Columbia Montour Quarterly Vol. 2: October-December 2021


Volume 2 October - December

Your All-Access Guide to Columbia & Montour Counties!


Photo by: Ben Prepelka





Tracing History: The Bloomsburg Airport 4

Restoring the Eastern Hellbender 12 Quarterly Covered Bridge Feature: Love on the Bridges 15



New Covered Bridge Passport Program


On Dasher, On Dancer! Spruce Run Farm Reindeer

Susquehanna Greenway Ghouls & Legends 20

Quarterly Trail Feature: Kocher Park 24

Events Calendar 27

On the Trail Again: River Rat Brew Trail Part III 30


Member Spotlight 34


Your fall Adventure Begins in COLUMBIA & MONTOUR Counties




The Bloomsburg Airport By Dave Ruckle; special thanks to BJ Teichman, current airport coordinator

The birth of the Bloomsburg airport, like so many innovations in the 1920s, was born out of necessity. Even though no airport existed in Bloomsburg at the time, the first commercial flight for business purposes here was made on March 17, 1929 when two Philadelphia carpet designers landed in a farm field to meet with executives from the Magee Carpet Company. After concluding business, the pair were back in the air for a one-hour flight home to Philly. Clearly, a transaction that could have taken days was accomplished within a few hours thanks to aviation. It was obvious to an enterprising Harry Magee that an airport would be an economic benefit to the town of Bloomsburg. In the 89 years since, the Bloomsburg airport has proven time and again to be an asset not just to the town but to communities far and wide as well as the nation. Since space does not allow for a detailed accounting of all the historical facts about the airport, this brief review will highlight the most significant historical points.

to construct an airport in Bloomsburg. By the summer of 1931, after making extensive test landings, Magee formed the Bloomsburg Flying Club along with seven other prominent, aviation enthusiasts, mostly members of the Rotary Club. These two organizations along with the support of the Morning Press (today’s Press-Enterprise newspaper) led the drive to build an airport. The Bloomsburg airport, at its present location, opened in April 1932. More than 6,000 enthusiastic, aviation-minded and curious spectators toured the new airport during its first week of operation. For a dollar, the Bloomsburg Flying Club treated hundreds of first-time flyers to sightseeing rides; weekend spectators were captivated watching parachute jumping and airplanes making continuous daylong take offs and landings. Charter flights were also available to nearby cities, such as Philadelphia, Wilkes-Barre and Williamsport. The Bloomsburg Flying Club, organized under the name Columbia Airways, began expanded charter service to New York City and Pittsburgh in 1934. In 1937, Harry Magee was appointed by Governor George H. Earl III to the newly formed State Aviation Council. Sadly, in 1938, Magee closed the airport, sighting the increasing competition from municipally owned airfields whose

The Golden Age of Aviation

The Golden Age of Aviation is predominantly ear marked by the transatlantic flight of Charles Lindberg and the historical aviation feats of Amelia Earhart. In the fall of 1929, like-minded, aviation proponents like Harry Magee began developing plans


operating expenses, especially insurance costs, were much lower than for a privately owned airport like Bloomsburg. Town council president, Nathan Krauss, not wanting to see the airport shut down, officially declared the town’s interest in retaining the airport.

Then, Circa 1940’s Naval Aviator Training Program at N13. Pre July 1943 it was V5 – post July 1943 it was the V12 program.

Grumman Avenger TBF -Torpedo Bomber Fighter visiting the Bloomsburg Airport in 1948.

economic health, pumping $2 million a year into the community & helping keep the college open during a time when many colleges closed for lack of students. In 1942, Fred Vietig, an ex-Army Air Corp member becomes owner of Columbia Aircraft Services (CAS), a repair shop that was established in the 30s. CAS also offers charter flights. Vietig became a sales agent for Piper Cub and Republic Seabee Aircraft Company. World War II in Europe ended on May 7, 1945 with the surrender of Nazi Germany and the next day, May 8, 1945, the town of Bloomsburg purchased the airport from Harry Magee. During the early post-war years, Andy Perugino, a former Army Air Corp flight instructor, succeeds Howard Ailor to become the new manager at the Bloomsburg airport and continued to promote private, commercial and instrument flight training to countless civilian student pilots under the provisions of the GI Bill.

The War Years

At the same time, Harvey Andruss of Bloomsburg State Teachers College, sensing that war was on the horizon, organized the Civil Aeronautics Authority’s Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPT) as part of the school’s curriculum. Working with Magee and the college, the Town Council entered an agreement to lease the airport with the option to purchase it at a later date. Soon after, the town subleased the airport to Sam Bigony. Bigony, along with the State Teachers College, held a CPT contract to train civilians for later placement in navy and army flying programs. Over one hundred students took ground school classes at the college and flight training at the airport. With the increasing need for more officers and pilots because of World War II, the college initiated two very significant aviation courses; the Navy V-5 which trained over 500 aviation cadets between 1943 and 1944, and the Navy-12 program, which from July 1943 to October 1945, trained more than 500 officer candidates.

General Aviation Soars Again

Along with an existing Civil Air Patrol squadron, the 9548th. Volunteer Reserve Air Training Squadron was established in Bloomsburg in 1949.

