Hiking Dewdrop Run-Allegheny National Forest

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Dewdrop Run flowing under massive boulders, Allegheny National Forest.

Dewdrop Run is one of the Allegheny National Forest’s best kept secrets, hiding next to one of its most popular campgrounds- Dewdrop Campground. Years ago, the Campbell Mill Loop Interpretive Trail explored Dewdrop Run. For some reason, it was rarely hiked and eventually abandoned despite its superb scenery. I explored Dewdrop Run while writing Hiking the Allegheny National Forest and the place has always stuck with me. I decided it was time to return.

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I parked along the road, just downhill from the entrance to the Dewdrop Campground. Faced with an overgrown meadow, I entered the beech woods and descended a slope to a more open forest. I crossed a sidestream and followed the old, intermittent white diamond blazes of the former Campbell Mill trail. I walked upstream and made my way down to Dewdrop Run. There was no real sign of the old trail. I came across a maze of giant, mossy boulders embedded in the water, creating scenic waterfalls and a small, green grotto. Pools glistened in the fading sunlight as insects danced on the surface. In places it felt as if I were in Oregon or Washington with the unbelievable greenery.

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I then reached an amazing spot-where the creek flowed under massive, house sized boulders cloaked in deep green moss. Absolutely beautiful. I tried to follow the old trail, as it explored more mossy boulders. It turned right, passing between the green monoliths, and then began to climb. I, however, went off the former trail and simply hiked upstream to a beautiful series of cascades and deep pools framed by mossy, sculpted boulders.

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I pushed onward, up into the gorge. Steep slopes and giant boulders loomed over Dewdrop Run. It felt like a hidden, primeval world even though I was less than a half mile from the road. The creek bounced over scenic cascades and small waterfall within a deep, lime green forest.

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I turned around and walked back down the creek, enjoying the scenery again. I retraced my steps back to my car. Park off the road at about 41.826653, -78.968353.

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For adventurous hikers, the north slope of Dewdrop Run’s gorge features massive boulders and rock outcrops that are worth exploring. Hopefully, a hiking trail will return to Dewdrop Run, it is such a beautiful place. Until then, don’t let the lack of an official trail deter you, explore this hidden gem.

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Jakes Rocks-Allegheny National Forest

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View of the Allegheny Reservoir from Jakes Rocks.

Jakes Rocks is one of my favorite places in the national forest.  It features impressive cliffs, overhangs, crevices, and vistas.  It is also home to a premier mountain bike trail system, called the Trails at Jakes Rocks.

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While Rimrock Overlook is more popular, I actually think Jakes Rocks are more beautiful.  The views are more interesting and the cliffs are larger.

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From the parking area, take the paved trail to the right of the restrooms.  This paved trail continues straight to a vista which provides a view to the backside of the Kinzua Dam.  Right before the vista, look for an obvious, unblazed dirt trail to the right; this is the Indian Cave Trail and descends to the bottom of the cliffs.  This trail does not have a sign.  Be sure to hike this trail when visiting Jakes Rocks.

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The Indian Cave Trail descends over stone steps and explores the base of the massive cliffs, colored with springs and moss.  The cliffs are truly impressive as they rise through the trees.  Reach a massive overhang with a huge boulder.  This overhang is interesting to explore.  The trail continues along the base of the cliffs and reaches a deep crevasse through which I hiked with dripping moss.

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From the crevasse, the path is much narrower.  It winds its way along the base of the cliffs and climbs to the second vista.  It is narrow and steep.  I did not hike this trail; I turned around at the crevasse and retraced my steps to the paved trail.

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The paved trail at the top of the cliffs explored large boulders and some unofficial side trails that went to the edge of the cliffs.  I soon reached the second and more impressive vista as it looked down on the Allegheny Reservoir with all its bays and coves.  The reservoir curved off into the distance.  A remarkable view and probably the finest in the national forest.

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The paved trail looped around and returned me to the parking area.   Jakes Rocks is a beautiful place that is a highlight of the Allegheny National Forest.

