Pennsylvania Remote Spot

Road coverage of Pennsylvania. Click to enlarge.

Distance from Nearest Road: 2.7 miles
Cell Phone Coverage: No
Public Land: Yes, Hammersley Wild Area, Susquehannock State Forest
Travel Method: By foot
Travel Time One-Way: 2 hours
Total Hiking Distance:  9.8 miles
Something We Learned: Oil and natural gas extraction is ubiquitous in the Susquehannock State Forest surrounding the Pennsylvania Remote Spot.

Click on the ‘Play’ button below to view our video from the Remote Spot.

September 12, 2011.  First light.  September morning air sticks to our skin, and a distinctive chill motivates us to get moving.  Temps are in the 50′s.

Yesterday, we anxiously drove out of Washington, D.C. on the 10 year anniversary of the 9-11 terror attacks to our great nation.  While honoring the memory of those fallen, we were all too happy to leave civilization and Go Remote.  By nightfall, we had penetrated deep into the Susquehannock State Forest.  We parked and camped along the boundary of the Hammersley Wild Area, the roadless area that contains the Pennsylvania Remote Spot.  This position allowed us to get an early start on our documentary trip into the Remote Spot. We slept in our camper shell loft.  The loft provides a quick, efficient camp space while traveling between state Remote Spots.

 

We are excited beyond belief to resume Project Remote for the first time in many months.  The realities of logistics and funding have kept us grounded until now…

 

 

We pile into the truck and drive a short distance to the beginning of our hike.  Along the way, more reality smacks us.  Oil and gas extraction is prominent throughout the Susquehannock State Forest.  Pumps and stations are unsightly and common along the dirt road matrix in this otherwise beautifully forested public natural area.  We now know what the grumbling hum was that we heard all last night while camping.  We are now within 3 straight-line miles from the remotest location in all of Pennsylvania and not yet feeling remote.  It sobers us to be part of the fossil fuel consumption problem as long as we are driving an automobile.  This is one reason why we can’t wait to stop the truck, set out on foot, and experience what is left of Pennsylvania remoteness…

We enter the Hammersley Wild Area (HWA) on the north boundary, and hike southward along the Hammersley Trail, which bisects the HWA.  Our calculation revealed that the PA Remote Spot is situated in the center of the HWA, and the Hammersley Trail apparently leads to within 0.1 miles from the Remote Spot.  Our task today is to hike along the trail to the closest Remote Spot approach, then set out off-trail to reach the Remote Spot.  The entire Hammersley Trail is approximately 10 miles long, and we will need to hike about 4.8 miles to near the center, then back out.

We carry full backpacks to prepare for the possibility of camping overnight.  The total distance in and out of the Remote Spot appears to be around 9 miles, but you never know what awaits in the wilderness.  Plus, we have a young-un who might just need us to go slow.  Ryan’s pack weighs–gasp–55 lbs, and Rebecca’s–yikes–42 lbs.  The reality of backpacking with a toddler.  Fortunately, we maintain our physical fitness to cope with heavy weight backpacking.

HWA is the largest roadless area in all of Pennsylvania.  As we penetrate deeper into this outstanding wild area, we begin to experience that special feeling of being remote from civilization while immersed in nature.

 

Parts of the trail are grown up with dense vegetation on both sides–such as blackberry patches.

 

 

 

Our little girl really enjoys riding in her backpack, and especially taking a nap in it.  She spends about 5 hours in it by day’s end.

 

 

 

 

 

The HWA is entirely forested with a mix of deciduous hardwood trees and evergreen conifers.  There is a dense forest canopy in most areas.  The ground level is fairly open and vegetated with sparse woody shrubs, young trees, and an abundance of ferns.  Wide open meadows hug both sides of the creek in the upper (northern) 2 miles of the trail.  We believe the meadows represent the floodplain of the creek.  Flash floods probably prohibit tree growth while promoting the establishment of grasses.

The trail runs along Hammersley Fork for the entire walk into the Remote Spot approach.  Finding drinking water is not a problem.  Just last week, we would have had to deal with a very flooded creek in the aftermath of intense heavy rains of Tropical Storm Lee.  In fact, Lee was the reason we were’nt here a week ago.

