After work on Friday I joined Bob and Porky at Ole Bull State Park in the forestland of northern Pennsylvania. That evening, after the tent site had been settled, the park warden talked to us about bobcats. He had seen 10 of them recently, including kittens. This was a good place for the wild ones.
Following dinner at the Cross Fork Tavern, a big stuffed bobcat stared out from its shelf above the chairs and pool table. We forced our ears to listen to the awful tunes kicked out by the patriotic bar band on the stage. “What’s worse,” asked Porky, “the band or this Bud Lite Lime?”
Next morning, en route to the Cherry Springs Firetower where we’d start our 14-mile hike on the Susquehannock Trail back to our campsite, we suddenly stopped our vehicle. A dark, furry animal bolted across the road in front of us and stopped at the curb as we put on the brakes. It wasn’t a bear, of course. Porky had seen a bobcat before, but this was the first close-up of the stub-tailed cat that Bob and I had ever witnessed. Green-yellow eyes seemed to blaze from the mottled fur. I could’ve used a camera at the moment, had I been handy with a digital instrument. Instead I thought of the “fierce green fire” that naturalist Aldo Leopold had once seen in the eyes of a dying wolf. The wild in all its strength and purity was reflected in those eyes, a good sign for the day to come.
The mountain streams were flowing high from recent rain but clearing up. We found a first patch of frost for the season on the grass of an opened hollow. We enjoyed great forest views and suffered numerous stream crossings without our shoes and socks. One iconic moment of the hike occurred when Porky slipped from a log while crossing the turbulent and icy waters of Cross Fork Creek. Whereas a bobcat would’ve made that crossing safely, Porky tipped headfirst into the drink and was lucky to resurface without injury. At least he tried that avenue– Bob and I had opted for a detour.
We paused to consider this occasion in the misty autumn mountains. The hike marked the 25th anniversary of our walks together in the region. Each long hike was known as a “Bludgeon.” The first Susquehannock Trail Bludgeon occurred here in September 1985. These mountains were so old, they made three veteran hikers feel like new.