Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

May 21, 2013

Allegheny National Forest is a wooded wonderland

By Dave Zuchowski
Associated Press

— When I first got an email announcing the Wild and Scenic Film Festival in Bradford, Pa., I thought it would be a good way to spend Earth Day 2013.

Even before the series of 28 short films that address the environmental concerns and celebrations of the planet began, John Stoneman with the Tuna Valley Trail Association took a group of nature lovers on a hike through the forest.

Arriving too late to join in, I met up with George Sanflippo the following morning for a personal mile-long walking tour through the forest along the Marilla Bridges Trail that loops around scenic Marilla Reservoir. Along the way, we encountered huge trees, scenic vistas and wooden bridges.

The previous day’s viewing of the Earth Day films gave me a greater appreciation of the natural world and the wonders of the Allegheny National Forest, approximately 517,000 acres of wooded rolling hills that hold much of the state’s original tracts of virgin hardwood trees.

Shown in the modern Bromeley Theater on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, the films touched on a wide variety of ecological subjects and worldwide geographic locales. The range of settings included Yosemite, Oregon, oyster farms in Washington, Japan, Wyoming, New Mexico, Mt. Kenya and a remote area of British Columbia.

Breaks throughout the day sparked individual discussions, a chance to listen to live music by regional musicians and check out the information kiosks that focused on environmental concerns.

New Horizon Creamery, for instance, not only passed out samples of its home made cheese, but also promoted its country cabins that overlooked the farm pond in nearby Coudersport. Ken and Peggy Butler of the Black Caddis Ranch in Kellettville announced their first firefly festival, which showcases treks into the surrounding forest to witness only the second documented instance of a synchronized firefly display along with exhibitors, live music and games and activities for children.

During one film break, the audience got to hear a talk by Jonathan Deal of South Africa, one of six 2013 winners of the Goldman Prize, considered the Nobel Prize of the environmental movement. With no prior grassroots organizing experience, Deal led a successful campaign against fracking in his native land to protect the Karoo, a semi-desert region treasured for its beauty, wildlife and agriculture.

Later the next day, I got a close up look at how nature can be destructive as well as inspirational and healing. Years before, I’d taken an excursion train to the Kinzua Viaduct Bridge, billed as the world’s longest and highest railroad bridge of its day. Because the bridge had been built in 1882, it has suffered from deterioration. So much so, further train transport was curtailed until a restoration project was completed.

Because the excursion train stopped just before the bridge, passengers, myself included, were able to get off and walk along the top of the bridge. And what an impressive site. The bridge stood 391 feet above the Kinzua Gorge, 24 feet taller than the Brooklyn Bridge.

Unfortunately, in July of 2003, an F1 tornado, which reaches speeds of 73 to 112 miles per hour, struck the bridge, once billed as the "Eighth Wonder of the World, "and sent 11 of its towers crashing to the valley floor. Eight years later, a new skywalk was built on the six remaining towers, allowing pedestrians to walk to a 225-foot high observation deck with a partial glass floor at the end and get a glimpse of the gorge and bridge ruins below.

If You’re Going

For more information on the Allegheny National Forest and the surrounding region, phone 800-473-9370 or visit website www.visitanf.com.

For a place to dine, the Aud Restaurant, 30 Boyleston St. in Bradford, takes its name from the fact that the owners are hockey fans from Buffalo, N.Y. Note: The Sabres used to play in the Aud, short for auditorium before it closed in 1996.

The Aud is clean, comfortable and smartly appointed and serves sandwiches, appetizers, salads and 10 different kinds of burgers. The "Memorable Dinners" list includes salmon, chicken, scallops and steaks done in an array of creative styles. Phone 814-331-4450.

For a place to stay, the Mansion District Inn, 905 W. Main in Smethport, is a gorgeous Queen Anne Victorian mansion that owners Jovanna and Ross Porter have furnished with period antiques they’ve collected from around the world. A stay includes a wonderfully prepared breakfast each morning served in the opulent Golden Oak Dining Room. Phone 814-598-7403 or mansiondistrictinn.com.

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Dave Zuchowski is a travel writer for CNHI News Service.  Contact him at owlscribe@yahoo.com.