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Ranger tales of Pennsylvania mark nature’s wonders

By Staff | Aug 10, 2016

BARB BARRETT/The Luminary Brian Valencik a local resident who retired as a forest ranger with the Pennsylvania State Parks, spoke of his memorable experiences during his career of 31 years.

TIVOLI – Working as a forest ranger for thirty one years brought lots of worthwhile experiences to Brian Valencik as he spoke of them fondly with captured photo images of some of the most amazing wildlife that could only exist in Pennsylvania.

Recently he met with the Christian Ladies Group at the Tivoli United Methodist Church and shared his tales in the Loyalsock State Forest. “It was the most wonderful job – incredible experiences, and I got paid to do them,” he told the group.

The forest is a haven for timber with valuable hardwoods sent all over the world. “Two million dollars worth annually are harvested in our northern hardwoods,” informed Valencik.

However, now there are water pipeline roads that used to be wilderness. Loyalsock State Forest, a recreational mecca, now produces $55,000 (15 billion cubic feet) per day from one gas well.

The paths along the 60 mile Loyalsock Trail borders Loyalsock Creek with vistas and mountain top views. With slides and photographs, Valencik referred to such views as Band Rock in Ralston, Alpine View, Oakland Vista, the Canyon Vista at World’s End and High Knob Overlook. “With these panoramic views, you can see forever,” he said as he showed more images of great waterfalls. “I am blessed to see all this,” he added.

PHOTO PROVIDED Often a fawn would drop down to the ground and stay in this position until the mother deer would "say to get up." This was their way of camouflaging themselves against predators.

Some of his favorites are Andrea Falls in Hillsgrove near the Dry Run picnic area, and the Dutchman Falls at the end of the commonly known “Haystacks” that end at the Loyalsock Trail. “This is the only place in the world having these special sedimentary rocks,” Valencik emphasized. “A parking lot from Route 220 will take you two miles into the area.”

Valencik said he saw 27 different states during his forest ranger career, and during his journey encountered very few problems along the way. “I experienced a lot of fawn encounters.” They are small when first born; they can’t run and will drop down until their mother tells them to get up. Often they would be seen near the cabins as there are fewer predators there. “They are camouflaged so well,” Valencik said as he showed several slides of the fawns.

He made a habit of carrying his camera. With it he captured bear, turkeys, beaver, raccoons on tires at Hunters Lake, and even swimming fawns. Early on in his career, he often worked with Game Commission wardens to help preserve wildlife by rescuing animals such as box turtles, doves and migratory birds.

Sometimes they would have to capture rattlesnakes, some with a size and girth of five feet. Once he had stumbled upon a nest of them in a hollow log. “Most people have no idea what’s out there.”

Valencik added that often he had to stop people from taking the wildlife. “And bears don’t sleep when they hibernate,” he added.

PA forests are filled with exotic wildlife including this Barred Owl.

Besides the wildlife, Valencik appreciated nature’s “gorgeous wildflowers.” He was amazed at how much beauty the Pennsylvania forest would behold. He showed a beautiful purple bee balm, some wild daisies, milkweed and the state’s flower, the “Mountain Laurel.”

“The fall foliage is our greatest show on earth,” he exclaimed. Showing photographs of colorful monarch butterflies, Valencik highly recommends a visit to World’s End State Park in Sullivan County. “It has post card views with beautiful sunsets.” It is near Eagles Mere and is part of the Loyalsock State Forest. There are 760 acres to explore at World’s End “with beautiful creations from nature all year long, even winter with icicles and frozen waterfalls.” The park offers cabins and camping for lodging.

Some of Pennsylvania’s parks are over 100 years old. The Loyalsock State Forest is part of the state’s Bureau of Forestry District #20 and spans a total of 114,552 acres. It is a “working forest” managed for pure water, recreation, scenic beauty, plant and animal habitat, sustainable timber, and natural gas. A brand new ranger station was built near Hillsgrove in 2008.

It was formerly called the Wyoming State Forest and was the name of the Pennsylvania State Forest. There was a reorganization in 2005 and part of Tiadaghton State Forest was added.

There are 121 state parks for the general public to enjoy in Pennsylvania.