Backpacking the Old Loggers Path

 

Rock Run

ATTENTION HIKERS and BACKPACKERS:  The Old Loggers Path is threatened by drilling even even though the state can protect much of the trail due to a deed restriction.  Several stakes for potential well pad sites have been located near the trail.  Please contact your local state representative and state senator to express your concerns.  Please also contact the Governor and the DCNR Secretary.  Thank you.

More information:

Keep it Wild!

http://keepitwildblog.blogspot.com/2012/08/rock-run-love.html

Friends of Rock Run

Day 1: Friday, May 4, 2012

The Old Loggers Path (OLP) is a 28 mile loop located north of Williamsport.  This trail can be best described as pleasant- there are few steep climbs, the trail often follows old grades, and it offers a few vistas, good campsites, nice creeks, waterfalls, and Rock Run, a stream of great beauty.  Not surprisingly, the OLP is a fairly popular trail.  It had been many years since I last hiked the entire trail, and I was surprised how well-worn the track had become, and there also seemed to be a few more campsites along the trail.

This spring hike was in memory of Rich Briga, a friend who passed away a year and a half ago after a long and valiant battle against a rare form of cancer.  He was an avid hiker and enjoyed the state forests around the OLP.  The plan was to meet up with a small group of a few other people who also knew Rich.

I arrived in Masten shortly after 5 p.m.  The only way to Masten, an abandoned lumber and C.C.C. town, is via the road from Ellenton.  Pleasant Stream Road from Marsh Hill is still closed.  Hillsgrove Road reaches Masten, but the bridge right before the trail’s parking area is out.  When I arrived there were a few cars in the parking area.  The clouds were thickening.  I stepped out of the car and immediately heard helicopters buzzing over the forest; they were there for seismic testing for natural gas. I began hiking the loop counter-clockwise, with my goal being a hidden campsite near Rock Run, 5 1/2 miles away.  The trail climbed through the fresh-green forest.  The helicopter sounds were constant and became an annoyance.  As I crossed one meadow I looked up and saw one; I’m positive the pilot saw my scowl.  As I reached the top, the helicopter noise faded away and I signed a register, with no entries from anyone in my group.  I also saw a group of about 15 people on the trail, probably walking the Cherry Ridge Trail.  They were from a nearby hunting camp.  One man asked if I was hiking the OLP and I replied I was.  He smiled and commented how he enjoyed his hike on the trail several years ago.

The trail entered the Rock Run drainage when I began to notice all the tape and flags tied to trees for the seismic testing.  At times, they outnumbered the trail’s blazes on the trees.  The gas workers even left their testing equipment right on the trail in a couple places.  At least I didn’t have to hear the helicopters anymore; Rock Run roared below.  The clouds grew darker as the trail traversed the side of the gorge through dark groves of hemlocks.  I came upon where I had to leave the trail to reach the hidden campsite.  I gradually made my way down to spectacular Rock Run, as it roared with rapids and waterfalls, confined by slick cliffs and ledges.  I tried to find a way to cross, but the water was too high, and I was too lazy to take off my boots.  There was no sign of my group.  It was getting dark quick.  I hiked back up and decided to camp at a site within view of the trail.  I began to set up my tent when the rain started to fall.  I threw on a headlamp and quickly got my tent up, covered my pack, and threw my clothes in the tent just as the rain began to fall more heavily.  I put on a rain jacket and sat on a rock, eating some supper in the rain.  I hung my food bag and crawled in my tent as it began to pour, pounding the fabric of my tent through the trees.  I felt cozy in the darkness and rain of the hemlock forest, thanks to the thin fabric of my tent.  I drifted off to sleep as thunder rumbled in the distance.

View from Sullivan Mountain, Old Loggers Path, Loyalsock State Forest

Day 2: Saturday, May 5, 2012

I woke up the next morning to a misty, wet world of dripping trees and the roar of Rock Run down in the gorge.  I zipped open the tent and was immediately greeted by a snail, with a shell, slowly making its way across wet leaves.  Since I wasn’t sure where my group was, I took my time getting around.  I walked down to Rock Run and the beauty of the gorge was impressive.  The water was a little higher from the rain overnight.  I traversed the sides of the gorge, taking pictures of the rapids, slides, waterfalls, and deep pools.  The sandstone was sculpted smooth.  I went downstream to find the Rock House, but sadly, the top half of it had fallen in.  I washed off and hiked back up to camp.

I ate and got my things together and made my way down the trail.  Maybe my group was at the more popular campsites at Yellow Dog and Rock Runs.  This spot along the OLP may be the most popular and is a highlight along the trail.  Rock Run has carved a narrow chasm through the bedrock and Yellow Dog Run cascades in from the side.  In summer, the crystal clear pools invite swimming, but it is still frigid.  I encountered a man and his young son, we greeted each other and I asked him if he had seen anyone else on the trail.  He said there was a group of three guys across the creek.  I went over there, but I did not recognize anyone.  I returned and said bye to the man and his son.  I would see them again.

I made my way along the OLP as Yellow Dog Run flowed in its glen below.  There is a hidden falls in the glen I decided to check out.  It is only a short distance from the trail.  The falls were scenic as it tumbled into a small, clear pool.  I usually like to keep moving on backpacking trips, but this one felt different.  I was fine with taking my time and doing some exploring.  I even began some trail maintenance, clearing sticks and small trees from the trail when I could.  I reached the view over Rock Run Gorge as the clouds broke, revealing blue skies.  I took a break at the view and read the register.  The group of three guys showed up and I left the view, making my way to Buck Run and Sullivan Mountain, where there were several views in the bright sunshine.  One view often has rattlesnakes, but I did not see any.  I took a break at the last view in the warm sun where I dried my rain jacket.  I heard a rustling behind me; I turned around to see a porcupine waddling through the woods, nibbling on branches, making its way towards me.  It waddled onto the overlook and got closer, maybe it thought I was a tasty birch tree.  It was about 10 feet away when I shooed it away.  It flared its spines and hurried off.  Something that blind shouldn’t be trapsing around cliffs.

