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The Roving Sportsman… Our Wonders of Autumn

The old timers already know it. The younger folks and newly-arrived residents of Lycoming County and the surrounding counties will eventually figure it out as well.

Our area nestled here in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains of Northcentral Pennsylvania is unique, and the natural wonders that abound here can often be best enjoyed in the months of autumn. The recent swift shift in our weather, with cooler days and nights and a reduced humidity level, has signaled the beginning of the fall season, and with it comes the urge to get outside.

An Artist’s Palette: Most of our area witnessed dry, almost drought-like conditions most of the summer, with the occasional exception of passing thunderstorms that brought some relief. Just how this lack of rainfall will affect this fall’s display of colorful foliage is up for debate, but it does appear that there are the beginnings of splashes of color appearing on nearby hillsides. No matter when the pageant reaches its prime, it is always a wonderful time to get out on a hike or a ride through the countryside to witness for yourself this annual display. The mix of colors of maples, birch, aspen, sumac, oak, and cherry trees interspersed with pine, spruce, and hemlock trees produce a palette of colors worthy of nature photography or painting. Whether you are hiking, biking, or traveling by car, the colors can be awesome as you move through the Pine Creek, Lycoming Creek, or Loyalsock Creek valleys.

The Unique Sound of a Bugling Bull Elk: We are blessed that in just a couple of hours by car, you can be in the heart of Pennsylvania’s elk country. With around 1,000 animals, Pennsylvania is home to the largest wild elk herd in the northeastern United States. Begin the trip with a stop at the Elk Country Visitor Center at the Sinnemahoning State Park in Austin, PA, and then travel the 127-mile loop through portions of five counties which includes several established elk viewing areas along the way. If you time it right, you may even be entertained by the powerful bugling that these impressive bull elks make in preparation for the upcoming breeding season.

Our Own Grand Canyon: This is the time of year when a trip to the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon is most memorable as nature puts on its wonderful display of colors. Located in the Tioga State Forest and southwest of Wellsboro, PA, it stretches over 45 miles and reaches a depth of nearly 1,500 feet at some points. There are two vistas, Colton Point State Park on the western rim and Leonard Harrison State Park on the eastern rim, which provide excellent viewing and photo opportunities.

The Pine Creek Rail Trail: All across the United States, there has been a movement to convert abandoned railway rights-of-way to accessible hiking and biking trail systems. Traversing both Lycoming and Tioga Counties and following the Pine Creek Gorge, the Pine Creek Rail Trail is a picturesque 62-mile hiking and biking trail that runs from Jersey Shore to Wellsboro, The gradual grade of the old railroad bed makes for a very pleasant walk, bike ride or along some sections, a horseback ride. Multiple entry points along the way allow for a shorter hike or bike trip of a few hours, or the more adventuresome can travel the entire route and then enjoy a well-deserved dinner at one of the restaurants in Jersey Shore or Wellsboro. Particularly during the early morning and late evening hours, whitetail deer, black bear, turkeys, and ruffed grouse can be seen, and often hawks and bald eagles can be spotted soaring overhead.

“The Loop” is the nickname given by some locals to the tract of roadways that course through northern Lycoming County and southern Tioga County and provides outstanding opportunities for wildlife viewing and enables great observation of the fall foliage. Generally, it runs out of Waterville northwesterly on Route 414 to Slate Run, then cuts northeasterly to Cedar Run and Blackwell. Thereafter, it angles in a southerly direction into English Center on Route 287, with a final leg along Route 284 back to Waterville.

Wildlife viewing, seeing the occasional bald eagle, traveling through scenic countryside, and having some enjoyable places to eat along the way make “Scooping the Loop” a popular autumn activity.

It’s all out there for each and every one of us to enjoy.

I hope you will step out and take advantage of “Our Wonders of Autumn.”