Each Issue of The Hemlock features a hike in central Pennsylvania. This page collects those hikes in one place for your convenience. If you've hiked one of the trails and have any comments or suggestions, please email Bob Myers (email@example.com).
Hemlock 1.1 (March 2008): Lick Run: The Best Hike 10 Minutes From Campus
Lick Run is a great short hike (4 miles out & back/2 hours round trip) that is close to campus. To get there from LHU, go east on Water Street to the Jay Street Bridge (across from the courthouse). Turn left onto the bridge, and then left onto the Farrandsville Road. Follow the road for 6.6 miles. At 3.3 miles (Queens Run) you need to turn left to stay on Farrandsville Rd. At 5.2 miles, the road will bear right and cross the railroad tracks, entering the town of Farrandsville. Note the Farrandsville iron furnace at 5.5 miles. The last 100 yards of the road are gravel, as you enter State Game Land 89. At 6.6 miles you'll reach the stream (the road continues but is usually gated at the bridge) Park your vehicle in the parking lot to the right.
Hemlock 1.2 (April 2008): Where Your Water Comes From
From the Clinton County Courthouse (Water & Jay streets), turn right onto Jay Street. Go .7 miles and turn left onto 220 North (Williamsport). Go 4.5 miles to the next exit (McElhattan), and at the bottom of the ramp turn right. Continue 1.2 miles on Reservoir Road, which becomes a fairly rough gravel road after the first half mile. When your reach a red gate, park your car. Go through the gate (it's legal) and follow the gravel road.
You'll pass a second red gate, and, after about .4 miles (8 minutes), you'll see some white buildings to the left. This is Zindel Park, a true oddity. In the late 1920s, the City of Lock Haven constructed the small reservoir and the house, which was occupied by water officials. Next to the reservoir is a shrine, which contains lava from the Mount Etna volcano. After you've explored Zindel Park, return to the gravel road and continue up it for five minutes until you reach the dam of Keller Reservoir. Lock Haven's water supply is stored in this reservoir and in McElhattan Reservoir, which is 3.5 miles up McElhattan Creek. If you continue to follow the road to the left, it crosses the creek (depending on water level you might get your feet wet), and then runs beside the reservoir, offering great views. When you've reached the end of the reservoir, you've hiked about 1.25 miles--you can return to your vehicle or continue to explore the trails upstream from the reservoir.
Hemlock 1.3 (May 2008): Paddling Fishing Creek (D. J. Scott)
For a great local canoe and kayak run, check out Fishing Creek. The creek itself runs through Mill Hall, Lock Haven, and Castanea, but you spend the majority of this two-hour trip in peaceful wilderness seclusion. You will most definitely enjoy yourself as you see this area from a perspective that most people never get to experience.
The put-in spot is the Ax Factory Dam at the Mill Hall Fishing Creek Access Port off Route 64 (from Walmart, turn right onto 150 South/Hogan Blvd. Go .3 miles and, after crossing the bridge, turn left onto 64 South. Go 1.4 miles and turn left onto Nittany Valley Drive). The take-out (where you'll want to leave your other vehicle) is the PA Fish and Boat Launch Ramp in Castanea (Take the Castanea/LHU exit from 220 North; at the bottom of the ramp turn right towards Castanea; take the first right, and then the first right onto the gravel road that leads to the ramp).
After the put-in at Mill Hall, you go through a small boulder garden, which is a great place to work on catching eddies. Then you pass through the heart of Mill Hall. You almost always gets some raised eyebrows from passing cars. As you continue, be aware of two trouble spots. The area directly after the country club has a tree on river left which isn’t very friendly. To avoid it, go under the right bridge abutment. The other area of concern comes after the confluence of Fishing Creek with Bald Eagle Creek-- a series of small islands that are little more then patches of driftwood and small trees. They look really nice, but they end up making a maze with plenty of strainer-filled dead-ends. From personal experience, be safe and stay towards the middle of the creek.
Spring is best time to go, or right after a hard rain, because Fishing Creek is fairly shallow. For a quick reference, check the water level at the old bridge pier across from the car dealership on Rt 64. The water should be at either covering the pier or just under it. Also, as the name suggests, the creek is a very popular trout stream, so remember to share the waters and respect other users.
Hemlock 2.1 (September 2008): State Game Land 295
This is a beautiful hike that is not terribly difficult. Most of it is level, and, with the exception of a few muddy and rocky areas, the trail is smooth. The hemlocks on the return leg down Bear Run seem to be the most damaged by the wooly adelgid. You can see trout in the small pools of Bear Run. (My thanks to my hiking partners who helped me investigate this trail--Mark, Lisette, John, Sue, Elizabeth, and Max.)
Hemlock 2.2 (Oct 2008): The Eagleton Mine Camp Trail (Robert G. Zakula)
If you're interested in hiking the EMCT, first download the maps of the Sproul State Forest and Eagleton Mine Camp Trail. To get to the EMCT trailhead, take Route 120 west from Lock Haven for about 7 miles. Look for a large wooden sign displaying Eagleton Mine Camp Trail and turn left onto Eagleton Road. Follow this unpaved logging road for a little over 2 miles to the eastern trailhead; there is a large gravel parking lot on the right near a set of power lines. Little Buckhorn Trail, .4 miles west of the parking area on Eagleton Road, is highly recommended for its challenging climbs, unparalleled ridgelines, and multiple stream crossings. To reach the western trailhead, follow Eagleton Road west for roughly 3 miles—the gravel parking lot will be on the left.
Hemlock 2.3 (November 2008):
From campus, go east on Water Street to Jay Street (the courthouse) and turn right. Follow Jay Street/PA-120 for 1 mile, crossing over Bald Eagle Creek into Castanea (Latin for "chestnut," presumably because of the many chestnut trees in the area). The road becomes Jarrett Avenue; continue to the end (yellow arrow sign) and turn right. The gravel road leading to the powerline is on the right--you can park there or along Jarrett Avenue.
The climb is steep with several false peaks. Depending upon your speed and the number of breaks you take, it should take you about 30 minutes to get up. Once you reach the top of the powerline, stop and enjoy the view. To the north is Castanea and the city of Lock Haven (the university is visible to the far left). This is an excellent vantage point to appreciate the remarkable geology of this area. You are standing on the westernmost ridge of the Appalachian Ridge and Valley Province that runs from Georgia to Maine. Stretching away to the north, you can see the rolling hills and narrow valleys of the Appalachian Plateau, a completely different mountain formation. The Susquehanna River curves toward Renova (northwest), and Jersey Shore/Williamsport (east). Behind you, to the south, is the second fold of Bald Eagle Mountain. In the valley below is Harveys Run; just beyond the second fold is the Lock Haven exit of Interstate 80, which cuts south through a gap in Nittany Mountain (the next ridge of the Appalachians). To the east Bald Eagle Mountain continues past the gap cut by Harvey's Run. These mountains were formed 250 million years ago when Africa collided with North America (imagine pushing on a carpet--the folds are the Appalachian mountains). As bizarre as it seems, my colleagues in geology tell me that the top of Bald Eagle Mountain is actually the base of the Nittany Anticline, a now-eroded mountain that rose an additional 10,000 feet above where you are standing.
If you follow the trail to the right, you will shortly reach the peak (1705 feet above sea level). There isn't much of a view from here, but you can feel good about having reached the top of one of the highest mountains in this area. Return the way you came, stopping frequently to enjoy the different views as you come down. Thanks to Mark Smith for telling me about this hike, to Khaleq for help with the geology, and to my wife, Elizabeth, for accompanying me on a windy Tuesday to take the pictures.
Hemlock 2.4 (December 2008): Staying on Campus
[Note (9/30/10): This hike has become complicated by logging on the private land at the top of the mountain. It's still possible to hike in the area, but it will require some improvising. --Bob Myers]
This short hike involves absolutely no driving whatsoever, and provides some good views of our campus. The total distance is 1.69 miles, and since there are some moderate climbs, it takes approximately 40 minutes to cover it. The hike begins in front of Akeley. Head towards Zimmerli, following the fence of the lacrosse/field hockey field. Go up the stairs to the left of Zimmerli; when you reach the parking lot at the top turn left and climb the stairs into the woods.
The first part of the hike follows the ridge north of the lacrosse/field hockey, softball, and football fields. Almost immediately, you'll see a tribute to Cale Schaffer, a Recreation major who graduated in 1996 and died in 2000 in a tragic helicopter crash while on a search-and-rescue mission in Denali, Alaska. As the trail gradually ascends up the hill, you'll pass the Challenge Course that is used by the Recreation Management Department (stay off the equipment). Keep following the trail until you reach stairs that descend to the football stadium. Follow the fence of the stadium and go to the right of the Tomlinson Center. Directly behind this building is a trail that cuts through the woods to the left (it's just behind a small mulch pile).
