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We are known as PaWingers or just The Wingers by our Geocaching friends. When we found our first cache we had to come up with a name to log the find. We came up with this name simply because of residing in Pa. and because one of our many passions is cruising this beautiful country on our Honda Goldwing. Aside from geocaching we are passionate about most anything outdoors including hiking, kayaking, snowmobiling and biking. We are blessed beyond words with a wonderful son and daughter in law. We're also blessed with some terriffic family and friends. We consider ourselves very fortunate due to the fact that after being married over 40 years we still enjoy these things together.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Trail, Thong, Marker, Bent, Elbow, Message or none of the above.

It seems that I am developing a style or lack of style where as the title of a new entry makes absolutely no sense at all.  I think this title definitely follows my trend of literary confusion.  It's my hope that this nonsense doesn't scare you off but instead makes you read on in hopes of finding something that makes sense in the following paragraphs.  Hey, maybe you might even find it interesting.  Whoda' thunk that could possibly happen.

Okay let's get this underway.  Most of you are somewhat familiar with the Quehanna Area and have your own visions when the name is mentioned.  Some may think of the Boot Camp that makes it's home at the southern entrance to the Wild Area.  For others the word Quehanna brings to mind "Piper".  This place was a key location in the early days of the Piper aircraft. At one time 1000 people were employed here making metal and plastic parts for Piper aircraft.

Some of you may think of Curtiss/Wright when someone mentions Quehanna but most likely really don’t  know the history behind it.  Curtiss/Wright was actually tied to the three early pioneers of flight, Orville and Wilbur Wright and Glenn Curtiss.  This relationship had some very ugly legal struggles.  When all said and done Curtiss/Wright saw the Quehanna area as a perfect location to develop nuclear jet engines.  The beautiful Quehanna Wild area still bares the scars from this endeavor and will for many generations to come.

Going back even further into the past of the Quehanna Wild Area there are even wilder visions that occupy my thoughts.  I think of the times that Robber David Lewis hid out in these woods while being chased down by posse's consisting of lawmen and others seeking justice for this thief and counterfeiter.  This colorful character was thought of by many as the Robin Hood of the east. Unfortunately the law and those ripped off by Mr Lewis didn't look at him kindly.  Not too far from this area is where he would see his end.  This will be the subject of a future Blog entry so stay tuned for episodes to come.

For those devoted and patient readers that have endured all the above rambling I’m nearing the true reason for this entry.  To lead into this we need to look back much further than the Boot Camp, Piper and Curtiss/Wright and even further back than Robber David Lewis.  We need to look back to when the Indians inhabited these woods.  It’s hard to imagine but many years ago the Iroquoian speaking Susquehannock Indians called this place their home.  They hunted here, farmed here and created worn foot paths as they traveled from place to place.  They didn’t have GPS’s and they couldn’t stop and ask for directions although the males of the tribes most likely wouldn’t have asked for directions.  Modern day men can blame this trait on the Indians I would suppose.

So just how did these early travelers navigate across land that had no roads, power lines or gas lines?  How did they get to shelters, food, water and all the other waypoints vital to their existence?  They used a method of trail marking that became known as Elbow Trees, Signal Trees, Marker Trees, Thong Trees, Message Trees and lots of other similar names.  By the way Thong Trees didn’t have thongs hanging from them.  To mark critical directions they would bend small saplings over at a 90 degree angle with the end pointing in the desired direction of travel.  Typically they would tie the end down with a strip of rawhide, a strong vine or even weigh it down with soil or rocks.  Over time the tree would continue to grow that way even if the original mechanism holding it down were no longer there.

Recently we were in the Quehanna area and found ourselves face to face with what the typical Elbow Tree would look like.  We would have loved to let our imaginations run wild and label this as an old Indian trail marker.  Unfortunately this was not the case.  Over the years of hiking all over Gods creation we have spotted Elbow Trees that very likely were true trail trees from years gone by and the work of Indians.  You are probably wondering why the trees in the pictures below are not labeled as authentic trail trees and if not why are they like that.  There could be several reasons for a tree to grow like this.  One cause could be attributed to a larger tree falling over or being knocked down from the wind or snow load.  This tree could have bent over a sapling and the sapling could survive and continue growing in this fashion.  Over time the large tree rots away leaving a mature tree growing in such an odd way.  The growing branches would grow toward the sun reaching for the sky.  In other words it would not be smart to assume any elbow tree to be an original Indian trail marker even though it makes a better story.

If you look at the trees in the following pictures you would have to agree they are very interesting and surely could pass as Elbow Trees.  For one thing they are not large enough to have been around when the Susquehannock Indians tromped these woods.  The other thing that we noticed right away is that this particular location had maybe 10 bent trees all within a 50 foot radius.  One thing became immediately obvious is that there was no pattern and the trees pointed in multiple directions and some actually curved along the ground.  As cool as these trees were, I would be quite silly to call them Indian trail markers.  Whoda’ Thunk that I would get you all excited into thinking you were getting a glimpse at some authentic Indian trees but then drop this on ya’.  Sorry about that but it is what it is.  Hey, maybe I’m wrong!  If nothing else I hope I opened your eyes as to the vast significance of the Quehanna Wild Area.  It’s truly an awesome wilderness with so many stories to tell.


Sparticus said...

Very cool Tom. I know them as Trail Trees. Kalyumet Campground has one right at their entrance. Not sure if it was man made, or nature made.

Willard said...

An extremely interesting post, Tom. One could probably make a good photo book on this subject.

I recall the man who first took me to that area telling me that a tornado had touched down there some time before our visit. (That was in 1995) I don't know if these trees could have resulted from that or not.