Hiking Drake Hollow-Chuck Keiper Trail

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Falls on Drake Hollow, Chuck Keiper Trail, Sproul State Forest

I was asked to lead a hike for the 2017 Prowl the Sproul hiking event, sponsored by the Keystone Trails Association.  I was assigned to a hike along the Chuck Keiper Trail (CKT) down Drake Hollow, which I had hiked many years ago.  I remembered it being a scenic place, so I was excited to return.  This was a shuttle hike, and since we were starting at the top, it would be mostly a downhill walk to the car along PA 144.

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About seven people joined me on this hike, some were from the local area, others were from near where I live in Northeast PA.  They were a great group of people and after enjoying the vista over the Fish Dam Wild Area, we began the hike on the orange blazed CKT, which is a rugged 50 mile double loop trail.  We only did a section of this trail, this hike was about 6 miles long.

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The trail explored scenic forests with lowbush blueberry and northern hardwoods.  We walked a road and took a side trip to Big Rocks, which featured large boulders, cliffs, and even a cave.  Everyone enjoyed the huge rocks.  A yellow trail explored the maze of rocks, but we did not hike all of this trail, instead retracing our steps to the CKT.

The CKT eventually left the road as we hiked through laurel before the trail descended into Drake Hollow.  The terrain was a little rocky as we entered the glen along a dry stream.  The stream soon appeared along mossy rocks and clear pools.  A sidestream joined, with a small, trickling falls above us.  I was worried about stinging nettle, but it wasn’t too bad.  The CKT followed an obvious grade down this beautiful glen with towering hardwoods as shafts of sunlight lit the ground.

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I was told of a waterfall on Drake Hollow and to look for a side trail.  I found the side trail, on the left if descending, and it dropped down to the creek, ending at a beautiful hidden grotto and a seven foot falls.  For some reason, this spot really impressed me with its beauty.  Springs spilled from the bedrock and everything was green and mossy.  If hiking Drake Hollow, be sure to include the falls.

The trail leveled and crossed the creek a few times.  We had lunch under hemlocks as everyone enjoyed the scenery.  Our hike continued as we passed some campsites before the CKT turned right along the base of the mountain on a new route put in a few years ago to avoid the old route, which was a roadwalk along PA 144.

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I enjoyed this “new” route as it wound in and out of two glens that had seasonal streams and cascades.  One glen had a distinct cool breeze flowing down it, like natural air conditioning, something we relished on a warm day.  The CKT dropped down to PA 144 where the other car was parked.

This was a great hike with waterfalls, glens, streams, and beautiful forests.  I encourage everyone to explore more of the CKT, and Drake Hollow in particular.  You can see these beautiful places on guided hikes during the Prowl the Sproul hiking events, held each July.

More photos.

Map of the CKT’s east loop, with Drake Hollow on the left.

 

Green Hills Preserve

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Green Hills Preserve in full bloom

Natural Lands is a conservancy that has protected thousands of acres in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey.   Green Hills Preserve near Reading is one of the places Natural Lands protects.

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Green Hills covers 201 acres and has three miles of trails.  We visited to see the prime attraction,  a remarkable superbloom of wildflowers.

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We hiked the trails, enjoying the blooms of bee balm, black eyed susans,  joe pye weed,  and many others.  It’s not common in PA to see acres of such flowers, which were planted to transform the fields into high grass meadows.

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Trails also feature forests, a stream, and wetland.  As we hiked we saw hawks, many birds, and countless butterflies.

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The preserve is in a rural area, but near a highway.  What was supposed to be a housing development are now meadows that will host a variety of wildlife.  Regardless where it is located, land is worthy of conservation that will benefit us for generations to come.

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While in the area, we also checked out Nolde Forest Environmental Education Center and walked around its famous stone mansion.  The forest looked beautiful, so I hope to return.

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More photos.

Website and map.

Summer Hike at Bear Creek Preserve

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Suspension bridge over Shades Creek, Bear Creek Preserve

Scranton and Wilkes-Barre have become surrounded by parks, preserves, and trails over the years, offering a surprising array of outdoor activities.   One of those preserves, Bear Creek, has become very popular.  Little wonder, it’s beautiful,  has about 20 miles of trails, covers about 3,500 acres, and is easily accessible.

