Summer Hike at Bear Creek Preserve

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Suspension bridge over Shades Creek, Bear Creek Preserve

Scranton and Wilkes-Barre have become surrounded by parks, preserves, and trails over the years, offering a surprising array of outdoor activities.   One of those preserves, Bear Creek, has become very popular.  Little wonder, it’s beautiful,  has about 20 miles of trails, covers about 3,500 acres, and is easily accessible.

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I’ve been to Bear Creek several times and my favorite loop is along the Red and Grey Trails, which is about 5.5 miles long.  On this hike, Mike and Dani joined us.  My real goal was to find the suspension bridge over the creek, which had eluded me on prior hikes.

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We hiked the loop counterclockwise, starting on the Red Trail as it explored open forests, with ledges and cliffs.   There is also a stream with a ten foot falls just below the trail.  We descended to Shades Creek through rhododendrons.

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The creek is beautiful with a 5 foot falls and deep pool just off the trail.  We continued down the Red Trail and found the discreet left turn on the Grey Trail where I found the bouncy suspension bridge, crossing it with views of the creek.  The trail turned left and went upstream, passing rapids, cascades, and pools with impressive tunnels of rhododendrons.

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The creek is very beautiful with forests of pine and hemlocks, some trees are very large.  It is a pleasure to hike and everyone enjoyed it.

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We crossed the creek on a log bridge and returned to the Red Trail,  before retracing our steps to the parking area.

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Website and map.

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Smith’s Knob and Painter Run Loop-Loyalsock State Forest

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View from Smith’s Knob

After hiking the Rough Hill Trail, Ed and Ken joined me to hike the Smith’s Knob and Painter Run Loop.  Instead of looking at Smith’s Knob from a distance,  we would be climbing it.

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This six mile loop is one of the finest in the region with beautiful views and streamside hiking.  I’d always hiked this loop clockwise,  but we did this hike counterclockwise, which is the best route.

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At the large parking area, we walked up Little Bear Creek Road for a half mile to a collection of cabins where the Painter Run Trail began on the left.  We hiked behind a modern cabin and followed the trail up a scenic valley along the small, pristine stream.  The creek tumbled over mossy rocks and trout swam in the pools.  There were a few stream crossings.  Bee balm adorned the trail with red flowers.  This was a very enjoyable hike.

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As we hiked, the valley narrowed into the gorge and we soon reached the Loyalsock Trail  at some campsites.  We turned left onto the Loyalsock Trail as it explored forests of laurel and hardwoods, and crossed a forest road.  Some of the trees were very large.  We enjoyed a vista of the Loyalsock Creek far below and began a steeper climb up Smith’s Knob along ledges.

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We reached the top with a dry campsite and enjoyed the stunning view from a ledge.  The panorama of the creek, valley, and mountains were impressive.   The creek was 1200 feet below.  This is a perfect sunrise vista.

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We ate and began our steep descent as a thunderstorm approached.  A passed a view to the south as the rain fell and the wind picked up.  I got thoroughly wet as we stopped at another view of the creek and mountains. The storm soon passed.

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The long descent continued with some steep areas.  We hiked through a thick understory of moosewood and reached the car and parking area.

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If you like vistas and a challenging hike, this is the loop for you.   It is truly beautiful that will make your time outdoors rewarding.

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There is so much beauty in the Loyalsock State Forest.

This hike is described in “Hiking the Endless Mountains”.

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Rough Hill Trail-Loyalsock State Forest

 

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View of Smiths Knob from the Rough Hill Trail

The Rough Hill Trail is a beautiful hike in the Loyalsock State Forest. I returned a few weeks ago with Ed and Ken. It is a two mile lollipop loop that leads to two vistas.  The vertical climb is almost 600 feet. The hike begins at the Sandy Bottom parking area.  Follow the trail as it goes down a gated road.  It then veers right off the road and into the woods before passing some vernal pools.

 

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It climbs and crosses PA 87; be careful crossing the road.  The trail becomes steeper along narrow side hill along slopes of loose rock.  The hike leveled off and then reached a spur trail to the right that led to a cliff and the lower vista, providing a great view of the valley surrounded by steep mountains.

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The trail continued its climb, reaching the beginning of the loop.  I continued straight on an old grade, climbing the mountain.  The trail leveled again beneath some ledges and went through some laurel to the edge of the cliff where there was a stunning vista of the mountains, valley, and Smiths Knob’s distinctive peak.  Views of such peaks are rare in Pennsylvania and this is one of the finest.  This is also an ideal vista for sunsets.

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I hiked down the loop, as the trail dropped steeply over ledges, beneath a slope with large boulders and a cave.  The trail leveled with rocky terrain and then completed the loop.  I then retraced my steps back to the car.

