Waterfalls of Somer Brook Gorge-SGL 57

IMG_20170506_203530_663

Somer Brook is located deep in SGL 57.  It has carved a deep gorge in the plateau featuring big rocks, rapids, pools, slides, and several waterfalls.  It is a place of rugged, dramatic beauty.  A few weeks ago, I decided to check out this gorge.  With recent rains, and the game lands road to the top of the mountain opened for turkey hunting season, it was an ideal time to do some exploring.

20170506_133437

I parked at the last parking area before the gate and followed the gated roads, which were flowing with water through the spruce forests.  The woods were incredibly aromatic.  I turned right on the next road and crossed Somer Brook, rushing with water.  I continued on the road as it went around the top of the plateau until I reached a discreet side stream.  My bushwhack began as I descended this stream.

IMG_20170506_211303_283

This small stream proved to be gorgeous with a slide and then a 15 foot falls over a cliff.  Below was a gauntlet of large boulders and nonstop cascades and pools.

IMG_20170506_213018_566

The scenery became even better.  Three stream joined at the same place among a slope of large boulders.  There were waterfalls and cascades everywhere as the water tumbled over the boulders.  It was breathtaking.

20170506_140057

These three streams converged into a larger one that continued with cascades until it disappeared over the edge of a grotto.  I descended into the grotto to see a place of great beauty.  A 20 foot falls with huge car sized boulders at its base, followed by more waterfalls.  Ferns covered some of the boulders.  I named this place Atkinson Falls.

IMG_20170507_101154_830

As I negotiated the tough terrain, there were many loose rocks that shifted under my feet.  I stepped on one rock, and the other end shot up, slamming into my shin.  It was very painful as blood oozed from my leg.  I had no choice but to keep walking.

IMG_20170507_090039_123

Below was an 8 foot falls with a long slide over red bedrock.  I could see Atkinson Falls above through the trees.  This unnamed creek continued with rapids and boulders until it joined a rain swollen Somer Brook.

20170506_154055

Somer Brook worried me- it was a raging whitewater river as it surged between boulders and swirled through pools.  I needed to find a safe place to cross.  I made my way up the creek and found a calm, shallow pool above some rapids.  With my poles, I made it across safely but the current was surprisingly strong.  I looked upstream to see Somer Brook choked with boulders and whitewater.  This place was wild, untamed.

20170506_152347

I found another unnamed sidestream and began the arduous hike up.  My legs shook with pain and exhaustion.  This sidestream was filled with cascades over boulders, but no distinct falls.  I then reached Southbrook Road.

20170506_152524

I followed the road a short distance and then saw an old, discreet grade to my left.  I knew this led to the base of Somer Brook Falls, the tallest of them all.  I reached the base of the falls, crossing the powerful creek again above a 15 foot falls.  The base of the falls was filled with natural foam from the reddish swamp water.   I reached the point where the two branches of Somer Brook joined- it was awesome.  The forest and gorge were filled with the roar of water.  Trees dripped with moisture.

IMG_20170507_114550_760

I made my way up to Somer Brook Falls and it was a stunning sight as a torrent plummeted 80 or so feet through a chasm.  This is an amazing falls.  I made my way up the top of the chasm through a forest of hemlock and spruce.  Above is a beautiful spruce forest with a 3 foot falls over pebbly conglomerate.   I made my way through the deep green spruce forest over the blood-colored water from the tannins in the spruce and hemlocks.  I returned to the road and made my way back to the car.

20170506_154343

This is an amazing place, a gem in not only SGL 57, but all of Pennsylvania.  I’m glad I was able to experience it.

Location of Somer Brook Gorge.

More photos and videos.

20170506_155940

***************************

GPS coordinates of the scenic places in Somer Brook Gorge:

Boulder Cascades (above Atkinson Falls):  N 41 26.376  W 76 09.646

Atkinson Falls:  N 41 26.383  W 76 09.678

Somer Brook Falls: N 41 25.834  W 76 10.123

Parking area:  N 41 25.087  W 76 09.817  (Road to parking area is only open during the fall and spring hunting seasons)

My route:

My route

Scar Run Waterfalls and Gorge-Loyalsock State Forest

IMG_20170501_155830_913

Located north of the more well-known Ketchum Run Gorge, Scar Run Gorge is one of the Loyalsock State Forest’s hidden jewels.  My goal was actually to see a pine forest north of the gorge, but I ended up hiking Scar Run as well.

