Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Civil War Medicine / Part # 1

National Museum of Civil War Medicine
Frederick, Maryland / Part # 1
Museum Building / Frederick, MD
The dawn of the approaching Civil War would bring battlefield causalities never before seen on American soil. The last major conflict had been the War of 1812, a war that ended in a stalemate and the loss of 20,000 American lives.  The American Civil war would generate the loss of over 600,000 lives in a short four-year span.  The weapon technology had advanced a great deal but the tactics remained basically unchanged.  Increased accuracy of rifles and artillery devastated long lines of men marching in the military tradition of long straight rows over open and exposed terrain.  Horrific casualty statistics on the battlefield would accumulate quickly, but as in every war that had occurred before, more would die of disease and infection in the calm of camp.  The resulting catastrophe would eventually change the field of medical science forever.  The shear volume of people effected would give birth to new procedures and practices that would bring about an end to the Medical Dark Ages.
Market Street / Frederick, MD
The story of medical evolution during the Civil War is well documented at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine located in historic Frederick, Maryland.  The town was beautiful with many tree-lined streets and colonial era townhouses that helped create a historic atmosphere.  I was once again on a bus trip with my educational colleagues, retracing the violent steps of the tragic saga of the American Civil War.  Today we would look beyond the hollow statistics of causalities and death tolls found in books and instead, look directly into the face of personal stories of tragedy and resiliency.  The museum shows the ugly reality of war but also the medical innovations that the war helped spawn out of necessity.  

Surgeon's Amputation Kit
The museum is quite large, despite its location right in the middle of downtown Frederick.  The displays are very informative with many artifacts and several realistic scenes portrayed in life-size dioramas.  It was a nice balance of exhibits, photographs, and interactive displays as you twisted your way around the two floors of the unique museum.  The staff did a great job of representing both the Union and Confederacy concerning their medical needs, methods, and eventual discoveries.  It was a totally different type of museum experience, one dedicated solely to a single theme that affected both sides during the long war.  Although I am a history buff, I am not big on traditional museums and prefer to visit actual sites rather than interior representations of events.  However, this was a really interesting collection of artifacts and information that you don't come across everyday.  The contents of the museum seemed to really impress the members of our tour group.

Union Forces at Camp Millington, TN
The first danger every new recruit faced was training camp, where young men from isolated farms in rural America would suddenly come together in close quarters.  The benefits of good personal hygiene was yet to be widely known or practiced by the general population.  Germs and bacteria were freely exchanged and sickness soon followed.  Many would die from childhood diseases we are now safe from catching thanks to the required inoculations we get during our infancy.  Country boys and city slickers shared tents and equally came down with devastating cases of mumps, chicken pox, measles, smallpox, and countless other diseases that were collectively called camp fever.  The close quarters of the camps and the lack of sanitation would create breeding grounds for disease that would plague both armies throughout their campaigns. 

Reconstructed Femur Bone / Minie Ball Damage
(Photo Credit / Armed Forces Institute of Pathology)
Articles of War were a set of rules of warfare that European countries had followed for generations.  The straight lines of men had purpose with the inaccurate musket ball firearms of the past.  Now rifling technology had become a standard in the arms industry, increasing the accuracy of the average soldier's firearm from 50 yards up to 500 yards.  The accuracy was also complimented by the invention of the Minie ball, which was the first ammunition shaped like the modern bullet.  The cone shaped tip enhanced the spin effect created by the spiral grooves inside the barrel.  Technology advanced but battlefield tactics remained mostly unchanged with long lines of men that provided easy targets.  The one tactic that changed was the proximity of the fighting, which was now mostly from a distance rather than face to face and hand to hand with the bayonet, previously practiced in 17th Century warfare.

