Five Forest Tour Through the Pennsylvania Wilds


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And lo...with the heat of summer in the ascension we loaded up our trusty pack mule of a truck for 4 day wander through the north central portions of Pennsylvania one June morning. A Tour of the Forests, if you will. Entering the Big Green that is the forests of Pennsylvania we wandered the dirt roads connecting trails, waterfalls and vistas out in 5 of the Pennsylvania State Forests; Bald Eagle, Tiadaghton, Tioga, Susquehanna and Sproul. Along with Elk and Moshannon State Forest these make up the area known as the PA Wilds. The best hardwood timber in the world and acre upon acre of forest canopy to escape under lay within. This will be episodic as time and the quality of our rural internet allow...

Day One:

The night before the Mouser was loaded with the necessary gear and supplies to be self supportive throughout the long 4 day weekend. We had no real plan other than a starting point and there we would find our way as the tides of adventure pushed us. We were rolling asphalt along I-80 East before the sun had even cast a glimmer on the rounded hilltops. The interstate at this time was eerily empty due to the Covid and we made good time. Soon we dropped south off the interstate and rolled through Mennonite farmland on our way to a hiking trail in Bald Eagle State Forest that had caught our attention.

Once at the trailhead the Mouser got to rest.

Now the trip really starts as we pulled the hiking kit out of the pod doors and set off on a five mile out and back trail along Molasses Run. We do a fair bit of research to find out of the way trails to hike and avoid those with a high number of YouTube hits. This one checked off all the boxes we were looking for and we were eager to put some loam under foot.


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The rhododendrons were in full bloom across the north central PA woods, the scent is one of home for us.


One sketchy bridge...

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The Big Green, home sweet home.

Hike done we fueled up and rehydrated than pointed the Tacoma north along back roads as we left Bald Eagle SF and entered Tiadaghton. We poked along forest roads and checked out vistas served up by the passage of Pine Creek Through the weathered hills. One of the best is Lebo Vista that the Mouser here is highlighting...

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Ancient hills for miles.

Afternoon waned and after checking in the Tiadaghton Ranger station we got the skinny of dispersed camping options. Pennsylvania State Forests all have far flung regulations as to what is permissible for dispersed camping so don’t assume what is allowed or not allowed in one applies to all the others. Use map in hand we found a nice turnout at the far end of a two track forest road to spend the night and we set camp. It only takes a few minutes to set and break camp so we can have more time to enjoy just being outdoors all alone. Supper was cooked, an evening hike ensued and critters were spotted. A bobcat sang us to sleep this night, which was a kindly gesture. If only all the animals we encountered this trip were as pleasant.

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The morning would find us up before the dawn and rolling through new paths...


Nice pics... some friendly observations.

1. Bobcats are loud as hell and Im not sure how you slept through that.
2. You got some leaves in your chicken plate.


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Day 2:

The morning rolled in gently, and as we climb out of the Maggie the sun was just illuminating the old log landing that we had made camp on. De-campifing the Tacoma and selecting “Travel” mode we headed in the northerly direction again. Our course took us to the west of Pine Creek’s flow as we slid back in the hills and hollers. We did have a destination this day and that would be a hike on the Golden Eagle Trail. Centered in the Wolf Run Wilderness area within the domain of the Tiadaghton Forest, this trail is known for steep rugged climbs and slithering things that rattle.

The day broke hot from the start, so we went heavy on the water in the packs. A clear, blue sky greeted us as the morning mist drifting of Pine Creek lifted off the valley floor where the trailhead originated. Michelle led the way...


We elected to do a counter clockwise trek of this 10 mile loop. The Golden Eagle Trail or GET, is thought of as one of the best day hikes in the Keystone state but it’s a strenuous one with lots of rapid elevation gain and loss. And you earn the views on top the hills.
A local was out for a summer amble as well. We came across him at the top of the hill and he was quite chill.


The main attraction of this trail is Raven’s Horn, a sandstone promontory that juts out from the narrow ridge of the hills crest.

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The GET winds up and down the hillsides of the Wilderness Area and presents vistas and glacial erratics along its winding course.


