On Thursday I ventured out to the Boyd Big Tree Preserve Conservation Area for a woods walk.
It’s located just north of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The preserve is accessible from Fishing Creek Valley Road or State Route 443. It’s easy on-and-off from the Fishing Creek exit of Route 322.
The Boyd Big Tree Preserve is a “Conservation Area” which means that it doesn’t have amenities
like running water in the unisex bathrooms or a place to buy snacks. There are no garbage cans so you have to pack in and pack out whatever you bring.
The small parking lot isn’t paved, but rather graveled, which is much nicer for the environment as there is no rain runoff to divert. A sheltered pavilion is available for outdoor educational programs, but beyond that it’s trail time. The recreational activities here are hiking, cross country skiing, and hunting. A majority of the big tree area is posted to allow hunting, so you won’t find me there during hunting seasons.
The first thing you notice upon arriving are the huge electricity towers – there is one right at the main entrance. Like most of our state parks the preserve is closed from sunset to sunrise.
Two main sections of the Boyd Big Tree Preserve are the open field that the main road winds through to get to the parking area and the forest on the hill. Actually, the preserve is situated on a mountain ridge so it’s a little bigger than a hill.
The oak-hickory forest of big trees straddles Blue Mountain. The previous landowner, Mr. Alexander Boyd, donated his land to Pennsylvania for the expressed purpose of conserving the big trees on Blue Mountain.
The hiking trails are well marked with color-coded blazes. A guide with a map of the trails was available at the information board at the parking area. Seven trails range from 0.9 to 2.8 miles in length. The trails are interconnected in places so it’s easy to exceed these distances. The degree of difficulty ranges from easy in the lower sections of the preserve to difficult near the ridge top.
Almost all the people I saw using the trails had either a walking stick or a dog with them. The day I was there was cold to start and very windy. My ear-band was delightfully warm, then too warm until the winds kicked up again.
The landscape looks barren with very little green showing right now. The most active plant appeared to be mayapples as they were up on every trail I saw, including Pond Loop Trail, Lower Spring Trail, East Loop Trail, Creek Trail and Upper Spring Trail.
As I was exiting the woods after a 2.5 mile tromp I took a minute to look around the edge of the forest where it meets the open field. It was there that I spied a small group of Rue Anemone, Thalictrum thalictroides, swaying in the breeze.
I’ll be going back to the Boyd Big Tree Preserve in the next couple of weeks to see how different the trails look with a little greenery. If you go, remember to wear sturdy shoes or boots and take your walking stick.