 Union Ambulance Crew / Practice Drill
(Photo Credit / Library of Congress)
The new Enfield and Springfield rifled muskets were now deadly accurate at a distance but still needed to be top loaded, which often required soldiers to stand up and become targets during the process.  The Minie ball was most often made of soft lead and would create horrific wounds that were often impossible for field surgeons to repair.  The large 57 caliber round would shatter bone and tumble through the body, causing extensive injuries that were often fatal.  Men wounded were often left on the field until the fighting ceased, which could be until nightfall.  Time was of the essence as infection loomed more of a possibility with each passing minute.  The Union was the first to create a more efficient way of removing the wounded from the field of battle with wagon ambulance corps.  These units would drill recovery procedures and would enter the field as soon as possible to retrieve the wounded men for treatment behind the lines.  The Confederate Army soon followed suit, helping to increase survival rates for both sides.

 Awaiting Treatment / Virginia Field Hospital 1862
(Photo Credit / James Gibson / Library of Congress)
The field hospital was created when necessary in any location that was determined to be appropriate.  Many times barns and farm houses were quickly transformed into crude hospital wards where operations were performed with haste in an attempt to save as many lives as possible. Medical staffs were quickly overwhelmed with complex cases and amputation was the chosen method to mend wounds that could become infected.  The amputation process was a fifteen minute procedure, where the patient was unconscious through the use of chloroform anesthesia.  However, surgeons went from limb to limb using the same surgical instruments, which spread bacteria from one patient to the next.  Sadly, antiseptic would be invented in Europe by Joseph Lister in 1867, a few years after the Civil War ended. Two thirds of all operations were amputations and some estimates put the survival rates at up to 75%. This is where doctors obtained the nickname of sawbones.

Patient Rail Transport Car / Interior
(Illustration Credit / Harper's Weekly)
When the post battle atmosphere began to calm, the most serious cases were transported by railroads to eastern cities where major hospitals could tend to their needs.  One of the interesting inventions shown in one of the museum displays, was the addition of large rubber bands to the stretcher handles to add shock absorbing protection to soldiers with painful wounds.  The newly cushioned system eased the pain and prevented the patient from developing fatal cases of shock during the journey.  A simple, cost effective idea that had an immediate impact on wounded veterans hopefully making their way toward recovery.  On our next episode of Camp Martin Travels we will to continue to explore the museum and the evolution of the medical profession amid the terrible violence of the Civil War.  Please stay tuned for Part # 2 of our journey next week. 

Walt Whitman / Portrait 1860
(Photo Credit / Mathew Brady Collection)
Did You Know...

Poet Walt Whitman served as a volunteer nurse in Washington D.C. following a stressful journey looking for his brother George, who served in the Union Army.  Whitman believed his brother might be wounded and unable to get accurate information on his condition, he went south to find him.  He found his brother George with only a superficial facial wound but was so moved by the wounded soldiers he had seen along the way, he decided to stay in Washington D.C. to volunteer part time in an army hospital.  He wrote about his experiences in an article published in northern newspapers in 1863 entitled Army of the Sick.


Civil War Medicine / Part # 2



Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Little Taste of Hershey History

A Little Taste of Hershey History
Hershey Chocolate Factory Tour 
The Seashore at Your Door

Chocolate Plant Tour Entrance
(Photo Credit / Hershey Park Archives)
One of my daughter's favorite places of all time to visit is Hershey's Chocolate World right outside the amusement park.  We have all been on the ride that gives a quick overview of how chocolate is made from start to finish a hundred times or more but Katelyn never gets tired of it and it is a must on the schedule any time we are in the area.  This is the one attraction in Hershey, possibly within 100 or more miles that has free admission and parking.  That is, until the ride is over and you are strategically deposited into the center of a shopping mall of chocolate!  The intoxicating smell overwhelms you and makes it impossible for anyone to make a purchase-free escape.  If you had to pay to go on the tour and were not dropped into the shopping area, they would probably lose money!
Factory Plant Tour Original Sign
I remember when I was a kid attending Kissel Hill Elementary school in Lititz, when our entire grade was off to view the original factory tour when it was actually still in the real factory.  It was an unforgettable trip for me, mostly because our school bus got in an accident in Hershey.  It's not every day that a school field trip includes police involvement, how exciting!  It actually wasn't a big deal but as a kid, it was a little scary.  It was raining outside and our school bus was waiting at a stop light.  I remember looking out the window watching a huge eighteen wheeler make a wide turn in front of us.  I watched as the trailer of the truck got closer and closer to my window until it hit the front right hand side of our bus. Ouch!  The police soon showed up and everyone was quickly checked for injuries.  No one was hurt.  The front of the bus was damaged to the point that we needed a new bus and sat aboard the damaged bus to stay out of the rain until the new bus arrived.  I can't completely remember but I'll bet it seemed like an eternity until the replacement bus showed up. 

