Monday, April 7, 2014

A Window into the South Mountain Landscape....

Have you been out and about finding the South Mountain Geo-Trail’s caches? Now that a little bit of warmer weather has finally made it our way, are you getting ready to get back out and locate a cache or two that you have yet to find on the trail? We hope you take a minute to look around and enjoy the South Mountain landscape as you do – we think it’s a pretty special place!

We thought you might be interested in learning a bit more about the South Mountain landscape:

An aerial photograph of the South Mountain landscape (courtesy of Loy Elliott)
The South Mountain landscape is a geographically distinct portion of south-central Pennsylvania that falls within portions of Adams, Cumberland, Franklin and York counties. This landscape is defined by folds of forested uplands that run in a generally north-south direction, and the surrounding valleys and communities. 
The South Mountain ridgeline, reaching elevations of nearly two thousand feet, is the northern terminus of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a main geologic province of the Appalachian Mountains that stretches from northern Georgia up to south-central Pennsylvania. At its northern terminus here in Pennsylvania, it creates an island of uplands between the low-lying valleys of the Piedmont and the eastern seaboard to the east and the elevated “Ridge-and-Valley” topography to the west. What makes this landscape unique and special is that within this generally small, geographically distinct region, we find a convergence of diverse natural and cultural resources.

·         Natural Resources – The forested South Mountain, including the 85,000-acre Michaux State Forest, is perhaps the largest intact forest between Harrisburg and Washington DC, offering important wildlife habitat and innumerable ecosystem services, not the least of which is an seemingly limitless supply of clean water: by some accounts, nearly 80% of the region’s residents drink water filtered and stored by the forests and underlying geology. 

·         Cultural Resources – A deep human legacy can be found from the valley bottoms to the top of the ridgeline: Native American quarry sites, Civil War battlegrounds, and a secret World War II P.O.W. camp to name a few. A powerful story too can be traced of the area’s iron industry, fueled by a seemingly boundless forest – and an equally compelling story of South Mountain as a nationally important cradle of forestry and conservation when the 19th Century iron tycoons proved the limits of these woodlands.

·         Agricultural Resources – The Cumberland Valley boasts some of Pennsylvania’s most productive agricultural soil, and topography and geology converge in a 20,000-acre nationally significant “Fruit Belt” along the eastern toe slope of the mountains.

·         Recreational Resources – With its proximity to Baltimore and Washington D.C., the South Mountain landscape and its public lands have become an outdoor playground. And of course, 60-odd miles of the world-famous Appalachian Trail run through the heart of the landscape.

So while no particular aspect of this landscape singularly defines it, the dynamic convergence of this range of diverse resources makes the South Mountain landscape one of Pennsylvania’s more unique, special landscapes. We’re thrilled you’ve begun to explore the area through the South Mountain Geo-Trail, and, knowing how much this landscape has to offer, we encourage you to continue to explore it the landscape beyond the trail!

For instance, be sure to check out the South Mountain Mobile Phone App – an app for your mobile device that highlights more than 75 different destinations throughout the landscape and includes 5 pre-set thematic tours. Download the app by visiting Google Play or the iTunes store and searching for “South Mountain PA” – and then use your mobile phone as a gateway to discover scenic beauty, history sites, fruits and delicious food, wineries, theatres and so much more.

Oh – and be sure to leave a note letting us know what you’ve enjoyed most about the South Mountain landscape!

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