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Alan Seeger Natural Area

Location: Near McAlevy's Fort, PA
(Rothrock State Forest)
Getting there: Click here
Difficulty:
1-10
1--a small child could hike it, but figure on getting your feet wet
Vertical Rise: 20 feet . . . maybe!
Length: <1 mile
Popularity:
1-10
7
Special needs: Aside from preparing to have soggy feet, there are no special equipment needs. Don't wear water-proof boots, as they will simply hold the water inside, but be sure to have something sturdier than flip-flops.
Why?: Ancient hemlock trees, although the best have fallen; giant rhododendrons; pristine natural area; nice running water

 

 

Alan Seeger Natural Area  is a bit unique, in that it has been largely untouched by humans. You can feel the aura of the place, and it just seems 'old'.

Alan Seeger

Alan Seeger was a soldier and poet who died during World War One, and it's unclear why the area is named for him, since it is unlikely he ever knew of its existence. There is probably no connection between Alan Seeger and the area named for him, except, perhaps, that they are both poetic.

Here is one of his prophetic poems:

Rendezvous

by Alan Seeger

I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air--
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath--
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.

God knows 'twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear . . .
But I've a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.


Getting there

Alan Seeger Natural Area (Near Alan Seeger Place) is easy to find once you have been there, but getting there the first time is a bit of an exploration. Don't worry, you'll find it if you have any sense of direction. You can use the map below to approach from the West, or you can try the route from 322. For the more adventurous, you can take a steep dirt road.

If you have questions, just post them in the forum . . . it's not as complicated as I'm making it sound :-)

To approach from the east, take Route 322 south (which actually goes east in this area :-) past Boalsburg towards Potter's Mills and Milroy. At the top of 'seven mountains' you're about a mile away from a runaway truck ditch. Look for a small road off to the right, and be careful, since drivers do not expect you to stop to turn on this section of highway. Don't worry about getting back, since you can easily continue on to PA 26 after Alan Seeger Natural Area, but if you want to, you'll need to continue into Milroy to turn around on the divided highway. Near this area, it's curious to note that the Mid State Trail actually runs under the highway.

The road you are on is Stone Creek Road, and a small sign was recently (as of June 2003) placed on 322 to indicate that you can get to Alan Seegar from there.

Take this road until you run into Alan Seeger Natural Area, about 10 miles. It starts out paved, but soon turns into a dirt road, but it still has good signage. It will seem much longer than 10 miles, since you can't go very fast :-)

An alternate route is to take Bear Meadows road from Rt322 (near Tussey Mountain Ski Area) over Tussey Ridge. Oddly enough, Tussey Mountain Ski Resort is not really on Tussey Ridge, but rather a little, unnamed hill in front of Tussey Ridge. You 'll find signs after going up, past Bear Meadows National Natural Landmark, and then down the mountain. This is a scenic route, for sure, but a neat ride, especially with 4WD.

You'll notice the character of the woods change as you approach the natural area. The trees turn from oak to hemlock, and things just seem to be much older, and more medieval. This is where you want to be.

The parking lot is easy to find, and the trail will be off to your left near a carved wooden map and signpost as you are pulling in. The blue blazed Johnson trail leads off to the right, and it leads to the Mid State Trail to the north, and to Greenwood Furnace State Park to the south. This is a nice four hour hike if you like to climb and you want to catch the view from the fire tower at the top.

There is a nice pavilion and charcoal grills available, and Standing Stone Creek running through makes for a very tranquil setting, even before you take the walk.

 

 
Click thumbnail for full sized maps


Elevation profile . . . not much difference!

The hike

Start walking on the road until you find the signage that leads you through the hemlocks to your left. Don't worry about following the wrong path, since the Johnson Trail is further up and clearly blazed in blue.

The trail itself is not blazed, but if you use your 'trail eyes' you'll be able to spot where you need to go. Much of the path is so thick with rhododendrons that you can't stray too far . . .

After walking through the towering Hemlocks, you'll come to an amazing stand of giant rhododendrons, which flower in early June. The path goes through tunnels of them on the way to the giant Hemlocks, now deceased. Until about 1996, one of the giants was still standing, but now you'll just see the fallen timber of what was a 500-1000 year old tree--perhaps the oldest in the State before it rotted from within and fell over.

There are still a lot of other giants, some perhaps 300 years old, and the majesty of the place is not lost.

During the spring thaw and after a rain, Standing Stone Creek will overflow the trail, so be prepared to get your feet wet. 

A good tip about hiking and wet feet is to not use waterproof boots. Sure, they promise to keep your feet dry, but what happens is that all the water that finds its way in--and it will find its way in!--stays there forever. Better to use something that dries quickly, like running shoes, but be sure they can tolerate water. Many brands of sneakers disintegrate after they get a thorough soaking.

The path makes a circle that leads you to back to the sign on Stone Creek Road.

All in all, a short walk, but very fulfilling, and a great way to spend the evening after work or after dinner.

If the area intrigues you, and you would like to hike more, the Johnson Spur of the Mid State Trail runs through the natural area and is a nice hike from Greenwood Furnace State Park to Bear Meadows Natural Area.