Cook Forest in PA from his teen years:
Friends and I drove from Cleveland (where we lived) to Cook Forest in Pennsylvania three times. In retrospect, it surprises me that we were allowed, as 17-18 year old high school students, to do this on our own, but we were.
Three or four of us would go to rent a cabin in the state park. It would usually be my friends John and Ernie, but my friend Don came once, another guy came once, and one time Ernie's girlfriend Hazel was there (she remembers coming with her parents, but she hung out with us most of the time).
The appeal was that we were totally on our own, no adults. We explored the forest, stayed up late, played cards. Interestingly, we didn't drink or smoke or do drugs. And the area was forest primeval, barely developed at that time, another big appeal. Today Cook Forest has been developed for recreation but then (in the early 1950s) it was primitive and untouched.
Sounds: Going down to the Clarion River, which was (and may still be) the last untouched river in Pennsylvania--never dammed--we'd listen to the river sounds. At night, it was as though there were voices in the water, the sound was actually voices and if you could just listen closely enough, you'd understand what they were saying.
The other forest sound came from Ernie's hi-fi, which we brought to blast classical music (symphonic, not opera) in our cabin in the middle of the woods. One of our friends slept very late one morning, so we pushed one of the hi-fi speakers under his bunk and put on a record of the Quoddy Head lighthouse horn. We turned the volume WAY up and woke him with a blast of sound that rattled the windows. He didn't sleep late again.
Several times we climbed the metal fire tower in the dark so we could see the sunrise and overlook the river and the valley filled with mist. The 80-ft tower was built on the highest point in the park. As we climbed the tower's metal steps, our feet made a kind of ringing sound that reverberated throughout the forest, it seemed.
I remember walking through those woods, we were noisy as hell--the loudest sounds in the forest!
One more sound I remember: One night, I was walking with John and Ernie toward the fire tower and as we approached, we heard a voice. Getting closer, we realized it was a girl's voice, "No, Billy, don't, no please don't!" I turned on my flashlight, shined it up to the top of the tower, and called, "Are you all right, ma'am?" (Of course I was probably the same age as the couple on the tower, but I used "ma'am" anyway.)
She immediately came clattering down the steps of the tower, followed by her boyfriend Billy. To show her I meant no harm, I flashed the light on my face, which was unshaven and dirty after a week in the woods. I probably looked much more dangerous than Billy! I asked if she needed a ride home. She said, "No, Billy will take me," and the two went off in search of their car. I felt very chivalrous, having defended a girl's modesty.
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