An Unnamed Falls, SGL 57



On a cool, misty day, I returned to SGL 57.  I hiked up along an unnamed creek, located just north of Scouten Brook.  I had been there a few years before.  At first, the creek was dry.  But as I hiked up the streambed, slipping on rocks, or having a foot disappear into piles of sodden leaves, water appeared.  The small creek linked clear pools with water slides and small cascades over bedrock clothed in moss.

The creek carved a deep glen, surrounded by steep slopes.  I followed an old logging grade as it took me above an eight foot falls.  I continued upstream, and soon a beautiful fifteen foot falls came into view, surrounded by fractured cliffs dripping with springs.  The falls slid into a clear pool lined with leaves.

I continued to see more waterslides, but there were no more waterfalls.  I looked through the bare forest to the slope above me, white birch trees stood like skeletons among the pine trees.  It reminded me of the Adirondack forests I had seen a few weeks before.  The small stream tumbled down the glen below.

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Location of the unnamed creek.







Pine Creek Gorge


Pine Creek Gorge from Barbour Rock



The Pine Creek Gorge is one of the state’s most scenic areas.  Recently, my niece expressed interest to see the gorge, otherwise known as the “PA Grand Canyon”.  I was happy to show her.  So, with the kids in the car, we headed down Route 6 and through the beautiful town of Wellsboro to the canyon.   However, I made it clear there would be some off-trail exploring to find a hidden waterfall.

The Pine Creek Gorge was formed by glacial meltwater.  Pine Creek used to flow to the northeast, towards Cowanesque.  However, glaciers blocked the creek, which spilled down a drainage to the south, carving the canyon.  Today, the canyon is almost 50 miles long, and 1,500 feet deep at its deepest point.  At Leonard Harrison and Colton Point State Parks, the canyon is 800 feet deep.  It is designated as a National Natural Landmark, and Pine Creek was one of the original rivers in the country to be considered for National Wild and Scenic status.


Little Fourmile Run


We reached the rim at Leonard Harrison State Park.  A frigid wind blew across the canyon.  The leaves had long fallen from the trees, giving the forests a purplish hue, as the green white pine trees offered a nice contrast in color.  Everyone loved the views, but the cold wind prohibited us from lingering.  We soon escaped into the woods and down the Turkey Path to see some waterfalls.

While the Pine Creek Gorge is beautiful in its own right, its true highlight are all its sidestreams and tributaries which have carved into the canyon walls, creating glens and dozens of waterfalls.  Many of these secret glens are rarely seen, and they harbor waterfalls of impressive height and number.  I once bushwhacked up the gorge of Fourmile Run to see beautiful waterfalls encased by ledges and cliffs; it was as beautiful as the Pine Creek Gorge itself.  These glens have carpets of moss, large pine and hemlocks, smooth waterslides and crystal clear pools.


Little Fourmile Run, Leonard Harrison State Park


We walked down the Turkey Path to see its waterfalls along Little Fourmile Run.  Thanks to recent rains, the falls had a lot of water, and their roar filled the glen.   We sat along Pine Creek at the bottom of the gorge, to take a break and eat a snack.  The next stop was to find Owassee Slide Falls.  We drove down Owassee Road, driving through mud puddles at my nephew’s insistence.  After  turning around, we found Owassee Slide Run and began our bushwhack.  At first, the concept of bushwhacking was foreign to the kids but they soon realized a trail was not required to explore as we climbed up the steep glen.  The falls soon came into view, and they were impressive, about 70 feet tall.  The kids had fun exploring the falls and hopping across the creek.  Next we hiked to views of the canyon from Barbour Rock and Colton Point.  The clouds lifted as the  sunlight angled into the gorge, casting Pine Creek into shade, leaving it a silver ribbon.

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Giant Mountain Wilderness – Adirondacks


View from Giant Mountain

A friend and I recently backpacked 16 miles through the Giant Mountain Wilderness in the Adirondacks.  It had been a year since hiking in the High Peaks, and it was time to return.  The plan was to summit two high peaks- Giant Mountain and Rocky Ridge Peak.  After a late start, we made our way up along cascading streams, between ledges, and under a bare forest.  We had some great views from Owls Head, but the wind was frigid.  We continued through the forests as the mountains rose around us, glowing in the setting sun.  The trail reached the top of an eroded bank, above a stream.  We were treated to great views of the mountains, and forests filled with the stark white trunks of birch trees; it was beautiful.  The trail entered a spruce forest and we reached a side trail to the shelter.  Along the way we saw a semi-tame snowshoe hare that was molting into white, it was the first time I had ever seen one.  The legs on the hare were long and powerful, what an impressive animal.

