Hike to the Crystal Cascade-SGL 57


Crystal Cascade

On this hike, I returned to a place I had been to several times before.  The first time I saw the Crystal Cascade, I was surprised by how beautiful it was.  It wasn’t tall; it’s beauty was more subtle.  Stony Brook slid and dropped over rounded, mossy boulders into a series of deep, clear pools.  Hemlocks and spruce framed the creek.  Nearby, the trail tunneled through the spruce.  It was a hidden, secret place.  The floods from several years ago changed the cascades,  but its beauty has remained.   This hike follows part of the challenging Hike No. 12 in “Hiking the Endless Mountains”.

Rock house

I walked up the flood damaged road along Stony Brook, retracing my steps from countless other hikes.  The weather was warm and sunny, and I was a little overdressed as I walked.  I crossed Stony Brook, which had more water than I expected.  I then crossed Red Brook as it tumbled over boulders and underneath fallen trees; I thought about hiking up Red Brook to see its two falls, but I decided to wait until there was more water.  The past floods along Red Brook were truly seismic-entire slopes had collapsed down to the creek, leaving fault lines through the forest.  I walked up the old grade as large maple trees rose over me.  The grade was wet in places.  Far below, I could hear the roar of Stony Brook.

Spruce and moss

The grade entered a spruce forest and soon reached the tunnel of spruce and hemlock.  I then reached the Crystal Cascade, as beautiful as I always remembered it.  I walked upstream to see more cascades and pools.  My goal was not simply to see the cascades, but to also explore some large rocks further up the slope.  I climbed up and the rocks soon came into view.  A jumbled mass of large boulders covered the slope.  I reached the top and picked my way among the boulders and soon came across a deep cave and a rock house where boulders were stacked on top of each other, creating a room beneath.  I had a strange feeling that I was not alone here, that this was bear habitat.  My imagination started to run wild and I thought I heard the breathing of a large animal from deep within the rock.  I soon retreated back down the slope.

Spruce forest, Stony Brook, SGL 57

I veered into a remarkable spruce and moss forest above the cascades.  There were also some large hemlocks.  It reminded me of the Emerald Forest.  Why did this spruce forest happen to grow here?  It is because this spot has a cool, moist microclimate.  This forest is on a north facing slope and grows over a slope of boulders, which holds cold air longer into the summer.   The nearby streams supply the moisture.

Crystal Cascade

I retraced my steps back to my car, waiting along Mehoopany Creek.

Mehoopany Creek

More pictures: https://flic.kr/s/aHskPFy97r


How to hike to the cascades:

  1. Park at N41 28.009  W76 09.645
  2. Follow dirt road.
  3. Cross Stony Brook at N41 38.563 W76 11.077
  4. Cross Red Brook
  5. Follow old forest grade to spruce forest and next stream crossing, where the cascades are located (about a mile from Red Brook)
  6. Total hike about 3 miles (one way).

Lookout Rocks-SGL 133

A few months ago I learned of a vista on SGL 133, near Trout Run.  Google Earth confirmed the existence of a rock outcrop.  So, I made it a goal of mine to check it out.

I parked at a game commission parking area along Susque Road.  I knew the vista was directly east of the parking area.  I crossed a meadow, a wet area, and hiked into a pine forest.  This was all off trail, but with a heading of east, I knew I couldn’t get lost.  But I did get sore as I crawled up a steep slope with slippery, fallen leaves.  The white markings of the game lands boundary soon appeared on my left.  I continued up and soon reached a grey blazed trail, where I turned right.

What I had to climb up to get to Lookout Rocks

Nearby is Camp Susque and its trail system extends into the game lands.  I guess I could have asked permission and started at the camp, which would have been much easier, but I decided to stay on the game lands and bushwhack.  The trail climbed gradually under hemlocks along sidehill.  It neared a private property line and turned left up the ridge.  The ridge was beautiful as it was narrow, offering views through the trees on both sides.  Rock outcrops adorned the ridge.  Ahead was a large outcrop and I knew it was Lookout Rocks.  The setting reminded me very much of Ravenshorn on the Golden Eagle Trail.

