May 2009: Forbes State Forest -Mt. Davis Natural Area

Meyersdale, Pennsylvania

How long has Mt. Davis been the highest point in Pennsylvania? Well, always, of course. But it wasn’t recognized as such until 1921 when the U. S. Geological Survey established the fact that the crest of Negro Mountain is 3,213 feet above sea level. This survey officially snatched the honor of “Pennsylvania’s Roof” away from Bedford County’s Blue Knob. The slight rise in the 30-mile plateau of Negro Mountain was named for the long-time 19th century owner of the land, John Nelson Davis, rather than recognizing the heroic exploits of the unidentified black man who fought heroically during the French and Indian War and was buried on the mountain. Davis, himself was a Civil War veteran and naturalist who was said to be able to identify all the shrubs, wildflowers and plants growing in the area. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania purchased thousands of acres of land on Negro Mountain in 1929. The observation tower affording 360-degree views was constructed in 1935 (open steps may inhibit your dog from getting those views.  

As tagging state highpoints goes, Mt. Davis is unique. Scaling mountain peaks does not spring to mind. Assuming you don’t drive to the summit and take the short, flat walk to the highpoint, your dog’s approach to the top of Pennsylvania will be a hike of nearly a mile from the Mt. Davis Picnic Area on the High Point Trail. This sliver of path is essentially a straight shot through an area recovering from a destructive 1951 fire. After a gentle ascent your dog will reach the highest natural point in Pennsylvania - a rock. A network of footpaths and old logging roads surround the Natural Area in Forbes State Forest where you can cobble together canine hiking loops around Negro Mountain from seven to 10 miles.  

After a spring snowfall in 1849 several of Henry Baughman’s cows wandered away from his farm atop Negro Mountain. Baughman and two of his sons set out to track down the wandering bovines.Twelve-year old August had trouble keeping up and his father, known to be of ill-temper, struck him hard with a stick. Believing he had killed the boy, he dumped the body among a pile of deeply crevassed boulders and returned home. He bullied his other son into silence and the next day reported August missing. After an extensive search for several weeks Baughman’s suspicious behavior led to his arrest for murder. His family testified against him and he was convicted despite no trace of the body being found.He served 11 years in prison and returned to Negro Mountain to live out his life, all the while proclaiming his innocence. Years later a skull and bones were found in a nearby swamp, believed to be August Baughman and giving rise to the theory that the boy revived long enough to try to get home but perished in the swamp. Baughman Rocks can be seen near the intersection of SR 2004 and South Wolf Rock Road. 

West of town via Mt. Davis Road (SR 2004) from the US 219 Bypass.