The next section of the hike circles around the large hill on the south side of the playing fields. Follow the trail as it ascends the hill. After a few minutes, you'll pass a trail that heads downhill to the football field--stay on the trail you've been following until you reach its intersection with a trail that goes both right and left. Go right on the trail and follow it as it curves around the hill. After a short time, you'll see the chimney of an old foundation to your left, and the ramps of an unofficial bicycle motocross course to the right. Go to the left, on the trail that runs behind the chimney. The trail then climbs to the top of the hill (940 feet above sea level, about 350 feet higher than the start of the hike). To your right, in the valley below, is Glenn Road.
Enjoy the view (best at this time of year) as you follow the trail along the ridge. When you reach the end of the ridge, you'll begin descending to the left. Note the excellent view of Highland Cemetery, and above it the power line on Bald Eagle Mountain (November's Hike of the Month). Keep descending towards the green water tower, following the trail to the left of the tower. As you go down the trail, to your left you can see the green lacrosse/field hockey field, and the red roof of Thomas Field House. When you reach a fairly well-established trail, go right towards McEntire Hall; if you follow the steps down the hill to the left, you'll end up back where you started.
It seems to me that this trail could be turned into a nature/culture trail for the campus without much expense. A few blazes and well-placed plaques that discussed the natural and cultural history of the area would make this hike an excellent introduction to the campus. Also, it would be great if a student group would "adopt" this trail--there is a good bit of litter, especially as you get close to McEntire Hall.
Hemlock 2.5 (February 2008): The Mid State Trail in Woolrich
In the park adjacent to the parking lot (an excellent place for a picnic), you'll see several small buildings. Walk towards the open-fronted lean-to. This shelter was donated by the Woolrich Company in 2007. Note the orange blazes on the trees--you'll be following these for the rest of the hike. Follow the blazes to the southeast (away from the outlet) through the park. After a few minutes, you'll come to Park Avenue (the road into the outlet); turn right, cross the street and follow the blazes for about a third of a mile until you come to Gravel Hill Road, where the trail turns left. Cross Chatham Run and a second small stream, and then follow the blazes to the right into the woods. You'll have to scramble across a small stream (frozen when we were there), and then the trail climbs gradually a few hundred feet through a beautiful hemlock forest.
Once you reach the top, you'll follow several old logging roads southeast, along a ridge that parallels Park Avenue. We saw turkey, deer, and bobcat tracks. After about a mile, the trail turns right (southwest), and descends to Route 150, across from the Susque Valley Animal Hospital. At this point, you've walked almost two miles. You can either return the way you came, or go to the right (southwest) on Route 150 for about a third of a mile to Harley Drive. Take a right, and another few minutes will bring you to Park Avenue--take a right and you'll be one and a half miles from the outlet. When you get back, I recommend breakfast or lunch at the Woolrich Village Cafe (around the right side of the building).
I recently purchased the 11th edition of the guide to the Mid State Trail (available at local outdoor stores for $38). I hate to complain about anything that is done by the outstanding MST Association (a nonprofit group formed in 1982 to build and maintain the trail), but there is significant room for improvement with this guide. Included in this edition for the first time are two excellent full-color maps for the second half of the trail. But the MSTA needs to simplify the Byzantine system they use to number their maps. Instead of Map #1, #2, #3, etc., the maps are numbered 213-15, then 303 (old map 216), then 217, 311, and so forth. To add to the confusion, several maps have stickers that say things like "This map is OBSOLETE. Please see map #304. Map 303/304 supersedes this map." The guide itself is little more than a list of the turns the trail takes, as opposed to a compendium of interesting information on the natural and cultural history of places on the trail (the guide to the Black Forest Trail and the Loyalsock Trail are both very good at this). Finally, I find the MSTA's insistence on using only the metric system preachy and annoying. I'm still a bit confused about the logic of their claim that "Metrification is a patriotic measure designed to help end our cultural isolation and ease our chronic balance of payments problems" (p. 19). But provide a good map, and the guide is superfluous anyway. Alternatives to the guide can be found in Jeff Mitchell's Backpacking Pennsylvania (who thankfully uses miles), and the various state forest maps that cover the trail (this particular hike is on the Tiadaghton State Forest map). The response of the MSTA to this rant would undoubtedly be, "If you think you can do better why don't you join us instead of complaining." And they'd be right, of course!
2.6 (March 2009)
: Natural Gas Production in the Sproul State Forest
Begin at Walmart and turn right onto Rt. 150 South. In about 4 miles, you'll be entering the outskirts of Beech Creek, which is the site of Alison Bechdel's graphic novel, Fun Home . If you've never read it, Fun Home is the story of a young woman's struggle to come to terms with her father's death, the secrets uncovered in the wake of it, and her own identity. Most of it takes place in central Pennsylvania and some of the sites mentioned in the novel can be seen on this trip. At 4.4 miles, on the left, is the place where her father was struck by a truck and killed. At 6.4 miles, note the pink house on the left--this is the former funeral home that is alluded to in the title. If you turn left onto Maple Street and go .2 miles, the beige house on the left (169 Maple) is the Victorian house that her father restored.
Return on Maple to Rt. 150 and turn left. After .2 miles, just before the bridge, turn right onto Water Street/the Monument-Orviston Road (Rt. 364). The stream to the left is Beech Creek, a sad example of the residual effects of coal mining, an earlier extractive industry in this area. Although it looks beautiful, the red rocks indicate that the stream is dead, killed by acid mine drainage (AMD). However, the Beech Creek Watershed Association is working hard to undo the damage.
After 2.3 miles, you'll come to an intersection: the Monument-Orviston Rd. curves to the left and crosses a bridge; Falls Rd. goes sharply to the right--go more or less straight onto Martin's Grove Rd., which becomes the Beech Creek Mountain Road. After .5 miles you'll need to bear slightly right to stay on it. The road becomes a moderately rough gravel road as it climbs the mountain. At about 7 miles, you'll start seeing natural gas wells and their accompanying storage tanks. At 8.7 miles from Rt. 150, turn right onto the Eagleton Road. After you go 1.3 miles (10 miles from Rt. 150), turn right into the parking lot of the Eagleton Mine Camp Trail (EMCT, described in the October 2008 Hemlock ). Park your car and notice the green storage tank next to the parking lot.
The hike is 2.8 miles and takes about an hour. From the parking lot, walk back to Eagleton Road and turn right, following the red blazes of the EMCT. After about a third of a mile, you will see a well site and a large compressor to the left, but you will hear the engine and smell the diesel fumes before that. This is well #42, operated by NCL Natural Resources, of The Woodlands, Texas. DEP received the permit application for this well on March 14, 2008; the permit was issued 27 days later on April 10th. Drilling began on June 13. To me, this doesn't seem like a long time to wait, especially since this well is sitting on top of the Baker Run watershed. Well #42 is located on Tract 653, a one-mile by three-mile rectangle of state forest land that contains about 20 active wells (the Google Earth image above gives a sense of the web of access roads and well pads in this area).
Immediately after you pass the well site, the EMCT turns left and follows the gravel road to the east of the site. After a quarter of a mile, the trail turns right into the woods. A few hundred feet later, you'll see another well to the left (you'll still be able to hear the compressor from well #42). Continue to follow the blazed trail along Smokehouse Run. This is one of the prettier parts of the EMCT, and it's worth remembering that a hundred years ago this entire area would have been treeless, the result of clear-cut logging, the earliest of Pennsylvania's extractive industries. About a mile after you've left the compressor, you'll come to a intersection with a trail. Leave the EMCT, turn right and climb a small hill--after about a quarter mile, you'll reach the Eagleton Road (note the well to the left). Turn right and return to your car (you'll know you're close when you hear the compressor engine). This entire hike has taken place in Sproul State Forest--land owned by the citizens of Pennsylvania.
You can either return the way you came, or follow the Eagleton Road 8.8 miles until it ends at Rt. 120 (it was very icy when we went this way). Turn right and follow Rt. 120 back to Lock Haven.
Hemlock 2.7 (April 2009): The Mid-State Trail to Round Top
Walk up the road a few hundred yards until it bears sharply left--just before this turn is a dirt road that descends to the right. Follow the road and cross the stream. The trail immediately forks--bear to the right, and follow Yarn's Run. The trail gradually climbs up the hollow, with several stream crossings. After a few minutes another stream will come in from the left--stay right on the Yarn's Run trail. After about a half mile, you will intersect the Mid-State Trail, with its familiar orange blazes (see the February Hemlock's Hike of the Month). A bit further up the trail are some ruins, but you want to follow the MST to the right, crossing Yarn's run again.
Once on the MST, you begin to climb Round Top. The trail crosses a dirt road and then switchbacks up the mountain. Once you reach the top (1750 feet above sea level), continue to follow the MST until you reach a large talus field with an excellent view of the Susquehanna River valley from Lock Haven (left) to Jersey Shore (right). You've now hiked about 1.5 miles and have climbed 750 feet. Return the way you came--the total trip should take about 90 minutes. An alternative would be to drop a car on Pine/Loganton Road where the MST crosses, and then follow the MST down the other side of Round Top.
Thanks to Doug Campbell, a former MST caretaker, for recommending this hike, and to John Reid and Elizabeth Gruber for helping me explore it.
