Seed-Study Trail

By Tom Fitzgerald

White Ash Leaf and Fruit
White Ash Leaf and Fruit
Country Music songwriter and artist Bill Anderson in 1971 released a song called Quits which rose to No. 3 on the Country charts. It was about divorce. The lyrics included the line, "For lack of a better word to call it, we called it quits."

That's pretty much how the Seed-Study Trail got its name. For lack of a better name to give it, we named it after a forest research project conducted in the same area.

About two years before the Susquehannock Trail system was planned, when I was a young forester assigned to the Susquehannock State Forest District, the U. S. Forest Service's Forestry Sciences Laboratory in Warren, PA, contacted the district. The researchers informed District Forester Robert P. Lewis that the Forest Sciences Lab was planning a multiple-year evaluation of the seeding habits of white ash trees, and wanted to know if the Susquehannock State Forest had any stands of white ash that the research team could include in the project.

Forest districts rarely if ever refuse a request like that. District staff immediately started looking around the forest and Forester "Duke" Hobaugh soon found a stand of mixed Allegheny hardwoods with a heavy component of white ash. It was in Summit Township, Potter County, on the south side of the Rock Ridge Road approximately opposite the upper end of the Fanton Hollow Trail. The Forestry Sciences Lab was notified. The research team came over for a look and pronounced the stand suitable for their project. Several of the white ash trees were subsequently banded and numbered, and for the next few years the frequency and abundance of the white ash seed crops were examined and recorded. During the project and for several years thereafter, the location was referred to by the district staff as "the seed-study area."

When the Susquehannock Trail System began to take shape on the map, the decision was made to include the Fanton Hollow and Wild Boy trails in the loop. (The STS was later moved off all but the upper end of the Fanton Hollow Trail after the sunbathing incident at Loeda Lodge. But that's another story.) One of the objectives of the trail planners was to minimize road hiking as much as possible. The seed-study area was directly between the upper end of the Fanton Hollow Trail at its intersection with the Rock Ridge Road and the upper end of the Wild Boy Trail at its intersection with the Wild Boy Road.

The only two trails south of the Rock Ridge Road and east of the Wild Boy Road in that area were the Harts Trail that was too far to the east to even be a part of the STS, and a short unnamed north-and-south trail shown on the topo map that joined the Wild Boy Road near Bench Mark 2168. That trail - if it even existed on the ground - was oriented wrong and too far to the west anyway to be useful. The club decided that a new connector trail needed to be built through the area, and the forest district approved the request. I laid out most of it myself. From the Rock Ridge Road, it passes through the stand with the once-numbered white ash trees, and curves for about three-quarters of a mile in a west-southwesterly direction to meet the Wild Boy Road opposite its intersection with the Wild Boy Trail. That area has no distinctive physical feature, nor any event of known historical significance. So "for lack of a better name to call it...."

To my knowledge, no footpath was ever constructed. The Seed-Study Trail is simply a route through the woods marked by orange paint blazes and cleared brush. It would be great if an actual footpath could someday be built to Civilian Conservation Corps standards. The construction job would be a good Boy Scout Eagle project.

In the meantime when you hike through that area, look for the white ash trees and enjoy them while they remain alive.

Emerald Ash Borer Exit Hole
Emerald Ash Borer Exit Hole
The exotic Emerald Ash Borer insect, accidentally imported from China in a solid wood shipping crate, is slowly moving east from Michigan and will eventually kill the ash trees unless an effective control is found first.

The method by which the insects kill the ash trees is girdling by the larvae as they eat their way through the cambium layer. When the larvae turn into adult beetles, they exit the tree through D-shaped holes in the bark. No other bark beetle or wood-boring insect known makes D-shaped exit holes.

In the years to come, ash trees may become as rare as American chestnut trees are today. (Note: Mountain-ash is not a true ash, and is unaffected by this insect.)