Cook Forest Walk, Nov. 10, 2004




It is late autumn here in western Pennsylvania. The temperature dropped into the twenties the past two nights. Yesterday morning we had a spattering of snow flurries that peppered the ground with flakes.

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It was a nice day and I drove to Cook Forest to take some photographs. I decided to visit the extreme north end of the park, an area I had never visited before. I parked at the intersection of Tomís Run Road and Lencerís Road. This area consists of relatively young second growth hardwoods, hemlock, white pine. I walked along the road looking at the trees around me. Most stood naked to the sky, their clothing of autumn foliage long since fallen. Here and there were smatterings of bashful trees still holding on to their leaves, a flash of yellow from a handful of late dropping sugar maples, the tight rich tan curls of beech, and some dusky brown leaves clinging to a smattering of oaks. The evergreens were present adding touches of green to the gray mix, hemlocks, white pine, and the broadleaves of rhododendrons.

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The forest floor was covered with brown leaves that crinkled as you walked. The moss looked almost fluorescent with no little for their light green color. Everywhere you looked were little vignettes of the forest. Here were ferns growing atop a stump. There lay a pine cone amid a mass of brown leaves and a leafy fern. The ferns in this area are still green. In a few weeks they too will lose their color and turn a light yellow, then slowly fade to brown as winter approaches.

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From a photographers standpoint it is an interesting time of the year. I suppose the same could be said of most times of the year. Now the most of the deciduous foliage has dropped allowing sunlight to paint the forest floor. The leafless trunks and limbs of the trees display their intricate complexity normally hidden by their everyday green. I could see twists and bends and hidden strength within the trees. I could see the complexity of treetops that had been broken and have since regrown into a splay of limbs. Dead trees standing in the forest jump out with their white bleached surface from among the darker bark of living trees.

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Today was gray day with moments of sunshine. The contrast in the forest was low. The multitude of shades of gray could not be adequately captured with a camera, but were there to see. In several hours along the path I heard many a bird call. I could hear water rippling in the creek nearby, and the sound of my footsteps upon the dried leaves. One truck passed me the entire day, even the sounds of distant traffic were intermittent and muted. I saw no one else to spoil my contemplation.

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I did not measure anything, so I have no numbers to report. I did not see any giant trees, so I have no discoveries to report. But it was an enjoyable stroll. Something to relieve the tensions of everyday life, and I thought to share it with all of you.

After getting back to my car I decided to continue around the northern end of the park to meet Pa Route 66 a few miles to the west. A mile or so beyond the intersection near the village of Crown is a spectacular open grown white oak tree with a big bore and impressive crown spread. It probably isnít tall enough to set any records, but is an impressive tree. 

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On around the circle I found Daleís vehicle park alongside of the road on Maple Drive. I stopped, but could not hear any signs of him, so I continued homeward.

Ed Frank