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Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Clubserving Bedford, Blair, Cameron, Centre, Clearfield, Elk, Huntingdon, Jefferson, Juniata, McKean, and Mifflin counties
|Explore, Enjoy, and Protect the Planet|
by Dave Coleman
The McIntyre Wild Area is one of sixteen state forest wild areas in Pennsylvania. Regular readers of this column will recall being introduced to a few of these special areas in our state forests that have been set aside for “hiking, hunting, fishing and the pursuit of peace and solitude.”
The PA Chapter of the Sierra Club had made state forest wild area protection a major conservation campaign four years ago. Ending commercial timber harvesting in these areas (similar to state forest natural areas) was a goal necessary to help restore old growth forests in Pennsylvania, protect many of our exceptional value watersheds and provide an exemplary recreational asset to the state. Between two and forty-eight thousand acres, state forest wild areas are much better incubators of recovering ecosystems than the much smaller state forest natural areas (most being just in the tens or hundreds of acres in size). The Sierra Club’s campaign efforts seem to have resulted in a significant success; the Bureau of Forestry, with only a couple of exceptions, did make permanent a policy of ending commercial timber harvesting in the wild areas.
I finally visited the McIntyre Wild Area on a beautiful autumn day early in October. It was the last of the sixteen wild areas that I have explored in my 37 years in Pennsylvania. It was a goal I had made for myself during the state forest wild area protection campaign — to visit and explore each of the sixteen areas. For a few years now, only the McIntyre remained (some of the latest I have visited are the newest recently added by the Bureau of Forestry). It was even more critical that I finish the goal as I will be moving my family and me to the state of California so that I can pursue my career in environmental engineering. Finalizing my goal of visiting all sixteen state forest wild areas was near the top of my list of must-do items before leaving Pennsylvania.
The McIntyre Wild Area is 7,279 acres — making it a mid-sized wild area. In the Loyalsock State Forest District (switched from the Tiadaghton district), the wild area is bordered on the south by Rock Run and on the west with Lycoming Creek. It contains four different watersheds that flow to either of these streams. It can be accessed most easily from a state forest road (the aptly named McIntyre Road) that curls through the southwestern corner of the wild area. The road terminates a half mile from the Band Rock Overlook.
On our visit that day (two human companions, one dog companion and I), we drove up McIntyre Road to the gate and walked out to the overlook. Standing on the Band Rocks, one can look over the Lycoming Creek valley as well as the town of Ralston. The over-look’s full name is Bandstand Rock; apparently the site of performances of a full brass band on the rocks decades ago.
This part of the wild area had been mined almost 100 years ago. Where you would park your car for the overlook, the cuts and fills, as well as the leftover slag, are still evident. This human influenced terrain as well as the mixed pine-deciduous forest, reminded me of my backyard – the Scotia Barrens.
The surface of McIntyre Road is tame enough that under normal conditions two wheel drive cars can negotiate the entire length of the road – if driven slow enough. If you have doubts about your car’s clearance at any point along the first couple of miles, consider pulling over at a clearing that is 2.3 miles from the beginning of McIntyre Road. The road surface only gets worse the further you go. Most of the elevation gain is achieved at that point, so the little over two miles to the Band overlook can be reached fairly easily by boot or bicycle.
We walked back to the car from the overlook. Then, from three separate locations along McIntyre Road we attempted to find small loops to hike. Several possibilities are suggested with the dashed lines on the state forest public use map. None of them crystallized in blazed, or even well-worn, trails. On each of the three attempts, we hiked in a half mile or so following deer trails to where they vanished and purposely retreated by bush-whacking with compass and GPS to find our way back to the car.
We did not find any hiking circuits for me to present to you in this column. At first, this concerned me somewhat as we were leaving the McIntyre Wild Area. Would I have to return to find a suitable hike? Would I have to find another subject, a new place to write about? Then I took into consideration what I knew all along. These areas in our public lands, these large parts of Penn’s Woods, don’t have to be described in any detail to be of value to the outdoor enthusiast. To the contrary, it is their wild nature and size that makes them the principal features of what is now referred to as Pennsylvania Wilds.
Even though we, relatively speaking, did not venture too far from the McIntyre Road, we still had a small adventure. Much larger exploratory ventures can be made into the larger portions of the wild area.
There are other interesting features of the McIntyre Wild Area: Each of the streams in the McIntyre Wild Area feature picturesque water falls and mini-gorges. For those more inclined to explore not far from the car, inspecting Rock Run from the Rock Run Road is very worthwhile — especially at the Miner’s Run confluence as well near the juncture of Yellow Dog Road.
As I think back to the work I did on the state forest wild area protection campaign, I remember that it was not just for the benefit of the ecology of our state’s forests, it was just as much about preserving undeveloped and un-exploited forest for human recreation. Sometimes even a well marked or a well worn trail system detracts from the wilderness feel to a place. So there you have it; you can explore the McIntyre Wild Area just as I had: Totally new and unexplored.
I never had a bad time in a state forest wild area. Even when soaked with rain or eyes filled with bugs, my excursions into the wild areas were rewarding and fulfilling experiences. I have learned much about forest ecology and the state forest system in these travels through the varying landscapes and forest types that are represented with wild areas.
I am certain that I will enjoy living in, and exploring California, but, as with friends and acquaintances, I will greatly miss the forests and streams of Central Pennsylvania. I believe that — eventually — I will return to be with the friends and wilderness I have grown to love.
If You Go: To reach the McIntyre Wild Area, take Route 220 North (via I-80 East) to Williamsport. Take Route 15 North about 13 miles to Trout Run. From there take Route 14 north approximately 11 miles to Ralston. Take a right on Thompson Street, take it to the end, bear left and go over Lycoming Creek onto the gravel state forest road. From this bridge, McIntyre forks off in just a half a mile.
Public Use maps (Tiadaghton District) may be found at any BOF office. The wild area is also shown on the Ralston and Grover USGS quadrangles.
To reach California, take I-80 west about 3,000 miles.
The Moshannon Group web site includes all past On The Trail columns. Visit the PA Chapter of the Sierra Club’s page on State Forest Management
Dave Coleman has lived in Patton Township for 13 years and has volunteered for the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club as well as the local Moshannon Group. Dave can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org