In 1957, the Bloomsburg airport celebrated its twenty- fifth anniversary. The current Bloomsburg Flying Club

These programs proved vital to Bloomsburg’s war time


On average, per year, from 1966 through 1983, Columbia Aircraft Services overhauled 150 GO-480 engines used by the U.S. Army in Queen Airs, Helo Curriers, Twin Beechcraft and Bonanza D-50s. In that same 17- year period, CAS employed 22 personnel, working a two-shift day. Columbia Aircraft Services also had contracts with Lycoming and Continental Engine Companies, overhauling alternators, magnetos and carburetors, averaging 150 starters per month. Through the 1960s and 70s, CAS also had civilian contracts, overhauling engines for companies like Henry Webber Aviation, Mid-West Aircraft Company in Ohio, Dulles Aviation in Washington D.C., Ag-Rotors and Helicopter Aviators and Middlesex Helicopter Company of New Jersey. The Bloomsburg airport was also a Seaplane base until 1972. Planes would land on the Susquehanna River and tie-up at mooring alongside the concrete boat house, built by Harry Magee in 1932 that still stands today.

Air Service Ambulance, believed to have been established by Dr. Glenn Beckley.

was founded in 1964 as the Parlor City Flying Club by a group of local gentlemen who wanted to foster an interest in general aviation and make flying affordable. Those first meetings were held nearby at the old Parlor City Café and it became the club’s namesake. The original Bloomsburg Flying Club was founded in 1931.

During the Agnes Flood in 1972, 52 Army engine containers washed downstream. The farthest made it to the Chesapeake Bay, meaning it went over the Conawingo Damn. Columbia Aircraft recovered every container.

Telegram from the Parlor City Flying Club wishing Amelia Earhart well on her trans- atlantic flight. Circa June 19, 1932. Permission given by Purdue University Library

The runway was paved in 1965. Prior to that it was a multi- directional grass strip and in the 1940s the runway was lit with lanterns for night landings.By the 60s, both a need and a desire brought several aircraft owners together to construct a six bay T-hangar just east of the airport terminal building. Over the years, numerous “Bloomsburg Airport Bums,” pilots that earned their wings at the Bloomsburg airport or called N13 home, moved on to become professional pilots. Names that have become almost legendary among the ranks of N13 pilots are Bruce Beckner who flew for Northwest Airlines, Orey Garin a WWII pilot that flew for American Airlines, Jim McCutchin, a corporate pilot for Loomis Insurance Company, Lou Defacio with Continental Airlines, Dave Briner a pilot for U.S. Airways, Rich Laubach who flew for NetJet, and Dick Sharrow, an instructor who long ago lost count of the hours he has flown and the number of pilots he taught to fly.

The airport during Hurricane Agnes flood of 1972.


On the subject of floods, there have been a total of 28 floods in Bloomsburg since records started in 1850. Since the Bloomsburg airport opened in 1932 there have been 23 in excess of flood stage at 19 feet. The first one to affect the airport was March 20, 1936 at 27.8 feet. The most severe occurred on June 5, 1972 (31.2’); June 28, 2006 (28.64’) and September 9, 2011 (32.75’) respectively. Most floods were considered minor or moderate with many not affecting the airport operations.

Above: 46-year A & P veteran Mechanic Karl George in 2020.

October 2015 saw a major overhauling of the Columbia Aircraft facilities from the maintenance shops to a completely remodeled office complex. Today, Columbia Aircraft Services is a global entity, receiving and shipping engines andmagnetos from as far away as Germany, England, Italy, Norway, South and Central Americas, Africa, Thailand (Royal Air Force) and Mexico. Convenient to Bloomsburg University, an unknown number of parents over the years have utilized the airport to bring and pick up their sons and daughters who are students at the school. Over the years, the Bloomsburg Fair has also benefited from the airport as numerous high-profile entertainers took advantage of flying into town to perform at the annual event. Some of the performers included Roy Clark, Pat Benatar, Mickey Gilley, John Denver, Sawyer Brown and bands Alabama and Chicago. Other notables that have traveled to the Bloomsburg airport include former Congressman Dan Flood, Senator John Heinz and golf legend Arnold Palmer. Once again, the increased business use of the Bloomsburg airport created a demand for corporate hangar space. Addressing the need in 1987, Gary Hock, once local owner of Hock Construction Company and a corporate jet, erected “Big Blue,” a two-story business hangar equipped with an office, second story storage space, restroom and kitchen. Soon after Big Blue, Stanley Oberender built a scaled down corporate hangar for his business use Bonanza. This hangar was later acquired by Sunny Hills Farms for its plane. And, although he recently sold his RV 8, Chris Mazzitti still hangars a meticulously maintained Cessna 140 in this eastern most building at the airport. As Harry Magee imagined long ago, many companies both local and nationwide have benefited from the Bloomsburg airport. Here’s just a short list of those that have used N13 over nearly nine decades: Region Oil Company, Royal Swan Foods, Catawissa Lumber Company, JDK Management, Gary Hock Construction, Kama Corporation, Labar Trucking, Bercon Industries of Berwick, Custom Air Charters, A-1 Air Services, Rovac Pump Company, Multi Engine Charter Services, Orangeville Manufacturing, Alaska Wood Stoves Company, Laubach Trucking Company, Ray Hoffman Charter Services, Wise Potato Chips, Pennsylvania State Police, Kawneer, Geisinger Medical Center, Press Enterprise, Angel Flights & many more. 7

Columbia Aircraft Services Shines

In 1978, Mobil Oil Company selected Columbia Aircraft Service’s engine test cell to perform a required 500-hour continuous engine run for the approval of one of its engine oils used in airplanes. Columbia is only one of a handful of approved engine repair stations on the east coast that has an FAA approved aircraft engine test cell.

