As summer is winding down I am left with one thought: Where did the year go?
I distinctly remember the 87 days of April in 2020 — the month that never seemed to end — but somehow 2021 flew by at warp speed and I cannot believe that we are staring fall in the face.
Pumpkin spice is the flavor of the month, and soon Christmas trees will be adorning all the store shelves.
So grab the last bit of nice weather, pack the kids and a few treats, and head south east for a little road trip. Cooks Forest State Park is a destination for anyone who loves the beauty of nature. One of my favorites in particular is the drive to Fire Tower No. 9. As you wind your way through the groves of hemlock trees you will be envisioning woodland creatures and possibly even fairies and pixie dust. It truly is a magical journey.
One newfound joy of 2021 for me was learning to navigate TikTok, and driving to the fire tower brings forth the “into the thick of it” from the “Backyardigans.” If you don’t know what this is all about, then I suggest a quick Google search for the song so you can give your younger kids a chuckle as you break out into the chorus driving down the road.
The fire tower, which was built in 1929, was retired from service in 1966. At 85 feet tall, it has a view from the top that is spectacular and worth the climb. The platform is not always open but the view from the steps is great as well. The tower trail is accessed by State Route 36 near Cooksburg; just follow the signs for fire tower and Seneca Point. The trail is a moderate uphill climb but less than a half mile to reach the tower. It is not handicap accessible but an easy climb for most everyone if you take a break along the way.
The view from the top is reported to be 20 miles over the Clarion River Valley on a clear day, so it would have been a vital tool for the forest service back in the day to spot forest fires. The Cooks Forest area itself boasts many activities including hiking, camping, canoe and cabin rentals, fishing, and just a scenic leaf drive as the fall colors start to come in. If you have the opportunity to visit for more than an afternoon there is definitely plenty to do and to see.
Cooks Forest is named after John Cook, who was the first permanent settler to the area in 1826. Several descendants of his family still live in the area. The park was the first Pennsylvania land acquired to preserve a natural area and it is home to a few areas of old-growth forest.
Sometimes known as the “Black Forest of Pennsylvania,” Cooks Forest is now over 11,000 square acres of land and several historic sites to visit and explore.
Seneca Point, located near the Fire Tower, is named after the indigenous tribe of the area and also offers a fantastic view worth stopping to see. If you get a chance stop to see the River and Indian cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in 1934 that are still located in the park. Also, the historic log cabin is now an environmental classroom with displays and historical artifacts. The web page for the state park lists the upcoming activities and events and is a great source of information about the different trails and access points.
Sometimes when life seems to move so fast and the blink of an eye brings us to another season, it is good to move out of the passing lane and take the road that meanders through the woods. I loved the smells of the forest as we travels with the windows down and felt the breeze of fresh air. On a bright, sunny day you can travel to areas that appear to hover in a constant twilight as the canopy of trees create a shroud of mysterious forest. You anticipate deer and small wildlife sightings — and I would say if Bigfoot was in Pennsylvania, this is likely where he may hang out. But as you wander, in awe remember you are not lost, you are “tramping through the woods and into the thick of it.”