Monday, February 4, 2008


One of the things I like about central Pennsylvania is the uneasy relationship between old industry and the wild. Foundries beside trout streams and dusty limestone plants nestled in tight to mountainsides—all are remnants of an earlier time in our history when small towns boomed around coal, timber, and limestone.

Outside of Bellefonte there are several limestone plants—juggernauts of industry where mountains are crushed to grade. Piles of stone sit next to the road, covered in the white dust that cakes the surrounding buildings. Mercury-vapor lights illuminate the process late into the summer evenings. When I was a kid, I wanted to slide down those piles and run back up again.

Farther north are shale fields where the vegetation and topsoil was stripped away. Stretches of forest—already denuded several times over—were put to the not so gentle touch of draglines in search of coal. As a teenager, my cousins and I would comb through these fields for fossils, and practice our marksmanship with .22s on old cans of PBR and Genesee that littered the dirt roads.

Several of these old strip mines to the north of Snow Shoe are now being reclaimed. I passed by one late last summer on my way to a back-country trout stream that runs late into the season. Once the weather clears I’ll ride up there again and see how it looks.

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