Monday, June 17, 2013

Local wilderness vacations: West Branch French Creek Conservation Area

This past weekend the boys and I visited the West Branch French Creek Conservation Area. A painfully long name for a very serene place. Located on Rt 8 about 10 miles south from the Rt 8 and I-90 interchange. This wilderness area is very easy to get to and very easy to park, once you arrive.

We got there just before noon, on a sunny Saturday.  While we weren't planning on a picnic lunch there, the covered pavilion with a handful of picnic tables would be an ideal location for lunch. From start to finish the trail is about 1.1mi long, and is out and back on the same trail, except for a large loop at the end. Nothing too exciting, at least I thought, until we came upon the log bridge section of the trail.

While it appears to be a split log trail over tall grass in these photos, what you don't see is that there is a substantial flow of water underneath all of these marsh grasses. Immediately to the left of both photos is a 2 acre beaver pond that slowly drains in the direction of the logs creating a large swamp. Robert was hesitant at first, but after the first several logs, he was very entertained by the whole idea of it.

I'd estimate that this log bridge continued for about 100 yards through the swamp. Due to the rain we had most of last week, you could see and hear water flowing under many of the logs. Even with the logs we managed to get a bit muddy on the transition too and from the logs. Oh well, exploring new places isn't always a clean business.

Past the swamp, the land did rise and a very pretty pine forest opened up. The shade was a pleasant change after being exposed for so long on the log bridge.  We stuck to the trail, and made our way around taking time to note where animals had crossed the trail. At one point there was a very clear Possum track that Robert thought was very cool.

I had discovered this trail on a website for a new program that Erie Co government was hosting called Let's Move Outside. Part of a larger program initiated by Michelle Obama, Let's Move encourages people to get out and explore there local area on foot. The Erie Co program, lists 15 trails, 8 of which are through wooded areas. The remainder are through urban areas that have some scenic or historic interest to learn about while hiking.

Each trail has a unique art piece somewhere along the trail.

I'm not exactly sure that the whole in the art piece was meant for photos, but really who's going to stop an 8 year old from posing like this?

At the top of the artwork is a unique code.

Once registered through the website you can record each code so that you keep a checklist as you collect each of the hikes in Erie Co. For 2013, if you register each of the 15 hikes you'll be entered into a drawing for a new mountain bike they are giving away at the end of November.

At 1.1 miles this is a very short hike. However, this is a very scenic and natural area that has been developed appropriately so that the natural state is preserved. We hope to visit again later in the summer once the water level has subsided and after the raspberry bushes we found have ripened.

Happy Exploring
Scott M

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