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Jakes Rocks is described in Hiking the Allegheny National Forest.

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Hiking the Marilla Trails

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Marilla Reservoir

I recently went on a roadtrip to the Allegheny National Forest (ANF) in northwest PA. It had been several years since I took the time to explore the region. I love this area of PA, with its scenery, countless trails, and historic towns. Once the epicenter of resource extraction, whether it be oil or timber, these communities have also begun to embrace the outdoors by building extensive networks of trails.

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One such community is Bradford. With the help of the Tuna Valley Trail Association, trails connect the town, watershed lands, University of Pittsburgh at Bradford (beautiful campus, the modern glass chapel is amazing) and even the ANF. The highlight is the Marilla Reservoir. I had been to the reservoir when I was writing Hiking the Allegheny National Forest. Back then, there was only a trail around the reservoir itself. I’ve wanted to return to hike the new trail system.

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Marilla is a gem. A 20 acre lake surrounded by spruce trees with a stone dam. Bridges adorn the shore line where the trail crosses creeks or the outlet. Marilla is a Celtic word for “shining sea”.

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What trails should you hike? Do not miss the Marilla Bridges or White Pine Trails. The Hidden Valley Passage Trail is also excellent. The Marilla Rock Trail goes into a huge rock city covered with moss and ferns, but the trail is a bit overgrown. A great loop is to connect all of those trails with the Marilla Overlook Trail and Marilla Ridge Road.

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I parked along PA 346 at a large pull off and walked down to the Marilla Reservoir. The wide trail around the reservoir is obvious, and you can go either way. The whole trail is beautiful. If you go left and cross the dam, the views are better. If you go right, you will enjoy the deep spruce forests and cross two long, wooden bridges.

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Continue on the Marilla Springs Trail. This trail explores creeks and springs under a stunning forest of hemlock, maple, pine, and birch. Some of the trees are massive. It is hard to believe this old growth forest isn’t more famous. The sound of the creeks fill the deep, wooded valley. Incredible serenity. I then turned right onto the White Pine Trail and crossed some footbridges over small creeks and drainages. The stunning forest continued. The trail threaded through this sylvan wonder and then passed a grove of gigantic white pines that towered through the canopy. I could’ve been in Cook Forest. I climbed to an open meadow area where the trail was more overgrown. This area had been logged, but many large hemlock trees were spared. The trail followed the edge of this meadow and then returned to the woods to meet the Marilla Overlook Trail. If you turn right and continued on the White Pine Trail, it would return you to the Marilla Reservoir.

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The Marilla Overlook Trail followed a logging road through the open logged area. Many trees were spared, so it wasn’t an eyesore. It looked like a meadow with trees. Expect sun exposure on this section and there were some views of the surrounding hills, but I could not see the reservoir. Blazes are few. I then turned right onto the Marilla Ridge Road, another forest road but it was more wooded. Pay careful attention to the Marilla Rocks Trail on the left, it is easy to miss and there wasn’t a sign. The brushy trail descended to impressive rock and boulder outcrops with overhangs and narrow passageways. The Marilla Rock Trail returned to Marilla Ridge Road, where there was a sign. Follow the road to PA 348 among some pine plantations.

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I crossed PA 348 and hiked the Hidden Valley Passage Trail, another great trail. It threads its way across streams, drainages, and climbs to an old railroad grade under hemlocks. A number of footbridges were along the trail. It was a pleasure to hike and ended at a gravel road very close to PA 348. If hiking counterclockwise, this trail can be a little hard to find. Hike up the gravel road a short distance to some stone steps on the left; this is where the trail begins.

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I crossed PA 348 to my car, ending a great hike. If you’re looking for a new place to hike in northwest Pennsylvania, check out the Marilla Trails.

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Hike information:

Length: Approx. 5 mile loop

Terrain: Moderate and hilly. Several wet areas.

Blazes: Infrequent in places but most trails are well established. Blue is the most common blaze color.

