Cooper’s Gap

Cooper's Gap Hidden Language

Jay walks amongst the ancient trees of Rothrock State Forest to explore his, and our, relationship with wilderness.

​An automobile drives along a paved rural road.

JAY: Okay, we’re about to hit one of my favorite parts of the trip. Wait for it…

The automobile continues as the paved road abruptly turns to gravel and dirt.

JAY: This narrow mountain road, sprinkled with gravel and rocks, leads my cousin Travis and me to Cooper’s Gap for a weekend at our—whoa, look out.

The automobile stops so that a car driving the opposite can pass.

JAY: For most of this road, if you encounter someone going in the opposite direction, one of you will need to find a spot to pullover so that the other can slowly squeeze past. Okay, there we go.

Travis and Jay speed up again and the car continues along the gravel.

JAY: We’re headed into Rothrock State Forest, into the tree-covered heart of Central Pennsylvania, for a weekend at the camp, a hunting cabin that my uncle has owned since the late 1970’s. We’ve already lost cell service—that drops once you leave the paved road behind. We’ll have no electricity or running water for the next three days.

We will watch the midsummer twilight not fade to dark until nearly ten o’clock. We’ll track the lovely song of a whippoorwill as it bounces around the empty forest at night. We’ll hear the far-off sound of a screech owl and recall how, when we were kids, we first learned the call of an owl by repeating “Who cooks for you?” Over our morning coffee, we’ll first hear and then spot a porcupine waddling through a pine thicket and remember that, for the longest time, we wrongly believed that the rodent could launch its quills at range.

But those things are yet to come. For now, we lower the windows, breathe in that clean mountain air, and turn up the radio. It’ll be all 80s and 90s country music this weekend, the same twangers and bangers my cousins and I listened to when we first started spending weekends at the camp. It was here, under the shade of white pines and balsam firs, amongst the stands of mountain laurel and rhododendron, that I fell in love with the wild.

Jay inhales deeply.

Ah, it feels so good to be back in Cooper’s Gap.