Paddling Shumans Lake

Shumans Lake

Shumans Lake

We visited the lake on a warm, sunny day.  After unloading our kayaks, we dragged them down a grassy, gated forest road to the lake.  Along the way, we passed through a beautiful hemlock forest with some large trees.

We reached the lake and a few other people were there with binoculars, looking for birds.  We would soon see why.

The lake was beautiful in the bright sunshine, as it reflected the passing clouds.  A beaver dam guarded the outlet.  Forests of pine, spruce, and hardwoods bordered the shore and sedges as lilypads adorned the surface with yellow flowers about to bloom.  Turtles pushed off into the water from tree stumps as we approached.  The water would boil as fish swam away.  As I was paddling, I heard a splash.  A larger fish was chasing a smaller one, which tried to get away by leaping into the air, trying to get to some lilypads for cover.

It is rare when you are treated to a place to serene and relaxing.  There were no houses, motorboats, cars, or noise other than the wind, a plane flying high overhead, or fish jumping after insects, or each other.

Shumans Lake is shallow and appears to sit over a bed of sphagnum moss.  The water has a natural reddish tint, but it was a very clean lake with no scent of stagnant water.

We made our way to the inlet where there were some purple irises growing.  The inlet meandered into a wet meadow, before becoming too narrow.  A headwind made the paddle back a little more difficult.  I then heard the call of an eagle, and in the distance I saw two large bald eagles.  We soon made it back to the put-in, where a bald eagle was just above us, perched on a dead tree.  Before I could get my camera, it flew away.  Soon after, a great blue heron flew towards the lake.

The walk back to the car with our boats followed.

Shumans Lake is a hidden gem in the Endless Mountains and one of the most scenic places to paddle in the region.  Few lakes in Pennsylvania are as isolated and untouched, or feature as much birdlife.  If you’re looking for a special place to paddle and spend the afternoon, this is it.

More pictures.

Beautiful day on the water.

Beautiful day on the water.

Advertisements

Boyd Big Tree Preserve Conservation Area

Trail in the preserve

Trail in the preserve

Many parks are the result of generous donations from private landowners who wanted to see their land protected for future generations.  Boyd Big Tree is such a place.  Covering over 1,000 acres, Alexander Boyd donated his land to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to become a public preserve in 1999.  Mr. Boyd was the president of the Union Deposit Corporation.  The purpose of the preserve was to protect and promote the growth of big trees, or in other words, an old-growth forest.  Thanks to people like Alexander Boyd, or natural heritage has been enriched.

Today, the preserve offers 12 miles of trails, open fields and meadows, a pavilion, pond, and an exhibition area for the growth of chestnut trees.

The preserve is located north of Harrisburg and I was down there for a training a few weeks ago.  After I was done for the day, I decided to check out the preserve.  The day was humid with dark, billowing clouds that threatened rain.  It was early evening so I did not have much time to hike.  The trails were easy and several were wide gravel paths through a forest of hardwoods.  Some of the trees were quite large.  A few mountain laurel bushes comprised the understory.  I followed a series of trails that brought me to a small pond set in a wooded valley.  Winds whipped the trees high above.

Pond

Pond

I continued my hike along another trail that soon brought me back to my car and a view looking down the valley as the rain began to fall.

For more information about the preserve, including maps, click here.

Glen Onoko

Chameleon Falls, Glen Onoko

Chameleon Falls, Glen Onoko

Glen Onoko is a very popular hiking destination located near the beautiful town of Jim Thorpe.  The glen is located near Lehigh Gorge State Park, but much of the hike is in the game lands.  As a result, the trails are not really maintained or blazed well.  However, due to the heavy use, the pathway is generally obvious, although steep and eroded in places.

Glen Onoko was once the site of a hotel in the late 1800s.  While the hotel is long gone, a lot of the stonework along the trails remain.  The waterfalls along Glen Onoko were, and remain, a prime tourist attraction.

This special place is formed where Glen Onoko Run descends steeply down the side of the Lehigh River Gorge, carving its own glen with waterfalls and cascades over ledges and large boulders.

We followed a path under the road and railroad along the scenic Lehigh River.  The trail climbed and leveled off along one of the hotel’s old trails.  This took us into the glen with large rock outcrops, boulders, and rhododendrons.  The creek roared down the steep gradient.  We crossed the creek near a large boulder split in half and continued up among cascades and clear pools.  The trail crossed the creek again and we were faced with a steep and eroded section.  This brought us to the base of Chameleon, or Glen Onoko, Falls.  A gown of cascading water formed a veil over slick rock.

Our climb continued to the larger part of the falls as it descended from a large cliff.  The trail continued the steep climb over ledges, boulders, and under rhododendrons.  This brought us to the top of the falls with a nice view towards Jim Thorpe.  My favorite section followed as the trail tunneled under the rhododendrons only to suddenly bring you back to the creek to see two more waterfalls.

