Snowcover provides opportunity to study the land

Mark NaleI recently drove north through Philipsburg, Pa., to an area near Frenchville, in Clearfield County, to pick up a custom-made tabletop and oak boards from Quehanna Millwork. From my home, the 45-minute trip provided  a beautiful winter drive west on Route 322, north on Route 53 and then north on the twisty and lesser-traveled Deer Creek Road.

The week before, my wife and I had traveled south through Blair and Bedford counties, on our way to a baby shower in McLean, Va.

On both trips, I marveled at just how much I enjoy driving around when Mother Earth is covered with a blanket of white. I find my attention wandering from the highway — just stealing glances at the snow-covered hills and mountainsides. While I am always looking for deer, turkeys and other wildlife, a lot of the time I am just studying the lay of the land.

Of course, this habit of mine is even more fun (and a lot safer, too) when someone else is driving.

Winter, when snow covers the landscape, is the best time for studying topography -– and Pennsylvania has great variety in that department. Much like a bright side-light exposes the lines of maturity on my face, the snow reveals nature’s “wrinkles.” And just like my face, the natural contour of the land reflects the age of the Appalachian Mountains. 

Almost every observation uncovers a new “discovery” — an interesting rock outcropping, a spot where two valleys meet, a small cliff that is usually hidden by the summer foliage. Mountain benches show up particularly well with a fresh snow, and the gradient of the ridges is clearly evident.

I find myself wondering … how would the trout fishing be in that attractive hollow, or that bench be a good spot to post to watch for deer.

Sometimes the features revealed are man-made — an old logging road, charcoal pits dating back to the late 1800s or a crumbling stone house foundation from a time when life was slower-paced, but considerably harsher.

In a few weeks, I will repeat the pleasant drive up Deer Creek Road to Frenchville. This time, it will take me to the Mosquito Creek Sportsmen Club’s annual coyote hunt -– the largest in the state. I’m looking forward to the drive, and I hope that Mother Nature once again provides snow cover.

Categories: Pennsylvania – Mark Nale

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