I returned to the Sproul State Forest for the Keystone Trail Association’s Prowl the Sproul hiking event. I was going to lead a hike to Round Island Falls, however, my group preferred a hike along Clendenin Branch, which they had not done before. We were soon in our cars, driving deep into the state forest. Our hike began at the end of Shoemaker Ridge Road. The first half of the hike follows the top of the plateau along an old forest road. As we hiked the scenery steadily improved as we followed the crest of a narrow, forested ridge. At the end of the ridge was a view at a powerline swath; not the best view, but it offered a panorama of the surrounding terrain. Shoemaker Branch flowed below, hidden in its canyon. That is one stream I’ve wanted to explore and hope to do so in the future. We backtracked a little bit and descended along an old grade to Clendenin Branch. This creek is what makes the hike worthwhile, it is absolutely beautiful, and the scenery only improved as we hiked up the creek. The creek was flowing well, so we all got wet feet from the numerous stream crossings. The unmarked trail was fairly easy to follow as it traversed an old grade or forest road. We passed huge white pine trees and some large hemlocks. Rhododendron crowded the creek as bright red bee balm caught the sun.
At the juncture with Benjamin Run is a rhododendron jungle and a nice campsite. We continued upstream, as the trail became more narrow and the creek tumbled over moss covered boulders into deep pools. We took a break at a gorgeous spot where the creek cascaded over large boulders with ferns and moss. The forest had a deep, primeval feel to it. We sat on the large rocks and just took in the scenery, taking pictures and videos. Our trek continued as the trail threaded around more huge boulders, hemlocks, and carpets of moss. The creek featured more hidden pools and rapids, the sound of the water echoed off of the large boulders concealed by the forest.
After a final stream crossing, we left Clendenin Branch and hiked past more bee balm. We reached the top of the plateau and returned to the cars. Everyone enjoyed the hike as we sat in the sun, talking. This is a truly beautiful gem in the Sproul State Forest.
I mentioned to the group I planned to explore the old growth forest at Lower Jerry Run Natural Area, although it would be a long drive since it is at the other end of the vast state forest. Two hikers decided to join me, and the other two followed us to see the views off of Jerry Ridge Road. We were soon in our cars to continue our journey…