It was my turn to write for the newspaper this week.
Mini-Adventure at Jakes Rocks
by Jennifer Schlick
One of my friends is on a cross-country adventure with her daughter. I’m enjoying her regular posts of photos and quick snippets of story line. Ice on her tent, but a beautiful view. Fishing for trout. Dinner with her son who lives out west. Tromping through flood waters to get to the art museum.
Seeing all her pictures and reading all her updates gave me a hankering to experience something new, something different. Now, I could have allowed myself to sink into a pool of self-pity about how I don’t have the time right now for a grand adventure. But instead, my brain jumped to the rescue and reminded me that I have never seen the Mountain Laurel in bloom… And, isn’t this about the time they should be blooming?
So into the car and off to Jakes Rocks Overlook! (Thank you, brain, for remembering that Jakes Rocks features, as the Forest Service website confirms, “a short hiking loop through Mountain Laurel.”)
Mountain Laurel is the official flower of Pennsylvania. At Jakes Rocks it grows as an understory shrub, but in other locales, it can grow quite tall into something more like a small tree. Depending on where you live and what the weather has been like, the blooms may appear in late May through the first part of June. I was at the Rocks on Sunday, June 7. Most of the shrubs still had tight little buds – but a few had opened.
I don’t see Mountain Laurel along the trails I usually hike. There is so much of it at Jakes Rocks that I had the feeling of being on a far-flung adventure, even though I was only an hour’s car ride from home. In addition to the Pennsylvania state flower, I delighted in learning two new shrubs, Pinxter Azalea and Mountain Winterberry, both of which were blooming near the overlook. Along the trail there were plenty of Striped Maples – also known as Goosefoot Maple for the shape of the leaves, and as Moosewood – because moose eat it, I assume. The aromatic Sassafras was also plentiful. A pine tree with deeply furrowed bark and needles in twisted bundles of three had me perplexed… could it be Pitch Pine? On the ground I saw Wintergreen (and I resisted the urge to munch on one of the plump red berries), Low Bush Blueberries that looked like they had already bloomed, and Sarsaparilla with flowers. Along the roads white blossoms gave away the location of future blackberries.
There are spectacular views of the Kinzua Reservoir both from the hiking loop and from the road. I’ve been there many times before, usually with energetic children who love climbing the gigantic rocks and taking the lower trail which goes “under” the rocks, which I didn’t take advantage of during this whirlwind mini-adventure. Seeing the Mountain Laurel was all I wanted and it was worth the drive. I recommend you go this weekend! There are picnic tables and restrooms – so take your lunch and plan to spend the day. If you have time, you might consider also stopping in at the Kinzua Dam visitor center, Bent Run Waterfall area, and Rimrock! Make a full day of it!
I still don’t know where the name “Jakes Rocks” came from. I mean, the “Rocks” part is obvious. At first I thought the rocks belonged to Jake. But if that were true, there’d be an apostrophe before the s. Hmm… If you know, drop me a line!
Jamestown Audubon Nature Center is located at 1600 Riverside Road in the town of Kiantone, one quarter mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown, New York and Warren Pennsylvania. Learn more about the Center by calling (716) 569‑2345 or visiting http://jamestownaudubon.org. The Allegheny National Forest website describes Jakes Rocks here: http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/allegheny/recreation/recarea/?recid=6092&actid=54.