IMG_20170430_203653_002

I parked off of Coal Mine Road where it meets the gated Randall Road.  I followed the gated road and its yellow and blue blazes.  At a Y, I followed the road to the left, leaving the blazed trail to the right.  This road went through a series of four deer fences and ended at the edge of the pine forest.  From here, it was off trail hiking.

20170430_152505

The pine forest was quite beautiful, comprised mostly of red pine with some spruce, white pine, and random apple trees.  It had a dark, haunting quality to it, and would be a beautiful place to visit after a snowfall.  A small, marshy pond was embedded in the forest.  The ground was carpeted with thick layers of needles.  The southern part of the pine forest was at a lower elevation and featured thick white pine.  Pine forests of this size are rare in the area; this one covers roughly 80-100 acres.

IMG_20170501_192930_021

I hiked to the edge of the plateau to see meadow areas with thousands of mayapples growing.  I was going to retrace my steps, but then thought, why not return along Scar Run?  So I bushwhacked down to Scar Run, following some old grades.

20170430_153042

Scar Run is a stream of great beauty, featuring many waterfalls, pools, and green moss grottos.  It is described in Hike No. 42 of Hiking the Endless Mountains.  An old grade started on the south side of the creek, but then crossed to the north.  A variety of wildflowers were growing.  The grade is close to many of the falls, offering fine views of the scenic creek.  In some places, the grade is washed out.  I was particularly happy to see trout in Scar Run.  Ledges glistened with springs as large trees towered above ferns.  Moss seemed to cover everything near the creek, creating a ribbon of emerald.

IMG_20170503_165914_283

The old grade crossed the creek with more waterfalls to the left.  I simply followed the grade back to Randall Road and my car along Coal Mine Road.

IMG_20170502_180615_109

Afterwards I drove down Coal Mine Road to the Loyalsock Trail and hiked out to Alpine Vista.  The view was beautiful as shafts of sunlight penetrated the brooding clouds to the fresh leaves of the fluorescent forest below.

20170430_172045

If you love waterfalls, check out Scar Run.

More photos.

Location of Scar Run.

******************************

Hiking Scar Run is fairly easy.  All GPS coordinates from Google Earth.

  1.  Park along Coal Mine Rd.  41°27’50.03″N  76°36’36.04″W
  2. Walk the gated road, bear left at 41°27’53.77″N   76°36’37.19″W
  3. Follow this obvious road, which becomes more brushy through a series of 4 deer fences.
  4. Pine forest is located at 41°28’36.90″N 76°37’22.50″W
  5. Want to just see Scar Run and its waterfalls?  Go to the old grade at 41°27’50.76″N  76°36’39.28″W.  Hike the grade down to Scar Run.
  6. Scar Run has lots of stinging nettle in summer.  Do not attempt in high water.

Hiking Hunts and Pigeon Runs-Waterfall Wonderland (SGL 13)

20170423_124707

As many of you know, the Waterfall Wonderland in SGL 13 is a place of amazing natural beauty.  I love it for not only its waterfalls, but also its isolation, deep gorges, and large trees.  I returned a few weeks ago to explore two tributaries of Sullivan Branch-Hunts Run and Pigeon Run.  I explored each tributary on separate hikes.

IMG_20170423_202510_425

Hunts Run

First I hiked to Hunts Run.  Thanks to recent rains, Sullivan Branch and Sullivan Falls were flowing high.  I made my way up Sullivan Branch, enjoying the gorge, rapids, and cascades.  I saw Pigeon Run Falls with its plummeting sheet of water and continued up the creek, enjoying all the falls and deep pools.

IMG_20170423_203641_567

I crossed Sullivan Branch and hiked up the slope, reaching an old grade that brought me to Hunts Run.  The hike up Hunts Run was scenic, but there were no waterfalls, just non-stop cascades over mossy boulders.  This glen was scenic and isolated.  At the top I explored some large cliffs and overhangs.  What was most impressive was a forest of old growth hemlocks, with many large trees.