 Hershey Chocolate Plant Tour Scene
(Photo Credit / Smith Falls Factory Ontario, Canada)
We finally made it to the factory parking lot and we could see the Hershey Park amusement rides in the distance and immediately began wishing for summer vacation to hurry up and arrive on the calendar! The interior of the factory was immense and loud with the sounds of industrial machinery.  The beautiful smell was much stronger inside the factory than outside and the rich dark brown chocolate was absorbed by the senses in every direction.  My favorite thing to see was the conch machines that mixed the liquid chocolate with long metal revolving arms.  A mini version of the machines is still included within the modern Chocolate World ride.  By the end of the tour, everyone now knew what they wanted to do when they grew up!  Without doubt, it was the greatest place in the world to work, if you could call it work!  At the end you were given a full size Hershey's Chocolate Bar to end your suffering for a taste of what was teasing you for the past half hour or so.  All you needed was a big glass of ice cold milk to wash it down to make all the world perfect!
Hershey Chocolate Plant Tour Scene
(Photo Credit / Smith Falls Factory Ontario, Canada)
It was really a great field trip!  The first time most of us had ever been inside a real factory that showed the step by step process of how something we all loved was created from scratch.  We learned the geography of the far off places that were the source of coco beans, sugar, and almonds.  We witnessed the machinery that did the work of production with efficiency, precision, and speed.  We also discovered the location of the factory was not accidental but the result of the many dairy farms in the area that could supply the milk needed to make the product.  Who knew so much education could be learned by the taste of a sweet bite of chocolate?  The Chocolate World tour is a great marketing tool because all you wanted to do after you returned home was go out and buy more chocolate.  Now the current tour allows you to do just that within a few seconds after you devour the snack size reward at the conclusion of the tour!  I need more... RIGHT NOW!

Chocolate World / Almond Drying Chamber 
By the early 70's the popularity of the free factory tour was more than the factory could handle. The company decided to come up with a new version of the tour off site to satisfy the public's interest and not impede factory production.  Hershey's Chocolate World officially opened to the public during the summer of 1973.   My class and I were fortunate to be one of the final groups to gain access to the original factory tour at the chocolate plant on Hershey Avenue.  The new simulated factory tour was fun with cars that took you through the birth and growth of a chocolate bar and accompanying sweet products within the Hershey family.  The ride has gone through many renovations through the years, becoming more educational with connections to the history of the story of Milton Hershey's vision.   Many of the displays are new but others have not changed since the beginning, such as the drying chamber your ride car travels through that simulates the roasting of almonds.  It never gets old and can even help when clothing is damp from the water rides from inside Hershey Park!  Of course you would have to ride the tour 25 times to get completely dry but... hey... not a problem!

 The Chocolate Mall
You know you are reaching the end of the ride when your picture is taken with a bright flash, which can be purchased as soon as you exit the ride.  The exit off the ride-car is the most challenging part of this thrill ride, as the car continues to move on the track but the floor you step onto is stationary.  Watch your step!  The simulated tour always ends with a teasing small bite of the latest Chocolate product coming off the factory line.  Then you are dumped into a grocery store where chocolate and candy items are the primary food products for sale... but who's complaining?  And, although clearly being a tourist trap, the prices for the food products are reasonable, if not discounted.  As for the accompanying chocolate memorabilia and souvenirs... just grab a shopping cart and load up on the chocolate.  It's a better investment!