View from Lookout Rocks

A steep climb brought me to the rocks and I was immediately impressed.  Not only were the rock formations beautiful, but so was the view.  The view looked right down the Lycoming Creek valley to the mountains of the Bald Eagle State Forest, almost 20 miles away.  Instead of the typical plateau scenery, this view featured peaks, rolling ridges, and deep gorges.  Red tail hawks flew over me.  The sun blazed through the clear blue skies.

Hiking under the pines

I left the view and continued up the ridge, which narrowed even more and featured several more rock outcrops.  It was a beautiful hike.  I passed a ridgetop spring and turned around, retracing my steps back to the car.

Rock maze at Frozen Run Gorge, Loyalsock State Forest

Since I was in the area, and since the weather was so great, I decided to head up to the Frozen Run Gorge to check out some rock outcrops I wanted to explore, located on the south rim of the gorge.  I soon found them, massive bedrock boulders splintered and separated, creating mazes and passageways.  On top was a partial view of the gorge, revealing the prominent cliffs on the other side that I hiked on top of only a few months prior.  What really impressed me was how the roar of Frozen Run filled the gorge.  Frozen Run is filled with rapids and cascades over large boulders.  On the drive out I took a few photos at Kind Jim’s Vista, a bittersweet place for me as I remember this place prior to the gas drilling- miles of unbroken forest that overlooked a vast wilderness with peaks and rolling ridges.

Kind Jim's Vista, Loyalsock State Forest

I headed to Marsh Hill to scout another vista.  Parts of this village were devastated  by the recent floods of Pleasant Stream.  Forests were carpeted with sand and debris, yards filled with mud.  The bridge along Bodine Road was torn away and completely missing, as if consumed and dissolved by the water, replaced with splintered logs.  It is hard to understand such power.

Kind Jim's Vista, Loyalsock State Forest


How to hike to Lookout Rocks.

  1. Park here along Susque Road.  41.409509, -77.038960 (GPS coordinates from Google maps).
  2. Head due east to Lookout Rocks, located at 41.409245, -77.032095.
  3. Cross a meadow off trail and go up a steep slope.  White game commission boundary markers will appear on your left.  Look out for a grey hiking trail after about a 300 foot vertical climb, turn right on this trail, which will lead to the rocks.
  4. You may be able to hike from Camp Susque, but stop by the office and get permission first.  This would be much easier.  Use the Evergreen and Lookout Rocks Trails.
  5. From what I saw, the trails are blazed grey and fairly well established, but I did not see trail signs.
  6. Treat this place with respect.

SGL 57 Explorations- Nearing the End


This past weekend I returned to explore more of SGL 57.  These trips felt different, I knew my time in this special place was coming to an end.  A journey to explore this wilderness that began over a decade ago was coming full circle.  I knew I would be moving on to different locations.  I will continue to hike in SGL 57 to explore all its nooks and crannies, but I expect those hikes will be around those places I’ve already visited.

This journey had been worth it, for others now know.  What once seemed like a vast, impenetrable wilderness became a wonderland of beauty, right here, waiting to be discovered again.  Along the way it transformed me into someone stronger than I had ever been before.

After these hikes, only one more place in SGL 57 remains for me to explore.

After a toxic political season, I also needed some time in the woods.  Nature has no care for our political tantrums.  It is not concerned with who wins and loses.  Nature is defined by a greater set of laws and rules that we ignore at our own peril.  What concerned me after this election is how we are so easily controlled and manipulated by fear, desire, and bias regardless of our political positions.  Are we nothing more than biological computers to be controlled by which button is pushed?  Even in this modern era, we still fall victim to mob and tribal mentalities; we worship political idols too easily.  Idols whose talents and abilities may never exceed our own.  We only subscribe to the ideology we want to believe and hear.  Every election is the same-the same slogans, the same commentary, the same opinions, the same talking points, the same bias.  We’ve been through this before, and I fear we’ll go through it again.

Every four years we demand change, when true change begins with us, not who we elect.

