Face-to-face with Mother Nature in Gettysburg – Creatures, critters and cabbage

By Carl Whitehill – I don’t really care for the smell of cabbage, so I’m not sure why I agreed to plunge my nose into a stalk of “skunk” cabbage that Lizzy Ryan held in front of my face.

Lizzy is the Assistant Education Coordinator at Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve near Fairfield, Pa. – just 20 minutes down the road from Downtown Gettysburg. We asked Lizzy to take us on a hike through just a portion of the preserve’s 600 acres as a way to discover the incredible wildlife and nature at Strawberry Hill.

Indeed, hiking is great exercise, but what distinguishes hiking from walking is nature – and Strawberry Hill is abundant with critters, creatures and unique plant life. Lizzy introduced us to a variety of wildlife and nature during our 90-minute hike along the Quarry Trail and Swamp Creek Trail – and talked to us about the wildlife we didn’t see, but that has been spotted at the preserve such as bobcats, black bears and snakes.

But what we did see was an array of amphibians, reptiles, insects, birds and fish – spotted in vernal pools, creeks, ponds and other habitats. The spring season gave us a unique peek into the resurgence of nature after a long winter, including budding plants, newt eggs, tadpoles and, of course, hundreds of skunk cabbage spouts.

The seasons provide hikers at Strawberry Hill with a different perspective year-round. Three years ago, I hiked at Strawberry Hill at the beginning of spring, but several inches of snow still covered the ground and it felt more like winter and showed very few signs of life – especially plant life. And last summer, my colleagues, Paige Neidig and Jess Clevenger headed out for this summer hike and the differences are amazing. Each season has its charm.

Strawberry Hill is a place where hikers should keep their eyes open – looking up, down and all around them, and stop once in a while, listen and rejuvenate with Mother Nature. Nature is all around in Gettysburg – from the apple orchards to the Gettysburg battlefield itself.

To find more nature and hiking trails in the Gettysburg region, check out our list of Our Top 5 Favorites.

As for that skunk cabbage – there’s truly nothing like it. After I caught my breath and my eyes stopped watering, I realized it was a smell so strong that I actually tasted it. It’s a smell I’ll remember for a long-long time.

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About the Author
A resident of Adams County, Pa., for seven years, Carl is still finding nooks and crannies of the Gettysburg countryside to tire out his two young – and energetic – boys. Always on the search for ways to keep his crazy family active and adventurous, Carl prefers to lace up his hiking boots over firing up the car for a ride, but opts for going out for ice cream over a cold beer any day. He lives in Littlestown, Pa., with his wife, Kim, and sons – Colin and Christian.


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