Signs: Most trail junctures have signs. The southern juncture for the Marilla Rocks Trail does not have a sign and is easy to miss.

Highlights: Impressive old growth forests, streams, many footbridges, massive rocks, some views, Marilla Reservoir, spruce forests.

Issues: Roadwalk on Marilla Overlook Trail and Marilla Ridge Road. The latter is wooded.

Kinzua Bridge State Park- Rise from Ruin

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Kinzua Bridge State Park.  The skywalk and collapsed bridge.

Kinzua Bridge State Park is an example of what a ruin can become.

First built in 1882, and completely rebuilt in 1900, the bridge once was the tallest and longest railroad bridge in the world with a height of 301 feet, and a length of 2,053 feet. Commercial use of the bridge ended in 1959 and it was sold for scrap. The new owner didn’t want to tear the iconic bridge down for scrap, so it was sold to the state in 1963 to become a park. Sightseeing tours by train continued until 2002, when they were stopped due to the condition of the bridge. Restoration work began soon thereafter.

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In 2003, the bridge was hit with a tornado, which collapsed several of the bridge’s towers. The reason for the collapse were the iron anchor bolts, which held the bridge to concrete foundations, failed. These were the original bolts from the 1882 bridge. The tornado shifted and even lifted the bridge off its foundations, causing into to collapse into the valley below. Only two portions of the bridge survived- 600 feet of it on the southern end, and a smaller section on the northern end.

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It was too expensive to rebuild the entire bridge, so it was decided to turn the remnant into a skywalk. If the bridge had to collapse, it left the perfect piece standing on the southern end near the parking area.

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The new skywalk has become a premier tourist destination, making the park as popular as ever and attracting people from around the world. I returned to see the impressive new visitor center and walk the bridge. I had been there before the visitor center was completed. The views were excellent as I looked up and down the forested Kinzua Creek gorge from the towering skywalk. The sheer scale of the bridge’s destruction, with massive steel towers crumpled in the valley, was almost beyond belief. The visitor center had excellent historical displays and a movie about the bridge.

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For the first time I also hiked the Kinzua Creek Trail down to the bottom. I highly recommend doing this. The trail begins steep with big stone steps, but it offers incredible views of the bridge from different perspectives. The trail crosses the Kinzua Creek at the bottom and reaches the twisted, massive remains of the fallen bridge. It is a surreal, and impressive, sight. A new rail-trail will soon connect the park to Mt. Jewett.

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With imagination and determination, a ruin can become something incredible. Because of that, a visit to Kinzua Bridge is well worth your time.

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Mt. Pisgah State and County Parks

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Stephen Foster Lake at Mt. Pisgah State Park

It is easy to overlook Mt. Pisgah State Park.  After all, so many more famous parks are located nearby, whether it be Ricketts Glen, Worlds End or the PA Grand Canyon.  Yet this park has a lot to offer and is a worthwhile destination.

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The state park is day use only; there is no campground.  It features several miles of trails, a pool, and Stephen Foster Lake, which is named after the famous songwriter who once lived nearby.

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We decided to hike around the lake on the Oh! Susanna Trail, about a three mile loop.  We parked at the Nature Center, walked over to the amphitheater, and walked the trail down through a beautiful old growth maple forest down to the Oh! Susanna Trail, where we turned left.

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The trail crossed several meadows with wildflowers and butterflies.  We also enjoyed views of the lake and mountains.  The trail crossed below the dam and entered a scenic forest of hemlock and pine.  The trails at the state park tend to be wide, and have signs at intersections.  We hiked along the road for a little ways, and saw monarch caterpillars eating milkweed on the shore.  We crossed another field and continued on the Oh! Susanna Trail as it entered the cool forest.  We completed the loop and made the climb back to the car.

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Another trail at the park popular with hikers is the Ridge Trail, which gradually climbs a forested ridge to the summit of Mt. Pisgah to see the views.  The summit is in the adjacent Mt. Pisgah County Park.