Hemlock 2.8 (May 2009): Little Pine State Park's Lake Shore Trail
To get to the trailhead, take Water Street to Route 220 North. Go 9 miles to the PA-44 exit, and then follow PA 44 north for 10.8 miles to Waterville. After you cross the bridge over Little Pine Creek, turn right onto SR4001/Little Pine Creek Road (there is a sign for Little Pine State Park). After about 4 miles, you will pass the lower picnic area and then the camping area; continue until you get to a pull-off on the right that overlooks the dam. Park your car and follow the walkway across the dam, where you will see the first sign for the red-blazed Lake Shore Trail. There are usually maps at the parking area--if not, the park office (1/2 mile further on SR4001)always has them.
The first mile of the trail follows the woods on the east side of Little Pine Lake. There are a few gentle hills that take you past some beautiful rock formations before you turn left at Naval Run and descend to the northern end of the lake. The trail continues north through an eagle nesting area (one of the highlights of Little Pine SP is the chance to see eagles). After about a half mile, you will reach a fork. The path to the left (down the hill) is how you'll be returning--instead, go right, up a fairly steep (but short) hill into the woods. The next mile skirts the edge of the mountain on the right and a large meadow to the left. Eventually, you'll see a double red blaze--turn left towards the stream (and the shooting range). The path follows the stream through the meadow for a mile, before reconnecting with the fork. Notice the stands of sycamore trees along the stream (easy to recognize by their mottled, "camouflage" bark). When you return to the fork, turn right and follow the trail back to the parking area.
Hemlock 3.1 (October 2009): Get to Know Your State Forest
Since the state forest system is at the center of the budget debate, I thought it might be a good idea to focus on it for this month's drive/hike, which will take you on a drive through some of Pennsylvania's most beautiful fall foliage to a hike in the state forest. The total trip will take from 3-4 hours. You should probably wear hiking shoes, and make sure you have a full tank of gas before you leave.
Beginning at campus, go north on Route 120. After about 7 miles you will enter the Bucktail Natural Area, a 75-mile scenic drive that closely follows the West Brach of the Susquehanna River through Sproul State Forest. At mile 16 you'll enter the Pennsylvania Elk Range, where it's possible to see the elk herd. At mile 20, you'll pass Hyner Run Road, which leads to Hyner Run and Hyner View State Parks (a 13 mile side trip, but well worth it if you have the time). At mile 23 you'll pass the Red Hill Fossil Site, a nationally-known site. Continue for 1/3 mile and take the next right onto the Jack Paulhamus Parkway, towards Gleasonton. Follow the Parkway to the second stop sign, and then turn right onto Young Woman's Creek Road. Stay on the road for 7 miles until you see two monuments by a cabin on the left and a parking area to the right (a bridge over Young Woman's Creek is just ahead). Park your car and get out to look at the monuments.
The closest monument commemorates the first purchase of state forest land in 1898. By that time, almost all of the old-growth forest that had covered Pennsylvania had been clear-cut by the logging industry. As a result, the mountains were eroding, and wildfires from the leftover slash swept through what remained of the forests. Joseph T. Rothrock, Pennsylvania's first State Forest Commissioner, described the area as "the Pennsylvania desert." Under Rothrock's leadership, however, that began to change as the state bought land that had been abandoned by the timber companies. From the beginning, the goals of the state forest were to protect the watersheds, to provide a continuous supply of timber, and to furnish opportunities for healthful outdoor recreation. Today, the state forest comprises 2.1 million acres, or 12% of the forested land in Pennsylvania. It is administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, but it belongs to you. Article 1, section 27 of the Pennsylvania constitution reads, "Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations to come."
You're standing on part of the Donut Hole Trail (orange blazes), which runs about 80 miles from Jericho, PA to near Farrandsville. The second monument is to Robert E. Long, a forest ranger. You might also walk over to the bridge and look at the trout underneath. Return to your car, cross the bridge, and turn right onto the gravel 7 Mile Road. Follow the road for 3 miles to the intersection with Dry Run Road. Turn left and go 3.5 miles to a trail marker on the right for the Rock Run Trail, which is blazed yellow. Park along the road and follow the yellow blazes as the trail wanders south across the plateau through a forest of mountain laurel (PA's state flower). At about 2 miles, you will reach Cougar Run Hollow--descend via the switchbacks to the run. Note the old stone bridge that crosses the stream, and then take the trail to the right (northwest) and climb out of the hollow. After a gradual climb of about a mile, you will reach Dry Run Road--turn right and follow it back to your car. Total hike: 5 miles (about 1.5 hours).
Once you reach your car, continue northeast on Dry Run Road until it joins Benson Road, and then Route 44 (1.5 miles from the trailhead). Turn right on Rt. 44 and follow it back to Lock Haven, enjoying the fall foliage.
This trip has been almost entirely in the state forest. All of this forest sits on top of the Marcellus Shale, and thus, it's likely to be leased to the natural gas companies. Thanks to John Reid for the pictures and for his help scouting this trail.
Hemlock 3.2 (November 2009): State Game Lands #255
Last month's hike introduced you to the Pennsylvania State Forest; this month takes you to one of Pennsylvania's many State Game Lands. The hike is about 3 miles round trip and takes about an hour. Since we are in the midst of hunting season, I recommend that you take this hike on a Sunday, when hunting is prohibited. If you do go during the week, be sure to wear florescent orange and be respectful of those who are hunting. Since there are several stream crossings, boots are recommended. First-rate maps of the state game lands can be found at the State Game Commission (SGC) site.
To get to the trailhead, begin at Walmart and turn right onto PA 150 South. Go .4 miles and after you cross the bridge, turn left onto Rt. 64/Water Street. Go .6 miles and turn right onto Church Street. Continue on Church Street/Mountain Road for 3.7 miles--on the left you will see a parking area with a portable toilet.
Go through the gate and proceed up the hill (southeast). Follow the broad path of clover up the hill as it passes several SGC food plots. These plots are what the SGC calls "habitat improvement," and they are designed to attract deer and provide them with forage throughout the winter. After about a half mile, the path turns left (east) and then reaches an intersection. Turn right and follow a pretty mountain stream up the hill (southeast) for about a third of a mile. At the next intersection, turn left (east) and follow a small stream uphill. For this part of the hike, you are between the twin ridges of Bald Eagle mountain. The path continues uphill for about a half mile, gradually leveling out, until it reaches a large clearing. You have now hiked about 1.5 miles. You can return to your car, but if you bushwhack to the left (north) for 700 feet, you will reach the top of the ridge--there are too many trees for a good view, even when the leaves are down, but you can see a bit of the Bald Eagle valley and even Lock Haven.
The PA State Game Commission was created in 1895 to restore the dwindling wildlife population. At the time, it was estimated that there were only 500 white-tail deer in Pennsylvania (the current population is about 1.5 million). Black bears and wild turkeys were nearly extinct as well. By regulating hunting and protecting wildlife habitats, the SGC has been able to restore or reintroduce the populations of deer, turkey, bears, bob cats, river otters, wood ducks, geese, beavers, fishers, and elk. The first State Game Land (SGL) was purchased in 1920; currently there are 287 SGLs. The SGC is not supported by tax revenues; instead its funding comes from hunting license fees, federal grants, and funds collected from the sale of oil, gas, coal, and timber obtained from State Game Lands. Wildlife protection is conducted by approximately 200 Wildlife Conservation Officers.
Thanks to John Reid, Elizabeth Gruber, Michael Myers, and Max for helping me plot this hike!
Hemlock 3.3 (December 2009): Ole Bull State Park
This hike takes you to another of our great state parks--one that was threatened with closure during the recent budget crisis. It involves an hour drive each way, but the trip is well worth it. Ole Bull State Park offers great camping, fishing, and hiking, and it is the site of some very unusual local history. I'd recommend boots for this hike, which takes about an hour. A map of the hike is available on the park's website.
To get to Ole Bull S.P., turn right after you cross the Jay Street Bridge and follow the signs for Rt. 664 North. After 17 miles, Rt. 664 becomes Rt. 44 North--continue to follow it for another 24 miles to Oleona--turn left onto Rt. 144 South and go one mile to the entrance of Ole Bull State Park. Turn right into the park and follow the road to the large parking area. A few yards to the left of the restroom, you'll see signs for the orange-blazed Susquehannock Trail. Follow the blazes across the pedestrian bridge over Kettle Creek and left (west) along the stream. You'll quickly come to a tall metal monument to Ole (pronounced Oh-lay) Borneman Bull.