The Bestest Lunch Ever!
Some of the highlights of the food court area are the freshly made cookies, hot chocolate and extra thick milk shakes.  Oh, and they do have a good chicken salad wrap for those poor unfortunate individuals who are allergic to chocolate or are testing their will-power against the ultimate summit of temptation.  Viewing the story of how chocolate is made may no longer be at the actual manufacturing plant but the real center of attention is the product itself... not the setting.  The last Hershey factory to offer actual plant tours was the Smith Falls Factory in Ontario, Canada where visitors could look down onto the factory floor from a suspended walkway that routed visitors through the process.  Smith Falls was the first Hershey Chocolate plant to open outside Hershey, Pennsylvania in 1963.  Sadly, the Canadian plant closed in 2008 during a controversial restructuring company plan that moved many operations south to Mexico.

Hershey Pool Lighthouse
Just outside the front door of Chocolate World is a monument to another Hershey landmark attraction long lost to history.  Back in the day, most small towns did not have a community swimming pool, so Milton Hershey built a large pool in Hershey to attract visitors.  My father, Glenn "Shorty" Martin, can still remember when he was a kid and the few times every summer the family would load up the car, pack a picnic lunch, and head to the famous Hershey Pool.  The original pool, built in 1912, was dubbed the Seashore Outside your Door by Milton Hershey himself.  Over time, it continued to expand to include more attractions, such as the Hershey Park Starlight Ballroom that attracted the Big Bands of the era such as Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey.  In fact, my father asked for my mother's hand in marriage nearby the dance pavilion in the summer of 1961.  What a romantic!

 Harry James & Band Perform
(Photo Credit / Hershey Community Archives)
The pool was considered an enormous size for the time period and was also used as an ice skating rink during the winter months.  The pool had some thrill rides of its own with a steep slide, where people could ride down on a wooden toboggan style sled that would careen downward and then carry the rider a short distance across the pool's surface.  There was also the high dive where sudden daredevils would attempt to impress the girls by risking a fatal neck injury.   It's the kind of good old fashion fun that would result in major lawsuits today! Ah, the good old days...

Hershey Pool Circa 1930-1940
(Photo Credit / Hershey Park Archives)
The pool continued to expand and eventually was composed of four pools that were seamlessly built within close proximity to each other.   During the pool's heyday in the 40's and 50's, the pool was attracting over 100,000 visitors a summer.  As time passed, more communities began to build their own swimming pools that were much easier to travel to and attendance at the Hershey Pool began to decline.  Eventually the pool was closed down, along with the nearby band shell.  A grand era in Hershey entertainment had ended.  The only thing that remains of the original pool today is the lighthouse that can be seen in the old photograph above.  Today it can been seen on the right hand side of the walkway between the front door of Chocolate World, as you walk toward the front gates of Hershey Park.  

The New Seashore Outside your Door
During the 100th anniversary of the creation of Hershey Park, a twenty-one million dollar water park expansion was added to the amusement park called The Boardwalk, the Seashore at Your Door.  The park has been looking to the past to plan for the future.  The addition of the Midway section of Hershey Park brought some of the old-time favorite rides of the past out of retirement and back into operation.  The best recipe for Hershey Park's future years seems to be a mix of the old with the new.  Like the Hershey Chocolate Bar, somethings are just timeless!

