Wonders of the Wilds: Where Clouds are Born and the Ancients Rise

By Scott A. Yeager for GANT News

Forests blanket 60 percent of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  Let that soak in for a moment.

If you consider that over 71 percent of the Earth is covered by oceans, that leaves about 29 percent for possible terrestrial habitation.

Toss into that small percentage the fact that one-third of that livable terrestrial land is some form of desert, and the gem that is the Pennsylvania Wilds sparkles ever brighter.

Pennsylvania’s forest lands are a true gift.  While that may sound trite to some, Penn’s Woods is a wild place blessed with an unparalleled beauty and vast natural resources.  Above all else, our forests are accessible and dynamic.

Even within the Pennsylvania Wilds, not all forests are equal.  All are beautiful.  Each is special to its region and to the diverse life forms that make it their home.

Yet, there are special places that are set aside and recognized as unique.  One such location is the 50,000-acre tract known as the Quehanna Wild Area.

If you have ever wondered where clouds are born, visit the Quehanna Wild Area after a heavy night’s rain.  The mist rises like dancing angels from the forest canopy.

Slender threads of water vapor cool into fluffy white clouds that drift high on gentle, eastbound breezes.  Hours later, they cool metropolitan areas like Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. with much-needed rains.

Along the Quehanna Highway, you will see many points of interest, but none so sublime as the Marion Brooks Natural Area.

This is the home of the “White House” of the Pennsylvania Wilds, a 975 stand of white birch trees worthy of the pages of a J.R.R. Tolkien novel.

You will find no other landscape in Pennsylvania as gentle and serene.  It is in places like this that you come to realize that nothing in the natural world is lacking, even your place in it.

While the Quehanna Wild Area is a majestic land, there are ancient forests in Pennsylvania that far surpass Quehanna in their splendor.  Not far from Quehanna, just off of state Route 36 is Cook Forest and its Ancient Forest Trail.

Imagine a place where hemlocks and white pines tower into a Forest Cathedral more spectacular than any crafted by the hands of ancient masons, and where the length of a human life becomes but a precious few moments in duration when compared to the objects surrounding you.

Suddenly, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity gains a deeper meaning for you.  This space, this ancient forest, is but one of a handful left in Pennsylvania and in the United States like it.

You are in an Old Growth Forest.  Some of the trees around you are hundreds of years old, and some have been enjoying their time in the sun since long before Pennsylvania was ever a notion in William Penn’s mind.

Sixty percent of our Commonwealth is comprised of forest lands.  It could easily be inferred that the vast majority of Pennsylvanians are forest people.

To the rest of the world, our forests are a special place; and as we are its inhabitants, we are among the most fortunate of our species.

Fortunately, we share our wealth with generations and nations.  Our forests are not only wild, they are accessible.  A place where human beings can learn to live in accord with the natural world.

Both visitor and resident of the Pennsylvania Wilds should learn to walk as if they were kissing the Earth with their feet – our forests are special, some are ancient, all are sacred.

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