Gillespie Point and Bohen Run Falls

View of Pine Creek Gorge from Gillespie Point

View of Pine Creek Gorge from Gillespie Point

It had been a couple of years since I hiked in the Pine Creek Gorge area (other than the Golden Eagle Trail) and it was time for me to return.  This region is so beautiful with a vast array of trails that lead to glens, waterfalls, and vistas.  It is a special place and has a wild feel to it.  The pine trees seem to grow taller, the forests more aromatic.  It is a hiking wonderland.

I decided to check out Gillespie Point with its breathtaking views and a side hike to Jerry Run and Bohen Run Falls, near the beautiful village of Blackwell.  Gillespie Point is notable for being a peak in a region of plateaus.  Surrounded by towering plateaus along the pristine Pine Creek, Blackwell offers no shortage of natural beauty.

We parked in Blackwell and hiked through the village, following the Mid State Trail south.  The trail left the forest road and made a steady climb up to Gillespie Point.  The day was sunny and warm, and soon we were sweating.  The climb wasn’t too steep, and a breeze offered some comfort.  The trail turned left and became steeper.  Soon it leveled off before making one more climb to the summit, where we were treated to amazing views.  The rolling ridges and plateaus, covered in deep green, with blue skies, white clouds and brilliant sunshine made for a memorable sight.  We sat in the sun as the breeze washed over us.  I could see the village of Blackwell far below.  Simply incredible.  I didn’t want to leave, but we forced ourselves to get back on the trail.  Two other hikers reached the summit as we left.

We were treated to a smaller view to the north and then the trail descended through scenic woodlands above a small stream.  We reached the road and left the Mid State Trail, following the forest road back to Blackwell.

After getting a bite to eat, we took to Bohen Trail into the Pine Creek Gorge to see two waterfalls- Jerry Run and Bohen Run Falls.  It had been years since I had seen these falls, and I really wanted to get to the bottom of Bohen Run Falls.  The trail was beautiful as it climbed into a scenic forest of pine, hemlock, spruce, and laurel.  Jerry Run Falls soon came into view as we looked into its glen.  The trail passed the top of the falls and continued onto Bohen Run Falls, where it parsed thick laurel.  Bohen Run Falls soon appeared, but the trail was high above it.  I took the blue side trail down under giant white pine trees and reached what appeared to be a small, old quarry.  I bushwhacked down to the stream, avoiding all the trilliums that were coming up.  The mosquitos soon arrived as I walked up the stream to the falls.  Bohen Run Falls is a beautiful sight, set into a deep, mossy glen, surrounded by ledges and cliffs.  It is primeval.

Bohen Run Falls

Bohen Run Falls

We retraced our steps back to Blackwell, passing blooming phlox.  The sun was beginning to set across the gorge.  We looked down to see the clear waters of Pine Creek as Fork Hill and Gillespie Point rose prominently above us.  My prior absence had been too long, I need to get back here again.  Soon.

More photos and videos.

Hike as described on PAHikes.

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Return to the Waterfall Gorge, SGL 57

Highest falls in the Waterfall Gorge

Highest falls in the Waterfall Gorge

The plan was to hike up Caitlin Brook to see its waterfalls and then hike across the balds of Bartlett Mountain to White Brook.  However, we weren’t able to do that route.  So, I decided to show Raymond the secret Waterfall Gorge that I had explored a few weeks prior.

The forests were now green and the creek still had water despite the dry weather, although the flow was lower.  We bushwhacked for a couple miles through the woods and reached the unnamed creek as it tumbled down a steep bed of boulders to the first falls.  From the top of the highest falls, I could look down the steep and rugged gorge with its cliffs and boulders.  It was great to be back, this is truly a special place as the creek has carved a narrow gorge down to the bedrock with many slides, cascades, and four nice waterfalls.  There is even a pool right above the highest falls, a feature I have rarely seen.   Car-sized boulders were throughout the gorge as fractured cliffs rose overhead.

The bright sun illuminated the forests with fluorescent light as it glowed through the leaves.  Looking up to the highest falls was a gorgeous sight as a ribbon of water tumbled down the polished rock to a shelf, only to cascade down again.  The entire falls might be 40 feet tall.  The creek than slid along red bedrock to a small falls that fed a pool.  I stood on a large boulder above the pool and looked up the gorge to see the falls.  Another falls, about ten feet tall, was just downstream.  We hiked out of the gorge, looking for rattlesnakes, but we did not see a single one.  The deerflies, however, did find us.

This hidden gem is one of several in SGL 57.  With its balds, cliffs, views, caves, rock outcrops, spruce forests, gorges, gorgeous streams, and numerous waterfalls, SGL 57 rivals any state park.  It could be a national park.  It features a diversity that may be without peer in the Mid-Atlantic.