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You can also drive to the summit, which is what we did.  The county park has three vistas, two are narrow, but the third and western vista is more expansive.  There are picnic pavilions and primitive camping.  The county park is unique in that there is camping at the top of a mountain.  The views look over rolling farmland into New York.  The western view is great for sunsets and also features a statue of Chief Wetonah.  There are plans to expand the trails at the county park and some may already be in place.  If visiting the state park, be sure to include the county park as well.

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If looking for a different destination, check out Mt. Pisgah State and County Parks.

Info on Mt. Pisgah County Park.

This park is described in Hiking the Endless Mountains.

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Backpacking the Old Loggers Path- July, 2018

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View from Sullivan Mountain, Old Loggers Path, Loyalsock State Forest

The Old Loggers Path (OLP) is a classic backpacking loop that has grown in popularity over the years. I was surprised to realize that I last backpacked the entire trail in 2012, over six years ago. So I decided it was time to return and experience this trail once again. I was also looking forward to seeing the two new shelters that were built on the trail last year.

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As a change, I decided to hike the trail clockwise, something I had not done before. I also decided to start at the new trailhead off of Krimm Road, instead of Masten, the traditional trailhead.

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I arrived late morning, quickly got my gear together, and began hiking down the trail. It felt good to stretch the legs and hike on an actual trail, instead of bushwhacking, my more common pursuit. The trail followed old logging grades and crossed a small meadow. I hiked past a large campsite along a stream with damage from a flood in 2016. I soon reached Masten and continued on the trail as it made an easy, gradual climb through a forest of beech trees. I crossed a dirt road and entered a scenic hemlock forest where I took a break. The OLP doesn’t have a lot of forest diversity; most of the trail features hardwood forests, so it was nice to sit under the cool hemlocks.

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I encountered patches of stinging nettle along the OLP, but it wasn’t too thick and I was able to pass through, with shorts on, without too much discomfort. I soon reached the side trail to Sprout Point vista and shelter. The shelter was near the vista which provided nice views over the valleys and ridges. It would be a great place to stay for the night, but there is not any water nearby.

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The OLP then descended through scenic, open forests of hardwoods. I crossed another road and traversed a series of stream valleys with rolling terrain. Each stream had a little water, and a campsite. The OLP also passed along a logging cut. A steep climb followed up to the trail’s finest vista, Sharp Top. Up until this point I had only seen two other hikers, but there were about ten backpackers at the vista, enjoying the wide panorama of wooded lowlands and distant mountains. It is an impressive view so I was happy to take a rest for a few minutes.

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The trail followed the edge of the plateau with a series of ledges and then entered brushy areas with plenty of blackberries. I then hiked into a mature forest above a stream with the sound of cascades that filled the air. As I neared the bottom, I passed the yellow blazed S&NY Trail, which is a cross connector trail to the OLP. I soon reached a campsite at Pleasant Stream.

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Pleasant Stream suffered from a lot of flood damage with embedded trees and gravel, sand, and cobblestones everywhere. I crossed the stream easily, passed another campsite, and continued on the trail. This next section was re-routed due to the flood damage; the trail made a steep climb up to the road, followed it for a little ways, and then followed a grade to Long Run. I crossed Long Run and passed more hikers. A climb then ensued up Sullivan Mountain as I tried to move fast to see the sunset. I reached the first series of vistas with beautiful view of the mountains basking in the golden glow of the setting sun. It was breathtaking. I set up my tent at a small site near one of the vistas. I sat at the vista and watched the stars come out. Owls hooted in the distance, coyotes howled through the forest, and fireflies lit up the sky.

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I was up early the next morning and enjoyed watching the rising sun through the misty trees. The trail passed large boulders and followed level grades over springs and small streams. I reached Doe Run and saw the new shelter, which was set close to the creek in a beautiful location. I made note to camp there on a future hike. I reached a view over Rock Run Gorge, where a couple were just getting up and I then hiked down to gorgeous Rock Run, passing above an unnamed falls on Yellow Dog Run. This is such a beautiful stream with its bedrock pools, chasms, and waterfalls. I sat there for a while to eat and enjoy the scenery.  While there I spoke to another backpacker.