Ole Bull (1810-1880) was a Norwegian violinist, who came to Pennsylvania in the middle of the nineteenth century to establish a utopian community. A political activist, who chafed under Sweden's sovereignty over Norway, Bull founded the National Theatre in Norway in 1849; his writer and stage manager was Henrik Ibsen. Bull had fallen in love with this area while touring Pennsylvania in the 1840s, and in 1852 he bought 17 square miles of land in Potter County. In the Fall of 1852, 150 settlers arrived and began building four communities: Valhalla (modern-day Ole Bull S.P.), New Norway, New Bensen, and Oleanna (modern-day Oleona). Construction began on Ole Bull's "castle" Nordjenskald, located on a high bluff overlooking Kettle Creek. However, the community seems to have been doomed from the first by a shady land contract that limited them to building and farming only on the sides of the mountain. The castle was never finished, and, by the following spring, most of the settlers had either returned to Norway or dispersed to other settlements throughout the United States. The failed effort inspired a mocking folk song "Oleanna," and the playwright David Mamet used the name of the community for the title of his play Oleanna (real estate speculation is featured in both Oleanna and Mamet's play Glengarry, Glen Ross). In 1920 Pennsylvania established Ole Bull State Park, and in 2002 the citizens of Norway erected this monument to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Bull's efforts.
This two-mile hike takes you to the foundation of Ole Bull's unfinished castle and then on a short loop through the mountains. From the monument, continue to follow the orange blazes of the Susquehannock Trail (ST) west as it crosses Ole Bull run and climbs the hill. After a few hundred feet, the ST and the Daugherty Loop Trail (DLT) branch off to the right--instead follow the Castle Trail to the left, passing a snowmobile trail to the right. When you reach the top of the hill you can see the foundations of Ole Bull's castle. Return to the ST/DLT intersection and follow the yellow blazes of the DLT as it ascends gradually up Ole Bull Run through a hardwood forest. After about a quarter mile, the DLT branches to the right and crosses the run on a wooden bridge. Continue to follow the yellow blazes across the side of the mountain. Soon you'll enter a evergreen forest with Balsam Firs, Norway Spruces, White Pines, and Pitch Pines. After descending a wooden staircase, the trail parallels the park, makes a u-turn, and then returns to the Ole Bull monument.
For the story of Ole Bull, I am indebted to Susan Hutchison Tassin's Pennsylvania Ghost Towns: Uncovering the Hidden Past .
Hemlock 3.4 (February 2010) : The Mid-State Trail in Winter
This hike takes you to the Woolrich Outlet and then gets you out on a short mid-winter hike on the ubiquitous Mid-State Trail (MST). From the Courthouse, follow Jay Street to the bypass, and then onto Route 220 North. Go 4.6 miles to the McElhattan/Woolrich exit. At the bottom of the ramp, turn left onto McElhattan Drive. Follow McElhattan Drive for 2 miles; when it crosses Route 150, it becomes Park Avenue. Follow Park Avenue for another 1.6 miles and you'll see the Woolrich Outlet on your left. You might want to stop and check out the store now, or save it for after the hike. After you pass the outlet, bear to the right to follow Main Street. The road will wind up the hill for a half mile; turn left onto Dutch Hollow Road. Go .7 miles to the top of the hill and turn left onto Big Springs Road. When I mapped this hike, there was some snow on the gravel road, but it was very passable (at least in my Subaru). If we get a heavier snowfall, you might save this hike for later. Follow Big Springs Road uphill for 2.7 miles. At the bottom of a dip, you'll see the orange blazes of the MST on either side of the road; park your car, and follow the trail to the right (east).
You're on top of the plateau, so the trail is very level as it winds among a hardwood forest. After about a mile, you'll see a short trail that leads to the left (north) and an overlook of Gamble Run Valley (you'll see a large stone cairn). Continue on the MST for .25 miles as it descends the ridge to another overlook on the right (south); this view is of Nepley Fork Valley. Straight ahead is Pine Creek Valley, between Torbert and Ramsey Village. The MST continues down the ridge before turning 180 degrees and following Gamble Run up the mountain to the north. You can continue to explore or retrace your steps to the car.
Thanks to Elizabeth and Max for accompanying me on a cold, but beautiful Sunday to map out this hike.
Hemlock 3.5 (March 2010): The Donut Hole Trail (Dawn Hamilton)
I moved to Pennsylvania about two years ago and have been pleasantly surprised to find so many hiking trails in this area. I started looking for something close to Lock Haven for those times I just need to get out in the woods. What I found was The Donut Hole Trail. From Lock Haven, I can be at the Farrandsville end of the trail in about 15 minutes. Even better, I can hike about 2.5 miles up the Donut Hole Trail (DHT) and connect to other trails to make a 5 mile loop out of it – outstanding!
The orange blazed DHT is actually about ninety miles long. It runs from Farrandsville passing through Hyner Run State Park, Sproul State Forest, Kettle Creek State Park, and makes its way to Jericho just north of the Bucktail State Park. The trail has varied terrain and varied maintenance. Sometimes it follows old logging roads to make it a pleasant walk in the woods. Then there are some sections which are quite overgrown. However, the bright orange blazes mark the trail well enough to find your way even when the path doesn’t seem clear. There are steep climbs, level ground, many views, a fire tower, several streams and quite a few small campsites. There are enough road crossings to be able to break the trail up into sections for day hikes or backpacking.
But let’s talk about the part of the DHT that is so close to home. It is a lovely loop which is well-graded and well-maintained. To get to the trail head, take the Jay Street Bridge out of Lock Haven. Turn left onto Farrandsville Rd. and follow it to Farrandsville (across the railroad tracks, about 5.5 miles), when it turns into Hazard Rd. Continue until you get to the bridge across Lick Run. The gate is closed to traffic across the bridge except during hunting season. There is a good-size parking area here. The first 0.4 miles of the trail is relatively flat. You then come to a junction where the DHT bears left and begins to climb (following the orange blazes). Follow the DHT (you'll return to this junction on the way back). The trail is nice and wide as it climbs about 400’ in the next 0.7 miles. It then becomes a gentler grade with minor ups and downs. There can be some muddy sections depending on the weather and time of year. At about 2.4 miles the trail turns to the right with a double orange blaze on the tree to mark the turn. Be careful NOT to go straight here on an alternate trail. In about another 0.1 miles from this turn, you will see 2 blue blazes on a tree on the right. Follow this trail down about 0.6 miles--it has a few somewhat steep rocky sections where you’ll need to watch your footing. This trail ends at a trail that follows along Lick Run. Take a left here and go 0.2 miles until the trail ends at a rock throne someone has built for a pleasant resting place along the stream. Now retrace your steps for 0.2 to the blue blazed link trail you came down on your right. Instead keep going straight following the level path with Lick Run on your left. Be sure to notice the wonderful stone bridges placed by the trail maintainer. In about 1.4 miles after you pass the link trail, you will come to the junction of the DHT--continue for another .4 miles and you'll be at the parking area. I have done this loop many times and never tire of it.
Hemlock 3.6 (April 2010): Henry Shoemaker's McElhattan
One of the things that drew me to Henry Shoemaker was his interest in erecting monuments to commemorate local history. As a result, McElhattan has more monuments per square mile than most small towns. This approximately 6-mile hike takes you to Shoemaker's home, and visits some of the places he commemorated. The hike is entirely on pavement, so it could be driven, but most of it is a walk on little-used roads.
To get to the trailhead, take Route 220 North to the McElhattan exit. Turn left and go .2 miles on McElhattan Drive to the Bald Eagle Travel Plaza. Park your car and cross McElhattan Drive to Fritz Road (parallel to McDonalds). A few feet down Fritz Road is a monument erected by Henry Shoemaker to honor his ancestor, Michael Quigle, one of the earliest settlers of McElhattan. Return to McElhattan Drive and turn left, towards Rt. 220. Go .3 miles to the Madison Restaurant/Wellington Bed and Breakfast. This was the Shoemaker family home (Henry's ancestors were among the earliest settlers of this area). If you continue up this road, you can visit Zindel Park, which is described in an earlier Hemlock hike.
Return to the stop sign and take a right onto Pine Mountain Road, and at the first fork take a right onto Shoemaker Road. After 1.2 miles, cross Pine Mountain Road and continue onto Spook Hollow Road. Believe it or not, you are now on the ubiquitous Mid-State Trail. After about .1 mile (just past the junk yard) you will see a gravel road that leads to a monument near the railroad tracks. This is the former site of Fort Horn, part of the chain of forts built by the early settlers in the 1770s (the next fort in the line was Fort Reed, which was located in Lock Haven, near the Jay Street Bridge).
Return to Spook Hollow Road and continue to the right. Shortly after crossing the railroad tracks, you will see a gravel road to the left. This road leads across the railroad tracks to the Quigle burial ground (beyond the yellow gate), which has some Revolutionary War tombstones. Return to Spook Hollow Road and continue to follow it along the Susquehanna River. After 1.8 miles, just before the overpass, you will see a small monument to the Lenni Lenape Indian settlement Canasorgu. This monument was erected by Shoemaker in 1913.
Continue on Spook Hollow Road and take the first left after the underpass onto Old Bridge Road. When you reach McElhattan Drive (.1 miles), turn right and go .1 mile to Linwood Drive. Turn right and follow Linwood for .2 miles to the Linwood Cemetery, which dates to 1898. In the cemetery is a large column that is a tribute to Wayne Township soldiers who have died in various wars, dating back to the Civil War. The column is one of the original pillars of the 1820 Pennsylvania State Capitol Building before it burned in 1897 (see Lou Bernard, "Haven History" The Eagle Eye [3/4/10]). Near the column is a rough-hewn boulder, the grave of John H. Chatham (1846-1923), whom Shoemaker called "The Bard of Central Pennsylvania."