Above : Columbia Aircraft Crew with owner on far right, Fred Vietig.

Bill Bartsler, who started working at Columbia Aircraft Services at age 16 in 1949, took over ownership in 1979, retiring in 1991. Shirley Brobst, who started working at a Columbia Aircraft as a secretary in June of 1966, and Scott Smith, who started as an aircraft mechanic in January 1967, takes over as co-owners in 1991. With the retirement of Scott Smith in 2008, Karl George partners with Shirley Brobst as co-owner of Columbia Aircraft. Then in April 2013 George and Brobst sell their interest in CAS to Kelly Green.

The summer of 2006 saw a presentation made at the Bloomsburg airport of the most prestigious award the FAA issues to a private pilot, the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award. Donald Brink qualified having over 50 years as a certified pilot recognized for exhibiting professionalism, skill and aviation expertise piloting aircraft. In July 2007, to mark the 75th anniversary of the Bloomsburg airport, Pennsylvania Senator John Gordner and State Representative David Millard each presented from their respective governing body citations to earmark the milestone. On August 6, 2008, Joe Reilly, owner and president of WHLM radio conducted his station’s first ever live broadcast from a Cessna 172 Skyhawk. Billed as “On the air in the Air,” Joe teamed up with Golden Aviation instructor Dick Sharrow on a sightseeing tour of Bloomsburg and the immediate area from 3,000 feet. At one-point Joe proclaimed, “Bloomsburg can boast of having the Bloomsburg Fair, the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble, Bloomsburg University and a Norman Rockwell downtown, but let’s add to that list the Bloomsburg airport, rich in history and community potential.”

For many years, in addition to operating an aircraft engine repair shop, Columbia Aircraft Services also served as the FBO for the Bloomsburg airport. It was decided, however, following the 2011 flood and the renegotiation of their lease with the town, CAS wanted to focus more on their business. On October 4, 2016, BJ Teichman was named the town’s first official Airport Coordinator at N13.

BJ Teichman, Bloomsburg’s first Airport Coordinator.

After years of repeated flood damage and deterioration, the old airport terminal building was demolished and replaced with a modern building constructed well above the highest flood levels. It opened on November 21, 2016 featuring a pilot’s lounge for flight planning, simulator room, kitchenette, and conference room complete with built in projector and WiFi. Frequently the conference room is rented by businesses and community organizations. With 6 movable tables, the room can be arranged in any fashion to meet the needs of its guests. On December 5, 2018, BJ Teichman was appointed by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf to serve a three-year term on the State Aviation Advisory Board. That same year, BJ was appointed to the Board of Directors for the State Aviation Council of Pennsylvania. And, in October 2019, she joined the Columbia County Emergency Management Committee where she drafted the first emergency response plan specifically for the Bloomsburg airport. In addition to her unwavering drive to make Bloomsburg the best general aviation airport in Pennsylvania, BJ introduced everyone to Ms. Peyton, a friendly, tail-wagging Golden Retriever that quickly became known as the airport’s first official greeter. In just four short years on the job, BJ built a team of equally enthusiastic aviators and airport supporters that has shined an aviation spotlight on the Bloomsburg airport.

Prosperity at the Airport

As activity and the number of planes at N13 continued to grow, the demand for hangar space remained strong too. To answer the call, John Yohey and Dave Ruckle teamed up in the summer of 2008 to construct a 10- bay hangar with individually partitioned units complete with concrete floors throughout, electric hoist bi-fold doors, interior and exterior lighting and multiple outdoor water faucets. It also included a heated and completely finished pilot lounge. Father and son, Roland and Ryan Sharrow of R.L. Sharrow & Associates constructed the new, fully equipped facility. The long-awaited re-alignment & lengthening of the runway was completed in 2013. Going from 2,800 to 3,200 feet x 60 ft., the runway elevation was also increased to be above flood level and the headings were changed from 8 and 26 to 9 and 27.

The Recent Years

A sure sign that airport activity is thriving is the participation of its pilot population in attending fly outs and the fly-in events they host. The 2000s saw a hectic schedule of annual fly-ins at Bloomsburg. Although the griddles were well manned


Supporting the tremendous interest in learning to fly is a host of flight instructors at the Bloomsburg airport, including Rob Staib, CFII; Hans Lawrence, CFII/ MEI/ RI; Eric Cipcic, CFI and Phil Polstra CFII, recipient of the “2019 Flight Instructor of the Year Award” for the FAA Harrisburg District. In 2020, thanks to Steve Savage, of Northeastern Technology, WiFi became available in the Town’s hangars, making it possible to safely remotely engage the block engine heaters in the winter which saves on electrical costs and is better for the aircraft engines. Throughout the spring and summer of 2020, a much-needed reconstruction of the airport apron was completed.

