Over the past decade I have hiked in many parks and forests across the nation, from Acadia to Yosemite, Crater Lake to the Everglades. And yet there is one place I always comes back to in my mind- the Old Loggers Path and Rock Run. I first backpacked the Old Loggers Path about 11 or 12 years ago. It was a bright summer weekend, and I decided to do a solo hike. The forests conveyed every shade of green. I walked the path from Masten, heading to Rock Run, when I saw something ahead. It was a fawn. The fawn came bounding down the trail towards me before coming to a screeching halt only a few feet away. It stopped and stared, as it sniffed the air. I stood still in silence. The fawn eventually turned and walked off to my right. A few hours later I descended along the trail to Rock Run. I was amazed. This creek carved itself into smooth, flowing bedrock, creating sapphire pools, waterslides, and chasms. Yellow Dog Run cascaded down from the side. The cool water cut through the heat and humidity of the day. It was truly one of the most beautiful streams I have ever seen.
I continued on the trail as it climbed the plateau, offering spectacular views from rock ledges over our vast untouched state forests. Forests that are now threatened by drilling, pipelines, roads and compressor stations. The beauty of the Old Loggers Path is its isolation. It only crosses about six dirt forestry roads; deep forests line the trail; views barely hint at development. That will all change if drilling is allowed near the trail. The beauty, serenity, and value of this popular trail will be destroyed. People from across the nation have hiked the Old Loggers Path, impressed by what the trail has to offer. I would hate for them to return, only to come away with a far less favorable impression of our trails and public lands.
Since my first hike on the Old Loggers Path, I have returned countless times. I have always been surprised by the magic of Rock Run. Its deep pools, winding water slides, cliffs, ledges, chasms, and forests create a mosaic of colors and scenery that exists nowhere else. I have brought many friends to Rock Run, and of all the places in Pennsylvania, it is the one they remember.
The beauty of Rock Run can be found throughout its gorge. Stunning gorges and waterfalls exist on many tributary streams; cliffs and rock cities crown the crests of the plateaus; wetlands, meadows, and deep forests encompass its watershed. Rock Run means so much to so many. Anglers come to fish its pristine waters. Rock climbers scale its cliffs, boulders and ledges. Hikers explore its waterfalls and chasms. Kayakers come to run its rapids. Families come to swim and enjoy the outdoors.
Rock Run must not simply be spared from drilling, it must be protected. Its watershed on the state forest should be set aside from all development and the stream itself should be designated as a state wild and scenic river. No other stream or river is more deserving. What does it say about us as Pennsylvanians if we allow what makes our state so special and beautiful to be destroyed and degraded? A balance must be struck with drilling and development. That balance does not include sacrificing our special places. Otherwise, future generations will never know what we once had.