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.

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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.

Angel Falls and Ketchum Run Gorge-Loyalsock State Forest

Ketchum Run

I recently met up with Mike and Dani to do some hiking in the Loyalsock State Forest.  The plan was to see Angel Falls and Ketchum Run Gorge with their waterworks.  Brunnerdale Road was a fairly easy drive despite some packed snow and ice and we soon began our hike to Angel Falls along the Loyalsock Trail.  It had been years since I hiked to the falls, and it was great to revisit.  Angel Falls was one of the first hikes I did in the state forest many years ago and it made me realize how special this place was.  The trail provided a steady climb and then crested the top of the plateau.  We turned left on a blue side trail to the falls.  I immediately saw all the huge tulip poplar trees growing above the falls, something I had not noticed before.  Some were truly massive.  Tulip poplars are the tallest of the eastern hardwoods, reaching 200 feet.  In several decades these trees will be true giants like those at the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest near the Great Smoky Mountains; hopefully they will never be cut.

Angel Falls

We hiked to the top of the falls to enjoy the view and then walked to the bottom to see the cascading water in its splendor.  Icicles framed the falls.  Angels Falls is a beautiful place, cascading about 70 feet, with more waterfalls below.  Cliffs surround the falls.  Nearby, someone installed a rope swing from a tree with a view of the falls.  Angel Falls flows most of the year, but is reduced to a trickle in Summer, and can dry completely during drought.  After taking lots of pictures and enjoying the scenery, we hiked back to the car.

Ketchum Run

Next we drove to High Knob Road and parked to hike down Ketchum Run, one of the state forest’s crown jewels.  The trail had more snow than our hike to Angel Falls, and it was noticeably colder.  We spoke to a few backpackers as they reached their car.  The creek had several small cascades and some hemlock forests as we walked on a ski trail.  We went off trail and hiked along the creek to see its two beautiful off trail falls, including one that slid off an angled boulder.  Snow covered the glen as ice draped the exposed rock.  We continued down Ketchum Run, passing campsites, in the isolation and beauty of the gorge.  We carefully hiked into the narrow gorge, but it was slow going with the ice and snow.  This gorge is truly beautiful.  Waterslides tumbled beneath us.  We reached the top of Lee’s Falls, but decided to turn around due to the slick conditions and fading light.

Back at the car, we decided to drive to High Knob Overlook to see the sunset as the light filtered through the passing clouds.  We could see distant snow showers across the horizon.  It was bitter cold but the view made up for it.  A drive home in the dark followed.

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.

First Day Hike- Ricketts Glen State Park

Little Cherry Run Trail

Last year we began a tradition of having a First Day Hike, a concept that has spread across the nation over the last few years.  This year, we decided to keep the tradition alive.  Despite the frigid 9 degree temperatures, the bright sun provided some motivation to hike as five brave souls met me at the parking area in Ricketts Glen State Park.  While surrounding areas were free of snow, over six inches covered the trails in the park, giving the impression that this was in fact winter.

This hike was about 5 or 6 miles long and we began by hiking down to the breached Glen Leigh dam, an old, crumbling concrete structure that is odd for a dam since it is essentially hollow.  We passed above some frozen waterfalls and hiked along the headwaters of Bowmans Creek under deep green boughs of hemlocks.  Maples and birch trees with rolls of peeling bark rose through the forest.  The temperatures warmed a little since we were out of the wind.  The trail was beautiful as it explored peaceful forests and countless animal tracks across the snow.

Little Cherry Run Trail

We turned left onto the new Little Cherry Run Trail, the most scenic section of the hike.  Everyone loved this trail as it climbed up a gorge with a tumbling stream that had several small waterfalls and cascades.  Large rocks and boulders loomed overhead.  The gorge was draped in snow and ice flows.  Two bridges offered easy passage over the frozen stream as the sound of the falling water filled the gorge.  The water was reddish from the swamps upstream.  For those that tire of the crowded Falls Trail, be sure to hike the Little Cherry Run Trail.

Group on the Little Cherry Run Trail

The trail leveled off through a beautiful, deep, green hemlock forest as we crossed small meandering streams.  The frigid sunlight cast shadows across the snow.  We turned left onto the Cherry Run Trail and returned to the dam to complete the loop.  We retraced our steps back to the cars.  Join us for next year’s First Day Hike!

More photos.

The loop we hiked.

