Hiking off trail fills you with the feeling of not knowing what to expect.
Or how much daylight you will have.
I returned to SGL 57 to explore more of this wilderness. And it again confirmed to me that it is one of the most impressive places in Pennsylvania. Our goal was Henry Lott and Somer Brooks on the east side of the Mehoopany Creek gorge. It was a warm, humid, overcast day.
We parked the car and began a hike up Mehoopany Creek; the effects of the epic floods from a few years ago were still evident. We soon reached Henry Lott Brook and made our climb. This creek was also ripped apart by the floods, and in several places there were landslides, or places where the land along the creek subsided. The creek soon revealed its beauty with huge moss covered boulders, deep pools of translucent amber water, and countless cascades over ledges. We crossed where we needed and battled through fallen trees. We passed one massive landslide where a scar was ripped down the side of the mountain, leaving a jagged mound of rocks on one side, and a huge pile of trees at the creek.
As we climbed, the gorge became narrower as cliffs rose on the right. Cascades became more frequent, and in places, the creek was inundated with boulders. One unique spot was a mini-glen where the creek carved down into the smooth bedrock, swirling around a boulder lodged at the top of a small waterfall. Deep pools carved into the bedrock were everywhere. This would be the place to be in summer.
We reached a stairstep cascade along some boulders; above were thick hemlock forests. Our trek brought us to a forest road as mist sailed through the trees. It was a warm, overcast day, threatening rain that never came. We followed the road past spruce trees and bare forests. The road took us along a food plot, and to our right there appeared to be cliffs and some views. We did get some views through the trees, but we were in the clouds. Caves and crevices were in the boulders beneath us.
We soon made our way to beautiful Somer Brook in a hemlock forest. The terrain was tough as we descended, but the creek was beautiful with more cascades and pools, framed by giant boulders in a steep glen. Little did we realize we were losing daylight, and we still didn’t get to the best part.
A side stream joined from the left, marked by a fifteen foot falls with a swirl of foam. We climbed up to see an amazing 75-100 foot falls descending over tiers of rock. The top tier was out of sight. It was beautiful. We sat there enjoying the stunning scenery of this little-known falls. Even this stream is not shown on any topo map despite its respectable size. The cliffs of the grotto surrounded us as the sound of cascading water filled our ears. The entire scene was engulfed by the green of hemlock and spruce.
Thankfully, we did not linger too long…
We began the steep climb up the rim of the glen over a carpet of moss. I passed near a boulder, sliding off a cliff, propped up by a tree. Suddenly I heard a loud crack and the rush of air.
Another tree had collapsed off the side of the glen and crashed close to where we had been standing at the bottom of the falls.
Strangely, I was not too flustered by this fortunate happenstance since I was to pre-occupied with the scenery, and the climb. We soon reached the top of this impressive falls as we looked into the gorge below. With daylight fading on an overcast day, it was clear we would not be able to continue our hike down Somer Brook. It is as steep and rugged as Henry Lott Brook. It was not a place to be in the dark. We decided to hike out to the gated forest road.
To get there we were treated to an amazing spruce forest that was deep, dark, and mysterious. It was eerie and silent, except for the wind at the treetops. This place resembled a rainforest, or someplace in the Pacific northwest. Carpets of moss covered the floor as the placed creek meandered. Spruce seedlings battled for light. We were surrounded by green. Were we in Pennsylvania?
We reached the gated road and continued on to the “famous” Stone Cabin, a well-known landmark. The cabin is interesting; few structures in this area are made completely of stone and this one has a unique style with how the stone was laid and fitted. For a cabin so unique and well-known, it is underused. I always thought it would be neat if it were a hut where people could stay, like the ones in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
We began a long gradual descent, passing cliffs, boulders and ledges. Twilight descended as we reached the Meat Trail and its faded yellow blazes. The trail descended steeply over sodden leaves. By the time we reached the Mehoopany Creek it was almost dark. The creek bed was torn by the floods, and was several feet lower than it used to be. The old swinging bridge, collapsed years ago, lied crumbled along the steep bank.
And we had to cross the creek.
We found a fallen tree that we gingerly stepped across over the current. By the time we reached Dutch Mountain Road, it was pitch black. These woods were dark, with little ambient light from nearby towns. We heard a couple deer run in the forest above us, invisible. The night was warm and humid as we walked along the Mehoopany Creek and its melodic current. Thick clouds capped the mountains. A few pick up trucks slowly drove by us. We reached the car exhausted after a 14 or 15 mile epic journey across rugged, isolated terrain.
To see places few others have made it all worthwhile. To see the beauty that few even know exists in our backyards is a blessing.