Bear Creek Preserve – Shades Creek Parcel

Shades Creek

Shades Creek

Why hasn’t anyone told me about this place before?

On a beautiful, warm, sunny Spring day I scoured my maps for a place to hike.  I wanted someplace new.  When my maps failed to reveal a destination, I turned to the trusty internet.  My fingertips stumbled across this preserve, and I knew I found the place I was hoping to find.

Ironically, I was here a few years ago, but at the separate Dry Land Hill Parcel.  The hiking there wasn’t too exciting.  I’m guessing the Shades Creek Parcel’s trails weren’t completed at the time.

Both parcels make up the impressive Bear Creek Preserve, owned by the Natural Lands Trust.  The preserve covers over 3,400 acres and was a generous gift from the Haas family.  Thanks to them, this gem is open to the public and will preserve this gorgeous landscape for generations to come.  What is even more impressive is that the Bear Creek Preserve is a part of a system of state forests, state game lands, state parks, conservation easements, and other preserves that protect over 150,000 acres!

We reached the trailhead off of PA 115 and followed the red trail through a forest of hardwoods, laurel, and pine.  Next was the grey trail that descended to Shades Creek and crossed it via a footbridge.  The trail along the creek was beautiful as it tunneled through rhododendron jungles above the creek filled with rapids and pools.  The trail crossed a side stream with its own waterfall and some giant old growth hemlock.

Soon we reached another falls on a tributary across Shades Creek, nearly concealed by rhododendron.  This place would be breathtaking when the rhododendron blooms in July.

The forests were truly scenic and serene with a combination of hemlock, pine, laurel, and rhododendron.  Carpets of moss covered wet areas.  The trail dropped closer to the creek which reminded me of West Virginia’s famed Otter Creek.  There were more rapids and pools over the bedrock.  The creek tumbled over waterslides and entered a small gorge with a deep pool.  Absolutely beautiful.  The trail then entered a majestic forest with some old growth white pine.

The grey trail became a little harder to follow with some infrequent blazes, but we found our way.  The sublime scenery continued with more views of the creek.  The trail returned to the rhododendrons along sloping bedrock rapids in the creek.  The blazes stopped and the trail appeared to cross the creek, but it was too high for us.  Just downstream was a powerful five foot falls into a deep pool.  We retraced our steps.

I was very impressed by this hike and I plan to return soon to explore the remaining trails.  Right now, there are over 20 miles of trails, and more are planned.  Some of the blazes were infrequent and crossing Shades Creek in high water would be dangerous.  Trail junctures did not appear to have signs.

This preserve is one you can’t miss.  Be sure to put it on your hiking list.   Another gem in Northeast PA.

Maps and information about the preserve.

More pictures.

A Hike in the Woods – Loyalsock State Forest (South)

Big pine, bright sunshine

Big pine, bright sunshine

Sunday promised crystal clear skies and not-too-cold temperatures.  Naturally, it was time to go hiking.

I decided to check out the southern Loyalsock State Forest, where I haven’t spent much time.  We parked off of Dunwoody Road with the goal to reach Falls Trail as indicated on the most recent Loyalsock State Forest map.

We hiked up side-hill on the southern exposure of the mountain, where there was no snow.  The sun was incredibly bright and I soon became too warm.  We reached the top to encounter snow along a deep spruce forest.  The trail passed old fields; the snow resonated with blistering sunlight.

The trail descended to Hessler Branch.  The scenery was superb.  Deep hemlock forests covered the glen, with some large white pine.  The hemlocks were healthy, deep and green.  The clear stream babbled through the forest.  We climbed out of the stream valley through mountain laurel and more pine.  The snow became soft in the bright sun; our feet sunk into it.

The descent to Grandad Run featured a deeper and darker hemlock forest and another pristine stream.  A beautiful spot.  A side trail descended the valley.  The forests were gorgeous and diverse.

In typical fashion, we hiked over another ridge with more laurel, and teaberry.  The Loyalsock Trail turned left; the Little Grandad Run Trail went right.  We proceeded straight over another rolling ridge followed by a steady descent.  The trail passed a massive oak tree.  The trail turned right at the bottom of a small drainage, and proceeded down Falls Run; this was the Falls Trail.  We took another break.  The forest was still and serene as we warmed ourselves in the sunshine.  While the ground was white, the forests were layers of green with laurel, pine, and hemlock.

The Falls Trail was enjoyable as it descended a secluded glen with more hemlock and meandering bear tracks.  The small creek had cascades and a nice campsite, but no waterfalls.  We reached private property; maybe the supposed waterfalls were further down the creek.