Continue on Linwood (.4 mile) until it ends at McKinney Road, and turn left. After .1 mile, continue straight onto Stabley Road and follow it for .2 miles until you see a monument to the West Branch Camp Meeting, which commemorates the religious revivals that were held here from 1869-89.
Continue on Stabley, curving left until it ends at Youngdale Road, and turn right. After .3 miles it will return to your car at the Bald Eagle Plaza.
Hemlock 4.1 (September 2010): Sandy Bottom (Kevin McKee)
The immediate Lock Haven area has a great deal to offer in terms of hiking, but there are also a vast number of trails both serene and primal that can be accessed within an afternoon’s traveling. One such is a favorite of mine that I have been visiting for several years now: Sandy Bottom. Located on Route 87 just past Barbours, Sandy Bottom lies along the Loyalsock Creek as it winds its way through the Endless Mountains.
To reach it from Lock Haven, head north on Route 220 towards Williamsport. Keep going past Montoursville, until you see the sign for Route 87 North -- take that exit, and turn left onto 87. From there, drive about twenty-five to thirty-five minutes until just past Barbours. Although there is a sign, it can be a little tricky to find the turn-off, as it is located around a sharp bend in the road...it’s very easy to drive right by. The best advice I can give is to look for a teal/silver colored trailer on the left in a pine forest. When you see that trailer, slow down and get ready to turn to the left. At that point, a short forest road replete with dodge-able potholes is all that stands between you and the trailhead.
The trail itself is rather easy. It’s mostly flat creekside walking, and the trail is made up primarily of a sandy loam that can make you feel as though you’re at the beach. When the creek is low, there are a number of islands that one can easily fjord out to, and the water is deep enough in places to swim, if that’s to your liking. Also of note at Sandy Bottom is a gigantic walnut tree, which is where I traditionally end my hike. There is more trail beyond it, but as I am usually a solo hiker, and the further trail gets pretty rough, I haven’t actually attempted it. In theory, it is supposed to cross 87 and then scale the mountainside until you reach an overlook from which you can observe a significant amount of the creek, and the valley that it is located within. Be warned that I have heard tell that the upward trail is not well maintained, and it can be challenging to find the way up in places.
Sandy Bottom is a great place to go for an afternoon trip away from the worries of classes, papers, and -- dare I say it -- social obligations. It is one of the peculiar spots all along Route 87 that is at once park-like and very wild. As with all of nature, it merits respect; but it can be a wonderful region to visit.
Hemlock 4.2 (October 2010): Panther Run (Travis Weaver)
Panther Run is a kick-ass hiking trail up in the Little Pine State Park area that takes you along a winding mountaintop path through awesome sections of mossy rock outcrops and it even features a nice vista. It is a three and a half mile trail that is described by the DCNR website as being "difficult", but really except for a couple parts at the start of the trail it is quite easy and you should breeze through in a couple of hours. The trail is very well worn and marked fairly well so once you are on it you should have no trouble at all in figuring out which way you need to go, and in fact there are actually several signs along the way with maps of the whole area! Don't get the wrong idea though, this trail is still quite wild and offers great opportunities to see a wide variety of fauna such as White Tail Deer, Bald Eagles, the occasional American Black Bear and every hiker's favorite, the Timber Rattlesnake.
There are a couple of ways to get to Little Pine from Lock Haven, but the easiest for the flatlanders in the audience is to hop onto 220 North and stay on this for 9 miles until you get to the PA-44 exit. From the exit, hang a left onto Route 44 and stay on it until you come to the town of Waterville (10.8 miles). After crossing the small Lt. Micheal Wolf Bridge, take a right onto Little Pine Creek Road and follow it for 4 miles until you come to the park itself. Keep driving past the dam and very soon you will see a large parking lot on your right. Park on the far left side down by the big dumpster and Eagle Watch Area sign and prepare yourself. There are two versions of this trail depending on where you start: the easy way, which is to just walk across the road from the Eagle Watch sign and head up that way that makes for a gradually sloping uphill trail, or the hard way, which as a Red Blooded American who laughs in the face of danger I am sure you are eager to take. To go this way, walk about a mile and a half down Little Pine Road and keep your eyes peeled for a big sign on the left hand side of the road. This sign shows you where you need to go and usually has some nice little folding maps that feature all of the trails in the park, so grab a couple and follow the muddy trail back to Panther Run.
The trail starts with a short but steep scramble up a hill which can be somewhat perilous to get up if it is especially muddy, and if that is indeed the case I advise ignoring the little dirt path and just going straight up using roots to haul yourself up the incline. Once you have made it up, follow the yellow blazed trail as it runs parallel to the run and enjoy the secluded little valley you are in, making sure to look for the many odd mushrooms that grow in abundance in the area. After about half a mile the trail begins to head up the mountain on the left away from the run and gets harder very quickly. This is one part of the trail that is not well marked so it can be somewhat confusing trying to tell whether you actually on the trail or not, but take your time and keep an eye out for the few blazes in the area and you should be fine. Soon enough you will find yourself standing at the bottom of an extremely steep and rocky section of the trail that will take you straight up the mountain. This part is a real bitch, but it is also the last hard part of the trail so put on your war face and make your way up. When you regain consciousness after passing out at the top, pat yourself on the back because the rest of the trail is a cakewalk compared to this.
Continue on back into the woods, making sure to forage liberally for Teaberries and Blueberries depending on the season. You will come to a fork in the road, at which point you should hang a left. From here on out the trail is very straightforward and is damn near impossible to get lost on as it follows the ridge giving you some lovely views of the forests below. There is a really nice vista not too far along the trail that has a Geocache hidden somewhere nearby, so make sure you bring something cool to put in it if you wish to hunt for it. I want to offer a word of caution considering the rocky bare area that is right below the vista, as during the warmer months it can be full of very large rattlesnakes who gather there to bask in the sun. I did not see any the last time I hiked due to the cooling weather, but my companion found a large snake skin indicating their past presence. After navigating the snake pit the rest of the trail is a very enjoyable downhill walk through interesting rock formations and mossy groves. In what seems like no time at all you will find yourself descending the final part of the path and discover that you are in fact right back at the parking area where you started. If you still feel energetic check out some of the other areas of the park, as it is quite nice. On your way out of the park make sure you stop at Happy Acres for some beer and ice cream, which is the best way to end a hiking adventure that I can think of.
When it's been a long day of committee work and reports and I need to quickly get away from civilization for a few moments, the quickest escape for me is Castanea Reservoir. Less than 2 miles from the Jay Street Bridge, the hike allows you to be in deep forest after only a few minutes walk.
Begin at the Courthouse at Water and Jay. Follow Jay Street/Route 120 south. Go past the exits for 220 South (right) and 220 North (left). After you pass the light at the 220 North exit, you'll cross Bald Eagle Creek--you are now in Catanea Township (named after the latin word for "chestnut tree"). Take the 2nd left onto Brown Street. Then take the 3rd right onto Nittany Street. Follow Nittany all the way to the end, past the white house on the left. You'll see a gated road--park in the pull-off area, and don't block the gate.
Walk up the gravel road towards the blue water tank. After about 5 minutes, you'll reach the Castanea Reservoir, part of the City of Lock Haven water system. At this point, you are flanked on the right and the left (west and east) by the northern ridge of Bald Eagle Mountain (to get to the top of the ridge on the right, see the November 2008
Hemlock Hike). Continue to the right of the reservoir; after another 5 minutes you'll reach an intersection--follow the gravel road as it hairpins back to the left (the gated road in front of you leads to private property). Continue east on the gravel road, ignoring the trail that goes to the left. Now you are between the two folds of Bald Eagle Mountain.
After about 10 minutes, the road reaches another intersection. If you hairpin back to the left, it climbs the north fold of Bald Eagle Mountain in a series of switchbacks, reaching the radio tower that you can see from the valley. It's not a difficult climb, but unfortunately the view is less than spectacular. For this hike, we're going to go straight ahead, crossing West Kammerdiner Run. If you stay on the near shore for about 10 yards it's easier to cross. The path continues through beautiful hemlocks and romantic cliffs, with several stream crossings. If you keep following this trail for about 4 miles, you will reach McElhattan Reservoir (another previous
Hemlock hike). If you leave a car at one end, it makes a nice day hike, from reservoir to reservoir. But if you don't have the time, just keep following the path along the stream, enjoying the beauties of Bald Eagle State Forest (maps available at the website). I've seen deer, and my dog, Max, has had several intimate encounters with porcupines here. When it's time to return to civilization, just go back the way you came. Hopefully, you'll be refreshed.
Thanks to Elizabeth and Michael for helping me scout this.