The annual Dream Machine car show from above.

at all times, the head pancake flippers were the father/son combo of Stan and Ty Williams. Equally notable, most all fly- outs were commanded by Colonel Denny Stahl, a rank given him for the take charge skills he exhibited. 2016 brought the first Gyro-copter to N13 – 914RB owned by Ron Andress. Ron has graciously given countless pro-bono rides, always culminating in a completely satisfied customer. He averages about 300 hours of flight time annually.

As of January 2021, the Bloomsburg Flying Club is busting at the seams, maxing the number of members allowed by its by-laws with more than a half dozen on its’ waiting list. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just an indicator that aviation is alive and well at the Bloomsburg airport. Even during a period when Covid-19 has brought a lot of activities to a near screeching halt, between the two club planes, almost 700 hours were logged in 2020. While urgent air ambulance service is currently not available at N13, Angel Flights, and Pilots and Paws is alive and well in 2020. We thank all the Angel Pilots who donate their time and aircraft to this valuable mission of transporting patients for specialized medical care pro bono.

Ron Andress in his gyrocopter

Get in Touch

2017 Brought one of our first celebrity flight students, 11-year NASA veteran mechanical engineer Ms. Grier Wilt. One of Grier’s many responsibilities at NASA was preparing astronauts to safely perform their spacewalks by instructing them in the buoyancy lab. Grier completed her private pilot in 20 days! – then she went on to become the Deputy Director of NASA Space program in Star City Russia. She remains a member of the Bloomsburg Flying Club and the airport is always happy to see her when she returns home for a visit.

To learn more about the Bloomsburg Flying Club, the Bloomsburg EAA #1641 Chapter, the Bloomsburg Civil Air Patrol Squadron & the Aviation Explorer Post, visit the airport’s website:

In the End

Time is like rust, it has a tendency to fade memories, including historical facts unless someone records them and there are people passionate about keeping them alive. The Bloomsburg airport has a rich history that has created a heritage well worth preserving. It’s the hope of many today that eighty-nine years from now time has only added more memories and that they, too, will be recorded in some way they can be recalled by those with the same passion for the Bloomsburg airport then that we feel today. From the airport: We would like to acknowledge, and thank, the Press Enterprise Newspaper for granting us permission to use the newspaper photographs which appear in this History of the Bloomsburg airport. We would also like to thank the Enterprise’s many skilled photographers and talented journalists who contributed to these photos and articles. 9

Above, Grier, boarding NASA jet for Russia


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​Surrounded by posters and other informational resources on a large wall of a rural New York laboratory, a homemade 3-inch-square framed cross-stitch suggests that hellbenders are simply “less furry kittens.” It is a simple metaphor suggesting a not- so-simple truth. Perhaps if hellbenders were furry and purred for attention, then maybe their dire situation as a species would garner more headlines, efforts for advocacy and the necessary changes to restore their habitat and save our state’s largest amphibian from impending doom. “In 15 years of studying the hellbender, we had one major population within the greater watershed disappear virtually before our eyes with really no understanding of why that happened,” said Dr. Peter Petokas, a research associate with the Clean Water Institute at Lycoming College, during an April interview on the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Podcast. “And then another population was wiped out by a sodium hydroxide spill back in 2006 when a rail car overturned next to a tributary.” Petokas also estimated that 95 percent of the species’ habitat in the Susquehanna watershed no longer exists. Hellbenders require clean, cool water with large rock structures that aren’t impacted by excessive sedimentation/erosion issues. They also respirate directly through their

skin, so they are highly susceptible to contaminants that enter the water. That vulnerability provides an important litmus test for water quality. “It’s sort of like the canary in the coal mine, but for water quality,” said Petokas during his podcast episode. “They prefer fairly large streams with clean water that have a stable food chain and an abundance of crayfish. They require waterways with large rocks – like rocks the size of cars – and those rocks must be kept clean. Fine sediment in the waterway can bury those rocks. Habitat is critical for this creature, and if it is present, it is an indicator of clean water conditions.” In addition, the Eastern hellbender is extremely unique. It is the largest amphibian within our country, ranging upwards of two feet in length – the

next largest amphibian, the mudpuppy, is lucky to reach 10-12 inches. The hellbender is also significant because its closest living relatives are the world’s two largest salamander species – both found only in Asia. Despite all this, most people know very little about the species. Based on looks – and unfortunate nicknames such as snot otter, mud devil, Allegheny alligator and old lasagna sides – alone, rallying resources for a rescue effort may not seem like a priority. Hellbenders are blotchy brown in coloration, with some darker splotching scattered throughout. They look fairly flat and wide, partially due to the excess wrinkly skin along the sides that resembles the edges of lasagna noodles.