We hiked out to Dunwoody Road, passing a spring tumbling into a barrel, covered in moss.  The road soon brought us back to the car, completing a nice hike in this corner of the state forest.

More pictures.

White Brook Falls and Bartlett Mountain Balds- SGL 57

White Brook Falls

White Brook Falls

I’m back!

I’ve been very lazy this winter.  I’d think about hiking, look at the snow, and then I’d just return to the couch.  I couldn’t find the motivation to trudge for miles through the snow.

Well, that changed this past weekend.  I pulled myself from the couch, forced boots on my feet, threw myself into my car, and drove to SGL 57.  Ryan joined me for this hike.

But I was concerned.  The last time I went to the balds, it was a year ago.  I battled over 2 feet of powder that my snowshoes were helpless against.  I was afraid of those same conditions.  Ryan announced he wasn’t going to bring snowshoes, and I decided to risk it and do the same.

The goal of this hike was to explore the base of the cliffs and overhangs along the rim of the balds.  We hiked up to graceful White Brook Falls in a glen with ice and snow.  The weather was better than forecasted, with plenty of sun and no snow showers.  The climb up the grade above White Brook followed.  The snow was compacted and dense, making it easy to walk on it without snowshoes.  At first, I felt slow and lethargic.  As I climbed, I found my lungs and legs, feeling stronger as I reached the top.

The top had more snow, but it was still frozen and thick.  I was thankful that I didn’t bring snowshoes.  The conditions were ideal- bright sunshine, deep blue skies, crisp temperatures.

We reached the cliffs and overhangs.  The deep snow made it easier to traverse the rugged, rocky terrain.  All the boulders, overhangs, and crevices were fascinating.  Deep groves of spruce hid grottos and chasms of rock.  We passed an overhang with a deep cave, which appeared to be a bear cave.  Our suspicions were confirmed by massive bear tracks that meandered through the woods.

Huge bear tracks

Huge bear tracks

Even though the balds were not the goal on this hike, we couldn’t stay away.  Ryan and I scrambled up a ledge and we were immediately impressed.  I never get tired of this place.  It is wild, primeval, untamed.  Alpine-like forests covered the balds.  Brilliant sunshine reflected off of the white bedrock.  Plateaus rose in the distance.  Ryan found a bounty of red ripe teaberries.  Surprisingly, there was little snow, having been blown away.

We enjoyed the scenery, warming in the sun out of the wind.  There was no noise, just the wind.  An eagle or hawk landed in the bald behind us, a turkey vulture flew overhead.

View from the balds

View from the balds

We descended from the balds, exploring the spruce forests and cliffs.  There were several overhangs, crevices, and a frozen spring that formed a smooth mound as it flowed from a fracture in a cliff.

Ryan and I left the cliffs and headed north to another tier of ledges and boulders.  We followed some old forest roads before bushwhacking down the steep slope though mountain laurel.  There were partial views of the valley below.  We returned to White Brook and completed the hike.

More pictures.

Kayaking Nescopeck Creek

Nescopeck Creek

Nescopeck Creek

The Nescopeck Creek, also known as the “Nesky”, flows north of Hazelton, joining the Susquehanna River near Berwick.  It is beloved by whitewater paddlers due to its numerous Class II+ rapids, surf waves, and fine scenery.

My friend Rob asked me to take a group of paddlers from the York area down the creek.  It had been several months since I paddled, so I was happy to get back on the water.  We met at the put-in, to see the forest covered with fresh snow.  It was beautiful, even in March.

We made our way down the creek and bounced down the rapids.  There were several waves where we surfed briefly.  The creek began to burrow into a gorge, with cliffs, rock, outcrops, and forests of hemlock and rhododendron.  The creek is virtually undisturbed, with only a few buildings.  As we paddled, the snow began to melt, and mushy snow balls would fall from the trees onto our heads and boats.

The creek soon brought us to Eagle Rock and the Chicken Hole, a popular place to surf.  The setting is striking as a rock outcrop on the left side of the creek reaches out over the water, shaped like an eagle’s head.  The hole was beefy and retentive.  I went into the hole as the current spun me around and forced me to side surf.  I soon flipped over, but was able to roll back up.

We enjoyed the remainder of the creek and soon reached the take out.  Everyone enjoyed their time on the water.

More pictures from another paddler in the group.

Where to put-in on the creek, and where to take-out.

The Nescopeck Creek on Facebook.