Power does not rest with a president.  Power rests with us, and the time has come to take responsibility for that power.  We need to have the courage to look beyond the surface and the image to truly understand the issues.  We need to become immune to bias, agendas, who spends the most money, or who has the most ads.  We must have strength to consider different viewpoints.  We all need more empathy and less pride, arrogance, and self-righteousness.   If we want a better country, we need to start treating each other better.  It is that simple.  The power is already in our hands.  Use it.

I first wanted to check out a small stream north of South Brook, and just south of Boulder Brook (also known as Skeleton Brook).  I followed a grassy forest road to the unnamed stream and followed it.  It was a scenic stream, as it twisted and turned over small cascades.  I then reached the edge of the plateau, populated by large rocks.  Further down there was a nice 30 foot cascade over mossy ledges.  I explored more of the rocks, which featured some chasms, overhanging ledges, and massive boulders.  I returned to the forest road and hiked back to the car.

Old coal mine

Next was hike to the ridge between Stony Brook and Mehoopany Creek.  I parked at  41.453622, -76.193339.    I passed massive, jumbled boulders and entered a forest with huge, old growth oak trees.  These are some of the largest trees I’ve seen in SGL 57.  I then reached the top of a cliff, offering a fine view down the Mehoopany Creek (located at 41.455424, -76.190685).  I realized this was part of the proposed route of the Endless Mountains Trail.  I became a little more motivated to work on this trail concept once again.  I followed the ridge along large cliffs and ledges, but there were no more views.  I turned around.  I then drove on the new road to the coal mine.  It was a smooth road that went right to the bottom of the mine.  There were several people there.  The mine has become quite the tourist attraction.  Little did everyone know that nearby was Red Brook, with its waterfalls and rock shelters.

Cave, SGL 57

The next day was an easier to hike to a place I’d been to a couple years ago- Sprankles Pond.  We hiked along the forest road through spruce forests and wetlands dotted with snowgrass.  We then reached this sublime, peaceful pond as geese dotted the surface.  Such a beautiful place, miles from anywhere.  Looking over the water, blue surrounded the scene from the water to the cobalt skies, separated by a strip of bare trees on the far shore.  We then turned around as Leigh Ann tried barefoot hiking, claiming it solved all her foot pain until she encountered thick pieces of gravel.

Massive old growth oak tree

It was good to be back among the woods.

Sprankles Pond

More pictures:


Pinchot Trail-North Loop, Watres Trail, Panther Hill


One of several views on Panther Hill

I recently met up with some friends, Ian and Matt, for our bi-annual backpacking trip, which sometimes becomes an annual affair.  We decided on the north loop of the Pinchot Trail since it was a reasonable drive for everyone, particularly me.  We had hiked the south loop of the Pinchot Trail, which everyone enjoyed, so we decided it was time for the more isolated north loop.

View from Panther Hill

Of course, I wanted something a little different.  Our route took us along the yellow blazed Watres Trail, and just before the trail crossed Panther Creek, we bushwhacked north to the ridge of Panther Hill.  Along the way we passed ledges and big rocks.  There were open hardwood forests with an understory of lowbush blueberry.  We climbed up a cliff to enjoy some views.  The ridge gradually climbed higher and higher, revealing more views across the valleys of Panther and Painter Runs, and the rolling mountains in the distance.  The final view was the finest, as it looked north to Bald Mountain and the distant plateaus of SGL 57, about 30 miles away.  Deep in the valley was the Nesbitt Reservoir.  This is truly a beautiful view and it was hard to believe Scranton was only a few miles away.