More photos.

A video of the gorge.

Bowman Hollow Falls

Bowman Hollow Falls

Bowman Hollow Falls

Just outside the scenic village of Forkston is a beautiful waterfall, Bowman Hollow Falls.  I’ve known about it for several years, but I never found a way to see it.  I once drove up along the road and was able to look into the gorge below, only to see the top of the falls.

While waterfall hunting in SGL 57 with Raymond Chippa, who has the Pennsylvania Waterfalls website, he offered to show me.  We parked along the road and took a path into the gorge.  What a beautiful place.  The creek slid over bedrock flumes and cascades as large trees towered overhead.  I saw one large tulip poplar tree, which can grow to be the tallest hardwood in the east.  The gorge walls surrounded us as shafts of morning light illuminated the mist and flies rising from the water.  The falls soon came into view and the setting is impressive.  The 40 foot falls were surrounded by a towering amphitheater of cliffs, carpeted with moss and lichen.  Red bedrock adorned the creek.  Springs trickled from the cliffs.  I sat there to take it all in. We walked back out and explored another falls that sinks into a narrow chasm and then feeds a pool followed by another cascade.  Sometimes a quick walk is as rewarding as a long hike.

The falls are on private land, which is not posted.  The falls have been described in books and on websites, and appear to be a local landmark that is regularly visited by the public.  As always, please treat such places with respect and thanks to the landowner for allowing the public to see the falls.

More photos and a video.

Austin Dam

Ruins of the Austin Dam

Ruins of the Austin Dam

September 30, 1911.

On that date, the Bayless Pulp and Paper Co. dam above the town of Austin burst, sending a torrent of water into the town, and killing 78 people.  It is one of the worst dam disasters in the history of the country.

The dam was only two years old at the time it failed.  Built in 1909, the concrete dam was 534 feet long, 50 feet high, and held 250 million gallons of water.  At the time, it was the largest concrete dam in the state.  It was built to provide a water supply for the paper plant.  However, soon after its construction, it became apparent that the dam was seriously flawed.  The dam failure was not a complete surprise as there were serious concerns about its integrity.  Ominous old photos showed the dam beginning to bow out in the middle, and the top of the dam was even notched to lower the water level.  It was not enough.

After heavy rains, the dam failed.  Its waters damaged, but did not destroy, the plant that was the reason for the dam’s existence.  Others were not so lucky.  State and federal laws regarding dam construction and inspection were finally passed after the disaster.

Today, a small local park contains the impressive ruins of the dam, weathered over the last century.  Massive blocks of cement have been pushed and twisted in unbelievable ways.  The road down to the dam is rugged and rutted.  There are plans to improve it.  Regardless, it is worth the drive.  The park also has the remains of an old earthen dam, and a small primitive campground.  It also hosts a musical festival.

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The paper plant met a similar fate.  Although the plant continued to produce paper until a fire in 1944, it is now an abandoned, collapsing concrete ruin with twisted rebar and vegetation growing through cracks.

Ruins of the Bayless Pulp and Paper Co.

Ruins of the Bayless Pulp and Paper Co.

I drove through the small, quiet town of Austin, now a fraction of its former size.  I decided to check out Prouty Place State Park and took the East Fork Road at Wharton.  While the park was nothing more than a sign, old field, and rutted road, the drive to it on the East Fork Road was very beautiful.  I highly recommend it.  Rolling mountains, dusted with white serviceberry blooms, surrounded a gorgeous, isolated valley with well-kept farms and cabins.  It was Appalachia at its best.

I drove out along PA 44 under bright sun and taking in some more nice views across the forested wilderness of Northcentral Pennsylvania.  I descended into the impressive Pine Creek Gorge as the mountains rose in the vivid sunlight, glowing with the new fluorescent Spring foliage.

More pictures.

Location of the dam.

Information about the Austin Dam Memorial Park, with historical photos of the disaster.

Backpacking the Square Timber Wild Area, Elk State Forest

Morning along Big Run

Morning along Big Run

I recently traveled to the Square Timber Wild Area in the Elk State Forest for a quick overnight backpack.  It covers almost 9,000 acres.  I’d known of the wild area for a few years, but after seeing a trail map, it became a goal to hike it this year.   I really didn’t know what to expect.  My hope was to find one of the black dashed trails in the northern area of the wild area, as indicated on the maps, to make a longer loop.

This area of Pennsylvania is very beautiful and isolated, with deep canyons and gorges, meandering streams, and towering plateaus.  The wild area is located north of Driftwood, a tiny, sleepy village that could be a hiking hotspot, with the Quehanna to the south, the Fred Woods and Elk Trails to the west, the Bucktail Path to the north, and the Donut Hole Trail to the east.

