In southern Centre County, in the Rothrock State Forest is the Bear Meadows Natural Area. This is just one of six natural areas in the forest district and the most easily accessed. Just five miles off of Route 322, this is the first distinct destination you will reach driving on Bear Meadows Road.
As a loyal alumnus of Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA. and an amateur photographer, I agreed to shoot photos for an upcoming publication spearheaded by Duane Griffin, Associate Professor in the Geography Department. This book, The Susquehanna Natural History, promises to be a comprehensive study of the Susquehanna River which is so important to everyone from New York State, a vast area in Pennsylvania, and the Chesapeake Bay. The most rewarding part of this assignment was the creative process of depicting concepts Professor Griffin sought in our travels through the natural wonders of this river basin. Bear Meadows Natural Area in Center County, PA. was particularly stimulating not only because of its ten thousand year history but also due to the great autumn conditions we had for magical images. This is the first time in twenty years of shooting that I have felt compelled to write an essay about a photo excursion. Meditation on a Bog The line could not be more distinct as we approach Bear Meadows. The enduring bog is surreal as we stand in the parking lot. A scientist leads a photographer into the past to capture its images. I follow Duane into the saturated air on a path cut by animal life. The reeds form a covered labyrinth for the interlopers as we weave our way into the residual of an ice age. Beads of dampness gather on my face from the decaying slurry which plucks our strides. Scent replaces sight in this tunnel of vegetation. This is the confluence of animals, plants, weather, and time. The discarded beer can Duane discovered at the edge of the bog comes to mind. It becomes for me an unseemly punctuation on the narrative of this place. Its placement in this scene is temporally out of balance: perfunctory, expendable. It is an anachronism to the quiet, unrestrained transformation of the bog. We return to the perimeter to view the bog again from this century. Duane and I separate to get scientific data and photos. Gray light mutes the myriad of colors. Amber, red, green, and brown fill the images. When we come together, Duane escorts me to a fairyland of life in all stages. The sun and clouds spin a sensual kaleidoscope. Illuminating sunlight alternates with a cloudy, filtered glow on this small patch of many millennia. Old growth hemlocks stand sentinel to the entrance of this boreal eden. The colors become vivid, and life flourishes. Chirping, colors, smells, and the forgiving soft footing frame a memorable photograph. Autumn has sprinkled fairy dust on this scene in the form of dainty white flowers which seem to float among the bogâ€™s intense colors, all capped by the blue sky and white clouds. We leave nothing behind at this ageless place. In the next ten thousand years, the bog will archive what we did there. The beer can will be recycled.
Bear Meadows Natural Area is located in Centre County, Pennsylvania, USA, four miles south of Boalsburg, within Rothrock State Forest in the Appalachian Mountains. The area contains a bog surrounded by steep mountains and hiking trails. The bog, which covers 320 acres (130 ha), has been forming since the end of the last glacial period 10,000 years ago and is surrounded by an old-growth forest of boreal species typically found much farther north, such as Black Spruce, Balsam Fir, Eastern Hemlock, and Yellow Birch. The area was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1965