Tag Archives: Pike County PA

Splendid Springtime Sojurns

An hour before daybreak you’re crouched, camouflaged, calling up a wild turkey. By 1:00pm you’re sinking salmon eggs on your spin rod trying to tempt a trout. Following dinner, there’s still enough light to forage the fields and forests for flora and fauna. Whether you consider yourself a sportsman, an outdoorsman, or just a nature lover, May in Northeastern Pennsylvania is definitely your month.

 

Seasons of Change

The months of May and October in these parts are perhaps the two most dramatic epochs of the year. We begin October, typically, with a rather green forest tinted here and there with smatterings of yellow, red, and orange. The days are usually warm and being outside is rather enjoyable. By the end of that month, the trees are bare, the air has become chilly, and there’s a good chance your Halloween costume is hidden under an overcoat.

 

May is just the opposite. As we step into the month, the woods are a grey tangle of trunks and twigs. Blustery breezes off the lakes and on the mountain tops warrant wearing a windbreaker, at the very least, and finding frost fixed to your windshield in the morning is a plausible possibility. In a matter of days though, usually by mid-month, the transformation transpires. Everything greens up, sleeves become shorter, and by the end of the month we are heralding the return of the summer season. Like October, May has 31 days, as if the lords of the calendar deem you make the most of the month.

Iris.2

Fish & Game…and More!

Through most of May, it’s wild turkey hunting season. Later in the month you can hunt all day, but in the early part of the season you have to hang up the shotgun by noon. Fine. Put the 12 gauge in the trunk and pull out the fishing rod after lunch. Many local streams get a late stocking of trout during the first two weeks of May.

 

If you’re not a hunter or an angler, fear not! Save for the early blooming plants such as trillium and the summer buds like Indian pipes, the vast majority of Pennsylvania’s wildflowers can be found at one point or another throughout the month. Bluets, irises, violets, and laurels can all easily be found along many of the local paths and waterways. Most migratory birds that call these parts home for the summer have arrived and began nesting. White speckled fawns blend in with the flowery forest floor while red-shouldered blackbirds make their presence known with their buzzing chirp. Lace up your boots or put your paddle in the water…either way, take your camera. Chances are you’ll see something worthy of a social media post somewhere on your journey.

 

Hot Spots

Plenty of ponds in the area recently received a fresh dose of trout. Lily Pond, Lake Minisink, Fairview Lake, and Little Mud Pond have all been stocked as have waterways such as the Lackawaxen River, Sawkill Creek, and both the Little and Big Bushkills.

 

Expect loads of laurels to bloom, as usual, in and around Promised Land State Park and on the adjacent Delaware State Forest. Easy finds of big patches lie in the apex of Route 390, Old Greentown Rd, and Shiny Mountain Rd just south of I-84. Hike in less than a mile to Egypt Meadow Lake for irises, violets, and bluets.

Mountain Laurel

Let’s not forget about mountain biking either. With the exception of trails in the state forest that are marked exclusively for hiking (in the natural areas) the vast majority of state forest trails are open to pedal power. Check out the generally messy, muddy Maple Run off PA-402 or opt for a more leisurely ride along the Kleinhans loop and Song Dog Rd off PA-390. Expert riders looking for a real challenge might opt to tackle the trails at Prompton State Park.

 

Need some river? You may need to wait for a good rain if you want wild water on the Lackawaxen. Brookfield Renewable plans to restrict energy generation through mid-June, but this is good news for anglers. Enjoy some calm paddling on the Delaware River in early May below Matamoras and gradually move your river runs upstream as the season progresses. Pre-Memorial Day is also a good time to explore the Big Lake in smaller watercraft if you don’t care to share your canoeing and kayaking with powerboats.

Kayak Gear

Wildlife aside, don’t be afraid to get up close and personal with nature. Wade in the water, put your nose up to the flowers, hug a tree, and scramble up that slope. Don’t just enjoy the outdoors, experience it!

Flaming Fall Foliage: 2015

Autumn in Pennsylvania is generally showy. A rather dry and warm fall meant a delay in the change of colors this year. In fact, many thought that if and when the hues came, it would happen swiftly, or, even worse, a sudden cold snap would spell certain death to the canopy and there’d be little color at all. Fortunately, the ideal temperature range for a spectacular display held for a two week period and the post-peak era also yielded some fine sights as well.

I spent the better part of this time doing one of two things in the forest. Largely, I was off patrolling the fences we use to keep white-tailed deer out of areas we are trying to regenerate, or I was mowing down the fields we keep as food plots, the plants there having already gone to seed and withered. In both cases I was treated to a myriad of natural palettes, ranging from monochrome to prismatic.

Fall Forest
Spruce and oak offer a contrast of green to the turning maples and ferns along a gravel-covered snowmobile trail near the Edgemere area of the Delaware State Forest in Pike County, Pennsylvania

 

Ambush Autumn
Already past-peak, some oaks remain in color despite the thinning canopy.
Autumn Road
An early season shot along one of our Pike County snowmobile trails. Many of these are relatively flat and either grass or gravel-covered. Few folks realize they are open to mountain biking and some are open for equestrian activities. Consider hitting the trail some autumn. You might see something like this.