Hemlock 4.4 (February 2011): The Mid-State Trail from Woolrich to Big Springs Road
On a snowy Saturday in late January, with the temperature hovering in the twenties, Elizabeth, our two friends, my dog Max, and I set out from the Woolrich Outlet on a winter backpacking trip ( to get to the outlet, take 220 north to the McElhattan exit and then follow the signs) . We followed the orange blazes of the Mid-State Trail (MST) across Park Avenue to Elementary Lane, which ends in a parking lot of a retirement home. The MST then climbs through a short stretch of woods to Main Street/Dutch Hollow Road. Almost immediately, the trail turns left and crosses a private yard (you can ignore the "No Trespassing" sign, but give the mowed yard to the right a wide berth). The trail finally leaves civilization at a power line cut on the other side of the field.
This begins a long two-mile climb. With the snow, it took us about an hour to reach the top of the plateau. Along the way, we passed through a relatively young beech forest, where Max kicked up a flock of five grouse. Shortly after reaching to top, the trail drops into the ravine of a small unnamed tributary of Chatham Run. We made our camp under the hemlocks and were soon warmed by a big fire.
The next morning, after a night in the teens, we followed the blazes a short distance up the stream to where the MST crosses Big Spring Road. A sign indicated that we had hiked 6 km (3.72 miles) from Woolrich. Turning right on the road, we left the MST, and followed Big Spring Road to Dutch Hollow Road. Turning right on that road quickly brought us back to Woolrich, for a total of 7.8 miles. This trip certainly could be done as a day hike, but with the snow, we felt pretty good about doing it as a over-nighter. For maps of this hike, either pick up the MST Guide, or use the Tiadaghton State Forest map.
Hemlock 4.5 (March 2011): Forrest H. Dutlinger Natural Area
--Travis Weaver (LHU History Major). Photograph by Tyson Buttorf
It's time for another exciting outdoor adventure into the god-forsaken hinterlands of glorious Pennsylvania, and this one is challenging. This month's assignment is for you and a couple of your more expendable friends to drive out into the Greater Renovo Area to look at a bunch of really big hemlock trees and interject some excitement into your lives. You see, the path to the Forrest H Dutlinger isn't some well marked DCNR trail, instead it is a muddy hellhole fraught with perilous water crossings across poorly maintained cable bridges and such. At the end of the day you will feel that you have gone on an awesome and slightly dangerous adventure into the pitiless wilderness.
The Forrest H. Dutlinger Natural Area is a big area of semi-virginal forest that was somehow overlooked for wholesale destruction back during the lumber boom. I say semi-virginal because someone did sneak in and cut down all of the valuable white pine trees while leaving everything else intact. It is really rare around this area to find trees of such a prodigious size thanks to the whole “Lumber Capital of the World” thing. You might even see some elk while you are out there.
So how do you get to this primeval wonderland, you ask? If you are heading there from Lock Haven you will want to jump onto Route 120 heading north, also known as the Renovo Road, and stay on this until you come to Renovo. Then keep an eye out on your right for a rather abrupt right turn onto Tamarack Road. This is a very long and confusing road, meandering through forested valleys, but just stay on it all the way to the end when you will cross a creek and come to a V in the road. If you go left you will go to the Alvin Busch Dam, which, while very nice, is not where we are going today, so instead go right towards the town of Cross Forks. Stay on this road for about a mile and a half until you see Hammersley Fork Avenue on your left--turn left and then take a right onto Hammersley Fork Road.
This is where the fun starts! After a a short drive down the pothole-infested Hammersley Road past some moldering cabins, you will come to a small parking area on your left. Park your urban assault vehicle, say a prayer to whichever of the gods favors you the most, and walk a short distant down the road to where it dips down into the swelling bosom of Hammersley Run. You will probably stand at the water's edge for a moment, mouth agape, and say (as I did) “Hey! How the hell am I supposed to get across this? The answer lies in the form of two metal cables spanning the run. The trick is to stand on one and grab the other and shuffle your way across. This is a rather nerve racking process, especially when you get into the middle of the run, where you first realize that the cables were last tightened during the Nixon administration and are now sagging bad enough to flip you face down/ass up twenty feet in the air over a rocky icy stream. I would recommend sending one of your least favorite friends over the wire first, just in case.
After navigating this minor obstacle you realize that the trail is not so much a path as a winding mud pit that follows the general course of the run heading northward, so put on your war face and get slogging. Your destination is about a mile up the trail from you and along the way you will need to cross over the run several times. I went in the middle of winter of last year and had to scramble over ice-covered dead trees at several points which is about as fun as it sounds. Luckily there are a couple of man-made crossings still remaining, such as an very greasy and bouncy bridge, a very entertaining butt-scooter cable contraption and a somewhat more secure cable bridge. The whole place is like a redneck playground, but try not to get too distracted because you have a trailhead to find.
Keep an eye out to your left for a big plaque set in stone at the top of a small trail, and, brother, good luck finding it because it is damn easy to miss. The best directions I can give you from memory is that is not too far past the second cable bride and a strange deer-skull covered raider camp that looks like it could harbor a fugitive branch of the Manson Family. If you actually find the place, get ready for your march to glory because it is a straight upward shot following the course of an old log slide. If you go in the winter make sure to watch your footing. As you ascend you will notice that the trees get larger and larger in size, and mixed in with the many odd rock formations around it makes for some very nice natural scenery. The Game Commission have released an Elk herd in the general vicinity of this area, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for them. One of my companions went temporarily berserk with excitement upon finding a rather large hoof print, so much so that we were forced to lash him to one of the giant hemlocks until he regained his composure. At the very top of the trail you come to some truly enormous trees, as well as a trail book. Write some comments and take a break amid the natural splendor as your reward, and then retrace your grueling journey back to civilization when you have had enough.
Hemlock 4.6 (April 2011): The Golden Eagle Trail
Oh, April! T.S. Elliot was dead right when he said that April is the cruelest month, for no other month has such a precarious balance of expectation as this one. April is the gateway into spring, the awakening of the vegetable gods and the start of baseball. However, she can be cruel mistress as well, blessing the landscape with a blizzard as easily as a perfect day. It doesn't matter though, for even the worst rain-drenched April brings the promise of summer right around the corner with it, and if the foul weather holds off it can be one of the finest months for hiking. Unless you are one of the hardy all-year outdoor fanatics, April is probably the first time it is actually nice enough to go on a hike longer than a couple of hours. If you have time in between frantically writing all of those papers you have been putting off for the last few months, you should consider hiking of the best day trails that I know of, the famed Golden Eagle Trail.
The Golden Eagle Trail is the queen of one day hikes in central Pennsylvania, a ten-mile loop that features some of the best views in the area--and it is a real challenge to boot. You are going to want a good pair of sturdy, well-broken in boots for this endavour, along with plenty of water and a couple of apples to keep you going. Depending on what time of year you attempt to do this the trail, it will have a completely different character: spring is the optimum time, preferably after the water has gone down a little, but fall is good as well. Summertime, while offering ample opportunities to forage on countless blueberry and huckleberry bushes, transforms the trail into a stroll through Satan's garden thanks to hundreds of Stinging Nettle plants and mosquitoes. I would highly recommend taking some sort of insect repellent to keep ticks at bay, for I found a couple crawling on me already this season and they will grow much worse in the coming weeks.
There are a couple of ways to get to the Golden Eagle Trail, the entrance to which lies just about a mile south of Slate Run on Route 414 in the Pine Creek Valley area. If you are coming from Lock Haven and are with someone who knows the roads it would probably be faster to take the Coudersport Pike north until it intersects with Route 44 at Haneyville, whereby you would then cross over to 414 and head north around 11 miles or so until you come to Clark Farm/Uticer Station. There you would park to acess the trailhead across the road. Alternatively, you could get on 220 heading east until you come to the Pine Creek Exit and then head north on 414 for around twenty miles until you arrive at Clark Farm, whichever you would prefer. Either way beware of the numerous gas trucks who do not know what a yellow line is for, and for the fools who will pass you going 80 on a double line around a blind turn.
When you finally make it to the parking area at Clark Farm, put on your gear and head across the bridge and enter the trailhead which is marked with a sign and yellow blazes. This is an extremely well-worn and marked trail, so you should have no trouble at all finding your way. Follow the run for around a quarter of a mile until you come to a branch in the path designated by a tree with orange markings. At this point you will have to decide which way to go around the loop: personally, I prefer to head to the right (counter-clockwise) and get the hardest section of the trail over first, but the choice is yours. Assuming you are doing the trail counter-clockwise, head up and to the right through a nice pine-meadow and prepare yourself for an arduous ascent. The next half mile is a battle up Jeep trails and a very steep and narrow path that will make you wish for death before it is over. My friends and I call this section of the trail Hamburger Hill for a good reason, but persevere--the view is more than the worth it. At the top of this mountain lies the Raven's Horn, a jutting slab of naked rock that soars out from the mountain and allows those hardy enough to reach it an unparalled view of the sweeping forested valley below. The word "awesome" gets thrown around a lot these days, but it more than applies to the feeling of sitting on the Horn, feet dangling over the side and munching on a crisp apple. Make sure you backtrack a little and follow the somewhat innocuous path that branches off towards the left, as it leads to another picturesque rock that affords good view of Wolf Run and its environs.