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I was surprised by the number of hikers on this trail. I saw almost 40 hikers, but the OLP did not feel particularly crowded.

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I like the northern section of the trail because of the scenery and the hemlock forests. The rapids of Rock Run filled the air as I hiked up the trail, passing several other hikers. I crossed a few more streams and then returned to my car on Krimm Road.

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It was great to be back on the OLP. Hopefully my return will not be in another six years.

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This trail is described in Hiking the Endless Mountains and Backpacking Pennsylvania.

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Old Loggers Path

Location: Loyalsock State Forest at Masten.  Located between Shunk and Ralston.

Length: 28 mile loop

Blazes: Orange

Difficulty: Moderate. The trail often follows old grades with gradual changes in elevation, but there are steep areas near Sharp Top and Long Run.

Highlights: Rock Run, a stream of exceptional beauty, Sharp Top, Sprout Point, views from Sullivan Mountain, big rocks near Buck Run, two shelters at Sprout Point and Doe Run.

Vegetation: Mostly hardwoods with some laurel. There is some hemlock along Rock Run. Stinging nettle is an occasional issue in the summer.

Camping: Most streams have a campsite. There are two shelters. If you want to camp at a view, there are small sites at Sprout Point, Sullivan Mountain, and the view over Rock Run.

Water: Generally not an issue. In very dry years the only creeks that will have water are Pleasant Stream and Rock Run.

Concerns: There is no bridge across Pleasant Stream. In high water this is a dangerous crossing.

Go clockwise or counterclockwise? From Masten or Krimm Road, the trail is easier counterclockwise. Going clockwise saves the best scenery towards the end of the hike.

Where to start? Most people start at Masten, but Krimm Road is another ideal starting point, particularly if hiking the trail clockwise.  Krimm Road is located just off of Ellenton Road.

Trail worth hiking? Yes. The OLP is an ideal weekend loop that is usually well graded. There aren’t a lot of rocky areas. The terrain isn’t too easy, or hard and there are beautiful forests and scenic features.

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Legend for the map above:

C: larger campsite, 3 or more tents

c: smaller campsite: 1 or 2 tents

V: vista

S: Shelter or lean-to

F: Waterfall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Work Hike to White Brook and Koerber Falls-SGL 57

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White Brook Falls-SGL 57

It had been a fairly wet spring and I knew some waterfalls would be running into the summer. I don’t hike much in SGL 57 during the summer, so most of my photos are in the autumn or winter.  SGL 57 has about thirty waterfalls and I knew they’d be beautiful surrounded by green foliage and moss instead of bare trees, ice, and snow.

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Since this was an after work hike, I decided to visit White Brook and Koerber Falls; each is less than a mile from the road.

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We began the hike up to White Brook Falls. The glen was beautiful with its towering trees and deep, clear pools. There was some stinging nettle, but we were able to pass through relatively unscathed. As we approached the falls, the scenery grew more beautiful with red bedrock slides, rounded boulders capped with moss, and more deep pools. I could see the white ribbon of the falls up ahead.

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We reached the falls and it was a beautiful sight. There was still plenty of water. White Brook Falls is known for its graceful spout and overhanging ledge. It is a very scenic and unique falls. The cool breeze at the base of the falls made it very comfortable, cutting the heat of the day and keeping the bugs away. I could have sat there for an hour, but there was another falls we wanted to see on the other side of the valley, so we walked back to Windy Valley Road.

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Our next destination was Koerber Falls, a smaller stream than White Brook, we hoped there would still be some water. We hiked up the gorge, exploring a mossy mini-chasm with a slide and deep pool and an eight foot falls. Up ahead was Koerber Falls. It still had some water; being under it was like a natural shower. The water descended in delicate threads from the moss above. The acoustics at the falls were incredible, as our voices bounced off the ledges creating a surround sound effect. We walked back to the Mehoopany Creek, waded across it in twilight, as storm clouds gathered overhead.

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