A little over five hours and we were back at the trailhead and the truck where a fridge full of cold drinks and air conditioning awaited us. Thank the gods for Freon.


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Day 2.5

Hike finished we continued north. Tiadaghton was left behind as we crossed into the realm of Tioga State Forest. We remained on the Western side of Pine Creek as the hills got steeper and we flirted with the southernly portion of the Pine Creek Gorge, known hereabouts as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. While this area has always been a travel destination the popularity of the Black Hills and the West Rim hiking trails has spiked in recent years as YouTube hiking personalities have made them a “must do”. While we had seen very few people in the woods so far, the trailheads for these trails were packed with cars. Luckily we had no plans for either as we were just meandering about on the look for a campsite. Lots of dirt to travel and some good vistas to gaze down into the course of the Pine were found as we toured the forest.
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Critters were spotted in abundance. Deer darted across the road or watched us drive by. We spied two black bears and a fisher in quick succession along one stretch. And we watched a pair of minks pounce on one another along a small roadside crick.

As the afternoon turned towards evening the skies turned grey and the passage under the forest canopy got darker. It’s been a good 10 years since I had camped in Tioga and a lot has changed. Many old spots have been gated closed so there was not much access as before. What campsites I could find were overgrown with nettles or mono flora rose. Nettles suck. And than it started to pour from the heavens and the ground turned into a red slime. The storm passed and we kept looking but no suitable sites could be found other than a handful that were little more than pull offs off from the side of the road. And these were pretty muddy. That’s not fun. We kept driving...


Michelle was getting fussy and as we almost to the top of the Gorge and the asphalt of US Route 6 I made a command decision...

I booked us a motel room at a well to do motel in the hipster town of Wellsboro. This is a Victorian town founded on big timber money back at the turn of the previous century and is still the economic center of an otherwise rural area. With The Covid restrictions at the time the place was pretty empty and we elected to order a pizza and had it delivered to our swank digs. Later we strolled the town and got caught in a massive deluge. We huddled under a closed storefront awning for an hour or so until the rain relented enough for a quick march back to the motel.

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The rain lasted almost all night and we were were glad not to have to deal with wet and muddied equipment the next morning. And as we woke up Michelle had waterfalls on her mind...


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Day 3:

Come the morning we were rolling asphalt as our trajectory turn westward along Route 6. Michelle had found some waterfall hikes on the AllTrails app last evening that had sparked her interest so the Mouser was making for Sproul State Forest which would be a bit if a run for us. We figured we’d hit Sproul than Elk and Moshannon on our loop back home. First though we would pass through the Susquehanna SF to get to Sproul...

Susquehanna was a nice drive through the woods but not a whole lot stood out or caught on attention. Maybe we weren’t passing through the right section or failed to do enough research but it became just a pass through for us. More research is needed to give the Sus a fair shake.

Arriving in Sproul we made our way to the Paddy Run Trail and pulled the truck off at a large gas right away. As we were pulling the hiking gear out a grandfather and his two grandkids pulled behind us in an old Jeep Commando with just the right amount of patina. Here they were out looking for rattlers and the spot we had stopped was supposed to be a favorite area to find them. We bs’ed a bit, watched the young girl and boy look around the large rocks along the pull-off with their snake prods in hand and talked about snake encounters we had all experienced in our pasts. No snakes found the kiddlings climbed back up into the Jeep with their grandpa and gave us enthusiastic waves as they pulled off to continue their snakey adventure. Lucky kids right there. Lucky grandpa as well.

Appalachia bonding ritual complete Michelle and I headed down through the tall grass of the right of way, being extra mindful of where we stepping and what we were stepping on, to pick up the Paddy Run Trail. ‘Cause there is a waterfall down stream somewhere and Michelle likes waterfalls...


After a 4 mile hike or so following along the remnants of an old logging narrow gauge train track we found a cairn marking the path to find the falls. Paddy Run by now had entered a deep narrow holler and the path down to its banks was twisty, steep and covered in flaky shale. It was nice down here though.

