The path through the forest
*Somerset, PA Daily American
September 4, 2010
as "Enjoying Local Scenery"
Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey
We often become blind to the things we see everyday, familiarity turning them into a sort of wallpaper to us; always there, but rarely noticed.
We’ve lived in the Laurel Highlands for 6 years now, the last 5 in Somerset. Upon coming here, my attention was grabbed by the things that marked significant events in the region’s past, like the Johnstown Flood Memorial and Monument and the Quecreek Mine Disaster site. My involvement with the Friends of Flight 93 group has made that cause, and those wonderful, dedicated people a big part of our lives. And yet, there are things I now realize I’ve completely missed.
Part of the pattern of our lives involves taking an evening walk with our dog, Tweeter. Somerset is a nice place to walk in the evenings. The sun is going down, and the day has moved into that long, purple twilight. Other people are walking as well, and folks come out on their porches to enjoy the cool air. It’s a quiet, peaceful time; a time when the stresses of the day are allowed to flow freely away.
And yet, walking the same blocks year after year, part of me yearns for an occasional change of scenery.
Lately, Cheryl and I have begun to explore the area a bit. From the seat of my motorcycle, I had seen the numerous “trail head” signs throughout the highlands, but somehow, I never stopped. On one particular evening, we drove down the road a bit to Kooser State Park. We were late getting started, and the approaching autumn season has begun to bring the curtain of night down early. Arriving just before dusk, we leashed up Tweeter and began to walk around.
The park is named for John Kooser, who settled near the creek that bears his name. According to the history of the area, most of the old-growth forest was cleared out during the 1800’s in a time of intense logging. Once the logging ended, the trees came back. The Civilian Conservation Corps, one of FDR’s depression-era work programs, constructed the park, along with nearby Laurel Hill State Park. The few structures are rugged and rustic, and seem to rise from the earth like a natural part of the terrain. There is a 4-acre lake walled at one end by a concrete dam and spillway. The lone visitor we saw, a young man with a fly rod, told us there were trout in the lake, showing off a good-looking 14-incher.
We walked into the forest, our steps guided by an asphalt pathway. From the lake, the way looked dark and mysterious, but that turned out to be an illusion played by our eyes. There was enough light left to give the forest a soothing, contemplative feel. As we strolled, crickets began to chirp amongst the ferns. Then tree frogs added their voices, and finally Katydids chimed in, a sound that never fails to recall familiar memories from my youth; recollections of countless nights spent in the forests of Missouri, listening to the symphony of nature while gazing at the stars that glowed between the treetops.
Above our heads, the sky was losing the light. Gently, almost imperceptively, the darkness below the trees deepened, a change that we didn’t notice until we walked out into the open area at the other end of the trail. We wandered past the lake again, marveling at how perfectly the mirrored surface reflected the fading light from a sky going from pale blue to purple.
The park closes at sundown, so reluctantly we left this peaceful place and returned home.
We intend to continue our explorations of other places throughout the Highlands. Our next stop will be the section of Laurel Hill State Park that enters through the old CCC encampment on Copper Kettle Road, just east of Seven Springs. I have no doubt that the experience will be every bit as fulfilling. Because after an evening like that, television will never quite be the same.
Unless the Steelers are on, of course…