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2.06.2017

Hearts Content Scenic Area: Beautiful Old Growth Forest: Allegheny National Forest, Warren County

Taking a walk through the woods is always a ton of fun, but sometimes you can just walk into a certain one and know that you are in a place that is really special. The Hearts Content National Scenic Area in the Allegheny National Forest is one of these places. Some of the other places I can think of within the state include the Birch Grove at the Marion Brooks Natural Area in the Quehanna State Forest, and the old growth at Cook Forest, and outside of the state, the first forest that comes to mind is that of the Giant Sequoias in California's Yosemite National Park. 
Hearts Content home to one of the few stands of old growth forest that remain in the state. Throughout the nineteenth and into the early 20th century, the entire state was largely clear cut, creating what many referred to as a total wasteland. The main reason we have so many state forests is exactly because of that. The bulk of that land was clearcut, with only the large pieces of wood taken, with the tree crowns and smaller branches left on the ground. Sparks from rail cars would catch those dry branches on fire, causing uncontrollable fires and leaving a precarious situation for anyone who lived in and around those forests, in addition to any species that lived there. Something had to change, so visionary leaders in Pennsylvania like Governor Gifford Pinchot, purchased those lands for pennies on the dollar, and replanted mostly hardwood trees to repopulate the forests. This was done to create stronger forests, and to also enable any responsible harvesting to be done with high value hardwood trees. This makes Pennsylvania one of the leading producers of oak and cherry hardwood. Most, but not all, of the preservation work is due to the vision of the state government. Hearts Content Natural Area is one of the few areas within the state that was never cut, meaning there are trees that are centuries old within this location. Most of the old growth is hemlock or white pine, and the trees are thoroughly stunning, measuring in at over 150 feet. 
The Wheeler and Dusenbury Logging Company saw this twenty acre stand of untouched woods and decided to leave and protect the land. The forest was then passed along and the logging family remained the stewards of the land. In 1922 the Dusenbury Family passed the land along to the US Forest Service for protection. Eventually the original 20 acres were incorporated into another 100 acre plot and designated as the Hearts Content Natural Area. The area is now a National Natural Landmark and the minute you step into those woods, you understand why.
Some of the younger, yet mature, growth in the forest. Groves of hemlocks are always so beautiful. 
Late sun on a cold winter's day.
These trees are so captivating.
Was nobody there when this tree fell? Did it make a sound? In all seriousness though, look at how large the trunk is!
Disease has taken its toll on some of the trees. I hope that this disease does not continue to spread, for losing this forest would be a huge loss.
Trees like this that find a way to grow in unlikely ways always impress me.
A closer look
The late day sun piercing through the canopy
The verdict? You need to check out this spectacular stand of old growth forest within the Allegheny National Forest. It is awesome to check out and the hike through the forest is beautiful to say the least.
Coordinates to Parking Area and Trailhead
41.692449, -79.254272

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