Bob died last week – and lovers of uneven ground, hiking trails, wild places, wild things and cross-country skiing lost one of their best friends in northcentral Pennsylvania.
Bob grew up in a relatively prosperous family in southeastern Pennsylvania. His father had acquired more than four hundred acres on the edge of Pennsylvania’s Black Forest atop a ridge on the edge of the Pine Creek valley and it was there Bob made his home and began working for the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry.
In 1961 he married a direct descendant of the earliest settler of the Slate Run area along Pine Creek. Bob and Dotty, his new wife, built a two-room log cabin on his father’s land; the cabin was located over two miles from a paved road with a view into the Pine Creek valley to the north. The cabin, which was heated by a small wood stove, had no electricity or running water. That was the way they started and it was that way until the end. After he retired, Bob added another room to the cabin, but still no electricity or running water. Except for a few years in the 1980s when Bob’s job required that they live in a house near his work headquarters, Bob and Dotty spent their 51 years together living in the cabin. Dotty died in 2012 and Bob continued living in the little cabin on the rim of the canyon.
During a hiking trip to New York’s Adirondack Mountains in the 1960s Bob saw the extensive trail network there and thought the deeply dissected plateau surrounding the Pine Creek valley would be a great place for a similar system. He received permission to begin work on a marked hiking trail and thus was born the now famous Black Forest Trail. Bob didn’t just create that trail, but was also the “father” of the nearby Golden Eagle Trail, other hiking trails, and an extensive system of cross-county ski trails. Even after retiring Bob continued to do the bulk of the maintenance work on all of those trails.
A wonderful storyteller, Bob enthralled listeners with the history of the area, accounts of encounters with wildlife and places seldom visited by others. Bob and Dotty were not hermits or out of touch with the modern world. They read extensively: poetry, nature, history, travel; and listened, via portable radio, to the news of the world. Anyone visiting the cabin was likely to encounter another visitor on the way in or out. But often Bob and Dotty were not at home since they were frequently off visiting some of their wide circle of friends.
Bob was famous for the long scenic hikes he led and for his treks down to the post office/store in Slate Run to pick up the mail and some groceries; he would then go back up the 1,100-foot climb to the cabin with his pack full.
Bob loved the land, large old trees, extensive views, large rock outcrops and the change of seasons. Now he will be part of them forever.