I reached the parking area and followed the yellow blazed path along Big Run, which wasn’t all that big.  It was a pristine stream, clothed in moss.  Large springs bubbled from the ground and joined the creek.  The trail entered a deep glen with hemlock on one side and hardwoods on the other.  There were several large white pine, and the red trillium was blooming.  There were even some sycamore trees along the creek.

As I hiked up the glen, the scenery and isolation improved.  Big Run also became dry, it appeared to be absorbed into the ground, only to reemerge as the springs I saw previously.  The trail hugged narrow sidehill above the creek.  I reached a trail sign and turned right up the Right Fork Big Run.  The glen closed in, there was water in the creek, and several stream crossings. The trail was minimally maintained, with faded blazes and several blowdowns.  A steep hike out of the glen brought me to the Bucktail Path.

View from the Bucktail Path

View from the Bucktail Path

The Bucktail Path was an enjoyable hike as I crossed a meadow with many nice views.  An old quarry followed with a fine view to the south.  The trail was well graded and the hiking was easy.  I soon reached the yellow Square Timber Trail to the left, but I decided to continue north on the Bucktail with the hope of finding a trail in the northern area of the wild area to make a larger loop.  The Bucktail continued to be a nice walk as I climbed to a firetower and small cabin.  The trail descended to scenic Brooks Run with large hemlock and pine, and one nice campsite.  I hiked away from the stream and reached Ridge Road, however, I was unable to find the unofficial trail as depicted on the maps.  I decided to head south on Ridge Road, see the two vistas, and then retrace my steps to the Square Tinber Trail I passed earlier.

The Square Timber Trail followed eroded sidehill through thick mountain laurel.  The trail was very brushy with faded blazes, including some old blue blazes.  I heard a turkey gobbling in the glen below.  I hiked up a rolling ridge, passing a mysterious campsite with perfectly cut firewood and a square bed of fresh hemlock branches.  The rolling ridge continued with more thick laurel.  I soon reached an intersection and turned left for the very steep descent into the Left Fork Big Run.  The terrain eased a little bit as I hiked into a very steep glen, with the small creek embedded in what looked like a mini-gorge.  The hiking was enjoyable with increasingly more hemlock and side springs.  The creek was pristine and there was an incredible sense of isolation being so far down in the glen, with no noises.  I was getting dark, so I found a place to camp and was soon in my sleeping bag.  Vivid moonlight crept down the glen as countless stars shone overhead.
Sky above my campsite

Sky above my campsite

I awoke the next morning and was soon on the trail.  The sun repeated the process of the moon, as its light slowly moved down into the glen.  The trail followed the creek, at times dry, only to reappear.  The scenery was beautiful with large pine, hemlock, and moss.  What was most surprising was the bird song, it was incredible.  All these birds were singing and calling, echoing up and down the glen.  It felt primeval.  I really enjoyed hiking down the Left Fork Big Run.
Red trillium in bloom

Red trillium in bloom

I completed the loop and retraced my steps in the warm spring sun.  I returned to my car and drove out along the beautiful Ridge Road, which featured several vistas.  The Logue Run Vista was particularly beautiful.  I stopped by small, secluded Sizerville State Park, and then continued my journey to the ruins of the Austin Dam…
Logue Run Vista

Logue Run Vista

Trail map of the wild area.
More pictures.
Location of the trailhead.

Middle Loyalsock Loop – Backpacking

High Knob Pond

High Knob Pond

My initial plan was to drive out to the Square Timber Wild Area in the Elk State Forest, but a late start scrapped that idea.  So I settled on a loop I’ve been wanting to do in the middle of the Loyalsock State Forest, and along the middle section of the Loyalsock Trail.  I call it the Middle Loyalsock Loop and it follows bridle trails, various hiking trails, and the Loyalsock Trail.  While there are several routes you can take, this route is roughly 20 miles.

I began at the Ketchum Run Nature Trail parking area and began by hiking the loop clockwise.  I crossed Worlds End Road and walked through the equestrian campground.  The bridle trail was muddy in places, but featured nice hemlock forests and small streams.  A meadow marked the first intersection where I turned right onto a wide grassy grade with hardwood forests.  The route curved back west to High Knob Road, which I crossed.