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While here, it is worth your time to explore Sandy Bottom and the Loyalsock Creek.  It is a beautiful spot as the large, clear creek is surrounded by towering mountains and cliffs. Sandy Bottom is popular with anglers and can also be an access for kayakers on the creek.

Rough Hill is a beautiful trail with gorgeous vistas.  Next time you’re in the state forest, be sure to hike it.

Map and brochure.

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Kettle Creek Gorge and Angel Falls-Loyalsock State Forest

 

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Kettle Creek Gorge Vista, Loyalsock State Forest

 

Kettle Creek Gorge is one of the crown jewels of the already beautiful Loyalsock State Forest.  A few months ago, I returned to this isolated rugged place.

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I parked along Brunnerdale Road and followed the Loyalsock Trail along Ogdonia Run under hemlocks.  I then took an unmarked side trail to the bottom of Falls Run and hiked up it, to see its beautiful waterfalls and cascades, including 30ish foot Gipson Falls and its grotto of fractured bedrock.

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I climbed further and soon reached the base of 70 foot Angel Falls, always a fine sight.  I remember how impressed when I first saw this falls so many years ago, and that feeling never really changes.  The water bounced down the cliff and disappeared into the gorge below.  Cliffs surrounded the falls.  This is a place people will never forget.

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I continued through a forest with huge tulip poplar trees and rejoined the Loyalsock Trail as it climbed through a scenic forest, crested over the rim of the gorge, and then dropped into Kettle Creek Gorge.  This gorge is just special-it is rugged, scenic, and feels as if set apart.  A true wilderness.  The forests are beautiful, with some large trees.  In decades to come, this will be an amazing old growth forest.

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I stopped by the vista in the bright, warm sunshine as a rattlesnake announced its annoyance with a shrill rattle.  I couldn’t see it.  Knowing I was going to return to the vista, I soon continued on my hike.

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The trail dropped down to Kettle Creek itself, a pristine wilderness trout stream with pools, cascades, and boulders.  There are also some excellent campsites.  It had been years since I camped here last; I need to return soon, I thought.  The trail crossed the creek and followed it, offering superb scenery, before climbing up a steep slope.  I followed a side trail back down to the creek and rested for a bit, hearing the sounds of the wilderness, the bubbling water, the breeze being inhaled and exhaled by the gorge.  I knew there was another waterfall upstream, but decided to see it on another hike.

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I retraced my steps and then went off trail to see a 7 foot falls and deep pool downstream, just off the trail.  Another beautiful spot in the Kettle Creek Gorge.   I returned to the vista as the sun began to set, filling the gorge with angled shadows and shafts of mist.  It was beautiful.  The roar of the creek filled the gorge.  A hummingbird suddenly appeared, visiting some blooming trees as if it were on a set, daily schedule.  It then sped off back to its teacup sized nest, hidden within a universe of trees.  The snake didn’t make a sound.

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Do people know places of such beauty are right here?

I followed the Loyalsock Trail back through a forest fading to twilight.  Lightning bugs appeared with long, silent flares of fluorescent light guiding my way back to the car.

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The Kettle Creek Gorge and Angel Falls are described in “Hiking the Endless Mountains”.

Hunters Lake

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For those who like to kayak or fish, Hunters Lake is a best kept secret.  Covering 117 acres near the Loyalsock State Forest, the lake features wooded, curving, undeveloped shorelines with views of North Mountain, the second highest mountain in northeast Pennsylvania.  The lake is known for its scenery and serenity.

There is one boat ramp and only electric motors, or non-powered boats, are allowed.

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The lake is stocked with trout and a variety of warmwater species like largemouth bass can also be found.

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Hunters Lake is the perfect place to kayak due to its scenery, isolation, and uncrowded nature.

Nearby is Eagles Mere, or you can hike to Angel Falls and the Kettle Creek Gorge.

I visited on a sunny day with puffy cumulus clouds.  The still water reflected the sky perfectly as reeds and lilypads adorned the surface.  I returned after my hike for the sunset as the horizon turned to gold, spreading its light across the water.  It was beautiful.  Lightning bugs then appeared with fluorescent trails across the twilight sky.

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If you’re looking for a day on the water away from it all, go to Hunters Lake.

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Location of Hunters Lake.

Glacier Pools Preserve

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Located near Picture Rocks, the Glacier Pools Preserve in eastern Lycoming County is an ideal place for a hike.  It covers 270 acres with a network of trails through beautiful woods, fields, meadows, and views of the Allegheny Front.  Its namesake are the numerous vernal pools on the property, remnants of melting blocks of glaciers from thousands of years ago.  These pools support a wide variety of wildlife and the meadows are home to a variety of grasses and wildflowers.

