A History of the STC

By Tom Fitzgerald

In 1967, an idea began to take shape in the mind of William D. Fish, Jr. publisher of The Potter Enterprise, Potter County's larger weekly newspaper. Bill was a tireless advocate of the recreational opportunities in the part of Pennsylvania nicknamed, "God's Country." At that time, a nationwide interest in hiking was gathering steam, and Bill thought Potter County should have its own hiking trail, perhaps called the "Sinnemahoning Hiking Trail."

Map Study
He mentioned this idea one day to me when I was a young forester employed by the Pennsylvania Department of Forests and Waters, assigned to the Susquehannock State Forest district. I suggested "Susquehannock" as the name of the trail after the state forest in which most of it would be located. Bill enthusiastically agreed that that was a more suitable name, since only a portion of the proposed area traversed by the new trail would be in the Sinnemahoning watershed.

The Department of Forests and Waters Bureau of Forestry approved of the trail idea. Not long after that, a meeting of seven interested local citizens was held at the home of Delmar and Lois Kerr in Coudersport. Out of that meeting the Susquehannock Trail Club was formed.

The original purpose of the club was to scout out possible routes for the trail, select the most suitable one, and propose it to the local forest district for approval. A loop trail was decided upon, so that a backpacker could return to his/her starting point after spending a few days on the trail. Most of the trail had already been constructed about three decades earlier by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930's. Other segments were even older, having been logging railroads at the turn of the Twentieth Century. Short stretches of public road, pipelines, modern timber sale haul roads, and in one case, an abandoned stone quarry road were tied into the network. A few short stretches of new construction were necessary to tie it all together.

STS Emblem
Since most of the pre-existing trails had their own names, it was decided to keep those names, and call the entire loop the Susquehannock Trail SYSTEM, which would be known by the initials, "STS." A contest was held to design a distinctive trail emblem or monogram, and the winning choice was the initials, "STS," arranged in a diagonal descending to the right. The design was inspired by the arrangement of the initials, "FLT" previously chosen by the Finger Lakes Trail Conference for their trail system.

The STS emblem is used on routed signs, and appears occasionally painted on large trees along the trail. Most of the trail system is marked with standard Appalachian-Trail-style 2-inch-by 6-inch rectangular, vertically-oriented paint blazes. The color orange was chosen for the trail blazes simply because the Bureau of Forestry did not use orange at that time for any of their management activities. The few marked side trails were marked in blue because that was the national standard for side trails. Sharp turns in the trail were marked with two standard blazes, one above the other with 6 inches of space between them for greater visibility. Later on, arrows were added to the upper blaze to clarify the direction of turns.

At the outset, several "control points," were chosen for the route of the trail system. They were points or areas which the trail must pass through. Ole Bull and Patterson parks, Cherry Springs Fire Tower, and the Hammersley Wild Area were control points. Cherry Springs Park was rejected because of lack of good trail access. Prouty Place Picnic Area was originally on the trail, but a forced rerouting to avoid a tract of private land left that small picnic area a short distance away at the end of a blue trail. Routes to get from one control point to another were chosen and scouted.

Circuit Hikers
Some of the old fire trails had received so little use over the intervening three decades since they were built by the CCC, that they were nearly lost. Although the high deer population had kept them from being choked with ingrown brush, thirty years of fallen trees and broken branches had so obscured parts of the original trails that it took careful scouting to find their traces through the woods.

A few miles of the Susquehannock Trail System follows trails that mark the boundary between the Susquehannock and Sproul state forests, and one short segment of the trail is entirely within the Sproul State Forest.

The first few years of the Susquehannock Trail Club were spent scouting, clearing, and marking the Susquehannock Trail System. After that, the club helped with establishing the South Link and North Link trails connecting the STS with the Black Forest Trail.

Within two years, the club had matured to the point that it began to perform volunteer conservation projects such as tree planting for the local forest district. It also began to hold its own social functions such as organized hikes, and it established an award called, "Circuit Hiker," for anyone who hiked the entire Susquehannock Trail System.