  Maturity is Optional
Did you know... 
  • Milton Hershey dropped out of school at age 13 and became an apprentice in the printing trade in Lancaster County.
  • Milton Hershey failed his first two attempts in the candy making business, first in Philadelphia and later in New York.
  • If at first you don't succeed... Hershey later found success with the Lancaster Carmel Company, selling it in 1900 to expand into the new field of Swiss style milk chocolate.
  • He soon bought a farm in the community of Derry Church where he was born and built a new chocolate factory in 1905. The town name was later changed to Hershey, PA.
  • Upon his death in 1945, he and his wife left the bulk of their fortune and companies to a trust fund they created for the Hershey Industrial School for orphaned boys.
  • Milton Hershey and his wife had booked a reservation for a luxury state room aboard the Titanic on its maiden voyage in 1912 but canceled when his wife became ill.
 Milton S. Hershey 1932
(Photo Credit / Pennsylvania State Archives)


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Middle Creek / Snow Geese Migration

Middle Creek 
Wildlife Management Area
Snow Geese Migration
Kleinfeltersville, PA
 A Snow Goose Takes Flight
In all the years I have visited the Middle Creek area and explored the trails during the spring, summer, and fall seasons, I have rarely been there during the winter.  Recently, I joined my friend and teaching colleague Don Miller to venture there to see the migrating snow geese that make a pit stop at Middle Creek on their way back north.  The annual snow geese are actually the highlight event of the Middle Creek Management Area each year.  The geese usually make their arrival during the months of March and April, depending on the temperature trends.  Don is a veteran spectator of the event but we were both blown away by the number of people lining the road, outfitted with cameras and binoculars.  We soon found a place to park and migrated our way among the flocks of people to admire the flocks of various bird species.
Snow Geese on Hillside
There were many other species of birds in town, sharing space on the fields and reservoirs in segregated groups.  Birds of a feather really do flock together!  The usual Canadian geese were joined by the recent arrival of snow geese and large graceful trumpeter swans.  The migrating waterfowl usually arrive when the reservoir is mostly free of ice and the fields are free from snow.  The birds like to sleep on the water where they feel more safe and need access to the missed grains in the surrounding fields, which are difficult for them to find under the snow.  This weekend, the majority of the ice had given way with the recent arrival of warmer temperatures that had also melted the last of winter's snow.  Apparently the perfect conditions also signaled the arrival of bird watchers that had migrated from all directions far and wide to see the show.  

Coming in for a Landing
We were both surprised how close we could get to the mass of snow geese who were congregating on the hillside above the large reservoir lake.  The spectators lined a fence of a single thick wire that marked the barrier of the wildlife preserve.  The crowd was respectful and quiet all watching the never ending arrival of small bands of geese who were gliding in against the brisk wind.  With furled wings, outstretched like a para-sail, they slowly floated downward looking for an unoccupied spot on the crowded field.  As soon as one group hit the tarmac another group high in the sky made their way into view.  The constant cycle continued, resembling a busy airport where no one was ever leaving the runway.  Look out below!   

Trumpeter Swans in Flight
The snow geese are also called blue geese because a small portion of the population are dark blue-gray in color due to a genetic pigment thingamajig.  One such goose is pictured above on the ground of the single white goose taking flight.  It was first believed that the two birds were different species but through scientific research, it was determined they were one in the same.  The Middle Creek Wildlife Management estimates that 80,000 to 100,000 snow geese will visit the area along with 10,000 trumpeter swans and 10,000 Canadian geese during the late winter months this year.  I always get camera envy at things like this, as major top-of-the-line professional equipment (well out of my price range) was capturing National Geographic worthy shots all around me.
Trumpeter Swans at Rest on Reservoir
The snow geese migrate from their winter feeding grounds along the Gulf of Mexico back to their summer breeding grounds near Greenland and northern Canada.  Middle Creek marks the midpoint of the migration route.  Everyone who comes to see the brief spectacle hope to see the large group of tens-of-thousands of snow geese suddenly take flight.  The best time to see the massive white cloud is at daybreak and dusk as they venture to and from the safety of the lake.  We were a few hours from sunset and it was getting colder as the wind increased and the sun was shrouded by gray skies.  We decided to head back to the car and scout other vantage points from other roads.  As we pulled out into traffic, we were both startled as the windshield was suddenly hit by a huge splat of goose %$#@!!!  It was a direct hit!  We could have been killed!