Old Dingman's Field #3

Old Dingman's Field
The above two photos are taken of the same corner of the wildlife food plot located off PA-Route 6 on a trail known as the Old Dingman’s Turnpike. They were taken a few days apart from slightly different vantage points at different times of day, both with a 20 megapixel camera phone with a Zeiss lens. I used a polarized sunglasses as a filter on the lower photo. Aside from some cropping, I didn’t do much editing.
Orange Trees
Near another food plot near the Edgemere Fire and Ranger Station it was just a wall of orange one day.
Redbush Patch
A now all crimson low-bush blueberry patch.
Woods & Bush
Late season shot along another snowmobile trail.
Yellow Oak
Looking up at a maple tree solidly sporting golden boughs.

Note: Hopefully there won’t be a lengthy delays between future posts. September brought a new little boy into our family and the local fall high school sports beat I cover was hectic as well as long. Several of the teams I report on went deep into the post-season. Before I knew it, our oldest son’s birthday was upon me, Thanksgiving, the loss of my father-in-law, automotive hi-jinx, and the Holidays. Added to all of that I had been undergoing physical therapy for a work related injury. I’ll be playing catch-up with the blog for a while. Thanks for reading and understanding.

Indian Ladders Falls

Top Falls and Pool
First cascade and pool. Average pool depth is about 5′ and perfect for a swim.

The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area boasts a bevy of scenic attractions, waterfalls being among the chief draws for locals and tourists alike. Most of these picturesque cascades, such as Dingman’s Falls, Raymondskill Falls, and Childs’ Park are surrounded by walkways and viewing decks. While these features make viewing the waterfalls somewhat safer for the casual visitor and also concentrate the environmental impact made by hikers, at the same time they create a buffer that restricts adventurers from getting “Up close and personal” with the raw power of the churning water. However, if you are the type of outdoorsman that prefers to “experience” nature rather than just “enjoying” it, there are several, lesser known waterfalls where access is relatively unlimited. One such location are the Indian Ladders Falls.

Sketchy Sources

Obtaining accurate information about these falls proved to be the first challenge. Carl Oplinger’s “The Poconos” guidebook fails to list these falls and instead addresses a like-named series of falls located on the Skytop Resort property just over the Pike County line in Monroe County; Scott Brown’s “Pennsylvania Waterfalls” mentions four waterfalls and places them off Dickinson Rd, not Emory Rd (which also has various spellings depending on the source); and the Park Service notes this is also the Hornbeck Creek Trail and that there are two waterfalls, but then goes on to explain the “Ladders” are a series of falls and another waterfall (cited as “Tumbling Waters” in Brown’s guidebook) is located along the same trail. Confused? To add another layer of befuddlement to this quest, the Park Service has closed a section of the trail between the two series of falls; removed the online map; and has a link to directions that only show the access point off US-209 for the lower falls, not the Ladders.

Brown’s book, the mislabeled road aside, proved to be the most accurate source as it has a fairly easy-to-decipher map. Get oneself to the Pocono Environmental Education Center on Emery (their spelling) Rd. and leaving the PEEC parking lot, turn left and travel approximately 1.9 miles until the road crosses Hornbeck Creek. Pull-off lots are located on either side of the small bridge and the trails meander downstream from the road.

Hitting the Trail

Unlike many other natural attractions, no signage exists here to welcome you or warn you. There’s no informational kiosk, posted map, or painted trees to even guide you through the woods. A fairly well worn trail is easy to follow but smaller paths, here and there, lead wanderers to various spots along the creek where one can walk right out on to the cliffs and crags that bound the rushing water.

The first spectacle encountered on the downstream trek was a slide where a vein of water flowed for several yards before beginning an 18-20 foot plummet to a plunge pool. Accessing the slide is relatively easy if you’ve hugged the stream the entire way, getting down to the base of the falls takes a bit more effort as there’s no clear cut trail on one side of the stream.

Top chute.

Loose earth and crumbling rock make for a sketchy but short hike to a head-on view of the falls, uncluttered by boardwalks and split-rail fencing. On the opposite bank a more well-worn trail appears to offer an easier access way to the same spot. The pool depth averaged around five feet and one can literally wade right up to where the falling water reunites with the creek.

Continuing downstream, next a small chute cuts through the rock for about six feet and then after a short, flat run, drops abruptly for another 20-25 feet over a cascade. One can get into the gorge in between the chute and cascade and take in the sound of the water and the shapes it has created over the past 15,000 years or so. Sand that was deposited here millions of years ago sat undisturbed until the last ice age. When the glaciers receded the water flowed and began to make light work of the brittle rock. Eons of erosion are easy to observe from this spot.

Gorge
Inside the gorge.

Finally, the trail drops to the base of the fourth falls detailed in the guidebook, another cascade. This one is about 40 feet high and has a less inviting pool at the base due to the swifter current and slippery rocks. However the side trail to the base puts one in a great position to view the falls head-on.

Third Fall
Final Falls

Below this the trail seemed sketchy. There were no “Closed Trail” signs indicating the restrictions set by the Park Service, but it’s possible that the closed section of trail is further along. Regardless, a nice hike that allows one to experience waterfalls without man-made interference awaits for those that desire it.