After you have drunk your fill of the view, get back on the path which leads downward and to your right. The next section winds through some nice rock formations and then makes a relaxing descent down the back of the mountain. After around half a mile of going down you will be following the concourse of the run for around two and a half miles. Depending on what time of year you get there, you will either find a picturesque, coolly flowing mountain run; a roaring beast that angrily chafes its banks and is a nightmare to cross; or a valley filled with Stinging Nettle and dotted with stagnant Mosquito pools. Hope for A, as you will be mighty sick of walking in runs before this day is passed. Keep your eyes peeled for traces of the old slate quarrying operation in the area as you go, as well as an old pot-bellied stove that some poor mule had to bring in on his back for some cold loggers. After a very long time you will come into a large stand of hemlock and pine trees and lose the run. At this point you will begin gradually going uphill again, but the grade is nothing at all compared to what you have faced earlier. By this point fatigue may have begun to rear its ugly head, but hang in there! After a mile or so of winding your way through the woods and up a few hills, you will suddenly find yourself on another wide Jeep trail. Follow it and you will come to the Beulahland Vista, which while not quite as good as the Raven's Horn is still pretty picturesque.
When you are ready to leave, follow the Jeep trail as it begins to descend down the hill and keep your eye out for a sign off to the left of the trail. When you find it, follow the little path off into the woods, which will lead you to a very steep and rocky descent down to Bonnell Run. This next section is basically a repeat of your walk along Wolf Run, and while very tranquil when it is not a hellish field of stings. After what seems like an eternity, the trail will start ascending up to your left, and lo and behold you will find yourself walking on the same path that brought you in. Keep going for a quarter mile or so and you will be back at the trailhead and the comfortable mercy of your car. Next, drive all the way back to Jersey Shore and go to the Number 1 Chinese Restaurant on Allegheny Street for some twice-cooked chicken and a Dr. Pepper--the best Szechuan in the county!
Hemlock 5.1 (October 2011): Rosecrans Bog
Henry David Thoreau loved a good bog. In Walden, he insisted upon the value of wetlands: "We need the tonic of wildness, to wade sometimes in marshes where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe; to smell the whispering sedge where only some wilder and more solitary fowl builds her nest, and the mink crawls with its belly close to the ground." This hike takes you to Rosecrans Bog, a local wetland that is one of the Natural Areas of the Pennsylvania State Forest. The total hike is about 3.5 miles.
To get to the trailhead, take Rt. 220 South to Exit 107 (477 South). Turn left and follow 477 South for 9.8 miles, and then turn left onto Pine-Loganton Road. Go 1 mile. On the left is a gated gravel road with a "Do Not Block Driveway" sign. Park off to the side (straight ahead of you is Rosecrans Reservoir, one of the two reservoirs that supplies Lock Haven with water). This route might be unavailable due to a detour in Salona, but there is a faster, less-scenic alternative. Follow 220 South to Interstate 80 East. Go to Exit 185 (PA 477 North). Turn left onto 477 North, go 6/10 of a mile, and turn right onto Pine-Loganton Road. From the parking area, walk about 100 yards back up the Pine-Loganton Road. On the left, just past an open field, you'll see a red gate with a sign that reads "Dead End Road." On maps this is listed as Cranberry Road.
Follow the level trail through a tunnel of hemlocks for about 1.5 miles. After about 20 minutes of walking you'll reach an intersection. On the right is a deer fence and there are some large boulders on the trail to the left--keep going straight on Cranberry Road. About 10 minutes later, you'll see a trail going into the woods on the left. Depending on the season, you should be able to see the open area of the bog through the trees. Take this trail, and after about 50 yards, you'll reach the edge of the bog.
A bog is a freshwater wetland in a cold region. Some are formed by glaciers, but as is the case with Rosecrans, they can also be formed when a poorly-drained area fills with rainwater. The surface of a bog is typically covered with a thick mat of sphagnum moss, which bounces when you walk on it (See EPA, "Types of Wetlands"). Recently, I've been reading an excellent field guide to wetlands: John Eastman's
Swamp and Bog
According to Charles Fergus, in his book, Natural Pennsylvania, the bog's mat and the surrounding timber was flooded in the 1960s when beavers dammed Jamison Run, which drains the bog (you crossed this stream near the parking area). Fergus and Marcia Bonta ("Fool's Errand") report having seen great blue herons. I've seen geese, grouse, and various other birds on my various trips to the bog.
Rosecrans Bog is a designated Natural Area. The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources defines a "Natural Area" as a place "of unique scenic, geologic or ecological value which will be maintained in a natural condition by allowing physical and biological processes to operate, usually without direct human intervention. These areas are set aside to provide locations for scientific observation of natural systems, to protect examples of typical and unique plant and animal communities and to protect outstanding examples of natural interest and beauty."
I'd like to thank Jeremiah Johnson for introducing me to Rosecrans Bog, as well as John Reid for helping me scout it for this issue.
Hemlock 5.2 (December 2011): Bald Eagle State Park
~ Bob Myers
I'm somewhat surprised that I've never turned to Bald Eagle State Park for a Hemlock hike. It's our closest state park, a mere ten miles from campus. Having grown up in this area, I have many fond memories of picnicking and boating at the park. I guess I think of it as less forested and more developed than my favorite state parks (for example, World's End), so I go there less frequently than I do other places. But with the beginning of deer season, John Reid and I needed a place to hike where there was little chance of getting shot, so we made the trip to Bald Eagle.
Bald Eagle S.P. surrounds the 1730-acre Joseph Foster Sayers Reservoir, an eight-mile-long artificial lake that was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1969. Bald Eagle Creek, which enters the Susquehanna just below Lock Haven, was dammed to help prevent floods--during the winter they draw down the lake so that it can fill up with the spring rains. You can rent boats from the park, or you can bring your own. There are also beaches for swimming, and lots of opportunities for fishing.
To get to the trailhead, start at the Lock Haven Walmart and go south (right) on Route 150 for 10.7 miles. At the brown sign for "Main Parking Area/Modern Camping" turn left, and take the first right to the park office. At the kiosk outside you can get a map of the park. Go back to the main park road, turn right, and go 4/10ths of a mile to Beach Road. Take a right, and park in the lot to the left. At the far end of the lot, near the kiosk, is a sign for the Butterfly Trail.
Our plan was to follow the Butterfly Trail to the Skyline Trail, which would make a nice four-mile loop through the heart of the park. However, I suspect that the park is in the process of re-routing some trails, because the blazes seemed a bit random, and the trails often didn't match up to the name. In any case, it's impossible to get lost: the lake is always to your south, and Route 150 to the north.
At first, the Butterfly Trail is easy to follow with clear yellow blazes. Signs explain that the area is in transition because the park recently eliminated all invasive species of plants. When you come to a small pond (the Frog Pond), follow the trail to the right (south). Soon you'll come to an intersection, and a sign will indicate that the Butterfly Trail goes left (north), away from the lake. Keep following the unblazed trail parallel to the lake, which, according to the map, should be the Skyline Drive trail. Before long, you'll pass another intersection that tempts you to go left, but continue straight.
At this point, you'll begin to see on the left glimpses of Bald Eagle S.P.'s newest addition--the Nature Inn. In September 2010 the park opened the 16-room inn, which is designed according to the latest green technology. The rooms are luxurious (at least by state park standards) and include refrigerators and flat screen televisions. Personally, I prefer the rustic cabins of the other state parks (or better yet a tent), but if this gets people who can't imagine a weekend without television into the woods, so be it. If you tire of reruns of the Jersey Shore, there are excellent observation decks that enable you to observe the wildlife of the park. The rates range from $95 per night for a single room to $358 per night for a suite on Penn State football weekends. The park also has less luxurious, less expensive camping options, including yurts and tent sites.
Soon after the Nature Inn, the trail bends left (north) and intersects the paved Warbler Way, which is how you access the Inn by car. Turn left and go about 100 yards, until you see a signpost on the right for Skyline Drive Trail. Follow the yellow blazes towards Hunter's Run Cove. The trail parallels the cove and Route 150 as it heads back towards the starting point. This part of the trail is nicely wooded with lots of White Pines (trees with clumps of five needles), oaks, and American Beeches (you can identify the young trees because they keep their leaves all winter). We heard a Bald Eagle and saw several Red Bellied Woodpeckers. Eventually, you'll reach an intersection near a small concrete building. The yellow trail bends back to the left (south east), but if you turn onto the trail that goes up the hill to the right (south west), you will soon get to Skyline Drive (this trail is intermittently blazed blue). From here you can see part of the lake; behind the lake is the long ridge of Bald Eagle Mountain.
When you reach Skyline Drive, go left (east) about 100 yards to Pavillion #5. Just to the left of the clump of pines is a trail that runs straight down the hill toward the lake. Follow this trail to the first intersection, which is the yellow-blazed Skyline Drive--turn right (west). When you come to the intersection near the Frog Pond, go straight (towards the picnic benches), and follow the yellow blazes of the Butterfly Trail back to your car.