IMG_20170423_204141_021

I then made my way back down to Sullivan Branch, and returned to my car.

IMG_20170423_200450_377

Pigeon Run

My second hike took me up Pigeon Run, a stream well known for all its waterfalls.  This hike did not disappoint.  This creek had five or six waterfalls in beautiful grottos and overhanging ledges.  The last falls was a slide that spread out like a fan, just below a private property line.

20170429_172518

Pigeon Run became a gauntlet of steep boulders and more cascades in a very rugged glen.  Many trilliums grew on the boulders.  I followed the game lands boundary to a stunning place at the top of the gorge.

IMG_20170429_211255_097

Massive, ancient hemlocks surrounded this place, as cliffs and ledges rose over me.  At the top was a beautiful 40ish foot falls that tumbled down three or four drops.  I called it the Falls of the Hemlocks, located at N41 20.815 W 076 19.825.

IMG_20170429_192938_668

This felt like a wild, primeval place.  I followed the cliff rim west, back to Sullivan Branch.  This was a beautiful place with large cliffs crowned with more large hemlocks.  There were views of the gorge below through the trees.

IMG_20170429_213510_628

I made my way down the slope, passing boulders and rock outcrops back to the unblazed trail above Sullivan Branch, which I took back to my car at Sullivan Falls.

IMG_20170429_211934_526

More photos.

Location of this place.

Mountain Springs Loop

Small stream at Hall of Hemlocks

One of my favorite hikes is a combination of the Cherry Run and White Gold Circuit hikes, described as hikes nos. 27 and 29  in “Hiking the Endless Mountains”. This route follows the eastern part of the Cherry Run hike, and the western part of the White Gold Circuit hike.   This loop has it all- views, hemlock forests, cascades, streams, ponds and some history.  It is also moderate in difficulty and about 7-8 miles in length.

Hall of Hemlocks trail

I parked at The Meadows along Mountain Springs Road and entered the woods on the unblazed, unsigned Hall of Hemlocks trail.  The trail follows an old grade along the edge of the plateau, passing small streams and deep hemlock forests with ground pine.  It is very scenic.  The trail gets closer to the edge of the plateau with rock outcrops and partial views.  The trail moved away from the edge and climbed into a hardwood forest, this section can be a little hard to follow if there is snow or leaves on the ground.  It is likely easier to follow in summer.  I followed the trail back to the edge with more hemlocks and a small stream with a trickling falls.  The hemlocks continued as I descended to beautiful Cherry Run with its cascades.  Without a bridge, I made my way across the water using rocks.  I soon reached the yellow blazed Little Cherry Run Trail in Ricketts Glen State Park, where I turned left.

Little Cherry Run Trail

This is a gorgeous trail with two bridges as it closely follows Cherry Run with all its rapids and cascades in a narrow gorge.  It looks like this trail is becoming quite popular.  There is a large rock outcrop, pool and small falls at the bottom of the trail.  I then turned left on the red blazed Mountain Springs Trail, which followed an old forest road and also doubles as a snowmobile trail.  This was another scenic forest walk with more hemlocks, birch, and maple.  I could hear Bowmans Creek flow below.  I reached the end of Mountain Springs Lake, following the trail to the left.  The lake has been officially drained, but when enough water flows in, it does fill back up.  I was lucky to see the lake full once again.  The trail went along the north shore of the lake with many nice views.

Mtn Springs Lake

I reached the end of the lake and passed the dam, heading straight on the dirt road.  Old foundations for the ice industry were to the right.  I turned right, or straight onto an old grade where the dirt road turns left.  This obvious grade headed east, passing on the north shore of the wetlands of what once were Ice Dam No. 1.  I had not hiked this trail before and I enjoyed it.  Bowmans Creek meandered within this wetland with many beaver dams.  I reached the end of the wetlands at the remnants of the dam and deep meandering pools.  I turned left onto an old forest road and climbed up to the dirt road.  This was now a part of the White Gold Circuit.