Blackberry Falls- SGL 13

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Just outside of the tiny hamlet of Jamison City, a pristine mountain stream tumbles down a beautiful gorge.  Blackberry Run begins in SGL 13, gathering water on the 2,000 foot plateau, and then it becomes a waterfall wonder on its way to the valley.  I have long known that there was a waterfall on Blackberry Run, I just didn’t know how many.  It was time to see what was in that deep gorge.

Of course, it couldn’t be too easy.  Private land blocks the bottom of the gorge along the road, although the waterfalls are on the state game lands.  So I had to hike around the private land.  It was a very steep climb over slippery, loose rock and sodden leaves.  I reached a moss covered ledge with an overhang.  In the overhang was freshly excavated rock and dirt that revealed a hole into an inner chamber- an active bear den.  I hiked up further and looked at the ledge from the side, revealing the profile of a face.

The forests were veiled in mist, creating a spooky setting.  The steep climb continued until I reached a tier of cliffs with little caves and openings.  The jagged rim of the cliffs faded into the mist.

It turned out I climbed much further than I needed.  I carefully descended to Blackberry Run, and right to the falls, which were embedded in a glen.  The falls are no more than 20 feet high, but are very scenic.  Ice flows and icicles adorned a spring-slicked ledge to the right.  Below were more slides over smooth bedrock.  It was very beautiful.

I decided to hike upstream.  I’m glad I did.  The creek had several large boulders and countless cascades.  I followed an old grade under massive ash trees (big ash trees!), the largest I have ever seen.  They were well over 100 feet high and had massive trunks.

Rain began to fall, but I pushed on, crossing the crystal clear stream a few times.  My gut told me there was something more.  And there was.  I reached a gorgeous twisting waterslide that surged into an amazing swimming hole.  What a place to be on a hot summer day.  Above, the creek flowed over steps of bedrock.  I looked up to see another falls, about 15 feet tall.  It was a beautiful waterfall.  I wanted to go further, but with the rain and fading light, I decided to turn around.

Another falls on Blackberry Run

Another falls on Blackberry Run

I walked down the stream, surrounded by the beauty of the gorge.  I looked down to see someone had built a small cairn in the water.  Someone else likes it here, too.

The old grade took me above Blackberry Falls.  I dropped down to the creek  and looked upstream.  The view was stunning.  Tiers of waterfalls led up to Blackberry Falls, creating a continuous gown of white.

Stunning view looking up to Blackberry Falls

Stunning view looking up to Blackberry Falls

I climbed out of the glen and hiked around the private property.  Fog lifted in the valley below.  I reached my car, wet but happy to see another gem in the Endless Mountains.

More pictures.

****

I began at the game commission parking area east of Blackberry Run.  No trail leads to the falls on the game lands.  A steep climb (with some picky barberry bushes), and then a steep descent to the falls is required to bypass private land.   The hike is short, but the terrain is difficult.  The falls is roughly a quarter mile upstream of the game lands/private property boundary.

Location of Blackberry Run.

Where I parked.

Somer Brook Falls and High Knob Trail (SGL 57)

Ryan, Wes, and Ed at the bottom drop of Somer Brook Falls

Ryan, Wes, and Ed at the bottom drop of Somer Brook Falls

As you can tell by the posts in this blog, I spend a lot of time in SGL 57.  It is not just close and convenient, it is also one of the most unique and beautiful places in Pennsylvania.  It features vast, elevated plateaus with balds, deep spruce forests, rimrock cliffs, and hidden glens with waterfalls and bedrock cascades.

I recently learned the High Knob Trail was cleared, so I decided a hike was in order.  I last hiked the trail about 10 years ago and it was in rough shape.  I also hoped to find a series of cliffs I remembered from my last visit.

Wes, Ryan, and Ed joined me and we met up at the stone cabin.  We decided to check out Somer Brook Falls, which is a couple hundred yard east of the cabin, off the trail.  We soon reached the top of the falls which was covered in ice.  It was a beautiful sight.  The falls are between 75-100 feet tall and have a couple of drops.  We hiked to the bottom of the falls and Ryan led us on an old railroad grade.  We followed the grade and then reached Southbrook Road, where we turned left.  We walked up the road a short ways and then turned right onto another old grade, the start of the High Knob Trail.  If hiking from the stone cabin, the trail will be on your left.  The trail did not have a sign, but there was a small sign post.  The trail had faded yellow and white blazes.