The shelter wasn’t the greatest, but was fine for a night.  All the wood was damp, so we didn’t have a fire.  We could feel the cold settling between the mountains and we were soon in our bags for a very early night.  A snow shower passed, coating everything white.
We woke up and began a steep climb up Giant.  It was a winter wonderland with snow dusted spruce and moss covering the tree trunks.  The woods were aromatic.  The climb was tough due to the sheen of ice on the rocks.  We made it to the wind blasted summit in the clouds as rime ice covered the stunted trees.  The descent off of Giant was tough, but manageable.  Next was the climb up Rocky Ridge Peak.  The clouds broke to reveal awesome views, but the summit was very windy; this summit had an alpine feel to it.  The descent off of Rocky Ridge was awesome, it was along an exposed ridge with non-stop views. Layers of endless ridges and peaks spread out to the south.  Below sat Mary Louise Pond, nestled in a valley high on the ridge.  We could see the length of Vermont, into Massachusetts.  Lake Champlain was blue in the valley below and the Green Mountains rose to the east.  The summit of Giant was white, shrouded with ice.  We reached beautiful Mary Louise Pond and continued the challenging roller-coaster descent with non-stop views under bright blue skies.  This is considered one of the finest ridge walks in the Adirondacks due to all the views, but it was tough with several climbs along the way, followed by steep descents. We finally reached the bottom and my car.  Despite the modest length, this was a tough hike, but the scenery was superb.  I was happy to summit two more High Peaks.

View of the High Peaks

The Adirondacks are one of my favorite places to hike, offering vast wilderness, alpine peaks, northern woodlands, and endless lakes, ponds, rivers, and wetlands.  Gorges and waterfalls hide between the mountains.   The northern woodlands reveal ancient spruce, cedar, and birch- creating a tapestry that exists nowhere else.
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Pennsylvania Elk

Bull elk

Bull elk

After a bite to eat in the scenic town of Ridgway, we headed to Benezette to see the wild elk herds.  These elk are probably one of the biggest tourist attractions in northwest Pennsylvania, attracting people from around the world.  We stopped by the impressive Elk Country Visitor Center, but there were no elk to be seen.  Undeterred, we drove to nearby Winslow Hill, which often has elk.  As luck would have it, a herd of cows were grazing in a field; across the road was a lone bull, lying in a meadow.  Winslow Hill not only has elk, but also some very nice views.  In the distance, rows of tamarack had turned into a golden yellow.  The sun pierced through an electric blue sky and illuminated the high cirrus clouds with a blinding white.  Another quick drive down the road revealed another field with a herd and two bulls.

Elk are such impressive, and huge, creatures.  I was once fortunate enough to see elk in the wilderness, while hiking the Quehanna Trail.  They were massive as they walked through the woods, stepping on and breaking fallen branches as if they were twigs.  I was half-afraid of their size, and how quickly they moved through the forest.  Thank God they’re vegetarians, I thought.  I continued down the trail and startled a deer, it was so small in comparison, it was like seeing a chihuahua.

Elk grazing in a meadow

Elk grazing in a meadow

Elk once roamed Pennsylvania’s woods, but by 1867 they were eliminated from the state due to hunting.  The elk that live here today are descendants from elk that lived in the Rocky Mountains, being reintroduced from 1913 through 1926.  The herd now exceeds 800 animals.  It is great to have these magnificent creatures back in Penn’s Woods.

Our tour of northwest Pennsylvania concluded, we headed home.

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Bent Run Waterfalls and Kinzua Bridge State Park

Bent Run Waterfalls

Bent Run Waterfalls

Our trip continued to Chapman State Park, a secluded, quiet park set in a forested valley, surrounded by the Allegheny National Forest.  The park features a lake and many trails, but we were there to camp.  The campsite was nice, surrounded by hemlocks.  Rain fell through the night, and the hemlocks continued to drip in the morning, even as the skies began to clear.

Bent Run

Bent Run

We drove to Kinzua Dam, which thundered due to the water being released.  Next was the Bent Run Waterfalls, a beautiful glen where Bent Run tumbles over large moss covered boulders, creating numerous cascades.  A glorious spot.  The Allegheny Reservoir stretched off into the distance, surrounded by dark mountains under a cloudy sky.  The water had a metallic sheen.

Our drive took us past Jakes Rocks, Rimrock, and the Morrison Trail- places I had been to several times in the past.  The Allegheny Reservoir is such a beautiful area; as the last color clung to the trees, I made it a goal to return in the summer to kayak, camp, and hike.  Or maybe go mountain biking, since Jakes Rocks will be the home of a new, world-class mountain biking trail system.

