August 27, 1832
27 August: We left Sachs’ house at seven o’clock in order to drive today to another Sachs, a cousin of our host, 7 miles from here. The so-called turnpike road leads upward directly through the forest but in this region is very bad. For about a mile, the forest remains the same; then it becomes denser and better, the hemlocks or pines taller, thicker, and closer together. Much understory of oaks, chestnuts, and other deciduous trees. Near several dwellings the forest had been cut down. Here Rhus typhinum, Phytolacca, [and] Verbascum grew, and other plants that are peculiar to uncultivated areas.
Built entirely of boards, the houses resemble those of the Westerwald in Germany, but they are smaller; some are painted reddish brown. In several places we still saw traces of the recent fire. The short scrub oaks were all dry and burned; they were just sprouting again from the rootstocks. In several places we had views far over the mountains, uniformly covered with dark coniferous forests. Everywhere there were high knobs and ridges. Dark forests all around. The fir trees (Pinus canadensis and, I presume, rigida) were tall and crowded together, especially in the valleys. In most of the areas we had passed through, most of them were dry and dead and bereft of their branches. Like rows of columns, densely crowded together, they stood forth, ash gray above the vividly green undergrowth.
The sight of these ravaged primeval forests is distressing but most noteworthy and wild, and human habitations are far scarcer than in the lower regions. The soil must be heavily fertilized, for it is not very fertile. Here in these wild regions, there are many deer and bear, as well as various other kinds of animals. We saw several birds, including the large passenger pigeon (Columba migratoria) and the robin redbreast (Turdus migratorius). We also saw the hummingbird, the bluebird, the yellow woodpecker (Picus auratus), and others. We traveled over several large clearings in the forest where some farmers, all of whom speak German, have settled. We paid a highway toll for the bad road at a house, and at this spot passed Tunkhannock Creek, which picturesquely meanders through thickets. On its bank grew the magnificent Lobelia cardinalis. We saw bullfrogs here as we had along the Lecha, and also the butterflies that occur in the valley. It was not far now to the house where the bear had been caught yesterday. We were shown the hide, which had been nailed up to dry on a gable of the barn; the head had been placed in the trap again as bait; the claws had been thrown away. They were very sorry not to have known that we wanted a bear, and we decided to take a look at the bear traps early the following morning.
As soon as one has crossed a gentle elevation in the forest, one reaches a swift brook, or creek, the Tobyhanna, over which a covered bridge 20 to 30 paces long has been constructed. This stream has highly picturesque surroundings. The dark surface glistens and meanders among splendid lofty woodlands of old Canadian hemlocks intermingled with several kinds of deciduous trees and a dense undergrowth of enormous Rhododendron maximum,M28The wood of the Rhododendron maximum is extremely hard. whose
dense masses of foliage, with star-shaped clusters of leaves resembling laurel, extend, densely crowded, downward to the water and are frequently intermingled with Kalmia latifolia. Even [Page 1:75]now the sight of this dark thicket on the bank was magnificent. How much more magnificent must it be during the time when these plants are in bloom! Above it the dark conifer forest rises majestically, which is enhanced by light-green deciduous timber. Scarcely a few hundred paces beyond the brook, one reaches [the] widow Sachs’ inn, where we stayed today. We sent several hunters out to hunt. They were to shoot a bear or a deer; just last week two of the former had been shot quite near this place. We saw the hide of one of them; it measured more than 7 of my feet in length. We were also offered two live young bears. A hunter brought in several deer antlers, which I bought.
We had not been long in the house before all of us left for the woods. Mr. Bodmer sketched the Tobyhanna bridge and its picturesque surroundings. He waded through the brook several times until he found a favorable vantage point. The rest of us looked for birds and plants. Today we found the tiger frog and several times the three-striped adder in the dark forest under old rotting trunks, with which the forest is filled. Rattlesnakes are said not to be so numerous here as in the region we visited yesterday. There were very few birds near the house, and none of our hunters, four of them in all, brought in anything.
We were delighted, however, to walk through the magnificent wild, primeval forest. Rhododendron trunks, almost as thick as two arms, intertwined to form an impenetrable thicket, where it is completely dark. Their large, stiff laurel-like leaves, now dry, [lay] all over the ground in large numbers, and one could find the most beautiful natural arbors. The trunks of the Rhododendron maximum have an extremely firm wood. In our country we give them heath soil, which they do not have here; on the other hand, one should always plant them near water and as undergrowth. With the rhododendron, Kalmia latifolia also grows everywhere here as understory, sometimes 8 to 10 feet high, and the rhododendron 10 to 20 feet; Spiraea salicifolia and tomentosa in wet locations and banks. Young hemlocks and old timber rise up crowded closely together. Old fallen trunks rot and mold with various kinds of ferns and mosses. Birches (Betula lenta and Alnus crispa), hornbeam, chestnuts, maple, and other trees stand wildly crowded together with the conifers. One sees splendidly wild trunks, roots, hollow trees, dangling moss braids—in short, we are in a primeval forest. Along the Tobyhanna we find magnificent specimens of the Lobelia cardinalis.M29Chelone obliqua Spiraea salicifolia and tomentosa, Andromeda paniculata, and blackberries entangle all the undergrowth in such a way that we could not penetrate it anywhere. It was delightful to clamber through the magnificent thickets of rhododendron and other interesting shrubs.
In the afternoon Mr. Moser joined us. He had found several salamanders of a variety of [Salamandra] aurantia and brought some nice plants along. The hunters brought several birds: Picus auratus, Corvus cristatus, and an old pheasant hen (Tetrao umbellatus), which was so far advanced in molting that we could not use it for the collection. In the evening numerous Caprimulgus americanus (nighthawk) skimmed above the forest and around the house. The hunters shot at them now and then, but we did not get any. Another pheasant was brought in.