A descent followed to Panther Creek where we enjoyed Panther Creek Falls as it tumbled down a mossy grotto.  There was more water in the creek than I was expecting.  Everyone enjoyed the cascading water and clear pools.  Under one ledge, Ian saw a pile of porcupine droppings, the telltale sign of a den.  We hiked down Panther Creek and then up Painter Run, passing two hikers along the way.  Painter is a beautiful creek with tumbling rapids over mossy boulders and many hemlocks.  An old grade made the hiking easy at first, but the grade eventually faded away, so we hiked along the creek.  The dense beech saplings became annoying at times.  I found an old logging railroad grade made up of rocks which provided easier passage.  We passed some ledges and a rock shelter with a stone wall.  The old grade entered some hemlocks.  We crossed Painter Creek, and soon returned to the Watres Trail.  We then turned right onto the Pinchot Trail and found a campsite along Painter Creek.  Several other people were camping nearby, including a Boy Scout troop from Delaware.  The campsites were beautiful under hemlocks along the babbling stream.  I slept pretty well under my tarp, although I did hear something rustling across the creek and spooky howl of what sounded like a coyote.

The next day we continued on the trail under clear, cool skies. We passed an oak tree with a small black door at its base, covering an opening into the trunk.  We reached the obvious conclusion that this was the work of gnomes who weren’t home at the time.  I did briefly wonder what gnomes do when they aren’t at home.

Home of a gnome along the Pinchot Trail

We left the Pinchot Trail and hiked to the Pine Hill vista with its sweeping views.  White clouds sped across the deep blue skies.  It was cold at the vista and we did not stay long.  We continued on the trail and returned to the cars at the parking area, which was filled.

View from Pine Hill

The Pinchot is the perfect trail to get way for a day or two.  It is fairly easy, offers some good scenery and isolation, has great campsites, and features diverse forests and habitats.

More photos:


Trail map:

Click to access dcnr_20031478.pdf

Click to access dcnr_002043.pdf

View from Panther Hill is located at 41.278372, -75.620946.

Panther Creek Falls is located at approximately 41.279978, -75.627438.


Rocks and Hemlocks- SGL 57


Caves, chasms and boulders in the rain.

On this hike in SGL 57, I wanted to explore some cliffs, boulders, and rock formations on the rim of the plateau, located between South and Somer Brooks.  I parked at the game commission parking lot and followed the gated road.  I turned left onto Henry Lott Road and continued to the next grassy forest road, just before the stone cabin, where I turned left.  This road climbed through the woods and met another road, where I turned right.  I continued on this road until I bushwhacked into the woods, heading west along a seasonal stream.  I crossed the High Knob Trail and continued off trail along the rim of the plateau, heading south.  I soon encountered large rocks.  The terrain was difficult but the outcrops were beautiful.  Massive boulders, clothed in moss and ferns, were along the ridge.  They were cracked and leaning, creating caves and chasms.  There were also many rock shelters and overhangs.  It began to rain and I was able to retreat under and overhang to get my rain jacket on while staying dry.  As I continued, the scenery improved with more and more massive boulders, some stacked, other leaning.  Above me was a hemlock forest.  I climbed up to it and the bedrock beneath my feet was riddled with deep chasms and caves.  I had to watch my step.  The rain began to fall harder, so I found refuge in another rock shelter.

The rain abated, so I continued my hike.  I hiked between two massive rock slabs and then reached a series of massive overhangs, some of the largest I’ve seen in SGL 57.  One was about 50 feet tall.  I climbed to the top and returned to the hemlock forest.  The forest was dark and a little spooky.  I reached a stream and crossed the High Knob Trail again.  I continued east through the rain until I reached the road I had hiked earlier, and retraced my steps.  I hoped to see Somer Brook Falls, but the weather wasn’t cooperating and I was fairly soaked, so I returned to the car.

Another hidden, beautiful, diverse, and kind of spooky place in SGL 57.

More photos:



  1. I parked here.  41.418145, -76.163710
  2. Turn left here. 41.421404, -76.167443
  3. Turn left.   41.428839, -76.171625
  4. Turn right.  41.429241, -76.178993
  5. Leave forest road, bushwhack into woods to the left (west).  41.433632, -76.183713
  6. Hike to the edge of the plateau to the beginning of the rocks.  41.435398, -76.187361
  7. Follow the line of cliffs and boulders in a southwest direction to this point. 41.429864, -76.193713
  8. Hemlock forest is located here: 41.432452, -76.191824