Hemlock 5.3 (March 2012): Middle Segment of the Hyner Trail Challenge 50k
~Jamie Walker (LHU Distributed Systems Manager) and the PA Trail Dogs
I am an avid long distance trailrunner and completed this hike in preparation for the Hyner Trail Challenge 50k, which is run in April. The trail is about 10.5 miles and can be run in two plus hours or hiked in four hours. My first trip to this trail was on Sunday January 17th. The starting temperature was around 20 degrees with 3-5 inches of fluffy, powdery snow on the ground. The temperature warmed to a balmy 25 degrees by the end of the trek. The snow made the run awesome with amazing views at the vistas and chandelier-like formations of ice along Ritchie Run. I hope you can make it to this remote part of the West Branch and enjoy the scenery as well. You should have all- or 4-wheel drive to reach the trailhead before April 1st since there will probably be snow and ice on Ritchie Road until then. The trail is marked with orange survey ribbons in preparation for the Hyner Challenge. If you have traveled more than 50 yards and do not see a ribbon you are off course and should backtrack until you find the last ribbon then forge ahead. What follows are the directions developed by the PA Trail Dogs with my added two cents.
Driving Directions from LHU: Drive east on Water St. Take Left onto Jay St. Bridge Turn right onto PA-664 N/Swissdale Rd. Continue to follow PA-664 N for 17.4 mi. Merge onto PA-44N and follow 5.2 mi. Turn Left onto Hyner Mtn Road follow 1.1 miles. Turn Left onto Ritchie Road and follow 3.5 miles to the Nature Conservancy Kiosk on right side of road (Google map and directions). Park near the kiosk, but please allow room for visitors to access it.
Mile 0-2-- The Nature Conservancy Kiosk is the starting point. Follow the forestry road under the gate and out to the top of Middle Mountain where you will come to the Pipeline Trail at the top of a moderate grade. Turn left onto the Pipeline Trail which offers some nice, soft terrain for almost 1.5 miles. This trail travels south and brings one out to an awesome vista overlooking the river. Take a second to see the second best view in the area!!! The Trail Dogs named the vista after fellow Trail Dog, Bob Farley. You can see the Susquehanna below and Hyner View to the right.
Mile 2-4-- Hikers will leave the Farley Vista and descend through a winding trail into the top of Bear Pen Hollow. This trail cuts backs north as it follows an old logging trail for about a mile and a half before switching back and heading south again towards the river. We refer to this area as the "zig-zag". Bear Pen Trail is a two-mile downhill in which hikers/runners can make up some time if they are in a hurry or meander along if they are not on a schedule. After making a turn at the last switchback out of Bear Pen, runners will descend a steep fire line trail down into Ritchie Run. A quiet run is quickly interrupted by the sounds of the raging stream below. I saw coyote, deer, and turkey tracks when I traveled this section.
Mile 4-7-- Hikers/Runners will now start the journey through the remote Ritchie Run. It’s a 2.5 mile grind up through the hollow with stream crossings around every corner. Waterfalls are aplenty as runners meander through. Unless we have a severe freeze or a dry spell, feet are going to be wet!!! Gore-tex footwear are critical to keeping your feet dry in this section. The last half mile follows an old log flume to the top of the mountain. The flume is subtle at first until you notice the symmetrical U shaped profile and the presence of trickling water. It’s amazing to think that when in use, the flume was a muddy or icy channel used to slide two-ton logs at significant velocity down the mountain to Ritchie Run and eventually to the Susquehanna.
Mile 7-9.5-- Hikers/Runners will follow a dozer trail for a half mile out to Sugar Camp Road. Just follow the ribbons -- the trail doubles back on itself. Cross the road for a few hundred more yards to the Camp Trail. Camp Trail veers off to the left and follows a single-track path through the Chestnut Orchard for a few hundred yards. This trail is easy on the feet and will meander through some dense forest and bring runners out to the West Branch Nature Conservancy Camp. This camp was built in the early 1930's by the CCC men. I was impressed by the beautiful stonework on the camp. Follow the camp lane to Sugar Camp Road.
Mile 9.5-10.5—Relax. The trail is all downhill from here. Follow the road for about a mile to the TNC Kiosk. You have just completed the middle segment of the Hyner Challenge. If you are up for another 20 miles see the maps below. On the topo map the trail head is east of mile marker 20 and then follows the trail from 9 clockwise back to 20. On the aerial photo the trail head is near the tail of the white arrow at the top of the map.
Hemlock 6.1 (March 2012)
: East Branch Swamp Natural Area
When I was backpacking on the Chuck Keiper Trail five years ago I noticed the Little Beaver Trail Loop that encircles the East Branch Swamp Natural Area. I've always wanted to go back and explore this hike, but until this month, I haven't had the opportunity. It's a relatively short loop trail (just over 2 miles), and is especially beautiful in the fall. But, I suspect it will be just as pretty in the winter, and the flatness of the trail coupled with its relative accessibility from maintained roads would make for an excellent snowshoe hike. The best map for the hike is the Chuck Keiper Trail map #1, but you could also use the Sproul State Forest map. Since it is a bog, some areas will be wet, so boots are recommended.
Getting to the trailhead involves a drive through spectacular fall foliage. From LHU, go west on Route 120 (North Fairview Street) for 26.4 miles to the town of Renovo. The drive follows the Bucktail State Park Natural Area. At the first light, turn left onto Route 144 South and go 9.4 miles. On your right, you'll see a sign for the Beech Creek Watershed. Park in the lot to the left. To the right of the parking lot you can see the orange-blazed trail that you'll return upon. Instead, follow the grassy road with orange blazes to the left (east) of the parking lot.
As you're leaving the parking area, note the graceful tamarack trees (one of the few conifers that lose their needles). Keep following the orange blazes as you skirt the edge of the East Branch Swamp. Hemlocks overhang the narrow trail, and occasionally it opens up to give you glimpses of the swamp. After about a mile, you'll reach Coon Run Road. Turn right, and go about 100 yards until you see a gated road to the right with a sign saying "Little Beaver Camp." Go around the gate and walk up the drive; at the camp, bear to the left, following the yellow blazes. This part of the trail isn't as clearly marked, but if you keep your eye on the yellow blazes (the trail goes slightly northwest), you'll be fine.
After about 3/4 of a mile, you'll reach a grassy pipeline and the last of the yellow blazes. Go straight across the pipeline. If you look slightly to the right (due north), there is more or less an open area between the trees. Walk in that direction about 75 steps and you will see a bright orange double blaze on a tree (you'll have to bushwhack the last five yards). This is the trail back to the parking area. The double-blazed trail briefly continues north (the direction you've been heading) before bending to the east.
Thanks to John Reid and Elizabeth Gruber for helping me scout this hike.
Since our focus this month is the CCC, it seems only appropriate that the hike of the month should be a trail built by the CCC. The Waterville CCC camp (S-82) in Lycoming County built many hiking trails that are now part of the Haneyville ATV Trail, a 17-mile network of trails that have been set aside for ATVs. You can obtain a map of the complicated web of trails at the DCNR site. This hike follows the CCC Trail, making a nice 3.5 mile loop through the Tiadaghton State Forest. Some hikers have mixed feelings about the ATV Trails, but I think it’s better to center ATV activity on this type of trail rather than on more fragile areas. Depending on the time of day and the season, you might not see anyone (I didn’t). In any case, if you hike this trail, please show respect for the ATV riders’ rights to enjoy our state forest.
To get to the trailhead (18 miles, about 30 minutes), follow Water Street to the Jay Street bridge, and turn left onto PA664 North. Go 17 miles to the stop sign and turn right onto PA44 South. Go 1/8th of mile, turn left at the Haneyville ATV Trail sign, and park in the lot. This was the center of the Waterville CCC camp from 1933-1941.
Walk to the northeast corner of the parking lot (the far right of the wooden fence that is in front of the pavilion). You’ll see a small stone cabin that was clearly built by the CCC. One trail runs north, up a hill—this is the trail you’ll return on. Instead take the trail that goes to the right (southeast), following the green diamonds. You’ll pass through a stand of Norway Spruces, a nonnative tree that is one of the trademarks of the CCC. The trail soon begins to climb gradually. You’ll pass an intersection with a “23” sign—keep going straight on the CCC Trail. Eventually, you reach the top of the plateau, in a mixed hardwood forest. The trail descends to Zinck Fork, a pretty stream. Pass the “6” intersection, and when you reach the next intersection, at the bottom of the hill, look for a trail to the left with a yellow “Closed to ATVs” sign—take that trail, which climbs along Zinck Fork amidst hemlocks and white pines. At a log bench you’ll see a “5” sign—keep going straight, up the hill. Pass the “4” sign, bearing to the right. Eventually, you’ll reach the “3” intersection—take this left and follow the Furnace Trail. The Furnace Trail will take you back to the parking lot, passing the “2” and “1” intersections. Just before the parking lot, you’ll reach a 4-way intersection with “22” and “24” signs—keep going, straight down the hill, and you’ll be back at the stone cabin.
Environmental Focus Group