Afield with Friends: When the leaves fall, hike in the woods

The winter months are special for hikers, photographers and the occasional hunter. The stillness of the woods brings out the best in man and woman.

They can soak up the beauty that true outdoorsmen have experienced, fought to protect and understand when it’s gone, it’s gone forever.

It now is time in Pennsylvania’s woods for fathers, grandpas and moms to take the time to lead and lure their kids outdoors, away from activities and distractions that give them the wrong signal of what we have in Penn’s Woods.

A pleasant ride to the north country is a good beginning and a hike on a well-marked trail will keep you all in condition.

If I were leading the kids, I would drive north on Route 87, which parallels Loyalsock Creek. Wow! After the flood of the century, that would give you something to talk about.

If you live north of Forksville, it would be exciting to follow 87 to Montoursville and stop at the bridge beween Loyalsock Township and Montoursville.

If you look downstream, you could explain that when a stream loses its velocity of water and the capacity to carry its rocky load of silt and gravel, the slower currents build up piles of material from upstream.

That’s a geological fact that they need to understand. It’s the same old story – remove the mess each spring and bring the dozers back for another useless try.

Then when you journey northward on 87, you can point out the Katy Jane Mountain to your left, opposite the grounds of the Consolidated Sportsmen of Lycoming County. That is important when the kids understand the struggles that slaves experienced on the way to Canada and freedom.

I find it difficult to drive upstream along Little Bear Creek and not notice the small pockets of water that house some of the finest native brook trout in Pennsylvania. Tell the story as you drive upstream before stopping at the old fire tower location.

I like to hike toward the north, knowing if I get lost the old road will take me to Big Bear Creek, just beyond the old Miller Farm.

Point out the heavy lichen plant growth on most of the small, standing timber. That plant is the first growth on rocks and trees and produces the necessary soil for a sucession of growth to follow.

Do they understand that plant was the target when the first astronauts landed on the moon. Its existence could prove that life could have been there million years ago, with the abundance of water?

As you walk through what seems to be a bare forest, look for signs that tell the story of the soft-bark striped maple. You may see a few that have their bark shredded and torn to bits. A good hunter knows that could be a good sign his prize eight-point buck escaped him during the fall hunt.

The American crow sitting in the highest pine has eye sight nine times better than man. That would be a good story.

Deformed trees with deep cavities seem to be good places for grubs and early beetle larva. Woodpeckers love those spots.

Let the forests be your guide and tell a story that has no limits.