The trail was easy to follow as it kept to an old forest grade.  We passed through a meadow and forests of hemlock.  Much of the forest was beech saplings and some huge cherry trees.  The trail began to head south as we wrapped around the north end of the loop.  I kept my eyes on the right, to see if there was any sign of the cliffs.  I noticed what appeared to be a drop off and some large mountain laurel bushes.  After a quick walk off the trail, we reached the rim of cliffs and boulders.  What an impressive place.  There were caves, crevices, maze of boulders, and massive overhangs.  We got a bite to eat as we enjoyed the scenery.

Massive overhang off of the High Knob Trail

Massive overhang off of the High Knob Trail

Our hike continued on the trail, which passed through four deer fences in areas that were logged.  We hiked across a meadow and soon reached a gravel road.  The trail crossed the road and soon entered a deep and beautiful spruce forest.  The emerald green was a stark contrast to the bare, gray woods.  The High Knob Trail crossed another gravel road and we made our way around the southern end of the loop.  This was once a railroad grade and there were many ties still in the trail.  The trail through here was narrower, but we were still able to follow it.  This would be a great place to hike in July due to all the blueberry bushes.

Spruce trees still accompanied the trail, but most of the forest was hardwoods.  We reached another deer fence, which we followed to the right.  The perimeter of the fence soon brought us back to Cider Run Road, which we followed back to the car.  If hiking the High Knob Trail clockwise, it can be difficult to tell where the trail begins off of Cider Run Road.   The entire loop, not including the falls or cliffs, is roughly 7 miles long.  The trail is easy with virtually no climbing.  Everyone had a great time and I’m sure it won’t take 10 more years for me to hike it again.

More pictures.

Location of the trailhead.

Location of the stone cabin.  Somer Brook Falls is located just east of the cabin, off the trail.  The High Knob Trail leaves Southbrook Road, to the left, on an old grade north of the cabin.

 

State Game Lands 57- Vistas and Caves of Flat Top

One of the views from Flat Top

One of the views from Flat Top

A few weekends ago I returned to SGL 57 and Flat Top.  I wanted to see if there was any fall color remaining at the higher elevations.  It had also been a year since I was at Flat Top, and it was time to return.

Wes joined me and we made the hike up from the White Brook parking area.  The sky was overcast.  On the hike up, we saw a bear and two or three cubs higher up the slope.  We made our way to Flat Top Vista and the clouds retreated, revealing blue skies.  Yellow and gold clung to the valley, but the higher elevations were mostly bare of color.

We bushwhacked up the plateau, reaching some cliffs and ledges.  We followed these ledges with their small caves and crevices.  Soon we reached the largest cave.  Wes went in, travelling deep into the rock and the darkness, his headlamp offering the only light.  He went a ways back and soon returned, reporting the cave continued even further.  I presumed any bear would be out feeding instead of sitting in a cave, but I still didn’t feel like entering the dark void.  Maybe some other time.

Our hike continued along the rim of cliffs and soon we were at a fascinating rock house where a narrow shelf of bedrock creates a roof over a “room”.  Another overhang was nearby.  I dropped down into the crevasse to explore the rock house and stepped on a large boulder.  The boulder wobbled with ease and I scurried off as soon as I could.  I had visions of the boulder shifting and trapping my foot.  I wasn’t quite in the mood for having my foot trapped and entertaining the thought of gnawing or amputating it free like that guy had to do with his arm in Utah.  Thankfully, I had someone with me.

We entered the rock house and it was a very scenic place.  Cushions of moss and draperies of ferns covered the rock.  A spring dripped nearby.  These rocks had been separating for eons, and will continue to do so.

Entering the rock house

Entering the rock house

From there we made our way around the rim of the plateau, exploring more of the boulders and crevices.  We pushed through the forest and soon reached the western rim and a series of cliffs and deep spruce forests that mark the beginning of several vistas of the Endless Mountains.  The views were beautiful as ridges and mountains disappeared into the Mehoopany Creek valley.  There was no sign of development, everything appeared untouched.  This place seems so wild and primeval.  The sun glistened in the deep blue sky, chilled with a constant wind.

We hiked down to the creek and took a break at a waterfall.  The hike brought us through hemlock forests and across one of the balds.  We were soon back into the hemlocks before reaching the headwaters of White Brook.  The understory in the forest still had a lot of color with various shades of yellow.  The long descent down the brook followed as the sun set across the Mehoopany Creek valley.

The northern part of SGL 57 is among the most scenic and diverse places in the entire Mid-Atlantic.  I can only hope it remains that way.

More pictures.

Part of this hike is described as Hike No. 14 in Hiking the Endless Mountains.