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The parking area is on Pine Tree Road, and is a little discreet.  About four cars can park there.  I began on Meadow Trail-West with its flowers.  I continued straight on the Wagon Road Trail through a beautiful and diverse forest of pine, hemlock, and hardwoods.  The trail followed an old woods road, but then climbed away on a more rugged path.  Next, I turned right on the yellow Mander Meander as it passed a couple vernal pools in the forests with ferns.  Frogs croaked from the pools.

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I hiked around the High Field Trail, turned right on the Mander Meander, and then on the red Shortcut Trail which brought me to a view of the Allegheny Front and rolling foothills.  It was a nice view, made even more scenic by the setting sun.  Deer snorted their annoyance with my presence as insects flew in the fading sunlight.

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I descended and hiked the Meadow Trail-East with more flowers and a rising moon.  I then returned to my car.  If you like frogs, salamanders, views, or flowers, check out this preserve.

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More information.

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Bay of Fundy, Hopewell Rocks, Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, and Prince Edward Island Roadtrip

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Back in June we went to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Cape Breton.  Despite the long drive, it was an awesome trip, one I highly recommend.  The Maritimes of Canada have amazing scenery, and is an ideal place to go if you are looking for somewhere different.

Portland, Maine

We camped in Maine on the way up and our first visit was this beautiful seaside city, which offers trails and parks along the waterfront.  We didn’t stay long, but we enjoyed our stop.  I was most intrigued by an old fort in the harbor, called Fort Gorgeous.  We enjoyed the bright sunshine as islands dotted the harbor.

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Fundy National Park

We drove into New Brunswick under misty skies and entered this famous national park.  The weather limited our hiking, but we did see Dickson Falls and its incredible gorge of moss as a crystal clear stream tumbled over the bedrock.  Our longest hike was to Third Vault Falls, located in an isolated gorge.  This falls was quite beautiful, about 50 feet tall.  Another visit was to the red covered bridge at Point Wolfe, located above a rugged inlet from the Bay of Fundy.  I really loved the Acadian forests with the spruce, fir, and pine.  An Octopuses’ Garden Café in the nearby village of Alma was worth the stop.

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Hopewell Rocks

This is the most famous place along the Bay of Fundy, famous for its otherworldly rock formations.  The bay has the highest tides in the world, about 40 feet, and the power of the water has carved into the rocks, creating caves, spires, and other odd shapes.  It was odd to walk on the bottom of the ocean.  Be sure to visit when the tide is low so you can see the rock formations.  The scope of these tides are amazing, they go out for miles, creating vast mud flats, and the Bay of Fundy has the color of chocolate milk.  A visit to Hopewell Rocks is a must.

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Cape Chignecto Provincial Park

We entered Nova Scotia as the skies began to clear.  The countryside was scenic along the coast and we went off the beaten path to this park.  Go there.  It has an isolated feel and is truly beautiful.  The Three Sisters formation was similar to Hopewell Rocks and the towering red cliffs and views of the bay were amazing.  There were hidden coves with red beaches.  The park also offers mountain scenery that gave a taste of Cape Breton.  Towering plateaus dropped to the bay with canyons and gorges.  The surrounding communities were laid back, friendly, and very scenic.  I loved Cape Chignecto.

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Five Islands Provincial Park

The drive from Cape Cignecto to Five Islands was very beautiful, one I highly recommend.  Forested hills and valleys, sprinkled with fields drop down to the bay.  There were non-stop views and quaint villages.  Again, I’m surprised this part of Nova Scotia is not more famous.  Five Islands is another excellent park.  When the tide is low, you can walk out to see the colorful cliffs, sea stacks, and beaches.  Islands are off the coast.  We saw the locals dig in the sand for crabs, zipping around in their quads.  Life revolves around the bay and its tides- something that seems so foreign to a Pennsylvanian.  Our drive took us to the north coast of Nova Scotia where we stopped by the Cape George lighthouse.

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Cape Breton Island

The highlight of the trip and one of the most beautiful places on the east coast.  In my opinion, not even Acadia can rival the mountain coastal scenery of Cape Breton Highlands National Park.  This place is just amazing with friendly people, scenic towns, and just beautiful scenery-if the weather cooperates.  We were lucky with sunny skies and warm temperatures.

We camped at Wycocomagh Provincial Park, which had a very nice campground and bathrooms.  The park also has trails, but we did not hike any.  We drove north along Bras d’ Or Lake, a vast saltwater inlet that looks like a lake.

