Rooted in Nature
WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY TYLER FRANTZ
As members of the human race, we are naturally drawn to the outdoors. For many, there is a vibrant fascination with wild things and wild places that has existed in its purest form since the dawn of mankind
Though we don’t always answer the call tugging gently at our subconscious minds, this yearning to get outside and explore is actually hardwired into our biological makeup.
I’ve been fortunate to grow up living a lifestyle by which a genuine love for the outdoors has been woven into the very fabric of my being- an intentional product of my upbringing.
Learning the ways of woodsmanship, hunting, fishing and working the land on a rural farm less than an hour’s drive from the city has opened my eyes to a world of wonders – one I never would have realized existed had someone never pointed me in the right direction.
Fortunately, my lessons began at an early age, and I’ve learned to embrace the outdoors just as humans were rightfully intended from the start. Now, I seek nature as often as I can.
I find solace in the quiet perch of an autumn archery deer hunting stand, renewed exuberance as I wade a gently rolling trout stream, and a sense of welcoming peace as I hike the steep mountain ridgelines rolling across our diverse and beautiful state. It is in these wild places that I feel most at home, most alive and most free.
Pennsylvania is one of the top states in the nation for pursuing the outdoors, and there is ample opportunity to get out and enjoy all our state has to offer in terms of outdoor recreation – both within the city limits and Beyond the ‘Burg, as we have so aptly decided to title this column moving forward.
As summer fades to fall this month, I encourage others to explore their inner-drive to get out there and discover a new escape among the woods and waters of the Keystone State.
A few of my favorite destinations this time of year include the Pine Creek Valley, spanning from Wellsboro to Jersey Shore in Tioga and Lycoming Counties and the village of Benezette, located in Elk County.
Pine Creek is home to Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon as it cuts through an expansive gorge, offering scenic views of historic mountains and wildlife. A popular fishing, camping and kayaking destination, the area also features the Pine Creek Rail Trail, which is perfect for mountain bikers looking to take in the sights and sounds of the area’s vibrant flora and fauna.
Slate and Cedar Run areas offer prime trout fishing opportunities, as well as smallmouth bass, carp, walleye and even catfish. Just leisurely floating a kayak down the Pine Creek can provide some of the most relaxing, scenic views imaginable. Depending on water levels, this is a very doable option through early fall.
Further northwest lies the quaint village of Benezette, where Pennsylvania’s wild elk herd roams across reclaimed mining land that has been converted into ideal wildlife habitat, thanks to the joint efforts of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Keystone Elk Country Alliance.
Thousands of spectators flock to this small town each autumn to view the elk in all their glory. Late August through early October marks the peak of the elk rut, or breeding season, which typically makes the elk more active, leading to more viewing opportunities.
Observers can witness regal herd bulls corralling their harem of cows together, bugling their majestic calls to rivals and running off subordinate males from the herd. All Pennsylvanians should experience this at least once in their lifetime, as it is truly an eye-opening, hair-raising wonder of nature right here in our home state.
Outdoor aficionados need not travel far to find adventure. There are plenty of opportunities close to home as well. Consider hiking in one of the area’s various natural areas, navigating the Susquehanna River, or taking a scenic afternoon drive through Dauphin County’s Fishing Creek Road. There is beauty to behold all around, not to mention a host of local apple-picking festivals to prepare for the fall harvest – yet another taste of the wild that invokes a sense of natural wonder within a short drive of the city limits.
Whether spending time in the forests, the fields or floating local waterways, take time this month to get outside and appreciate nature for all it has to offer. I promise that getting back to your natural roots will be a fulfilling experience — one that breathes new life into the monotony of your daily routine and invigorates your senses with a dose of exhilaration all humans were inherently made to enjoy.
Here’s to the next outdoor journey – may we all truly become rooted in nature!