Photos, Video & Article by John Zaktansky, Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association stern Hellbender

While all of this helps camouflage the hellbender in its natural habitat along rocky waterway floors, the features don’t help its less-than-photogenic appearance. In a highly visual society where cute photos and videos on TV and the internet spark donations for panda or koala rescue efforts overseas – or more locally to those helping abused and abandoned kittens and puppies – the hellbender’s situation goes mostly unnoticed. Fortunately, Petokas and his team of volunteers are working to reverse the species’ downward spiral. “I think they deserve – and have the right – to continue to exist,” he said recently as 124 juvenile hellbenders – raised in conjunction with the Bronx Zoo and a small lab in lower New York state – were released into a nearby stream that had been cultivated into the perfect hellbender habitat. On behalf of the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association, I was honored to be invited to participate in the process. The lab – located adjacent to a former golf course that has been recycled into a natural wetland oasis – featured rows of well-maintained tanks fitted with PVC pipe structures and stones that provided shelter that would mimic manmade hellbender huts and more natural features that the juvenile hellbenders

endangered designation from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

would inhabit once released.

As the hellbenders were processed for transport –each catalogued in a detailed log based on an RFID PIT tag that will help the teammonitor survival and living patterns – I helped weigh each one by carefully placing it in a small bucket on a scale. Being able to handle such unique creatures was incredible – I immediately realized that these juvenile hellbenders were equal parts feisty and fragile. It was obvious how well-raised they were – showing considerable growth since their last weigh-ins, and they were really active. Smooth, somewhat slimy and strikingly delicate, it was impossible not to connect with their plight and want to do more to raise awareness and rouse assistance for such a well-organized, scientifically focused and groundbreaking pilot project that realistically could help reintroduce the species to other sections of the Susquehanna watershed if the right resources become available. Along those lines, the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association continues its efforts – in conjunction with the Center for Biological Diversity, Waterkeeper Alliance, Waterkeepers Chesapeake and Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association – to push for enhanced protections for the Eastern hellbender via a threatened or

We also will continue to help amplify educational efforts about the species via Petokas, his team and others who share a passion for the hellbender. He can be contacted via email at You can follow along with all our hellbender-related stories, programs and efforts to fight for protections via a newly created hellbender page on our website: www.middlesusquehannariverkeeper. org/hellbenders1.html. Note: This is the second in a two-part package covering a recent hellbender release as part of a reintroduction pilot program. The first element, a feature story and photo gallery, can be accessed here:​



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Tour a real coal mine and take a ride on an old- fashioned steam locomotive. Both tours are guided. Open April - October Tour a real coal mine and take a ride on an old- fashioned steam locomotive. Both tours are gui ed. Open April - October 19th & Oak Streets Ashland, PA 17921 570-875-3850 Tour a real coal mine and take a ride on an old- fashioned steam locomotive. Both tours are guided. Open April - October VISIT US ON Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine 19th & Oak Streets As land, PA 17921 570-875-3850


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shop after your tour & be sure to take home a box of original Coal Candy!


It’s an amazing feeling when your childhood best friend walks into your office and surprises you with a completely unannounced visit. I haven’t seen or talked to Hez for over 20 years, but the same old familiarity is still there. It seems like time stands still and there is so much to catch up on! After many heartfelt hugs, my childhood bestie told me of how he met his wife, Carol, and where they got married. This is the story of Hez and Carol. After high school, Hez and I both joined the Air Force. He was sent to Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota and spent his entire enlistment there. After separating from service years later, he decided to call North Dakota home and settled into a good life for himself. Hez met Carol at the North Dakota State Fair in July 2005. Carol was attending a concert there and Hez was working security. After dating for some time, they got engaged in 2009. That summer they came back to Pennsylvania to visit Hez’s parents in Danville. He took Carol out for a drive to see the area where he grew up and took her across a covered bridge. Carol was fascinated and didn’t know that covered bridges still existed. As they did more sightseeing, Hez took Carol to see the famous Twin Covered Bridges! Carol said “it was so beautiful and tranquil there! The sun was shining bright and there were men fly fishing on the fast- moving creek below!” She told Hez, “I wish we could get married here!” Several months passed and plans were made as to where and when they would get married. Carol remembered how she wanted to get married at those Twin Bridges in Columbia County and Hez was happy to oblige her. After several phone calls and some paperwork, on July 1, 2010, Hez and Carol became husband and wife on the Twin Covered Bridges. Carol said later “it was absolutely beautiful!” Hez and Carol traveled over 1,500 miles just to get married on our Twin Covered Bridges. In recent years, many other couples have utilized our covered bridges for their weddings. Some families have held their reunions on the covered bridges. Graduation and prom pictures are taken there. Showers and parties of all types, car clubs, legion groups, and scouts all have used the bridges as their gathering place. For many, the covered bridges have become a focal point for staying in touch with those we care about, exploring local history, and enjoying the great outdoors. And for some, the covered bridges have created lasting memories that will be treasured for a lifetime.

Above and below: Hez & Carol’s wedding in July, 2010 on the historic Twin Covered Bridges. They traveled all the way from North Dakota!

Linda Sones is the Member Liaison for the Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau as well as an active member of the Columbia County Covered Bridge Association. Each quarter, Linda will share a story or information about the area’s historic covered bridges.



The Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau is pleased to announce a brand new mobile passport initiative featuring the historic covered bridges of Columbia & Montour Counties. The passport program is free to sign up and encourages both visitors from outside the region and locals alike to get out and experience the area’s 25 covered bridges. Once signed up, program participants will be emailed a customized link that will grant them access to the passport dashboard. No mobile app or download is needed; the program operates in a mobile friendly web-based platform. The passport program was created to encourage a continued appreciation of the area’s wooden treasures. “When considering we have one-eighth of Pennsylvania’s remaining covered bridges right here in our two county region, it’s pretty impressive”, remarked Shane Kiefer, Director of Marketing for the Columbia- Montour Visitors Bureau. “People certainly will think of going to Lancaster County to see Pennsylvania covered bridges, but with twenty-five bridges in our area, we have the third-most in the United States, just slightly behind Lancaster County and Parke County, Indiana.” Coveredbridges are symbols of simpler days, andof quiet time spent in the countryside. Sometimes known as “kissing bridges”, covered bridges were often a location for courting couples to meet. Many adults who grew up near a covered bridge will also fondly recall memories of days spent fishing under the bridge’s wooden planks, or long summer days with their childhood friends playing in the stream. “These bridges are quite simply a fond memory for many people, and we wanted to remind everyone of just how special it is to have so many preserved bridges in our backyard,” Kiefer said. Finding a fond memory on the journey isn’t the only benefit of completing the new passport trail’s check-in

stops, however; travelers who score at least 13 check-ins will bemailed a free embroidered patch commemorating their journey in the counties. And for those enterprising users, a completed passport with 25 check-ins will get them an entry into a year-end grand prize drawing for a $750 gift card to the Inn, Farmhouse, & Brewing Company at Turkey Hill in Bloomsburg. Another added benefit will be the knowledge that participants’ visits will be counting toward continued preservation of the bridges. After a milestone goal is hit with check-ins, the Visitors Bureau plans to coordinate a $50,000 donation to the Columbia County Covered Bridge Association in 2022 to make significant restorations on the Stillwater Covered Bridge. To begin a journey using the new passport, interested participants should visit: to find more details about the new passport, see which bridges are on the trail, and get signed up. After receiving the email, travelers can begin their adventure to the various covered bridges throughout the counties. Once nearby one of the included bridges, users will select that bridge from the dashboard menu


and click a “Check-In” button to receive check-in credit for visiting the bridge. The passport operates using GPS geolocation services, so users can only receive credit for checking in when they are within range of the bridge. Kiefer also noted the passport will provide historic details and facts about each of the bridges for travelers to actively learn along the way. “This is not only a fantastic educational opportunity for families young and old, but it is also a great pandemic activity for those looking to avoid crowds – the beauty is that it can just be you and your family in the car for an old-fashioned road trip if you’d like.” With the area’s rural beauty, cellular service may be limited or not available for some of the area’s bridges. If participants are unable to get enough service at one or more of the bridges to be able to activate the check in button, they are asked to simply take a photo of the bridge with their phone. Once back home, or in an area with adequate service, they may email photo(s) as verification to a passport support email (provided in the dashboard). Visits will be verified and manually checked in within one week.

Tho se looking to visit the covered bridges during the height of fall foliage season will be just in time – peak colors for 2021 are expected the weeks of October 18th and 25th in Columbia & Montour Counties. For more information about the Columbia-Montour region, and other things to see and do in the area while visiting the historic covered bridges, please visit or contact the Bloomsburg Welcome Center at 570-784-8279.

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Dine In • Take Out • Catering Westovers Country Grill creates delicious, good ole’ fashion home cooking in a nostalgic country setting. From comfort food like BBQ to delicious steaks and pasta, you’ll love every bite. We even make homemade desserts! Stop by anytime, especially if you’re on your way to nearby Ricketts Glen.

Dine inside or relax outside on our all weather outdoor deck/pavilion. It’s also the perfect place to have your next party, event, or business gathering.

4438 Red Rock Rd. Benton PA 17814 570-925-0330 Open at 11am Tuesday-Friday 8am Saturday-Sunday

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On Dasher, On Dancer! Visiting the Spruce Run Farm Reindeer by CMVB Staff, Cassandra & David Hoover

In the northwest corner of Columbia County, Penn- sylvania, nestled amongst State Game Lands, you will find something unexpected. Something surpris- ing. Perhaps even something magical and mystical -- a tiny little farm that is home to an iconic vision of Christmas. What will you find there? Santa’s Reindeer! If you were to ask owners David & Cassandra Hoover, they would tell you that Spruce Run Farm Reindeer is one of the best kept secrets in Columbia County. But don’t let that fool you - the amount of people with whom they seasonally share “Reindeer Magic” is extraordinary. With a traveling schedule spanning early November to just before Christmas that covers New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and everywhere in between, the miles of smiles canhardly bemeasured. “We truly enjoy the reindeer andof- fering educational tidbits about them. But mostly, we enjoy the magic the reindeer share all on their own, thus #Rein- deerMagic,” shared Cassandra. “Our seasonal traveling schedule allows us to enjoymany tree lightings, festivals and community events as well as corporate and private events. At the same time, we’re able to work with photographers to coordinate family Christmas photos for Christmas cards.” Outside of their seasonal travels in November and Decem- ber, you will find the reindeer out and about in July cel- ebrating “Christmas in July” with several parade locations and a long standing date at the Lycoming County Fair, just a short drive from the farm. The farm has actually been a part

of the July Fair for over 35 years. It all started with petting and pictures with the whitetail fawns that were previously part of the farm. Since transitioning to the herd of reindeer in 2015, the farm now visits the fair annually to offer an educational reindeer visit under the Sportsman’s Pavilion.

