Pennsylvania Wanderings: Hiking Boot Edition

Haggis

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#1
Here's a thread to share the scenic areas of the Keystone State that are only accessible with a pair of hiking boots. Whats the draw of the PA backwoods? Glacier rounded hills, deep hemlock shrouded hollers, rushing trout streams and sandstone and aggregrate boulder outcroppings. All the things I love about my home state. Feel free to post up your hikes or sift through here for ideas of where to tromp some dirt if your passing through.
 
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Haggis

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#2
State Gamelands 69

We are fortunate here in Pennsylvania to have a lot of public lands, much more so than many other eastern states. And if you’re willing to get out of the seat of your vehicle it is easy to immerse yourself into the forests, marshes and hemlock shrouded hollers that cover this state. A shift in mentality from driving your rig for adventure to one of driving your rig to the adventure can open up all kinds of possibilities. Most people in these parts head into the State Forest system or the National Forests as they (mostly) offer the greatest camping and touring opportunities. But there is one class of public land that many overlook…the Pennsylvania Game Lands…

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Now to be clear right off the bat, there are a few caveats to SGL use. First is that camping is absolutely not allowed on Gamelands. Second, vehicle use is very limited and restricted though with some exploring you can find some nice tertiary roads accessing or passing through them. During certain times of the year the Game Commission will open roads normally closed to allow hunters into areas that otherwise would be difficult to access. But Gamelands often border many of the State Forests which can serve as base camp areas to explore from. The beauty of the Gamelands is that outside of the major hunting seasons (spring turkey, fall deer and bear) they usually are empty of people and they often hide within them some great scenic spots to discover. Hidden ponds and marches, deep trout stream gorges, evergreen glades lay in wait for those who leave the comfort of their vehicle and go out searching for them. It is somewhat a risk to go out to find these spots as there is never a guarantee, but the discoveries you can find are worth the time and exploration involved. And while SGL will never be a centerpiece of an adventure they surely are worthy of spending a day out and exploring away from the everyday stuff. The best thing though is that there are multiple Gamelands just a few miles from anywhere in this state. Some are forests, some hold large ponds or lakes to fish or paddle, almost all harbor a wide variety of critters to observe all of which can lead to some outdoor goodness.

One day in the beginning of March of this year there was a break in the incessant dreary and gloomy Pennsylvania winter. The sun was shining the temps weren’t too bad and the snow cover was pretty well melted down, but a storm was on its way in. So I jumped in the truck to get out while I could. I figured as the snow pack was down that I might as well go hunting for some antler sheds and thus I set my sights on a marshy patch of Gamelands that I’ve had a lot of luck finding drops in the past. This would be SGL 69 over in the Guys Mills area of PA.

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I pulled into one of the parking area and made my way through the hemlocks that dominate this section of the woods…

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I passed quite a few of these early fall buck rubs…

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Winter still held the landscape in its grip here even though we haven’t had as much snow as usual so all the ponds were still frozen…

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Soon the spring thaw will come and these ponds will be magnets for the geese and ducks that thrive here. That too will bring a bit of color to the overriding tones of green, grey, brown and white that is northwestern Pennsylvania in the winter time. Still occasionally you’ll come across a splash of color here or there..

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Seems like a hungry woodpecker has been busy looking for food, probably flat head borer grubs…Yummy if you’re a woodpecker.

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Well I didn’t find any sheds and what snow pack was left was icy and crunchy so sneaking up on some critters was out of the question, but it was an enjoyable day
 
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Haggis

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#5
^Minister Creek Rocks Hiking trail, Forest County PA. The first time Matt and I met...in the first five minutes I had loaded that Maryland boy up into a sketchy looky truck with a wild eyed ridgerunner and than drove him deep into the Hickory Creek Wilderness. Start of a great weekend, though I think Matt was listening for the banjos.
 

Haggis

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#6
Minister Creek, Forest County PA

Minister Creek, situated in the heart of the Allegheny National Forest, is one of our favorite places. The woods there have an old, fey like quality and you feel like you’re walking through realms long gone. During the spring and early summer trilliums and lady slippers carpet the forest floor along with thick patches of ferns. Rocks and boulders made up of the aggregate sandstone that is the bones of the earth in these hills provide eye catching sights and challenging places to scramble up. Here’s some photos we’ve taken over the last couple of years.

The trail head leads off from Route 666 and can be done as a 6 mile there and back or as a 16 mile loop trail. The highlight of this trail is the Minister Rocks, a tangle of boulders that could have been the playthings of some forgotten giant. Right from the start solitary boulders shoulder their way up from the earth.

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The trail winds amongst the trees and through the rocks.

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Soon the trail runs along a rock wall and starts to clamber over the tumble stones.

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Once on top you will find the overlook, which is basically a 70’ high hunk of rock jutting out from the hill.

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From here you can turn back to the trail head or hike another 12 miles of the loop trail.

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Eventually you’ll find yourself walking back down the course of Minister Creek, a prime example of PA native trout waters, and once more at the trailhead.

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The Minister Creek Trail is a must do if you're putzing around Northwest Pennsylvania. :cool:
 

12husky

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#7
I am so used to hearing the fiddles out in the marsh down here that the banjos don't bother me too bad!