Kinzua Bridge

Kinzua Bridge

We drove to Kinzua Bridge State Park.  A tornado collapsed the middle of the bridge in 2003; the remaining section remains as an observation deck.  The destroyed section lied in a twisted wreckage in the valley below.  We walked out for great views of the valley below, not to mention an unnerving glass deck to see the bridge under my feet.  A cold wind whipped the bridge.  The park was under construction with a new visitor center near completion.

Bent Run and Kinzua Bridge are described as Hikes 1 and 13 in Hiking the Allegheny National Forest.

We headed south to the scenic town of Ridgway and to Benezette to see the elk…

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Hearts Content Scenic Area

Hearts Content Scenic Area

Hearts Content Scenic Area

We headed north into the Allegheny National Forest, the only national forest in Pennsylvania.  I used to spend a lot of time there.  While it may not have towering mountain peaks or huge waterfalls, I’ve always enjoyed this national forest.  It has a special feel to it with its pristine streams flowing through valleys with hemlock and rhododendron, jumbled house-sized boulders, and the vast Allegheny Reservoir.  The forest is also home to the Tionesta Creek and Clarion River, two beautiful places to paddle.

Our next destination was Hearts Content Scenic Area.  Like Cook Forest, it protects an old growth forest, however, it is much smaller in size.  The trees here are over 160 feet tall, and 300-400 years old.  Nevertheless, the forest is just as beautiful with huge hemlock and pine trees.  Unlike Cook Forest, Hearts Content has much more undergrowth and the beech trees were in full Autumn splendor.  The short trails were a pleasure to hike as they explored this primeval forest with small streams, carpets of moss, and decaying logs with colorful mushrooms.  This is a great trail to take kids, since it is easy and beautiful.  Hearts Content is a National Natural Landmark.  It was preserved and given by a logging company to the forest service.  Maybe it is a bit ironic, but the only reason why the old growth forest at Hearts Content was spared was because the family that owned the logging company had a home there; I guess they didn’t want a logged forest surrounding their home.  Sometimes irony can do positive things.

Hearts Content is described as Hike 22 in Hiking the Allegheny National Forest.

We continued our hike on the Wheeler Loop.  The trail started off nice, but soon degraded as it explored plantations of red pine.  The trail was hard to follow and several dead or dying trees appeared to be marked to be cut down.  I wouldn’t hike it again.  Our journey continued on to the Kinzua Dam, Bent Run Waterfalls, Allegheny Reservoir, and Kinzua Bridge State Park…

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Cook Forest State Park

Forest Cathedral, Cook Forest State Park

Forest Cathedral, Cook Forest State Park

Our next stop was Cook Forest State Park, recognized as one of the finest state parks in the country.  Cook Forest protects over 2,200 acres of old growth forest and has almost 30 miles of trails, including a section of the North Country Trail.  Cook Forest is home to some of the tallest trees in the eastern United States, with trees over 180 feet tall and hundreds of years old.  Prior to a windstorm in the 1950s, there were trees over 200 feet tall.  The heart of this remarkable old growth forest is called the Forest Cathedral, a National Natural Landmark.

Established in 1927, this state park was the first one established in Pennsylvania with the specific purpose of protecting a natural landmark, that being the old growth forest.

I have been to Cook Forest a few times before and it had always struck me as a special place, a true cathedral of trees.  It is hard to imagine a forest such as this covered most of Pennsylvania, only to be clear-cut.  This park offers a vision of what once existed.

This route is described in Hikes 43 and 45 of Hiking the Allegheny National Forest.

We arrived at the park and began our hike through the famous Forest Cathedral, which we had mostly to ourselves.  The people we did see were quiet, almost reverent, as if they were in church.  The forests were stunning with massive, towering tree trunks, and an understory of beech trees ablaze with yellow and orange.  Some trees at Cook Forest are quite massive, but may not be as wide as what one might expect.  However, they are incredibly tall.  Moss and ferns covered the forest floor.  We hiked along the clear water of Tom’s Run and then began a second hike to Seneca Point and the Clarion River.  This hike featured massive hemlock trees, large boulders, and some nice views from a fire tower at Seneca Point.  The trail took us down to the gorgeous Clarion River, a national wild and scenic river, as it flowed through a wooded canyon with more large trees.  Our hike was on the North Country Trail, which extends from North Dakota to Vermont.  The hike returned us to the park office and we followed Tom’s Run back to a swinging bridge and our car.

Cook Forest is a beautiful park that everyone should visit.  The ancient forest offers a spiritual experience in our rushed and hectic lives.  Our next visit would take us into the Allegheny National Forest to see another ancient forest- Hearts Content Scenic Area…

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Information about the state park.