We have hiked your trail system several times over the past year, and today’s hike was the most satisfying. From Rte. 46 we took the North Trail to the summit, then right (west) on Sandy Lane to the end and back, then on the Mountaintop Trail to the Wolfinger Trail, down to Shawn’s Switchback Trail, which went to Sandy Lane, where we returned to Rte. 46.
The quality of your forest understory amazed us, which seemed even better than last year. Rather than the expected sea of hay-scented fern we found elderberry, raspberry, willow and many other shrub species. Instead of just beech and birch reprod, we also saw plenty of Sugar Maple, White Ash, Basswood, Red Oak and even (a few) White Oak regrowth. Maybe even a few Hobblebushes will return!
We found exceptions, such as the west segment of Sandy Lane and the Mountain Top Trail, both which were solid ferns in many parts. However, by McKean County and most Northern Pennsylvania standards, your trail system has an outstanding, well-layered habitat for forest dwelling birds. Even the dry southern exposure (facing Smethport) had a well-developed understory. I wouldn’t be surprised a Worm-eating warbler shows up there in the future. The Hooded Warblers did, as I saw/heard one almost every 100 yards throughout our hike.
Why is the Wolfinger Trail System such an oasis in an otherwise overbrowsed desert? I suspect one reason is your excellent road/trail system, which permits hunters in nearby Smethport to adequately harvest the deer population. We sincerely hope your association owns and continues to own this tract. Whatever you are doing to its forest habitat, you are doing it right, and it has made your little known trail system a true gem.
Lewis and Jennifer Crowell
East Aurora, NY (near Buffalo)