Outlet of former dam of Ice Dam No. 1

I crossed the road and followed an obvious trail up a gradual slope back to the plateau. As I neared the top, huge boulders and ledges rose above me.  This is a beautiful trail.  The trail kept close to the edge with views through the trees.  The views opened up from cliffs and ledges of the lake and the streams that roared below.  This is a nice place for a sunset.  The trail left the cliffs, meandering through woodlands, and reached Beech Lake Road.  I turned left on the road, took the grassy grade on the right out to Beech Lake to see some ducks and geese.  To my surprise, there was no ice on the lake, which reflected the blue skies and white clouds.  I retraced my steps and returned to my car.

If you’re looking for a new place to hike, I highly recommend this superb loop.  While all trails are not blazed or signed, all trails and grades are well established and this loop is fairly easy to navigate.

On the drive home, I stopped by the Hayfields in Ricketts Glen State Park.  I never really hiked here, so I explored the meadows and wetlands, and enjoyed a sunset in the frigid breeze.  I also stopped by the former site of the lumber town of Ricketts, once home to 800 people, but now replaced by forest.  It is amazing all the lives that have come and gone in a place that is now so isolated.

More pictures.

____________________________________

Hiking this loop is easy, it is about 7-8 miles long.  Terrain is moderate with gradual inclines and declines.

1.  Park at the Meadows along Mountain Springs Road.  N41 21.574  W76 14.120

2.  Enter the unblazed Hall of Hemlocks trail into the woods and bear left onto an old railroad grade.  There may be some yellow or blue paint blazes, but they are infrequent.  N41 21.519 W76 14.138

3.  Cross some small streams and enjoy the hemlock forests.  N41 21.068  W76 13.920

4.  The trail moves closer to the edge of the plateau.

5.  Leave the hemlocks and enter a hardwood forest.  Trail may be a little harder to follow through here, especially if there is snow or leaf cover, but it is discernable.

6.  Trail moves away from the edge of the plateau, going off and then onto an old grade.

7.  Trail moves closer to the edge of the plateau with more hemlocks.

8.  Cross a small stream with a seasonal falls.  N41 20.522 W76 14.531

9.  Enjoy more hemlocks above Cherry Run and descend.

10.  Cross Cherry Run (no bridge) and meet the Little Cherry Run Trail, blazed yellow.  Turn left on this trail.  N41 20.815 W76 14.929

11.  Hike the trail down along Cherry Run, very scenic.

12.  Turn left onto the red blazed Mountain Springs Trail.

13.  Hike to Mountain Springs Lake, walk to the dam and parking area.

14.  Continue straight on dirt road.  Ice industry ruins on right.

15.  Where dirt road turns left and climbs, continue straight onto obvious old forest road.

16.  Hike above the wetlands of former Ice Dam No. 1.

17.  Reach four way intersection, turn left and climb to dirt road.  N41 20.828  W76 12.565

18.  Cross dirt road and follow obvious footpath as it goes through pickers and up an old grade.

19.  Trail bears left on an old grade, near edge of plateau.  N41 20.903 W76 12.800

20.  Trail turns right and climbs, levels below cliffs and ledges.

21.  Reach the top of cliffs with views of the lake.  N41 20.773 W76 13.509

22.  Trail meanders through woodlands and ends at Beech Lake Road.  N41 21.538 W76 14.005

23.  Turn right onto obvious forest road to Beech Lake.  N41 21.555 W76 13.822

24.  Retrace your steps and return to your car, which is nearby.

Map

Vistas of SGL 207

View of Nanticoke

SGL 207 is southwest of Wilkes Barre, between US 309 and I-81.  I recently became interested in exploring this game lands, with its many ridges, rock outcrops, ponds, and wetlands.  I parked off of US 309 near Mountaintop, at a game commission parking area at the end of Brown St.  I then followed a gated railroad grade as it wrapped around the mountain above US 309; I believe this may become a rail trail in the future.  The old grade cut through the bedrock.  Below was Solomon Creek and the famed Ashley Planes which were inclined planes that brought coal up and out of the Wyoming Valley.  The overgrown planes still exist today and were an engineering marvel of their time.