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I’ve been to Bear Creek several times and my favorite loop is along the Red and Grey Trails, which is about 5.5 miles long.  On this hike, Mike and Dani joined us.  My real goal was to find the suspension bridge over the creek, which had eluded me on prior hikes.

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We hiked the loop counterclockwise, starting on the Red Trail as it explored open forests, with ledges and cliffs.   There is also a stream with a ten foot falls just below the trail.  We descended to Shades Creek through rhododendrons.

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The creek is beautiful with a 5 foot falls and deep pool just off the trail.  We continued down the Red Trail and found the discreet left turn on the Grey Trail where I found the bouncy suspension bridge, crossing it with views of the creek.  The trail turned left and went upstream, passing rapids, cascades, and pools with impressive tunnels of rhododendrons.

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The creek is very beautiful with forests of pine and hemlocks, some trees are very large.  It is a pleasure to hike and everyone enjoyed it.

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We crossed the creek on a log bridge and returned to the Red Trail,  before retracing our steps to the parking area.

More photos.

Website and map.

Smith’s Knob and Painter Run Loop-Loyalsock State Forest

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View from Smith’s Knob

After hiking the Rough Hill Trail, Ed and Ken joined me to hike the Smith’s Knob and Painter Run Loop.  Instead of looking at Smith’s Knob from a distance,  we would be climbing it.

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This six mile loop is one of the finest in the region with beautiful views and streamside hiking.  I’d always hiked this loop clockwise,  but we did this hike counterclockwise, which is the best route.

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At the large parking area, we walked up Little Bear Creek Road for a half mile to a collection of cabins where the Painter Run Trail began on the left.  We hiked behind a modern cabin and followed the trail up a scenic valley along the small, pristine stream.  The creek tumbled over mossy rocks and trout swam in the pools.  There were a few stream crossings.  Bee balm adorned the trail with red flowers.  This was a very enjoyable hike.

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As we hiked, the valley narrowed into the gorge and we soon reached the Loyalsock Trail  at some campsites.  We turned left onto the Loyalsock Trail as it explored forests of laurel and hardwoods, and crossed a forest road.  Some of the trees were very large.  We enjoyed a vista of the Loyalsock Creek far below and began a steeper climb up Smith’s Knob along ledges.

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We reached the top with a dry campsite and enjoyed the stunning view from a ledge.  The panorama of the creek, valley, and mountains were impressive.   The creek was 1200 feet below.  This is a perfect sunrise vista.

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We ate and began our steep descent as a thunderstorm approached.  A passed a view to the south as the rain fell and the wind picked up.  I got thoroughly wet as we stopped at another view of the creek and mountains. The storm soon passed.

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The long descent continued with some steep areas.  We hiked through a thick understory of moosewood and reached the car and parking area.

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If you like vistas and a challenging hike, this is the loop for you.   It is truly beautiful that will make your time outdoors rewarding.

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There is so much beauty in the Loyalsock State Forest.

This hike is described in “Hiking the Endless Mountains”.

More photos.

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Rough Hill Trail-Loyalsock State Forest

 

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View of Smiths Knob from the Rough Hill Trail

The Rough Hill Trail is a beautiful hike in the Loyalsock State Forest. I returned a few weeks ago with Ed and Ken. It is a two mile lollipop loop that leads to two vistas.  The vertical climb is almost 600 feet. The hike begins at the Sandy Bottom parking area.  Follow the trail as it goes down a gated road.  It then veers right off the road and into the woods before passing some vernal pools.

 

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It climbs and crosses PA 87; be careful crossing the road.  The trail becomes steeper along narrow side hill along slopes of loose rock.  The hike leveled off and then reached a spur trail to the right that led to a cliff and the lower vista, providing a great view of the valley surrounded by steep mountains.

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The trail continued its climb, reaching the beginning of the loop.  I continued straight on an old grade, climbing the mountain.  The trail leveled again beneath some ledges and went through some laurel to the edge of the cliff where there was a stunning vista of the mountains, valley, and Smiths Knob’s distinctive peak.  Views of such peaks are rare in Pennsylvania and this is one of the finest.  This is also an ideal vista for sunsets.

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I hiked down the loop, as the trail dropped steeply over ledges, beneath a slope with large boulders and a cave.  The trail leveled with rocky terrain and then completed the loop.  I then retraced my steps back to the car.