 

 

Allegheny Ridge and Graff Woolever Loop (Loyalsock Trail)

 

IMG_20161227_164753_219.jpg

View from the Allegheny Ridge, Loyalsock Trail

 

One hike I’ve always enjoyed was the Allegheny Ridge loop along the Loyalsock Trail.  It offers a good view, ridgetop walking, small streams, and beautiful forests.  If you begin from PA 87, there is also a killer climb with some big rocks and a view, although I did not hike that section on this trip.

White pine tree, Loyalsock Trail

I returned to do a variation of the hike no. 52 in “Hiking the Endless Mountains”.  I decided to do a loop, beginning from the forestry buildings along Little Bear Creek Rd., and then returning via the Graff Woolever Trail.  I hiked part of the Graff Woolever Trail years ago and always wanted to complete it.

Loyalsock Trail up Pete's Hollow

I reached the new and very large trailhead parking area, where I followed the Loyalsock Trail (LT).  The morning sun was rising, sending shafts of light through the still forest and across the white snow.  The trail steadily climbed up a hollow with a small stream.  Large pine and tulip poplar trees towered overhead.  The trail steepened and the snow and ice made it slow going.  Again, the forests were beautiful with lots of birch, pine, and hemlock.  The trail leveled and veered right onto a snowmobile trail.  After a short climb, the LT turned left, leaving the wide snowmobile trail, and followed the crest of the ridge.  I was soon treated to a superb view looking south from the ridge.  Fields adorned rolling foothills as ridges rose in the distance.  It was a beautiful view in the bright winter sunshine.  I took a break to watch the cars and homes far below.  A campsite was nearby.  The trail continued along the ridge and then dropped into a valley, only to return to the ridge with some rock outcrops.  It was a great walk with some nice views through the trees.  The LT veered right and dropped from the ridge, following another snowmobile trail.  Hemlocks filled the dark forests as small streams meandered across the trail.

Graff Woolever Trail

The LT left the snowmobile trail to the left, I continued straight.  After a quarter mile or less, I turned left onto the Graff Woolever Trail, marked by a “GW Trail” sign and blue blazes.  The trail was in good shape although it may be brushy in summer.  It was a glorious woodland trail as it parsed laurel, pine, and hemlocks.  I soon heard a stream to my right.  The trail bent right at a triple blaze (avoid the footpath to the left) and dropped into a beautiful stream valley with more hemlocks and some large trees.  The blue trail continued downstream to a campsite with stone furniture and an elaborate fire ring.  What an awesome place to spend the night, I thought.

Cascades along Graff Woolever Trail

But the blue blazes came to a sudden end and I was unsure where the trail went.  I thought I saw some old footprints in the snow, which followed the creek.  I did the same.  The creek tumbled off the side of the mountain with many small cascades and the “trail” simply followed the creek.  There was no sign of the trail with the snow, and I began to wonder if I was following human, or bear, footprints.  The terrain was quite steep.  I began to wonder if I missed the trail somehow.  Then an obvious old skid trail appeared; it was clearly the trail with cut logs, but still no blazes.  While steep, it was a great trail as it closely followed the tumbling stream with many small waterfalls.  I could see the distinctive peak of Smiths Knob through the trees.  Near the bottom there were two stream crossings as rhododendrons crowded the trail, a nice treat since rhodos aren’t that common in the Loyalsock.  I reached the bottom a little ways behind a cabin.  The trail was indistinct, but I was close to the cabins and Little Bear Creek Rd.  The trail veered right and crossed Little Bear Creek without a bridge, but I used the footbridge for one of the cabins.  There was a sign for the Graff Woolever Trail along the road.  I then walked a short distance along the road back to my car.

Graff Woolever Trail

This was an excellent loop, 5-6 miles in length.  Scenic campsites at the vista and the Graff Woolever Trail make this a great little overnight loop.  The GW Trail is blazed and established well on the plateau, but its fairly steep along the creek, without blazes.  Except for a short section, it follows an obvious old skid trail along the creek.  Next time you are hiking this area of the Loyalsock State Forest, be sure to include the Graff Woolever Trail.

Graff Woolever Trail

Map of the state forest which shows the Graff Woolever Trail on the left side of the map:

http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/cs/groups/public/documents/document/dcnr_20027227.pdf

Keep in mind the Graff Woolever Trail is on the east or south side of the stream, not the west side as on the state forest map.

Bottom of Graff Woolever Trail

More photos:

https://flic.kr/s/aHskNMjUGf

Trail map