“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” This John Muir quote is a favorite among nature lovers because it resonates with so many people. Within the context of the story of Charlie Jaeger and Adele Vessey, it means so much more.

Charlie and Adele were each enjoying their own separate hikes about three years ago on Haycock Mountain in Haycock Township when they encountered each other along the trail. Charlie, a plant ecologist who as a child lived in Reading, and Adele, originally from West Virginia, began talking and quickly realized that their paths in life had fatefully brought them here to this spot. After a courtship and an eventual marriage proposal, they formed an even deeper appreciation for this special place.

Charlie and Adele purchased a 90-acre parcel of land, just a quarter mile from where they first met, that is located along East Sawmill Road and adjacent to state game land at Haycock Mountain. One of Charlie and Adele’s favorite discoveries on their property was that of the beautiful purple and white Galearis spectabilis flower (also known as the showy orchid, which is a native to this region). They purchased the property in November, so it wasn’t until the spring of the following year that they found the flower in abundant bloom. Charlie and Adele dubbed the property Galearis Woods after finding the flowers. Searching for the showy orchids each spring is now a favorite activity that they do together.

Galearis Woods consists mainly of woodlands, a stream, and massive diabase boulders that dominate the landscape. The couple’s main motivation for purchasing the property was to protect the land from development, but they knew that would only go so far. They chose to preserve their property to safeguard it for future generations. That is when Heritage Conservancy entered into Charlie and Adele’s story.

Working with Haycock Township, Heritage Conservancy recently placed a conservation easement on the land.

The preservation of Galearis Woods is consistent with two of the four goals of Haycock Township’s open space lan: it maintains and enhances the rural character of Haycock Township, and it protects critical natural features for the protection of the community’s residents and for the conservation of the natural environment. It was also important to secure the few privately owned lands that are located within the boundary of Nockamixon State Park. If Galearis Woods had ever been fully developed, it could have had a tremendous negative impact on the sensitive natural areas within the park.

“Certainly in Haycock Township and in Bucks County as a whole, we really treasure all the land that we’re lucky enough to preserve, and we couldn’t do it without the landowners and without all of our wonderful partners who help to make it happen,” said Laura Baird, Heritage Conservancy’s senior land conservationist.

Charlie and Adele at settlement

Along with protecting potentially rare plant life on the property, the preservation of Galearis Woods safeguards essential habitat that allows animal life to thrive. Galearis Woods supports a variety of wildlife that includes dozens of species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds that have been observed on the property. Charlie and Adele truly love these magical woodlands.

“In its pristine state, it is heartbreakingly beautiful,” says Charlie.

They want everyone to enjoy what they experience every day. Thankfully, Charlie and Adele have graciously agreed to allow a publicly accessible nature trail through a portion of their property to provide direct access to the adjacent state game land, which will provide the community with a front-row seat to the wonders of this important natural resource.

Charlie and Adele now have a new life together on a property that they have ensured will be protected in perpetuity. During that one fateful walk in nature, they certainly found far more than they set out for.