Ryan looks down for a brief instant.  A magnificent red-spotted newt (Notophthalmus viridescens) ambles across the trail.  This individual is called an eft.  Newts are salamanders with multiple life history phases.  The eft phase is dry-skinned and well-adapted to terrestrial life when not breeding.  When it’s time to breed, efts enter water bodies and transform into the breeding adult phase, much different than the eft.  The breeding adult sports a long, dorsoventrally tall tail fin.  Its hind limbs become robust.  The skin becomes slick and shiny.  We would have to look in the creek to find one.  They are enitrely aquatic.  This particular species has an immense range all over the eastern U.S. and into southeastern Canada.

Newts just happen to be one of our career long biological research interests.  Ryan and Rebecca currently run a 5-year research project in north Florida to bring another newt species back from the brink of extinction–the closely related and imperiled striped newt (Notophthalmus perstriatus).  Click here to learn more about this conservation effort.

We make it to the point where we now must set out off-trail, up a very steep mountain side to reach the Remote Spot.   Even though we only have to navigate off-trail for 0.1 miles, the steep elevation gain and rugged terrain make it strenuous.  It feels more like a mile.  Ryan carries Skyla, and we leave Ryan’s pack cached along the trail below.

Our handheld GPS beeps and notifies us that we have arrived at the exact coordinates of the Pennsylvania Remote Spot.  It is a feeling of both satisfaction and anticlimax.  After all, there is a hiking trail just a tenth of a mile below.  But we remind ourselves that hiking trails are good and provide opportunities for people to experience nature on foot.  Cars and roads are what we encourage people to reduce their usage of…not hiking trails!

The remotest location in the entire state of Pennsylvania is protected within the center of the Hammersley Wild Area, about 0.1 miles off the Hammersley Trail–up a very steep hillside.

 

 

At every Remote Spot we conduct our 15 minute Remote Spot Assessment (RSA).  During this period, we record quantitative data on direct or indirect human presence/absence.  We observe sights, sounds, and smells of anything of human origin, then we identify it, estimate distance, and record the compass bearing of the datum.  This information helps us measure remoteness.  Additional to the RSA, we also make ecological and wildlife observations.  Last, and not least, we take high resolution, panoramic photo and video of the Remote Spot.  Through Project Remote, we  are measuring remoteness as it currently exists in the United States.  This work provides a baseline of information on remoteness (i.e. roadlessness)  that is useful to current and future roadless area conservation efforts.

Ryan gets some Daddy-daughter time at the end of our doccumentary work.  We are amazed at how well Skyla has done all day and last night.  The more exposure to the outdoors a child gets, the more comfortable in the outdoors a child becomes.  Go figure.

After working and soaking up Pennsylvania remoteness, we decide that we can make it out of here tonight and position ourselves closer to our next Remote Spot adventure–West Virginia

–The Remote Spotters

Project Remote Fundraiser:  After reading this website, you might be surprised at just how hard it is to get away from a road or a town nowadays–and instantly understand that we must now as a nation speak out to protect remaining public roadless areas from further roads development.  Project Remote is now half-way done!  We plan to document at least 8 states in 2014 (NM, CO, WY, SD, NE, KS, OK, and AL).  Our goal is to raise $8, 500 simply to offset the cost of traveling frugally state by state, completing the documentary field work, and maintaining this website.   This work depends on donations from people like you.  If you like what we do, please Click here to make a tax deductible donation to support Project Remote today.  Thank you so very much for helping us to document and preserve Remote America…  –Remote Footprints

10 Responses to Pennsylvania Remote Spot

  1. Michael G Marriam says:

    Just stumbled upon your website doing a Google search on Hammersley in Penn. Nice write up and very informative. Looks like you had a good time getting to that remote spot. It is amazing how ubiquitous hydrocarbon wells are in Penn. I think that noise you heard may have been a compressor station. Can you imagine living near one. Probably like and airport: you tune it out after awhile. I have my own remote spot in the Adirondack Mountains of NY SE of Cranberry Lake. Remote that is until jets from Fort Drum fly training all night. Thankfully they put a stop to that a couple years ago. At least they fly “around” the wildest areas. Didn’t notice a date on your trip log, you young’un must be getting big. Thanks again for you research.

    Mike Marriam

    • Remote Footprints says:

      Hello Mike–Thanks so much for you interest in Project Remote and for the insightful comments. It’s great that military planes have agreed to fly around the Adirondack Park instead of over it. What a fantastic victory for conservation of remoteness. We deliberated at length over whether to include flyways as criterion affecting the remote spot calculations. In the end, we decided that flyways were gray areas with too much plasticity in the sky to be quantitative metrics. They are, in a sense, more qualitative, since no two planes fly exactly the same path. Roads are far more etched on the landscape. That said, we definitely believe that airplanes affect remoteness somehow…Yep, our rugrat is now 4, and HEAVY! As for dealing with encroachment of hydrocarbon wells and their associated impacts on remoteness, I reckon it’s going to require that corporations, consumers, and policymakers undergo personality changes. How about a commitment by all to say–No More Roads?

