Bog Summit Attraction
Inside the Outdoors, August 27, 2010

I happened to be reminiscing with a past customer of my store recently, when the subject of the bog atop Laurel Mountain became a much-talked about subject. He told me he remembered a gent coming all the way down from Erie to purchase art from me, and then he would annually visit the bog. That definitely jolted my memory a bit.

Sometime later after our conversation, I decided to go to my computer and log onto “Bog at Laurel Mountain Summit,” and sure enough, all the information one may want to read was available on this wonderful machine called the computer.

Then the other day, I was shooting the breeze with Latrobe’s Terry Crawford and I asked him if he had ever been to the bog at the Summit of Laurel Mountain. He told me he had lived in Ligonier 13 years, but never heard of this place. After describing it to him, we both decided to jump into his truck and ascend the hill using St. Rt. 30 as our means to get there. Once on top of the mountain, we made a right turn onto Laurel Summit Road rounding the bend onto Hickory Flats Road where we came upon Laurel Summit State Park. After a short walk we could see Spruce Flats Bog and its circular layout.

Located in Forest State Park, “It is the home to unique plants, such as cranberry, cotton grass, and insect eating plants, not seen in this locality since the ice age,” so states the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Contained within 28 acres, “The original forest consisted of dense stands of hemlock.” The path taken to the bog from the parking lot is one the PW&S railroad traveled to cross it in the early 20th century.

“A bog is a pond formed in clay on impervious bedrock, and contains no stream source,” the DCNR revealed. “If Spruce Flats Bog was formed by glacial action, then it must have been initiated by some previous activity associated with the last ice age. It takes centuries before a bog is stocked with typical organisms and completely formed,” the DCNR reported.

A study was done and it was found that six to inches of peat covers the bog with 21/2 feet of muck. Water atop of the surface varies as to depth. When I visited the bog recently, there was obvious puddled muck. I was able to take a pH reading which disclosed the acidic readings of the water between 3.5 and 4 in the main bog itself, and at the entrance some 25 feet prior to it I got a read of 4.5.

“Limitation of available nutrients is reflected in the type of plants found in the bog,” the DCNR disclosed. Of consequence they’re four plants growing there – the pitcher plant, cotton grass, large cranberry and sundew.

The pitcher plant has dull, red leaves with flared lips with light green leaves. They are insect eating plants. The cotton grass has a globular cottony eye-catching ball atop the plant. According to Crawford, “It feels like bunny fur.” It develops in late summer and persists most of the winter. The cranberry plant is not more than 4 inches high and has red berries one-half inch in diameter. The sundew plant is not over one inch high. Light purplish in color, it has sticky, hair-like projections that also devour insects once caught.

Ed Callahan, district forester for the Department of Forestry, located in Ligonier, educated me as to the fact that Atlantic White Cedar trees are growing in the bog.

We had the pleasure of meeting with two gentlemen from Somerset, one of whom was very knowledgeable about the area and taught me a lot. Twenty-one year-old Vance Reese told me while in 11th grade he toured the bog and has been fascinated with it ever since. He decided to educate his cousin concerning the area.

“I love to hunt,” the lad told me. “Watching TV, I learned so much about permafrost (the permanently frozen subsoil). This reminds me of the Yukon where such land is found.”

He then told us that bear and deer will work their way through the muck to eat the cranberries. Well acquainted with different animal tracks, he pointed to bear, turkey and bobcat tracks.

His words of wisdom humored me as I let out a laugh when he exclaimed, “Even though one can hunt here, I don’t think I would want to. Just imagine killing a bear and then having to drag it through this muck. You’ll never find me doing it!"

To view photos of the bog, visit Pee Vee's Gallery and look in the Bog Summit Aug 2010 album.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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