Thursday, April 23, 2015

Bob Webber

Robert Webber
1934 - April 21, 2015

It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I learned today of the passing of a true Pennsylvania legend. Bob Webber, the iconic Bard of Pine Creek, departed this life on Tuesday April 21st after a short bout with cancer at the Williamsport Medical Center. A place that must have been the absolute antithesis of his hand built, off-the-grid, mountaintop cabin that he and his late wife Dottie lived in for the past 40 years while overlooking the mountains and valleys of  his beloved Pine Creek Valley and Slate Run.

If you've ever hiked, skied or snowshoe'd the network of trails that make up the Black Forest Trail system or the Golden Eagle Trail or the Bob Webber Trail (he built this one when he was 60 years old) then you owe Bob a debt of gratitude for building and maintaining them, often using only primitive tools to get the job done.

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music that he hears, however measured or far away"
-Henry David Thoreau

The wind now blows a little more forlornly through these mountains and the quiet riffles of the local streams are singing a melancholy tune now that Bob is no longer there to watch over and protect them.

Thanks for all the inspiration and exercise, Bob. And for everything you did to protect Pine Creek while sharing the peace and power of it's beautiful soothing mountains.

"Green blood fresh pulsing through the trees,
Blacks buds, that sun and shower distend;
All other things begin anew,
But I must end."
-Anne Reeve Aldrich, April-And Dying 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Bicycle Day - 2015

 Pine Creek Rail Trail - April 19, 2015

Today was one of those first  warm and sunny spring days after a long, cold, interminable winter. The kind of day where you say to yourself "Man, I wish I was alive." As I rode my bike through the spectacular Pine Creek Gorge Natural Area in Pennsylvania's Tioga State Forest I couldn't help but think back to another important event on this day in history.

"Last Friday, April 16, 1943, I was forced to interrupt my work in the laboratory in the middle of the afternoon and proceed home, being affected by a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dream like state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived a an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with an intense, kaleidoscope play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away."

Three days later, on April 19, 1943, Albert Hofmann intentionally ingested 250 micrograms of LSD. This day is now known as "Bicycle Day" because upon feeling the effects of the extraordinary substance he rode home on his bike, and that became the worlds very first intentional acid trip.

The Old Blackwell Train Bridge

Fork Hill

Pine Creek Gorge Natural Area

Bohen Run

River of Pines

Wild and Scenic Pine Creek

Pine Island Run Bridge

Fast Water in Early Spring

Shadows and Light Beneath Red Ledge Ridge

Approaching Tiadaghton
Tiadaghton Campground
Deep in the heart of the Pine Creek Gorge Natural Area.

This bike trip is dedicated to the memory of Albert Hofmann; the brilliant chemist, scientist, thinker and humanitarian whose extraordinary discovery arrived at just the right moment in the evolution of  human consciousness.

Albert Hofmann Light Painting Portrait
(by Dean Chamberlain)

Shine On You Crazy Diamonds

Monday, April 20, 2015

Hemlock Mountain

The Old Cutoff Trail Trailhead
32 long years have passed since I last climbed Hemlock Mountain in Pennsylvania's Tiadaghton State Forest. Back then, I tackled it as part of my first solo backpacking trip on the Black Forest Trail in the north-central part of the state. It enchanted me then as it still does today.

Remote, rugged and wild - I can't get this mountain out of my head and the last few years it's distinctive profile has been beckoning me from various sojourns/locations around the Pine Creek Valley such as the Bob Webber and Golden Eagle Trails just to name a couple of spots. I've been procrastinating on a long overdue, albeit abbreviated, return trip to the summit but with the advent of the first really warm spring weekend I figured now was well, as good a time as any.

If not now, when?

Old Cutoff Trail
A person should know how to read a map and have some bushwacking experience before attempting this initial part of the trail. You'll also want your hiking boots and water bottles for the this route due to the rocky sections on the final pitch and the lack of any stream crossings or springs.

Black Forest Trail Junction
The saddle between the Callahan Run drainage and the Naval Run drainage is where the Black Forest Trail and the Old Cutoff Trail intersect. This is where the BFT comes up from the forks of the Callahan Run and then continues on to the summit of Hemlock Mountain.

The Approach
 That dark silhouette in the background is Hemlock Mountain.
Upper Naval Run Drainage
False Summit
 Timber rattlesnakes are crawling all over this entire area. I bet there's literally one of the bastards under every rock around here.

The Final Pitch
Climbing the last 300 feet of vertical to the top. 76F degrees and breezy.

Hemlock Mountain Ridgeline
Hemlock Mountain Vista
 This is one of the 3 or 4 finest vistas on the Black Forest Trail - courtesy of Bob Webber. Take some time to soak up the views and enjoy a sack lunch before retracing your steps back to your car.

Pine Creek Valley
 Looking south into Golden Eagle Trail country. Sorry 'bout the harsh midday lighting - I dialed in the wrong numbers on the alarm clock and overslept like a baby.

 I wish someone would design a camera lens that doesn't make you look like you gained 80 pounds.

This post is dedicated to the memory of  Penn State physics professor and hiking guru Tom Thwaites who taught me everything I need to know about the joys, the hazards and the rewards of exploring the remote forests and footpaths of Penns Woods. A few initial adventures during my formative years lit a fire in me that turned into a lifelong avocation.