I hiked down Long Run, where I filtered some water, and hiked down to Pleasant Stream Road where I passed some seismic testing workers.  The OLP follows an old grade above Pleasant Stream, with a floodplain of cobblestone torn by flooding; even parts of the grade washed away.  The trail crosses the stream without a bridge.  The creek was too wide to rock hop, but there was a tree down that I crossed above a deep pool.  I reached a great campsite; the same site I camped at over 10 years ago.  It was early, and I still wanted to hike more miles.  However, if my group was behind me, they would likely camp at Pleasant Stream, so I stayed put.  The forests were beautiful, with the sun glowing through huge maple and birch trees.  The forest floor was covered with violets, jack-in-the-pulpits, and these white flowers.  The group of three guys camped across the creek.  I ate and washed off.  The trout were rising in the creek.  I went to bed early and woke up to a brilliant moon illuminating the forest.  It was colder, so I wore a fleece.  Spring peepers echoed through the dark woods.

Saturday night and Sunday morning campsite, near Pleasant Stream

Day 3: Sunday, May 6, 2012

I woke up early, shortly after 6 a.m., and I was on the trail by 6:45.  The morning was cool and misty; morning clouds hung low.  I hiked up to Sharp Top, moving fast.  Yellow, white, and purple violets crowded the trail.  While hiking through a thicket, I saw some kind of warbler with a yellow head jumping from branch to branch.

I soon reached Sharp Top, the trail’s most famous vista and I had it to myself.  Before me was a vast panorama of forests and plateaus; there were few fields or houses.  It is an impressive sight.  The sun tried to fight through the clouds with shafts of light.  I ate, drank some water, checked my cell phone, and soon moved on.  The trail descends to a hardwood forest across rolling terrain and small creeks with nice campsites.  I reached Cascade Road and the register.  To my surprise, people from England, California, and Mexico have been on the trail.  Even some seismic workers from Oregon and other states signed the register, expressing an interest in the trail.

Next was the climb up to Sprout Point.  When I reached the side trail, I heard talking up ahead, it was the man and his young son.  We talked a little and the man proudly said his son hiked 13 miles the day before.  The kid had a full pack on and was maybe 8 or 9.  The kid was quiet, I told him good job and he flashed a smile of accomplishment.  He deserved it.

I hiked out to the point and it was a nice view; nicer than I remembered.  I soon returned to the trail as it meandered across streams and through thick forests of hemlock and laurel.  It followed an old rocky grade past mossy springs and began a descent.  As I neared Masten, I saw an unblazed trail to the left.  Not being one to pass up on a trail I know nothing about, I took it.  It was very nice, and a shortcut.  It descended across carpets of moss and hemlocks along a gorge and down to the large, old S&NY railroad grade and back to the OLP.  I followed the trail into Masten where I passed an older couple at a hunting camp who asked about the man and the son.  I told them they were fine and they seemed relieved.  I hiked along Pleasant Stream, with its streambed torn from the floods, with piles of stone and twisted tree trunks.  It gave the creek a rugged, untamed appearance as kingfishers flew downstream.

One would hardly know now Masten was once home to over 1,000 people.  For mother nature, the decades that have passed were only a temporary distraction and she has reclaimed this forgotten logging town as generations of humans have moved on.  She has filled the sunken foundations with sediment and moss.  Spruce trees envelop the roads and alleys.  Tamarack grows along old embankments.  The sights and sounds of this hike were at time discomforting, particularly in an area so wild and beautiful.  Mother nature will have the final say and the repercussions will depend on how much respect we have shown in return.  Just as our development has tried to consume her, mother nature will eventually consume our development and it will be on her terms.

The bridge in Masten was out, so I forded the creek and reached my car.  It was a little after 11:00 a.m.

The hike was great, and it was nice to be back on the OLP.  As for my group, they tried to get to the trail, but every bridge on the forest roads from the west were out, so they hiked a different trail.  Regardless, it was nice to do a solo and to get out in the woods for a few days.  I’m sure Rich would have approved.

For more pictures, click here.

A map of the trail.

Other websites with information about the trail:

Mid-atlantic hikes

PA hikes

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Schooley Mountain

View from Schooley Mountain

Schooley Mountain rises above the village of Noxen.  I remember driving along Route 29 and looking up at the mountain, wondering if there was a view up there.  This weekend I was able to find out.

I met two friends in Noxen and walked to the trail to begin the steep ascent; the trail climbs 1,000 feet in a mile or so.  Although the mountain is privately owned, the owner does not mind hikers.  At the bottom, there were some large white pine trees.  The trail climbed under hardwoods that were beginning to show their leaves.

Finally the trail leveled off and soon reached a rock outcrop with a superb view to the west, showing the broad, muscular plateaus rising in the distance.  Sorber Mountain’s hulking mass rose to the southwest, and the narrow, meandering valley of Bowman Creek disappeared into the mountains.  Closer were a series of small drainages creating several uniform ridges covered with blooming leaves.  To the south were farmlands and the escarpment of the plateau.  You could even see Harvey’s Lake.  We sat and enjoyed the view in the vivid sunshine as vultures and hawks soared overhead, and beneath us.

For better or worse, the view from Schooley Mountain will soon change.  A massive wind turbine farm is under construction, with over 90 turbines to be constructed, including one only a short distance behind the view.  I was happy to see the view before the turbines went up.

If you happen to climb Schooley Mountain, follow any posted signs, and treat this beautiful place with respect.

For more pictures, click here.