 Less than Meets the Eye
We were on a side road when we came upon a flock of about 100 snow geese (pictured above) feeding in a corn field along the roadside.  A few other cars had pulled off and were taking pictures of the birds that feed on waste grains that were missed during the fall harvest.  Donnie quickly pointed out that this flock wasn't real but a large group of decoys used to attract the birds to hunters who were lurking just outside the boundaries of the wildlife preserve.  At first I didn't believe him because several of the birds were moving, flapping their wings and rising off the ground.  However, they turned out to be sophisticated windsock decoys that were anchored into the soil and appeared to rise off the ground when caught by the wind.  We encountered several groups of hunters just outside the protected lands of Middle Creek who were also hoping to see the snow geese up close. 

Sleeping, Standing, and Flying
Hunting is essential to controlling the population of the snow geese, which has been rising at a rate of 8% every year.  The rise is caused by a decrease in the number of hunters and an increase in food sources as the geese have discovered the existence of the waste grains in farmer's fields.  In 1960 the population of snow geese was estimated to be at 50,000 birds.  The population has since increased to about 1,000,000 and is estimated to double by the year 2015 if the hunting harvest is not increased.  In an effort to increase the harvest, the Pennsylvania Game Commission offers permits to hunt on the Middle Creek game lands by a limited lottery drawing.  In an average year, 700 hunters harvest approximately 7,000 snow geese in Pennsylvania, which is included in the 30,000 to 40,000 total that are harvested along the entire Atlantic Flyway annually.   If the population continues to rise at the current rate, it will negatively impact the fragile habitat of all species of waterfowl.  It is ironic that hunting has become the key method of conservation in the effort to preserve waterfowl.  Goose... It's what's for dinner!

 A Whole lot of Birds
The huge flock on the hillside continued to grow as more and more groups of snow geese continued to land.  All the human spectators were hoping the flock would suddenly take flight for the safety of the water.  Twice the flock suddenly increased their volume of their constant honking, which is often a sign that they are about to fly.  However, the hysteria faded as suddenly as it began and poised camera equipment relaxed back into a patient stand-by status.  Several people brought their dogs, which seemed a little risky considering their were at least 30,000 birds less than forty yards away.  We were both curious if they were contemplating an accidental "drop of the leash" to create the shot everyone was craving to capture.  However, all remained quiet... not even a low bark could be heard from a distant farm dog.  Oh well, maybe next time...

A Whole lot of Bird Watchers
The crowd on the main drag of Kleinfeltersville Road continued to resemble the Friday afternoon rush hour on Route 501.  Many of the vehicles had out of state license plates, possibly the result of extensive advertising and news coverage by several media sources.  It was definitely something to see and experience in person.  After arriving back home, I made plans to return mid-week with my daughter Katelyn and son Tyler, to hopefully see the snow geese in mass flight.  We left Katelyn's dog Maxwell at home to avoid temptation! 

Please See My Additional Photos of Snow Geese at...

 Tyler and Katelyn take in the View

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Middle Creek / Project 70

Middle Creek 
Wildlife Management Area
Kleinfeltersville, PA
Golden Meadow Flowers
On this episode of Camp Martin Travels we are off to visit Middle Creek Wildlife Preserve, also known as Project 70.  My grandparents were avid hikers during their retirement years and introduced my brother and I to the great outdoors.  Some of our fondest memories of time with my grandparents were trips to Middle Creek.  We hiked one of our favorite trails and then had a old school picnic with the essential Hibachi portable charcoal grill as the star of the show.  The best thing about preserving land for nature, is that it also preserves memories for future generations to experience and enjoy.