The bridle trail continued along a powerline swath followed by deer fences where there had been some logging.  These forests were afflicted by windstorms and insect infestations years ago.  The trail became more scenic as it entered the woods.  I could not find the turn to the High Landing Trail, which I planned to take.  Regardless, the bridle trail was a nice walk.  I saw some wild turkeys and a scenic meadow.  The trail curved to the north and I turned left.  I initially planned to hike the bridle trail, to the Stony Run Trail, pass the Hillsgrove Ranger Station, and then hike up the High Knob Trail.  However, I had already hiked those trails so I decided to hike the Loyalsock Trail so I could access a bridle trail I had never explored.  Soon the Loyalsock Trail (LT) came into view, where I turned right and dropped to Dutters Run.  I took a break at a falls when a group of AMC hikers passed by.  They were a very friendly group and it was nice to meet everyone.  I continued down Dutters Run, which is such a scenic place as the creek flows through a mini-gorge with several falls.  I continued on the LT until it began its climb to High Knob Road.  I hiked off of the LT and beared left onto a nearby bridle trail.

This trail was a very nice hike through deep woods.  I descended to a surprisingly large stream, considering how high I was on the mountain.  I decided to go off trail since I suspected there might be a waterfall.  I was proven right.  A 20-30 foot falls soon appeared over several steps as the creek tumbled down the steep glen below the falls.  I named it High Knob Cascades.

I soon returned to the bridle trail, which offered superb woodland hiking.  It traversed the side of the mountain, offering views through the trees down the Dry Run Gorge.  It was a very enjoyable walk.  I soon reached the High Knob Trail, where I turned right.  A short climb brought me to the Jackson Trail, where I turned left to see the High Knob Pond.  I was soon at the pond.
I do not know if the pond has an official name, but it is a very serene spot.  It is several acres in size and is surrounded by a forest of pine and laurel.  It is peaceful and untouched.  I sat there, eating a snack, as the breeze wandered through the trees and some ducks floated in the distance.  I wanted to camp here, but it was too early in the day.  I never hiked the Jackson Trail west of the pond, so I decided to give it a try.
The Jackson Trail was surprisingly beautiful and well-established, considering that it really doesn’t go anywhere, other than down the mountain to PA 87.  It featured a diverse forest of pine, hemlocks, laurel, and hardwoods.  The coolest feature was a large frog pond, hidden by the laurel and moss, just off the trail.  It appears to hold water all year, and several globs of frog eggs were floating or congealed on the shore.  I turned around at the edge of the plateau, before the Jackson Trail makes it steep descent.  I enjoyed some more views of the High Knob Pond, and then continued on the High Knob Trail to its namesake.
I’ve always enjoyed the High Knob Trail; it is just a nice trail to hike.  I passed small streams and a walled spring.  Soon I was at the foot of High Knob.  I stashed my pack and scrambled up the steep trail to the view as the sun began to set.  The view, as always, was beautiful.  I continued on the bridle trail north of High Knob.  I probably wouldn’t hike it again.  It was very wet initially, but then followed a wide, dry grade up to the LT, where I turned left.  I descended to scenic Cape Run and checked out the waterfall just off the trail.  I climbed up to Split Rock as the sun set, illuminating the bare branches and twigs with a sheen that resembled spider webs.  Split Rock was an interesting place; it had been years since I last visited it.  I descended to Ketchum Run just before night fall and quickly set up my tent.  I got a quick bite to eat, and was soon asleep.
High Knob Overlook

High Knob Overlook

The next morning revealed the warm glow of the rising sun.  I was soon up and hiked down to see Lee’s Falls.  Ketchum Run is such a beautiful place.  The light angled with shafts that pierced the dark hemlock forests.  The sun began to illuminate the narrow gorge as the water danced over slides and cascades.  I reached the top of Lee’s Falls and took some pictures as the water roared.  I then headed upstream and reached two more off-trail waterfalls in mossy grottos, with numerous waterslides.  A hemlock tree hung off a ledge with roots that resembled the legs of an insect.  This place is magical.
Ketchum Run

Ketchum Run

I hiked out along the Ketchum Run Nature Trail as the sun electrified the ground pine and hemlock forests.  I soon reached my car, completing the loop.  It was great to be back in the Loyalsock.
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This is a nice alternative to the more popular Loyalsock-Link Loop.
Highlights:  Several waterfalls, High Knob Pond, High Knob Overlook, Split Rock, Ketchum Run, Dutters Run, scenic woodlands, good camping, moderate terrain with no big climbs.  The loop can be extended along the Old House, Stony Run, and High Knob Trails via the Hillsgrove Ranger station.  The entire Ketchum Run Gorge and Alpine vistas can also be included in a longer loop.
Issues:  For two miles west of Worlds End Road, the trail follows deer fences along logged areas, this section is not very scenic and route finding can be tricky since blazes are infrequent.  There are several stream crossings without bridges.
Route of the loop.

Route of the loop.