Ryan and I returned to SGL 57; our goal was to push even deeper into this wilderness and locate Wyoming County’s high point on Bartlett Mountain, which is just under 2,400 feet in elevation. This hike is in close proximity to hikes 12 and 13 in Hiking the Endless Mountains.
The weather was incredible. Deep, sapphire blue skies stretched to the horizons. The sun was so bright as it reflected off of the snow. We began with the long hike up along Stony Brook. The streambed was devastated by the 2011 floods and several parts of the old road were obliterated. It is impossible to imagine the amount of water that tore down this gorge.
As we gradually ascended, snow covered the ground. The trail entered a scenic grotto and deep hemlocks soon followed. We took a break near a meadow before continuing the trek up to Burgess Hollow Vista. Along the way we saw the meandering tracks of some animal, as it crossed the trail repeatedly. We thought it might be a bobcat, but the paws didn’t seem to match.
We reached Burgess Hollow Vista with its 40 mile views. Elk Mountain rose in the distance. It was a beautiful sight.
Now, our bushwhack began as we entered the forest and scrambled up snow covered ledges to some small spruce forests. The bushwhack proved to be easy as we gained elevation to another bald, and soon thereafter, an even larger one. Although there were no views, the feeling of isolation was incredible. Few people have been to these places.
We headed south where we reached another bald and more spruce. A gradual climb followed to a prominent rock outcrop. I scrambled to the top. Below was a cave 40 feet deep that disappeared into a narrow crevice. I reached the high point. Stunted trees surrounded this bald, which was littered with rocks and pebbles. The sun blazed off of the snow and white bedrock. The rocks were in odd formations; we sat at one rock shaped like a wing, creating a small overhang. I had to keep my face in the shade to protect it from the blazing sunlight. We had reached the highest point in Wyoming County. Views could be seen through the trees to the northwest.
We followed a crest of ledges and smaller balds before cutting west through a deep hemlock forest, a treat in and of itself since the hemlocks are dying across much of Pennsylvania. We soon reached the Catlin Meadows, which is the source of Catlin Brook, a stream that plummets hundreds of feet down the plateau through a treacherous gorge filled with waterfalls. It is a remarkable place, but we could not explore it this time. Snow and ice would have concealed the falls and covered the gorge.
The meadows were stunning, dusted with snow under blue skies, stretching for hundreds of feet in every direction.
We made our way down to Stony Brook and one of my favorite spots, the Crystal Cascade. A deep, clear pool was at the base of the snow covered cascade. I was happy to see the cascades were not completely destroyed by the floods. A cool spruce forest followed, creating a dark tunnel of green.
We reached Red Brook, also ravaged by the floods. The damage was incredible. The creekbed was about 8 feet lower than it used to be, with large trees thrown like matchsticks and boulders pushed in every direction. We crossed Stony Brook and made our way back to the cars, bringing an end to another memorable day in SGL 57 as we finally “bagged” the highest point in Wyoming County.