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Cape Breton Highlands National Park

The ride to this park was very enjoyable, and I was excited to finally reach it.  We were treated to amazing coastal scenery with cliffs and rock outcrops of pink feldspar with beaches.  Ingonish was impressive with its bays and rugged scenery.  Warren Lake was gorgeous with views of the mountains with a beach.  Mary Ann Falls are the tallest in the park and was a short hike to the scenic cascade.  Black Brook beach was a highlight with its tropical-like beach, a waterfall and trails that featured rugged coastal views.  Our drive was now on the famous Cabot Trail, one of the world’s premier scenic drives which took us along rugged shores to the tops of alpine mountains.  As we reached South Harbor, there were panoramas of distant mountains cut with deep gorges, cliffs, and alpine headlands rising above white beaches.

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We decided to make the drive to Meat Cove, and I’m very glad we did.  If I ever return, I’d like to spend more time there.  The drive, again, was beautiful as we descended into Bay Saint Lawrence.  We felt like we were at the end of the world with vast oceans and rugged mountains, but we had a way to go.  The drive to Meat Cove, possibly the most isolated community you can drive to on the Atlantic coast, was unforgettable.  The road was in good shape with non-stop views.  Meat Cove is tucked into a narrow valley, surrounded by rugged mountains.  A network of trails lead from this tiny village and we hiked one to a stunning grassy summit with views.  The road ended near a campground perched on top of a bluff.  Here, we truly felt like it was the end of the world.  I hoped to hike some other trails, but we did not have time.  The village got its name because fisherman could smell the meat when the moose were being butchered.  Off shore were fishing boats heading back to harbor, like commuting to and from work.  The sea is the livelihood for these people, similar to the farms where I live.

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Our trip continued and we visited by Cabots Landing Provincial Park, where John Cabot allegedly landed on North America.  There was not much there except for a parking area, field, and beach.

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We continued back on the Cabot Trail as we drove through forested canyons, under forbidding cliffs, and across windswept, alpine mountaintops with gnarled spruce.  A long descent through another canyon brought us to the Lone Shieling, a re-creation of a Scottish farm structure, and nearby was one of the largest old growth maple forests in the world.  That night we camped at MacIntosh Brook campground, a very nice, quiet place with views of the mountains and a trail to a scenic waterfall.  Down the road was the town of Pleasant Bay which had some restaurants, cafes, a Buddhist monastery, and more mountain scenery.  It was nice to see civilization again, or at least a place that took a credit card.  After eating we saw the sunset and rain clouds across the ocean.

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The following day was simply incredible.  The great weather continued and the Cabot Trail continued to impress with its scenery and vast alpine woodlands.  We visited a bog with a long boardwalk that abounded with pitcher plants and sundews.  We also hiked to an isolated pond.  Next was the highlight-the famous Skyline Trail.  We hiked this trail with its amazing views to a boardwalk down an alpine ridge with breathtaking views.  I had long seen photos of the views from this boardwalk and it was great to see it in person.  Below, canyons opened to the sea hundreds of feet below.  On the hike back, we saw a couple snowshoe hares.  If you hike one trail at Cape Breton, make it the Skyline Trail.

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Cheticamp Visitor Center was next where we hiked to the Salmon Pools, deep pools and rapids with pink bedrock in a canyon.  Again, it was beautiful.  We also swam, but not for long-too cold.  We left the park, amazed by the experience.  Cape Breton Highlands National Park was one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen.  Considering I saw license plates from across Canada and the U.S., others must think that as well.

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We drove south along the shore with its beaches and mountains.  We particularly enjoyed the town of Inverness.  Scottish heritage is common in Cape Breton, where there are also efforts to keep the Gaelic language alive.  We left Cape Breton and stayed the night near New Glasgow.

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Prince Edward Island

Our trip continued along the north coast of Nova Scotia, which has the warmest beaches north of Virginia.  The scenery was pastoral with views of the coast.  Tatamagouche was a nice town with a great microbrewery.  Ahead was the Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island.  On the island, we checked out its national park with its red bluffs, beaches, and dunes.  The island has very pretty, rolling countryside and lots of Green Gables references but it is touristy and not really my kind of place.  If you like shops, quaint towns, pastoral countryside, the coast, and Green Gables, PEI is your heaven.  We left the island and paid $40 to cross the bridge for the privilege.

We headed back into New Brunswick where I had one of the best salads ever at a McDonalds, and made the long drive to Maine.

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Cobscook Bay State Park

This was where we camped for our last night.  It is a beautiful campground with wooded sites along the inlets of the ocean.  Next we drove to Lubec, thinking it was the eastern most point of the US.  We drove to Mowry Point, a run down place with a house half-completed.  Odd, I thought, for the eastern most point of the country.  I learned Quoddy Head was the eastern most point, but we were already driving west when I realized.  After driving across Maine, we stopped by Vaughan Woods Memorial State Park with a lake and old growth forest.  We hiked and had a picnic under the tall trees.

We then made the long drive back to PA.  A great trip that I recommend to anyone.

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