest forestlands in the east, with countless trails, parks, and places to explore.
We reached the scenic town of Coudersport and got a bite to eat. The Ice Mine was a few miles away, where we drove up what appeared to be a driveway and a small parking area. The office was a quaint cottage tucked into the woods, making it look like something from Snow White. Right next to it was a wooden door and sign that said “Ice Mine”. We paid our $5.00 and the guide told us the mine was dug by someone looking for silver. Silver was never found, but the mine had the odd habit of filling with ice in the summer. The digging stopped and the mine was used for refrigeration thereafter.
It is not a mine, but a 30 foot deep pit into fractured rock. It was remarkably cold for such a warm day, as to be expected. A wooden platform with an opening offers views of the ice below. It is believed the rocks freeze over winter, and are still cold in the Spring and Summer. The air flows between the rocks, settles in the pit, and freezes the humidity. By Fall, the ice will melt. This is the only place I know of where ice will form in the summer. Other places, like Trough Creek State Park’s ice mine and the ice cave in the Shawangunks will only hold ice until late in the year. The tour is quick and there is not much to see other than the ice below your feet, but it is a unique little spot. The Ice Mine had been closed for several years, so it is nice to see that it has re-opened.
We then drove south through Susquehannock State Forest, seeing Cherry Springs and the beautiful views from the forest roads. What a special area. We drove around the the Hammersley Wild Area, which took a while, but I was also scouting to see if there were any trails. I noticed several signs for trails going into the wild area.
My next goal was the Tamarack Fire Tower in the Sproul State Forest, one of the few fire towers that can be climbed in PA. We drove to the top of the mountain just as a fierce thunderstorm shredded the skies. We sat in the car as lightning blasted around us, with bolts that rippled across the sky and torrents of rain. The storm eventually passed and we walked to the fire tower. I climbed it to see amazing views of mist and clouds rising from the valleys and hollows below. It was breathtaking. To the south I saw what appeared to be a funnel cloud. Heavenly light pushed against the dark mass of the storm, illuminating the western horizon.
I inched back down the fire tower and we drove home, ending a wonderful day in the PA Wilds, the best-kept secret in the eastern US.