With the hope to burn some holiday calories, we headed out to hike the north loop of the Pinchot Trail in the state forest of the same name. I was looking forward to it, since I had not been on some parts of this trail for a couple of years. The easy trail threaded its way between green mountain laurel, over streams, and through hardwood forests caked with fluorescent lichens. In summer, this trail features every shade of green imaginable. In January, the colors were not as diverse, but the forest still had a stark beauty. As we continued, there were more fern and lowbush blueberry meadows, now a lifeless brown. White birch trees added some color, especially since the snow had melted. Deep green spruce trees rose over the trail.
Some areas were very wet and water seemed to drip from everywhere. As we rounded the north end of the loop, I was surprised to see several campsites where they had not been before. The trail was in good shape, and seemed to be well-used. We descended to Painter Creek, a scenic highlight of the north loop. Here, a pristine stream flows under a dark grove of hemlocks with beautiful campsites. We took a break here as another hiker walked by.
The trail took us into a forest with carpets of ground pine, moss covered logs, and fins of fungus encircling a dead tree. We took a side trail to the Pine Hill Vista as a strong wind blew around the observation deck and through the stunted forest of pine and oak. We didn’t linger. It is striking how much the forest changes in less than a hundred feet of elevation. We descended back to the car. It felt good to get outside and use my legs. It is also hard to believe only twelve miles south of Scranton is this beautiful trail system and state forest, just waiting to be explored. Go there.