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Paddy Run Falls was, cute?. Pretty scenery for sure but not much of a falls. But it was cool down here and worth the hike. The rock on the left looks like a turtle and not a T Rex as some would have you believe.

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Climbing out of the coolness of the holler we could feel the heat of the day building and were glad to see the truck come into view. Onboard fridges make life better.

Back in the truck we found a shady spot to pull over to have a bit of lunch and to check out some maps. Paddy did not fulfill the waterfall requirements of the misses so action was called for. How about this Yost Falls? Affirmation granted the Mouser set off down the dirt roads once again. A bit of driving and we found the trail head to Yost. We trekked down an old lease road for a mile and a half and at an old hunting cabin turned downstream along Yost Run.

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Thats better. As the day had progresses it had gotten hot and a bit humid. The spray off the falls was cool and refreshing and dipping ones noggin under the falling waters was so good. Afternoon was turning to evening though and we needed to find a campsite so off we trekked.


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Ever get the itch in yer head that you left something unfinished...well...

Day 3.5. Things go sideways

After the hikes to the falls we started trekking around the Sproul SF area looking for a campsite. Lots of two tracks presented themselves but about all would end at some remote hunting cabin grandfathered in the state lands. We got kind of wary checking out lanes as we did not want to intrude on someone’s retreat. Along the way we stopped at some vistas to check out the views. The mountian laurel was at its peak along the plateaus of the Appalachians.


At the Fish Dam Vista we found a forest service road opposite it heading into the ridges. Exploring along it but for a short distance we found a great spot to claim. Site was about 300 yards up a two track off the main drag. Awesome site on top of a ridge with a 180* view to the east and the potential for some spectacular star gazing. We leveled the truck, popped the tent and utilized a backpacking tarp as a shade. For a quick pitch utilizing what ever was hiding in the truck it worked well.


As evening set in we walked down to a vista across the main road to snap some sunset pics. Crossing over the blacktop I saw a truck stop to the south of us about 500 yards below on the blacktop. There was a bear walking up the road along the shoulder and it approached right up to the truck.

I than noticed a radio collar and three cubs. Radio collar meant relocated trouble bear that had been released out here in the PA Wilds and that was bad news. I stopped Michelle and started making our way back to the truck. We were spotted by the bear and it started trotting up the road towards us. A passerby in a lifted Cherokee came by and I flagged it down. A local couple were the occupants and were familiar with that particular bear. We kept retreating with our eyes on that sow but she was coming right for us. We ended up clambering In the backseat of the Cherokee as the bear rushed up to the Jeep. Eventually the bear passed over the shoulder with her cubs on the opposite side of the road from our camp. The couple drove us back up to our truck and than departed. They also informed us there was another bear here with two ear tags, a sign that if had been relocated twice.

A few minutes later that sow was trotting up the two track right towards our camp site. She came right in. Normally a good shout drives a bear off but not this one. I threw Michelle in the truck, pulled the pistola out and fired off a round. She stopped and trotted into the bracken. With Michelle keeping a watch I started tearing down camp. I could hear this bear breaking through the scrub trying to circle me, and I let her know I could hear her. Still she pressed on. Again, this time from the right she came straight in. I fired another warning shot and she turned back into the woods. Luckily our setup breaks down quick and I almost had everything stored hurriedly when I heard her encircling again. Having enough of this shit, I’m alpha predator here, when she came out I lit into her with all the anger and cussing ability of my lumberjack heritage and she bolted this time. The Cubs jetted up a small rock oak and as mama passed they scampered down to rejoin her in retreat. If she came in again or didn’t relent I was going to drop that bitch and eat her. Damn I was pissed. Darn bear is ruining my evening and I haven’t even had any supper.

Camp broke and dumb arse bear run off we pulled out in search of a new site. Michelle was rattled and though she was game to stay out in the woods, I decided to just head home for a little less excitement. Home was only 2 hours away and the only thing I wanted was for my travel companion to feel safe. So as dark fell we said “frack this” and just headed home. On the plus side my husband ranking increased several levels to Epic Stalwart Defender so that was nice. Did that encounter discourage our outside activities? Not at all, but Michelle really wants to fill a bear tag of her own now.
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