^Minister Creek Rocks Hiking trail, Forest County PA. The first time Matt and I met...in the first five minutes I had loaded that Maryland boy up into a sketchy looky truck with a wild eyed ridgerunner and than drove him deep into the Hickory Creek Wilderness. Start of a great weekend, though I think Matt was listening for the banjos.
 

rangermatt

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#8
Pennsylvania looks like some pretty country...we just returned from the Mt Carmel area recently and was impressed by how much it looks like NH or VT.. going to have to head back down there for some camping in the future
 

Haggis

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#9
Rickettes Glen Natural Area

My wife loves waterfalls, not so much for the falls themselves but as a reward after taking a long hike. And when it comes to waterfalls and hiking few places in Pennsylvania can match what the Rickets Glen Natural Area. Located in north central Pennsylvania about 40 miles west of Williamsport on State Route 487, this area's main draw is the Waterfall Trail that passes along nearly fifty waterfalls. Alongside the Natural Area is a State Park that consists of your typical State campground, a lake and beach to muck about on and the trail to the waterfalls. It can get quite busy here, but if you start early you're less likely to see people. But after lunch the crowds begin to clog the trail loop. Still the waterfalls are worth the hike...here’s some shots of our sojourn out that way circa 2008.

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Haggis

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#12
Wolkkeil Trail, Oil Creek State Park

Hiking doesn’t happen in late January here in the lake effect area of Pennsylvania. Usually we are knee deep or more in a permanent snow pack and if you want to walk the woods you have to put on your gaiters and strap on some snow shoes. But the winter of 2012 was unusually mild and on one January day as the snow had melted and the sun was shining (another thing that usually doesn’t happen here this time of year) we knew it was a great day for a winter time hike. So we loaded up in the Tundra and hit the back roads as we headed over to nearby Oil Creek State Park. The dirt roads were wet and slimy as the melt off had taken some of the frost out of the road surface. We ended up at the Wolfkeil trailhead and then headed down the hills and the woods for an afternoon walk…

After a bit of a walk just to get to the trail head we passed by some camping shelters. The lumber and siding for these was donated by us back in our sawmilling days when we were tree killing specialists.

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Than we were bumbling down the trail...

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We came across the remains of an old oil storage tank from the late 1800s when oil fever held sway in this area…

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As we went downward we finally came upon Wolfkeil creek which is known for producing some fine native brook and brown trout….

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We scrambled around some of the rock piles…

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And checked out a seasonal waterfall that was in full flow with the warm weather melt-off…

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And we stumbled upon an old oil pipe line that has yet to be reclaimed by the forest. Not too many of these are left as when the scrap prices soared anything that vandals could get easily were ripped out and sold for scrap.

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And a final parting shot of the Wolfkeil as we headed back up the hills and out of the holler.

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Haggis

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#13
The weather took a nice turn this weekend and we ended up with some warmer temperatures and blue sky, which is a rarity here in the midst of winter. So after Michelle got done with work she and I jumped into the Mouser and headed on over to one of our favorite haunts. the Erie National Wildlife Refuge. There we spent a few hours walking the woods and fields and meandering along the frozen ponds. Here's a few pics of what we saw...

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Michelle sure enjoyed the sun and warm winds...

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The Mouser even got a chance to stretch his tires after sitting in the garage for the last month or so...

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#14
My four-year old daughter has a Lionel train set I recently gave her and she constantly notices the caboose labelled, "Pennsylvania" and how she wants to go there. I just showed her this thread with photos and she was completely enamored so now we're going to plan our trip there in 2014. :)

Thanks for the thread!
 

Haggis

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#17
My four-year old daughter has a Lionel train set I recently gave her and she constantly notices the caboose labelled, "Pennsylvania" and how she wants to go there. I just showed her this thread with photos and she was completely enamored so now we're going to plan our trip there in 2014. :)

Thanks for the thread!
Collective high-five.... mission accomplished.
Amen Brother Tango...to me the whole idea of a forum is to be inspired by the folks you interact with and hopefully reciprocate it all back. I' m happy this thread inspired the kernel of a trip for you OD. Please feel free to pick my brain for any suggestions for your trip; I have an extensive Keystone knowledge base to root around in. While my state doesn't have tons of public off road routes it offers thousands of miles of hiking trails and has historic places to poke about galore.
 

Haggis

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#18
Nice photos Mark. I have to say you are equally skilled behind a camera and a rifle.

-Andy
Thanks Andy. I'll take the praise for the rifle because I am damn good, but the photo bit I still got a lot to learn. My camera sensi Jay (mtnbike28) is always teaching method and mechanics whenever we get together but he's got more knowledge than my brain can hold at any one time. But I always remember his best piece of advice..."When all else fails take lots of pictures, your bound to get a least one good one."
 

Dave

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#19
Amen Brother Tango...to me the whole idea of a forum is to be inspired by the folks you interact with and hopefully reciprocate it all back. I' m happy this thread inspired the kernel of a trip for you OD. Please feel free to pick my brain for any suggestions for your trip; I have an extensive Keystone knowledge base to root around in. While my state doesn't have tons of public off road routes it offers thousands of miles of hiking trails and has historic places to poke about galore.
That's what it's all about! :thumbsup
 
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