Without regular trail maintenance, wonder-full moments like the following from Logan Goddard, a DCNR Service Forester, Delaware District, would not be possible. Thanks to KTA's Trail Care Program, the Thunder Swamp Trail System remains an oasis for wildlife and hikers!
In August 2023, KTA's Trail Care Program focused on clearing heavy blowdowns and brushing/lopping the trail in the Pennel Run and Stillwater Natural Areas, as well as rehabbing a couple of side trails.
Below, Goddard recalls a curious encounter with a community of eastern newts along the Thunder Swamp Trail:
"I had the pleasure of exploring a couple miles of the Thunder Swamp trail system in late September. It is on the surface a quiet trail which immediately endears the visitor with both it’s gentle rolling landscape and quiet atmosphere. This welcome break from the world is both tranquil and fascinating, as it hosts a rich level of biodiversity just waiting to be discovered.
Many are aware of the eastern newt (Notophthalmus viridescens), a curious orange salamander that is often easily found in areas with high water quality. It wasn’t until my time in Thunder Swamp that it occurred to me just how funny these creatures really are.
Despite their bright orange coloration and size, the eastern newt often tries to hide from potential threats. Usually, they pull off this instinctive survival mechanism with the skill and mastery of a child who hasn’t quite figured out where the human goes when playing peek-a-boo. After seeing this particular newt, I assumed that this was simply a case of catching him at an awkward moment and assumed that there were surely dozens if not hundreds that were more capable. So I began to pay attention, and – like many times in the forest – I was generously rewarded for my interest. It seemed every time I stopped, I could find 5-6 newts within 10 feet of me, often, in the same curious state of half-visibility.
Within 40 minutes of actively searching for this comedy of survival, I hit the jackpot. In the middle of the trail a five-inch mushroom was in its prime, and yet, a small fleck of orange drew my curiosity. I – in the nosy need-to-know that few can match – looked under the mushroom. I was rewarded with a dozen eyes staring back at me, a mass of bodies quickly untangled, and a foot race was on as SIX newts fled from the giant who had just disturbed their quiet rest.
On its surface, this is a cute story about an accidental discovery leading to seeing something a little unusual. But it is more than that, every outdoorsman has at some point begun paying attention to something new – game trails, bird calls, arrowheads, mushrooms, geology – and almost immediately, everyone has been rewarded with something they wouldn’t have seen had they not been focused on finding out more. This is the nature of our forests, a beautiful complex ecosystem which loves to hide its secrets and tease visitors with the promise of more, if only they’re willing to look for it."
Celebrate 40 years with us! Join the movement to protect PA's hiking trails.
It wouldn't be surprising if you have stories of your own just like this one. It's our mission to protect and preserve PA's hiking trails so moments like these can continue for generations to come!
Is that your hope too?
If so, we encourage and invite you, as we celebrate 40 years of maintaining PA's hiking trails, to join us for a special trail care event this year!
Keystone Trails Association