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While here, it is worth your time to explore Sandy Bottom and the Loyalsock Creek.  It is a beautiful spot as the large, clear creek is surrounded by towering mountains and cliffs. Sandy Bottom is popular with anglers and can also be an access for kayakers on the creek.

Rough Hill is a beautiful trail with gorgeous vistas.  Next time you’re in the state forest, be sure to hike it.

Map and brochure.

More photos.

Kettle Creek Gorge and Angel Falls-Loyalsock State Forest

 

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Kettle Creek Gorge Vista, Loyalsock State Forest

 

Kettle Creek Gorge is one of the crown jewels of the already beautiful Loyalsock State Forest.  A few months ago, I returned to this isolated rugged place.

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I parked along Brunnerdale Road and followed the Loyalsock Trail along Ogdonia Run under hemlocks.  I then took an unmarked side trail to the bottom of Falls Run and hiked up it, to see its beautiful waterfalls and cascades, including 30ish foot Gipson Falls and its grotto of fractured bedrock.

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I climbed further and soon reached the base of 70 foot Angel Falls, always a fine sight.  I remember how impressed when I first saw this falls so many years ago, and that feeling never really changes.  The water bounced down the cliff and disappeared into the gorge below.  Cliffs surrounded the falls.  This is a place people will never forget.

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I continued through a forest with huge tulip poplar trees and rejoined the Loyalsock Trail as it climbed through a scenic forest, crested over the rim of the gorge, and then dropped into Kettle Creek Gorge.  This gorge is just special-it is rugged, scenic, and feels as if set apart.  A true wilderness.  The forests are beautiful, with some large trees.  In decades to come, this will be an amazing old growth forest.

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I stopped by the vista in the bright, warm sunshine as a rattlesnake announced its annoyance with a shrill rattle.  I couldn’t see it.  Knowing I was going to return to the vista, I soon continued on my hike.

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The trail dropped down to Kettle Creek itself, a pristine wilderness trout stream with pools, cascades, and boulders.  There are also some excellent campsites.  It had been years since I camped here last; I need to return soon, I thought.  The trail crossed the creek and followed it, offering superb scenery, before climbing up a steep slope.  I followed a side trail back down to the creek and rested for a bit, hearing the sounds of the wilderness, the bubbling water, the breeze being inhaled and exhaled by the gorge.  I knew there was another waterfall upstream, but decided to see it on another hike.

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I retraced my steps and then went off trail to see a 7 foot falls and deep pool downstream, just off the trail.  Another beautiful spot in the Kettle Creek Gorge.   I returned to the vista as the sun began to set, filling the gorge with angled shadows and shafts of mist.  It was beautiful.  The roar of the creek filled the gorge.  A hummingbird suddenly appeared, visiting some blooming trees as if it were on a set, daily schedule.  It then sped off back to its teacup sized nest, hidden within a universe of trees.  The snake didn’t make a sound.

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Do people know places of such beauty are right here?

I followed the Loyalsock Trail back through a forest fading to twilight.  Lightning bugs appeared with long, silent flares of fluorescent light guiding my way back to the car.

More photos.

The Kettle Creek Gorge and Angel Falls are described in “Hiking the Endless Mountains”.

Hunters Lake

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For those who like to kayak or fish, Hunters Lake is a best kept secret.  Covering 117 acres near the Loyalsock State Forest, the lake features wooded, curving, undeveloped shorelines with views of North Mountain, the second highest mountain in northeast Pennsylvania.  The lake is known for its scenery and serenity.

There is one boat ramp and only electric motors, or non-powered boats, are allowed.

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The lake is stocked with trout and a variety of warmwater species like largemouth bass can also be found.

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Hunters Lake is the perfect place to kayak due to its scenery, isolation, and uncrowded nature.

Nearby is Eagles Mere, or you can hike to Angel Falls and the Kettle Creek Gorge.

I visited on a sunny day with puffy cumulus clouds.  The still water reflected the sky perfectly as reeds and lilypads adorned the surface.  I returned after my hike for the sunset as the horizon turned to gold, spreading its light across the water.  It was beautiful.  Lightning bugs then appeared with fluorescent trails across the twilight sky.

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If you’re looking for a day on the water away from it all, go to Hunters Lake.

More photos.

Location of Hunters Lake.