Every Autumn for the past several years, a group of my friends from college get together for a backpacking trip. This year we decided on the south loop of the Pinchot Trail, located in the Lackawanna State Forest south of Scranton. The trail is about 25 miles long, but nearly bisects itself, creating a north or south loop. The north loop is more isolated, while the south loop features more diverse forests, streams, better camping, and an off-trail falls.
I’d been on the Pinchot Trail earlier this year, and since it is fairly close to my house, it’s an ideal place to go for a long dayhike or an overnight trek.
We met at my house Friday night, where we enjoyed a fire and views of Bald Mountain. We woke up on Saturday and got our gear together under partly sunny skies. We were soon on the road and we first drove to Big Pine Hill Vista, where there is an observation tower with 360 degree views. You can see Elk, Miller, and Bald Mountains.
We drove to a parking area for the south loop, passing the main trailhead which was filled with cars.
We began the hike, following the trail through rhododendron (or was it mountain laurel?) jungles and across a meadow at Balsam Swamp with tamarack in the distance. Much of the foliage in the trees were gone, but there was still a lot of color in the smaller trees in the understory. At Butler Run, we took a side hike off the trail to see Choke Creek Falls, where we relaxed for a little while.
The group decided to push on to camp along beautiful Choke Creek. But I was concerned, the campsites along Choke Creek are the best along the trail and I have never seen so many people on this trail before, so I was worried they would all be taken. I pushed ahead of the group to try to get a site. I reached Choke Creek and the trail follows this stream closely, it is one of the most scenic sections of the trail. The first site was taken, and so was the second, but I was lucky with the third. We found a great site under spruce trees at a bend in the creek. A beautiful spot. We pitched our tents and relaxed next to the fire along the gurgling creek as darkness set in. Of all the times I’ve hiked the Pinchot, this was the first I actually camped at Choke Creek.
We enjoyed the fire and made dinner, when a small mouse decided to stop by, looking for crumbs. He was persistent, but eventually left.
We woke the next morning to sunny skies and a light mist hanging over the creek. We packed up and made our way up the trail, along Choke Creek, enjoying the sun and foliage. The trail soon returned us to our cars, where we changed clothes. After getting a bite to eat in Scranton, we were soon going our separate ways, until the trail call us together again.
For more pictures of the hike, courtesy on Matt LaRusso, click on: http://outdoors.webshots.com/album/581759605OcVNBu?vhost=outdoors&start=0