We reached the top, passed an open area with a stone fire ring, and reached a gravel road.  The plan was to hike the road out to a stunning vista of the Lehigh River Gorge, but we were running out of time.  I had heard there was an easier way down via another trail, to form a loop.  I had never hiked this trail, but we found it at the stone fire ring, and it gradually descended back down.  It appeared to be another old trail from the hotel era and it featured some nice stonework.  It is a far better option then descending along Glen Onoko.  The trail soon returned us back to the Lehigh River, where kids were jumping in the water from old railroad trestles under the towering cliffs of the gorge.

This is a beautiful place that is worth hiking, even with the crowds.  The next time you visit Jim Thorpe, take some time to explore Glen Onoko and the Lehigh River Gorge.

More pictures.

 

 

 

Sherman Creek

Covered bridge on Shermans Creek (all photos courtesy of  Rob Danner)

Covered bridge on Shermans Creek (all photos courtesy of
Rob Danner)

A few weeks ago, I drove down to Duncannon to meet my friend Rob to paddle Sherman Creek.  There were several thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail relaxing and passing through Duncannon as we began to run our shuttle.

Sherman is a beautiful creek that flows through pastoral countryside and up along high forested ridges.  It is located north of the Harrisburg area.  We began at Shermans Dale and parked at a gas station.  The USGS gauge there indicated the creek to be about 1.7 feet; 1.5 is considered the minimum.  This was enough water for kayaks, although 2 feet is probably more ideal for canoes.

The creek was a pleasure to paddle from the start as it meandered through forests and up along bluffs and ledges.  There were no significant rapids, other than easy riffles over cobbles and low ledges.  The water was pretty clear and revealed a streambed often comprised of bedrock with ridges that were diagonal to the stream.  The stream was mostly untouched with only a few cottages, and there was virtually no litter.

The bird life was amazing with mergansers, herons, ducks, and brilliant white egrets.   Turtles were often found on logs and exposed rocks.  We also saw several water snakes.

We soon reached a long covered bridge at Dellville which is a popular take-out.  The next four miles were slower as the creek widened to the size of a river.  There were more cottages and fields along the creek.  A highlight was a large, sloping cliff that towered over the water.

Entering a gorge

Entering a gorge

After crossing under another bridge, the scenery picked up dramatically as the creek flowed along Cove Mountain and entered a beautiful gorge with some large rocks and steep, forested slopes.  The cliff for Hawk Rock, a view along the Appalachian Trail, towered high above us.  Again, the “rapids” were easy.  The creek widened again and soon brought us back to Duncannon, where we took out, right before Sherman Creek joined with the massive Susquehanna River.

The trip from Shermans Dale to Duncannon is about 13.5 miles and it took us about 5 hours.  There were only a few places where we scraped.

A great day on the water.

More pictures.

 

Bellas Brook and Upper Mehoopany Creek- SGL 57

 

Rapids on the Mehoopany Creek

Rapids on the Mehoopany Creek

A few weeks ago I returned to SGL 57 to explore more of this wilderness wonderland.  The goal this time was to hike along Bellas Brook, explore a tributary with some potential waterfalls, reach Mehoopany Creek, and explore two of its tributaries in search of waterfalls and views.

It was a clear, cool day as I set off, passing two older hikers at Wild Fowl Pond.  I soon reached Bellas Brook, left the road, and hiked down the creek with its cascades and pools.  Hundreds of painted trilliums dotted the forest floor.  The creek entered a series of deep spruce forests that were beautiful as they were impenetrable.  I circled around one spruce forest and reached a large spring flowing from the ground.  Thinking this may be the tributary with waterfalls, I hiked up it.  Oddly, this creek flowed underground, covered with talus.  I hiked up its glen, but rarely saw the creek that carved it.  I retraced my steps back to Bellas Brook.

The brook flowed through meadows and more spruce.  Some of the spruce were large, clearly old growth.  It was a beautiful creek with rapids, boulders, and cascades, often lined with moss.  At one point, there was an oxbow bend where you could see the creek flow towards, and then away from you.

I reached the tributary I was looking for and hiked up it.  I found the right one as the creek dashed down a glen with stair-step cascades over red bedrock.  It looked to be recently carved by floods.  One falls fed a secret pool.  None of the falls were high, but it was a beautiful spot.  On the way back to Bellas Brook, I passed a tree with a series of perfectly circular woodpecker holes.

Bellas Brook continued to charm with meadows, forests of black cherry, and more riffles.  I hiked on an island in the creek with a large hemlock and a beautiful place to camp.  I soon reached the Mehoopany Creek.

My plans were soon dashed.  The creek was too high to cross and I was losing daylight.  As a result, I could not explore two more tributaries in search of waterfalls.  I hiked up Mehoopany Creek; here, few people have seen the beauty of this creek as it flows through one of the finest wilderness areas in the state.  I reached a gorgeous waterfall and slide that emptied into a swirling pool.  The water was reddish from the tannin in the hemlocks, spruce, and swamps upstream.  I relaxed here for a while as puffy cumulus clouds sailed across the deep blue sky. 

I decided to head back and climbed a steep bank to the gated game commission road, passing more trilliums.  I hiked back out, taking a side trip to beautiful Creveling Pond and then Wild Fowl Pond as a shower passed to the south.   Swallows darted across the surface of the water as a few frogs croaked.  I was soon back at my car.

Creveling Pond

Creveling Pond

 

More pictures.