  2. Andy says:

    Hi, Was wandering if you could provide the coordinates of this remote spot. Have spent a fair amount of time in the Hammersley’s over the last 40 years and it is a very unique area. Would like to visit the exact remote spot just for the experience. Thanks

    • Remote Footprints says:

      Hi Andy, we very much enjoyed the Hammersley area on our visit. We are not publishing any exact coordinates at this time. Before we do so, we want to coordinate with the land managers to develop a plan that will ensure that these Spots are not ‘loved to death’ and that we do not place an unnecessary burden on the land or the managers. For example, National Wildlife Refuges are mandated to provide habitat for wildlife and are not always set up for tourism or a lot of visitors…This is not particularly an issue for the Hammersley but we want to wait and give all the owners/managers a chance to voice their concerns. We are not trying to be unduly secretive, we just want to make sure we do this right.

  3. Mark Aldrich says:

    Great work! Thank you for your efforts. We live in PA and are always seeking out areas of silence. Back in May we spent a couple days in this area and a little further north, around Wellsboro. Yes, the presence of the natural gas industry is quite distressing.

    • Remote Footprints says:

      Hello Mark–Thank you for your interest in Project Remote. After documenting the remotest locations of 24 states, we have found that truly remote areas are difficult, indeed, to find these days. Our societal craving for fossil fuels is very distressing. We have stepped up oil and gas exploration in our own country several-fold lately, and we are seeing other places, such as western North Dakota, that are rapidly losing remoteness because of oil boom development…not to mention loss of cultural identity. We the people must tell our local and national road-building machines to stop building new roads, particularly in natural areas or public lands. We, Remote Footprints, believe that the US already has plenty of roads laid down all over the landscape. In fact, too many. Anyway…we hope that your Hammersley Wild Area remains as remote as it is forever such that future Pennsylvanians can enjoy their right to get away from it all well into the future. Best Wishes to you…

  4. george says:

    you suck. You find a “Remote Spot” and then screw it up by going there! And you bring a baby along, idiots! How much trash and crap did you leave in your formerly “Remote Spot”?

    • Remote Footprints says:

      We are happy to respond to your concerns but we are not really sure what exactly are the issue(s) to which you speak. More importantly, please watch your language, we had to edit your profanities as this is a family oriented website. Even edited, your comments are not constructive and do not contribute much to any kind of potential conversation. Despite all that, we will attempt to address your comments. Simply going to a remote spot doesn’t “screw” it up. But building a road within the remote area polygon sure does. If you read about our experiences you would have learned that we go to a Remote Spot by non-intrusive means, we rapidly document the spot, then leave without a trace. We do not leave anything at the Spot. As for bringing our child, it is the most rewarding experience we have ever had as a family. We are not sure what about that is idiotic? – Remote Footprints

  5. Brian says:

    Your coordinate unfortunately may no longer be the current Pennsylvania Remote Spot. Based on your pictures, it appears that you came into the Hammersley Wild Area from the north. A new right of way (gas?) was cut through the northern part of the Wild Area sometime in 2013.

    Brian

    • Remote Footprints says:

      That’s extremely sad news, Brian. So this may be the first of the investigated state Remote Spots to have suffered a measurable loss of remoteness since we embarked on this research. Thank you for bringing this to light in this national discussion. It highlights the ‘real-time’ urgency to protect America’s remote, roadless areas from roads/development. We feared that State Remote Spots would be constantly under pressure from road building and development. Now, pending an independent confirmation of your data, we may have direct scientific evidence to affirm this. One of the reasons we chose a quantitative definition (distance from a road) is so that we, or someone else, could go back 10 or 20 years later and actually measure the change in America’s remoteness. Looks like 10 or 20 years could be an eternity to wait for some Remote Spots, such as Pennsylvania, which appears to be constantly under fire from the oil/natural gas industry. Apparently Pennsylvania’s Remote Spot will now be less than the 2.7 miles from a road that we originally calculated and visited. Hopefully the Hammersley Wild Area will not sustain any more reductions of remoteness. Thanks for keeping us posted on the situation near the Pennsylvania Remote Spot. Please continue to do so…Best Wishes –Remote Footprints

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