Middle Creek Valley
The name Project 70 comes from the Pennsylvania law entitled The Project 70 Land Acquisition and Borrowing Act, which enabled the state to purchase lands by issuing bonds.  The law opened the door for Pennsylvania to create and expand more than thirty conservation and recreational areas for the public.  The seventy million dollar bond also helped protect many historic sites for future generations.  Originally known as the Oak-Hickory Forest, the 1,700 acre area was expanded to more than 5,000 acres with Project 70 funding.  The low area was flooded to create a 400 acre shallow lake to provide habitat for water fowl.  The best thing about the preserve is that it hasn't changed a whole lot since I was a kid and as a result, my own kids were able to experience it as I did many years ago.

 Conservation Trail / Ending Point
The center point of the preserve is the Visitor's Center, which is operated by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.  The Visitor's Center houses a small museum that outlines the mission of the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area.  There are a lot of kid friendly displays of animal furs, antlers and other wildlife themed exhibits. There are many close-up visual examples of the wildlife in the area, including many displays of taxidermy and colorful paintings.  My favorite display is the three dimensional physical map of the preserved area where you can trace the routes of the trails and locations of picnic area parks. There is a manned Game Commission Ranger Station inside where you can ask questions, pick up maps, and purchase some nature themed items such as a bird watching guidebooks.  It's also a great place to get a cool drink and use indoor restroom facilities.  

 Visitor Center Wildflowers
One of the attractions of the Visitor's Center is the wildflower garden around the two separate front entrance doorways.  Black-eyed Susan, violet lavender, and purple butterfly bushes abound filled with colorful insects at work, such as the abundant yellow swallowtail butterflies that were busy pollinating the flowers.  There were two hummingbird feeders that were vacant on our last visit but have provided an up close view of the tiny hovering birds on past visits.  The back of the center has an indoor observation deck, complete with binoculars to take in the impressive view of the reservoir in the valley below.  On your way out the door you can grab a complimentary copy of the Pennsylvania Game News magazine.  The publication always has a beautiful painting on the cover depicting Pennsylvania's wildlife.  My brother and I always liked to read them in the car on our way back home. 

View of the Reservoir
My favorite trail to hike at Middle Creek is the Conservation Trail that begins in the upper parking lot above the Visitor's Center.  The mile long trail is a nice mix of different types of environments and can be easily completed by the beginner but is fun for people of all ability levels.  The trail starts up a gentle rise through a grass meadow, followed by a turn onto the edge of a cornfield planted for the benefit of the white tailed deer and other wildlife.  The trail turns into the woods for a short time and comes out onto the top of the meadow hill where you started.  This gives you a beautiful view of the reservoir and valley below.  A short walk up to the top of the rise turns you back into the woods where you walk across the top of the ridge.  There are educational displays along the way, including signs that identify many species of trees, birdhouses, and other critter shelters.  Soon you descend the woods and walk between the treeline and the opposite side of the cornfields you previously passed near the start of the trail.  Within minutes, you enter into the wetlands section of the trail.
A Tranquil Pond
The wetlands were always our favorite part of the Conservation Trail because you cross the large swamp on long narrow wooden bridges, passing over the damp ground and several small creeks.  Eventually, you enter into the woods again and soon encounter a rocky flat area that rises up slightly to bring you out of the woods.  You are now on top of a beautiful meadow hillside filled with wildflowers that slopes down to a large lily-pad covered pond.  The Visitor's Center can be seen on the far side of the pond above another colorful meadow.  There are several routes you can take back to the center, each having different sights.  Most of the trails at Middle Creek give you the option to end your hike in close proximity to where you started.  The Conservation Trail enables you to hit the Visitor's Center again to empty your tank in the bathroom and refill your other tank at the water fountain.  Always a plus when Nature calls!

