Many people are unaware that Stonewall Resort State Park borders Rt. 19 for the three miles between I-79 and the Resort entrance. Upon approaching the CZ, you will be entering an undeveloped area of the park. Upon entering the forest in this location, you may notice the predominance of grey, smooth barked trees of sizes varying from less than 1 inch circumference to more than 6 feet circumference (so big two or three adults can barley get their arms around the trunk). While this section of forest has several types of trees, it is overwhelmingly dominated by The American Beech Tree (Fagus grandifolia). Walking 75 - 100 yards further into the forest , the forest makeup changes considerably and the Beech Tree is the minority.
The beech tree is one of the few trees having leaves which don't readily fall in Autumn but rather wait until the March & April winds arrive. Any honest hunter will admit to being fooled into thinking wildlife is near, by the dry, shaking leaves. The Beech tree can grow to heights of 120 feet and nearly 19 feet in circumference. Mature trees of this size are 300 to 400 years old. However, most only reach 80 to 90 feet tall and 5 to 8 feet in circumference. This is likely due to disease, lightning strikes and timbering. Of relatively recent concern is Beech Bark Disease which presents in the form of cracking bark and small, stippling-like or larger raspberry-like red fungi. When a tree is infected, they rarely live more than an additional six years.
Beech Trees are easy targets for vandalism in the form of people carving initials into the tree's smooth bark. This selfish act only makes the tree more susceptible to disease and early death.
The US Forest Service and several universities are actively studying Beech Bark Disease and other infections, in hopes of finding a cure or limiting their destructive migration south.
Beech trees are a great source of food to wildlife. Animals such as Bear, turkey, squirrels and grouse love the Beech Nut. The Beech seeds are a favorite of small birds and fox. Many animals use the hollowed out trunks of mature Beech trees as homes or havens during extreme weather. Quite often, these trees have numerous holes high on the trunk & larger branches. These holes often make the perfect place for bee hives, thus causing the tree to often be referred to as "The Bee Tree."
Wood from the American Beech tree is most often used as rough lumber, plywood, railroad ties or flooring. Other uses are tool handles, baskets and veneer. Sometimes it is used for drawers, because the wood becomes slicker as it rubs against other wood. Interestingly, it is used for cutting boards, spoons and food containers, because the wood imparts no odor.
Tar from the Beech Tree is called Creosote (pronounced Cree-oh-sote). It is used to protect other woods from rotting (think - power line poles and railroad ties - you are likely aware of this aroma).
Finally, if you're old enough to remember Beech Nut gum (yummy) - it was not made from any part of the Beech Tree.
Enjoy your time in this small Beech Forest. After finding the cache, quietly sit at the base of a tree for 30 minutes and keep track of the wildlife you see. You might be pleasantly surprised.
This cache is located on State Park Property. All rules and regulations apply. This includes no geocaching between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. Thank you.