Santa visits his reindeer to see how they’re progressing!


practice take-offs and landings, which are very import- ant skills for reindeer to have in order to carry out their Christmas deliveries! He will also practice his “click- ing” for when he lands on the roof tops. Topper will be the tiniest reindeer at the farm when you visit this year.

The Hoovers have their fingers crossed that they will be welcoming more tiny reindeer. As many as four new babies are expected to be born in the spring. If you’d like to keep an eye on all of the exciting new happenings on the farm, you can followSpruce Run Farmon both Face- book: and Instagram: More information on visiting Spruce Run Farm can also be found at, where you can reserve your visit through the ‘Winter Reindeer Farm Tour” portal. We look forward to your visit!

Although not all of the famous reindeer visit and train at the rural Columbia County farm, you will recognize some of the reindeer names (Prancer, Dancer, Cu- pid, Vixen) when you visit. Farm visits are a new ad- dition this year. The Hoovers found that despite their travels, they were still not able to reach everyone who wanted to see the reindeer. To expand reindeer visiting options, they decided to open the farm to visitors the week of, and the week after, Christmas. “We are always excited to share the reindeer with others as they are such a magical creature. We love to watch how their Reindeer Magic brings out smiles and sense of wonder in everyone they meet. We aren’t sure if it is more fun to watch the little children or the “children” at heart when they first meet the reindeer!” During your farm visit, you’ll learn that reindeer are ac- tually a domestic animal, and have been for thousands of years. You will also learn all about antlers –when they grow, who drops antlers first and last, etc. You’ll also learn about the “special sound” that reindeer make and why it is important. You will have an opportunity to also meet the reindeer and possibly offer them treats. And you are definitely going to want to bring your cameras for pictureswith the reindeer! Thereare several locations set up for memorable photos of your visit at the farm. This year a new addition arrived on September 27th to the farm to complete his reindeer training. “Topper” is a four and a half month old, male reindeer. He is a sweet little fellow and is fitting in nicely with the rest of the res- ident reindeer. Topper, like the rest of the reindeer, will

Several of the other fuzzy farm inhabitants will be waiting to greet you as well!


Ghouls Legends The Susquehanna Greenway is a landscape full of opportuni- ties not only for hiking, biking, and paddling, but also for rich cultural and historic treasures, some of which have ghostly pasts. As Halloween approaches, now’s the time to brush up on your Greenway ghouls and legends. So, grab your mon- ster repellent and get ready to learn all about the spooky specters of the Susquehanna Greenway! kettle creek monster / west branch dugong / susquehanna seal was publicized by outdoor guide and writer Ken Maurer of Sunbury’s The Daily Item. Susquehanna GREENWAY & by Alana jajko

A friend of Maurer’s who had also seen the creature de- scribed it as a small submarine about to surface. On Maurer’s own sighting, he says, “It pushed a wake that made waves that lapped up on the shoreline. At about 50 yards, it sank out of sight. Creepy. Over the next year or two, I saw it sev- eral times and it always sank out of sight before it got close enough to be seen clearly.”Upon being asked during a panel discussion about his most “mysterious sighting” while in the wild, Maurer recalled a large creature that he saw swimming in the Susquehanna River. The account received mixed reactions, some questioning the reporter’s encounters, others coming forward with similar sightings in the area. Has the Susquehanna Seal of Clinton County relocated to new waters? One thing is for sure, the Susquehanna Mystery Thing would be a spooky sight to see from a kayak in the Greenway waters of Northumberland County.

A creature with many names, this elusive legend has been said to lurk in the waters of the Susque- hanna River near Lock Haven in Clinton County. The Kettle Creek Monster, West Branch Dugong, or Susquehanna Seal is a marine creature that dates back over a century.


An article in the Daily Democrat from February 27, 1897, de- scribes the travels of a creature that existed before the valley was settled, making its way up the river and settling in the area between present-day Lock Haven and Kettle Creek. It is de- tailed as a “marine animal or sea monster” with the “the bulk of an ox or hippopotamus.” The monster was “not the form or image of anything else on earth” and was said to make a horrible howling and thrashing at night. It was often blamed for the spilling or capsizing of lumber rafts at the time. Reports of the creature became less and less frequent in the later 1800s, many believing it to have died or escaped to the ocean through underground caverns. Sea lion, shark, whale, or some prehistoric dinosaur—the true identity of the creature remains a mystery. Is the Kettle Creek Monster / West Branch Dugong / Susquehanna Seal really gone? Tread carefully next time you paddle your way through this section of the Greenway.

The Hemlock forests of northern Pennsylvania are said to be home to a sad mythical creature known as the Squonk. Pig- like with a saggy skin covered in warts and blemishes, the Squonk spends much of its life weeping. It is very elusive, preferring to hide out of sight in the hemlock woods; howev- er, the legend says that if you do happen to catch a Squonk, it won’t be long before you find yourself with a puddle of tears in place of the beast.