 Middle Creek Trail / 2005
(Tyler and friend Alexander Chavez)
The most challenging route is a combination of three separate trails that form a triangle over the Oak-Hickory Forest.  The start of the trail's route is a little hard to see along Kleinfeltersville Road just past the reservoir's dam.  Look for a sign marking the start of Middle Creek Trail.  The trail cuts a straight line right through the woods a few feet away from the creek that gives the trail its name.  The pathway is a little rocky because it was once used as a trolley railway for a local business and you are walking on the stones of the former rail-bed, an early example of Rails to Trails conservation.  The trail rises above the creek providing beautiful views of the cascading water that is fed by a multitude of mountain springs along the way.  At times the trail rises thirty or more feet above the creek and passes by some nice cottages nestled along the far bank of the creek.  The trail suddenly ends at a parking lot where you can pick up the start of the next trail.

Elder's Run Trail / 1999 
(Tyler at Homestead Foundation)
Elders Run Trail is a wide stone trail that resembles a road more than a pathway up the mountain.  It is frequently traveled by people on horseback.  The trail is a little challenging because it ascends the mountain and can be a little steep at times.  As you get close to the summit there is an abandoned  homestead off to the left hidden just beyond some evergreen trees.  The place is a mystery, built of red sandstone in the colonial style.  All that remains is the foundation that consisted of two rooms and a root storage cellar below one side.  A large slab of stone marks the location where an entrance once existed with the tall stone fireplace hearth and chimney rise just inside.  There is a matching spring house nearby that still flows with cool water.  I have asked rangers about the small isolated homestead but no one seems to know much about its history.  Former fields, if they ever existed, are long overgrown and lost to the forest once again.  It is a great place to stop and take a break before starting the last leg of your journey.

 The Horseshoe Trail
Within a few yards after leaving the old homestead your path will intersect the Horseshoe Trail, which will take you along the crest of the mountain.  Take the path to the right, up a slope to the crest of the ridge.  The trail is wide and well marked resembling an old country rural road from a bygone era.  Soon the path narrows and you follow the trail as it begins to wind downward through thick woods.  Suddenly, you enter into a power-cut gap that houses tall electrical trusses that are spaced far apart.  Sometimes you can see birds of prey roosting on the steel towers searching the briers and tall weeds of the gap for prey.  On the other side you reenter the woods and continue you way down.  Small tree frogs and toads can sometimes be found here.  Eventually, you can hear unseen vehicles traveling down Kleinfeltersville Road, a sure sign you are almost back to the start. 

Willow Point Trail
There are a few other short trails to explore, each with its own unique personality.  Millstone Trail is a steep climb straight up the mountain with a grand view as a reward at the top.  Across the road is Deer Path Trail, a short walk along the edge of the bank of the large reservoir.  On the road toward Kleinfeltersville is a nice wide paved trail called Willow Point Trail.  This wheelchair accessible trail takes you to a view of the reservoir from the opposite side.   It is a good spot to take in the spectacle of the waterfowl in season.  There is a new pavilion at the end that serves as an observation point.  All the trails give a different perspective and hiking experience in each of the four seasons.  Fall is my favorite time to take in the bright colorful foliage of the preserve.  The main attraction of the year is always the huge numbers of migrating snow geese who appear in February into late March but... that's another story for next time!

Deer Path Trail
So next time you want to get out and experience nature, head to the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area and explore the Visitor's Center, hiking trails, and multiple views of the water. It hasn't changed a whole lot in the past forty years, with the exception of the seasons. Just the way Mother Nature and the Pennsylvania Game Commission intended.  You might want to try your luck fishing but my brother and I never had much success.  Most people down by the reservoir are hoping to catch a glimpse of a bald eagle or great blue heron fishing.  Cars pulled off on the shoulder of Kleinfeltersville Road are a sure sign there is something to see.  Birdwatchers are the only hunters you will ever see in the preserve with the exception of the occasional deer spotter at dusk.  I would have to agree with historian and filmmaker Ken Burns who created the phrase... National Parks, America's Best Idea!  You don't have to go to Yellowstone, land preserved for nature anywhere is a national treasure!

Please See My Additional Photos of Middle Creek at...

As Tyler often said... Ya all come back now... ya hear!


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