Root
Eroded and exposed root in the gorge.

Tusten Mountain Trail: Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River

 
Looking out from the Tusten Mountain vista.

Most of the Delaware River from northeast Pennsylvania border with New York to just south of the borough of Delaware Water Gap falls under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. The Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River covers the northern section while the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area presides over the southern part. In addition to the actual “river” the “Water Gap NRA” has an extensive collection of trails for biking, equestrian use, and hiking. The “Upper Del” is not so fortunate. The vast majority of the land abutting the river is private and hiking opportunities are scarce. There are a few areas of note for woodland ramblers to check out, one of which is the Tusten Mountain Trail.

Located about halfway between Narrowsburg, NY and Lackawaxen, PA, the Tusten Mountain Trail is a three-mile loop that offers a nice view of the valley as well as a wide array of other natural and manmade things to investigate. While not lengthy, it is definitely a moderate hike due to some steep sections as well as some rocky (and in winter, icy) terrain.

 
Park Service map. Note marks parking area.

The trailhead is rather easy to find. Simply park at the Ten Mile River boat launch and look for the kiosk. Maps for the trail, provided by the Park Service are generally available there. The trail is located on private land owned by the Greater New York Councils of the Boy Scouts of America and is situated within the Ten Mile River Scout Camps approximate 14,000 acres. Several scout tent sites and lean-to areas are located along the trail. Please be respectful of the property and friendly to any scouts or other hikers you may encounter. This area of the scout camp is primarily used for weekend camping by scout troops that are canoeing on the river and for hiking. Additionally some weekday encounters with scouts can be expected in summer as this area is sometimes used by older scouts on multi-day backpacking treks. The campsites are available for use by scouting units, but are not open to the general public.

The trail officially begins at the kiosk and follows the dirt road along the Ten Mile River for a short distance before coming to a stone bridge. The bridge was constructed in 1875 and is a favorite subject for artists and photographers. Immediately after crossing the bridge are some ruins. Reeve’s Mills and Tusten were former villages that used to occupy this area. Here the trail gradually begins its ascent, still following the road for about another 0.4 miles. An abandoned quarry is visible on the right side of the road in this section. Immediately across the road is an old tailings pile from the quarry. Presumably, quarried stone was loaded onto sleds or carts and taken to market; the scrap was pushed to the side and left in piles. This is one of many tailings piles and quarries that dot the entire mountain. After a little bit, the road makes a quick descent. There is a large boulder on the right side of the road and a small vehicle turn-around to the left.


Here, turn right and proceed about 100 feet to a sign-in box. After signing in, hikers can choose to proceed directly to the summit by taking the left fork on the yellow trail or opting for a longer ascent on the red trail. The yellow trail rises sharply with only two short, flat sections. It involves some scrambling near the top. The red trail is rather flat until it meets up with the other part of the yellow loop. From the yellow/red intersection the trail is fairly gradual until it meets the cliff and then it gets rather steep and sketchy. Regardless of which way one takes to the top, crossing through this terrain will be necessary in order to complete the whole loop. Similarly, side trails and intersections can be found no matter if one hikes the loop clockwise, or counter-clockwise. Anyone hiking here should be wary of these side trails as some are not blocked off and a few lead miles away from the area. Others lead to private property and few, if any are marked or show up even on satellite maps.

 
Some notes attached to the official BSA map for Ten Mile River Scout Reservation.

The summit area has a great vista that overlooks the river. Several large slab rocks are perfect for a picnic or just a quick rest. Immediately below the summit is another old quarry and is worth exploring, but use care. A number of other quarries can be found in the way down from the summit by following the loop clockwise. Anyone hiking the trail in a counter-clockwise manner will encounter the other quarries on the way up.

Wintertime trekkers up Tusten Mountain should be prepared for ice. Snowshoes are not always needed, but boots and some sort of cleat (Yak-Trax, Kahtoolas, etc.) are suggested. Similarly, melting snow can make the trail muddy quite often throughout the winter. Rain runoff and seep make parts very muddy the rest of the year. Boots are not needed in warmer months, but they are not a bad idea.

Turkey and upland game birds are frequently seen in the area. Vultures are a common sight from the vista and eagle watchers should be on the lookout closer to the river. There are a number of Poplar trees in the area as well. Their white blossoms can frequently be seen in the spring along with Bluets, Violets, and Red Columbines. Great Rhododendrons also grow in the area along with Mountain Laurel. Due to the summer canopy, these bushes usually do not bloom. If they do, it is generally later in June and early July. Of course autumn is a wonderful time to explore this trail as well. There is a wide variety of hardwood trees on Tusten Mountain and each yield different hues from late September through the end of October. Although the trail is closed for a two week period during deer hunting season in late November and early December, Tusten Mountain offers something for every hiker year round.

All Photography By Bill Deaton.

Maps courtesy of the National Parks Service and Greater New York Area Council BSA

Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River: http://www.nps.gov/upde/index.htm

Tusten Mountain Trail: http://www.tusten.org/TustenTrail.htm