Image: Susquehanna Seal by Taylor Garner; PA Wilds

susquehanna ’ s mystery thing Another marine mystery is said to lurk in Susquehanna waters near the river’s confluence in Northumberland County. Seen as recently as the 2000s, the Susquehanna’s Mystery Thing

Image: Squonk rendering from Mysterious Universe


The story of this strange creature is thought to have its roots in Pennsylvania’s lumber history. The only account of a person catching a Squonk comes from the book Fear- some Creatures of the Lumberwoods, a fantasy field guide published in 1910 by William T. Cox. In it, a man captures a Squonk in a sack only to feel the sack becoming lighter and lighter as he carries it home. Upon opening the sack, he finds nothing left but a wet spot. The northern reaches of the Greenway overlap with Squonk territory. Listen carefully for its sad sniffles and think twice before you step in any puddles. It might have been a Squonk!

According to legend, escaped slaves captured a Native American brave and maiden, and killed the man. The woman was able to flee, but, stricken by grief, drowned herself in the quicksand. Since that fateful day, she would appear over the swamp in a glowing orb. Her spirit would even help you if you went to the swamp and asked, and thus it became known as the Swamp Angel. The most famous account of the Swamp Angel originates with a man named Isaac Gaines, aka “Loop Hill Ike,” a re- al-life folk hero and legendary witch and monster hunter during his era. It is said that he called upon the aid of the spirit to break a witch’s curse, summoning her by burning a plant called foxfire. The Swamp Angel appeared with just the right advice and the day was saved. Next time you find yourself in a pickle, just make your way along the West Branch section of the Greenway to Clinton County, and see if the Swamp Angel can help you out!

swamp angel

Did you know the swamps of northern Clinton County once contained quicksand? It’s said that a strange glowing fireball known as the Swamp Angel still frequents those wetlands.




Our next Greenway legend is another Clinton County na- tive, and even holds the title as the “Official Monster of Clinton County.”

Travel all the way down the Greenway to the Lancaster County town of Columbia and you’ll hear all about the legend of the Albatwich, a mini apple-munching Sasquatch. Described as a 4-foot-tall hairy ape-man fond of apples, the Albatwitch is thought to live around the Susquehanna River, most notably in the Chickies Rock area. The name “Albatwitch” is thought to derive from a Pennsylvania Dutch-English com- pound word meaning “apple-snitch” after the creature’s habit of stealing apples from picnic baskets or throwing the fruit at people while sitting in trees. Evidence of these mischievous beings has even been found in local Native American culture. Susquehannock Indians report- edly painted images that match the description of these crea- tures on their war shields, and the Algonquin also told of small hairy hominid creatures, which they called Megumoowesoos.

Most simply described as a mishmash of animals, the Gi- woggle was called upon by local witches to wreak hav- oc and mayhem on farmers who offended them. It was about six feet tall, shaped like a wolf, and stood on its back legs. Instead of front paws, it had bird claws, and instead of back feet, it had horse hooves, which confused trackers try- ing to follow it. The local hero “Loop Hill Ike” also reappears with this legend, tasked with hunting down witches, ghosts, and monsters. To- day you can visit his grave inscribed with his real name “Isaac Gaines” at Furst-McGonigal Cemetery in Clearfield County. This being said, keep your eyes open for the Giwoggle as you explore the trails and communities of the Greenway in Clinton County. “Loop Hill Ike” isn’t around to be the hero these days!

Image: Giwoggle drawing from PA Wilds

water witch

A mythical being known to frequent European folklore, a Water Witch was said to have power over the wind and weather, often appearing to sailors and others in the seafaring trade. Penn- sylvania’s Water Witch is a lesser known entity with her own unique history and abilities. According to Henry Shoemaker’s Susquehanna Legends, “They say, that is the old mountaineers, that the Water Witch was an Indian girl who suddenly changed her mind towards her lov- er. Having influence with the Gods, the deserted one had her made into unchanging water; and in her helpless state, she mocks the petty aspirations of mankind.” Rather than controlling the elements, this Water Witch, “be- ing the symbol of something ever flowing” knows a person’s destiny. She emerges as if dreamlike to reveal that destiny, but beware; her prophecies are often mocking or even withheld completely, leaving the witness wanting and dispirited. She is said to have appeared near Rattlesnake Run in the re- mote wilderness of the Nature Conservancy West Branch For- est Preserve. If you journey to this section of the Greenway in search of the Water Witch, think twice. You may not get the fortune you hoped for!

Image: A depiction of an albatwitch created by York County artist and author Timothy Renner

Thought to live mostly in the trees, Albatwitches prefer to keep to the shadows, and are said to make their presence known by a sound like a cracking whip (perhaps branch-breaking). If you set out on a picnic in the Greenway reaches of York or Lancaster Counties, hold on to your apples… or maybe opt for a banana!

Know of any other Greenway ghouls and legends? Send us an email with your story:

About the Author: Alana Jajko is the Director of Communications and Outreach for the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership. Her work is focused on promoting trails and communities within our vibrant and connected Susquehanna Greenway, so that people like you can enjoy opportunities to engage with the outdoors. Alana can be reached at

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