At the second powerline, I turned left and then right, following another powerline swath.  The terrain was quite hilly as I went up and over ridges.  I was treated to some amazing views of Wilkes-Barre and I could see I-81 in the valley far below.   Large rocks and ledges adorned the forests.  I hiked around some wetlands embedded in between the ledges.  The trail followed the powerline and soon brought me to the southern ridge, with some nice views to the south.  Here, I began my bushwhack, heading northeast along an exposed ridge with non-stop views over the forests and ponds below, walking around seasonal wetlands and ponds.  I made my way back to the powerline and soon returned to the woods to a couple large boulders at the top of a ridge with some nice views.  SGL 207 also features several meadows with grasses over bedrock and bare soil.  I then retraced my steps to my car, passing several people hiking the old railroad grade.

SGL 207 was worth visiting and has some of the best views of Wilkes Barre.  I’d like to return to hike the rest of the old grade, although I doubt I’d hike the same route I did on this trip.

More photos.

Map of SGL 207.

Appalachian Trail: Hike to Knife Edge and Bear Rocks

View from Knife Edge

We recently returned to the famous Appalachian Trail (AT) in PA to hike one of its more scenic, and rugged, sections.  We parked off of Route 309 and soon began hiking north on the AT, passing small campsites and thickets of laurel.  The trail was nice, but became increasingly more rocky.   There were some nice views to the south over the rolling farmlands and distant ridges.

View from Knife Edge

The trail crossed a powerline with views and a cairn.  From there, the rocks began to take over as we reached the crest of the ridge with a fine view.  Further up the cliffs was a lone vulture, looking quite large as it enjoyed the sun.

Rock hopping soon followed as we passed several other hikers.  Large outcrops were to our right.  We followed the trail as it scrambled up the rocky spine of the Knife Edge and its superb views.  I could see the Pinnacle and Pulpit Rock in the distance.  We sat and got a bite to eat in the bright sun.

Scrambling the rest of the Knife Edge was fun and we were soon back in the woods, which featured more hemlocks and another good view to the south as we hiked across the rocks.

Soon, Bear Rocks appeared to the left and I followed the blue trail to the top, which requires some scrambling.  This is one of the best rock outcrops along the AT in PA as it towers over the trees and provides several views to the east and north.  I followed the spine of the outcrop, enjoying all the views and the scrambling, finishing with a view to the west.  I dropped from the rocks and returned to the AT, retracing our steps back to the car under a setting sun.

Peeling bark on dead tree

This is an easy hike in terms of elevation gain, but challenging due to the rocks, Knife Edge, and Bear Rocks.  There are several fine views.  It is about 3.5-4 miles one way.

More photos.

Cathy’s Trail and Long Pond Barrens

Over the last several years, vast areas of the Poconos have been set aside as preserves, many with trails.  The Poconos are famous for its waterfalls and gorges, but its plateau is home to extensive wetlands and streams that harbor incredible diversity.

Cathy's Trail

The Nature Conservancy has several parcels of land that make up the Long Pond Preserve.  We traveled to hike Cathy‘s Trail, a short two mile loop.  We parked at the Nature Conservancy visitor center, crossed a playing field to the right, and soon found the trail.  The trail is level as it explores scenic woodlands of maple, pine, spruce, and beech.  Parts of the trail do get wet from a nearby swamp.  We hiked near a small boulder field and returned through more open hardwood forests to a meadow, which we hiked around back to the car.  Overall, this is a nice easy trail that is good for kids.  I really enjoyed the deep spruce forests with the moss and ground pine.  We could hear traffic from I-80.

Next was a visit to the Long Pond Barrens.  Parking off of PA 118 is non-existent.  This preserve features an extensive selection of wide, mowed paths through fields of blueberry and stunted oak, with pitch pine.  It is easy to hike a variety of loops. No trails are marked or signed, we navigated them using the Google earth map on our phone.  Several areas are wet.  It was a unique place with the pitch pine rising over the stunted forest and brush.  While nice, it is not as scenic as the Eales Preserve.  I think the best time to see this preserve is a sunny day after a snowfall, or during fall foliage season when the meadows explode with color.

I hope to explore more of the Poconos.

More photos.