A couple years ago I met Mike at Prowl the Sproul. We hiked Round Island Run in the Sproul State Forest, which remains as one of my most memorable dayhikes. Rhododendron was in full bloom, filling the forest with white and pinkish blossoms. The blooms covered the entire mountainside. The gorge was deep and green, feeling like a rainforest. Crystal clear waters danced between moss covered boulders as Round Island Falls tumbled over slick ledges. And just in case the hike wasn’t beautiful enough, there were impressive views over the winding canyons of the Sinnemahoning Creek.
Mike recently mentioned he was coming up to SGL 57 to do some hiking and wanted to see the Bartlett Mountain Balds. It doesn’t take much for me to want to hike up to the balds, so I was happy to lead him. The weather was warm, misty, and humid. It was summer in December, with temperatures near 70 degrees. As we made the long hike up the mountain, we were soon sweating. White Brook roared below. Using my new route that follows trails almost all the way to the balds, we made good time. However, huge puddles covered parts of the trail, resulting in wet feet.
I have been to, and described, the balds many times. For me it is a special place, a place set apart. We poked around the base of the balds, under rock overhangs, between jumbled boulders, and past caves. A scramble up a ledge brought us to the balds.
Compared to my October hike, when the balds were filled with color and carpets of bright red, this hike was stark but no less beautiful. The spruce trees added a deep green to the bare trees and exposed white bedrock. The air was warm and moist as clouds sailed overhead. We sat to eat as the wind whispered between the spruce trees. The silence was incredible, with only the distant tapping of a woodpecker.
We continued along the north rim of the balds. I love it through here. Spruce forests surround smaller balds above chasms and cliffs of bedrock. It does not look like Pennsylvania. SGL 57 has the largest mountaintop spruce forests in the state. We turned around. The white conglomerate bedrock was wet, reflecting like silver in the muted, misty sunlight. We followed bear trails, featuring depressions where the bears have consistently stepped for generations, following the same routes to look for food. This place is wild.
Our next goal was to see Spruce Ridge, but the short daylight would not allow it. So we headed back down and decided to check out White Brook Falls. White Brook is a beautiful, tumbling mountain stream featuring non-stop cascades over and around moss covered boulders. The water was incredibly clear and pristine. The bushwhack down the stream was tough with fallen trees and unstable, slick rocks. We soon reached White Brook Falls, notable for its spout of falling water. It is a very graceful falls. In high water, a curtain of water also slides down to the left. We continued down the creek, enjoying all the cascades and water slides. The hike back to the car flushed a ring-neck pheasant that avoided us by running through the fields with remarkable stealth.
Our final stop was to see Bowman Hollow Falls outside the village of Forkston. This is an impressive 40-50 foot falls in an even more impressive grotto of white cliffs. The creek features non-stop slides, pools, and cascades over red bedrock. A true gem.
We soon went our separate ways. I think Mike really enjoyed this journey through SGL 57, and I’m sure it will not be his last.