White Gold Circuit

View of Mountain Springs Lake

View of Mountain Springs Lake

This past weekend I decided to visit one of my favorite loops for a dayhike, what I call the White Gold Circuit.  It was warm and sunny at my house, but once we climbed up the plateaus north of Ricketts Glen, it was still sunny, but not as warm.  Mountain Springs Road was covered with snow, as were much of the forests.  What a different elevation makes.

The name of this hike comes from the ice industry which was once prevalent here.  The region had lakes at higher elevations, making them ideal for the creation of ice before the age of refridgeration.  What appears to be a wilderness now was once home to towns and factories for the processing of ice.  This hike passes Beech Lake, a natural lake at the highest elevation that was the first to be used for ice.  Two other lakes were dammed at lower elevations along Bowmans Creek, one was drained, and the other still exists as Mountain Springs Lake.  Today, you can find old foundations, grades, and cribworks from this forgotten era.

This loop follows unblazed and unofficial trails through State Game Lands 57.  The trails are easy to follow and well established, but do not expect signs or blazes.  There is a web of these trails, and they offer some of the finest hiking in the state.  Together, SGL 13, SGL 57, and Ricketts Glen State Park make up the finest block of public lands in the eastern Mid-Atlantic with dozens of waterfalls, backcountry ponds, beautiful streams, big rocks, views, gorges, and impressive isolation.

This is a great hike because of its diversity- it offers views so much.  And since the descents and climbs are gradual, it isn’t that hard.

We parked at The Meadows, also known as Bowmans Marsh, under a crystal clear blue sky.  About 4-5 inches of wet snow covered the trails; without snowshoes, this made it a harder hike.  The trail wound through beautiful hardwoods with some spruce trees and carpets of ground pine, a common feature in these forests.  Wind whipped the treetops on these high plateaus.

The trail lead to a rim of cliffs offering views to the west, including ice-covered Mountain Springs Lake.  We dropped from the top of the plateau, passing cliffs and huge boulders.  We crossed a lonely dirt road and I hiked down to one of the former locations of the ice dams, now a vast meadow, where there was a deep pool and backwater from beautiful Bowmans Creek.  We followed the trail closely along the creek and the scenery was excellent with thick hemlocks, rhododendrons, and deep pools.

Bowmans Creek

The September floods also affected Bowmans Creek.  One feature of this hike was an old, wooden railroad trestle; it was completely wiped away by the floods.  Remnants of the trestle were embedded against trees, further downstream.

The trail left the creek and made a gradual climb up Wolf Run, where we passed two mountain bikers.  We decided to make a side trip to Coyote Rocks, which are exposed cliffs with a superb view looking up Bowmans Creek.  What makes this view so notable is that there is no sign of human development.

View from Coyote Rocks

The next goal was Bean Run and to get there we had to cross over the plateau with more snow.  The forests were beautiful.  There was a profusion of animal tracks, including deer, turkey, coyote, bobcat, and fox.

Upon reaching Bean Run, we crossed paths with two people looking for places to hunt.  I’ve never come across so many people on this trail before.  We followed the creek down, which is known for its cliffs and angular boulders.  The trail then climbs back up the plateau along a branch of Bean Run with many small waterfalls.

The next highlight was the last- Beech Lake.  The lake is untouched and can only be reached by hiking.  A natural lake, it was once used by the ice industry, and it is about a third of a mile long.  It is a beautiful, serene place.  We followed a trail along the south side of the lake, which was frozen over and crossed with animal tracks.

Beech Lake

We returned to the car at The Meadows as the sun was setting, marking the end of another great hike.

For pics from my August, 2010 hike, click here.

For more pics from this hike, click here. 





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