Tag Archives: VisitNEPA

Summer Swamp Paddling

Sometime in the middle of autumn in 2018 I finally slapped my kayak into the Little Bushkill Creek in the Stillwater Natural Area of the Delaware State Forest in Pike County. I put in at the site of a former cabin off Coon Swamp Road and made my way southerly through the winding channel of black water for almost two miles and then back with a few side excursions up other branches. Northward from that spot was something I didn’t tackle that day and it would take me twenty-two months, give, or take a week, to embark of part two of this odyssey.

Fall colors from my first expedition here in October 2018

New Beginnings

This time, instead of entering at the old cabin spot and working north, due to access issues this time of year as well as lower water near the initial put-in I opted to start at another location. About a mile north the creek passes under Silver Lake Rd near the Bureau of Forestry Edgemere Station. There’s easy parking and a mowed stretch of grass to the water. Getting in was easy. Getting underway however took some effort. My kayak floated, barely. So, the first fifty yards was a combination of pushing and paddling until I managed to get into some water where I could glide. Surprisingly, the depth changed rather rapidly, and the channel opened wide enough to dip on both sides without hitting the marsh grass.

Shallow water on entry forced me to push the kayak along. The better option is to just get out and pull it behind you.

My second challenge came a few minutes later when I rammed up against a small beaver dam. I carefully got the boat over that without much problem and then continued on my way. Moments later I was suddenly jarred by a flapping sound to my immediate right. Out of the rushes a Great Blue Heron took flight. I guess we spooked each other. I must credit its resolve as if held tight until the last seconds and its massive wing tip stretched out just outside the arc of my paddle.

Paddle On

Recovered from the heron scare and without a photo of the majestic creature I readied my camera for other things that might make their presence known. I expected some Red Winged Blackbirds, but their familiar buzzing call was absent from the march. I passed some small huts likely belonging to muskrats, but they didn’t come to welcome me.

Fauna was in short supply, but flora was not. The obsidian water acted like a mirror reflecting trees, grass, and wildflowers. Plants common to other waterways in the county such as Pickerelweed, Sheep Laurel, and a reddish variety of St. John’s Wort were hard to find but some good examples of Downy Skullcap, Swamp Candles, and Spatterdock were encountered.

Swamp Candles
Elegant Spreadwing Dragonflies

The main channel bows and bends frequently so you never know what’s up around the bend. Literally walled in by the high grass it’s difficult to see much unless it’s close to the water. Thankfully there’s lots to take in if you like simpler things.

Journey’s End

Sadly, my trip halted suddenly when I banged into beaver dam number two. This was much higher than the first and making over would be not too bad but making it back would be a different story. With about a half-mile of water in the books I opted to save this for another day when more time and perhaps some additional hands are along to help shlep boats over the rodent-made impedance.

I meandered back to the beginning looking for the heron but didn’t see it again. The abbreviated trip lasted just about 90 minutes. Not enough time or distance for my liking so there will be a phase three to this mission. It just won’t take me nearly two years to return.

Reflections in the Black Water

Hiking & Exploring Keystone College

There’s no shortage of trails to be found in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania. There are long-distance loops such as the Pinchot Trail, nature trails at the various county parks, and everything in between. One of those “in between” pathways is the network that can be found at Keystone College in LaPlume. There, sojourners can opt for a wide range of rambles ranging from an hour-long stroll to a half-day exploration.

Making Ready

Map of Keystone College Trails available at https://www.keystone.edu/woodlands-campus/hiking-trails/

A detailed map of the trails is available on the college website and at a few locations on the campus. Since there are a number of places to park as well as begin and end your trek, consulting the map before hand is a solid idea. If you want to check off the entire network, allow for a few hours and take along some water and snacks. One can tackle the terrain in running shoes and we didn’t encounter any serious mud while we were there, but at points the path takes you through grassy areas which could be dew covered in the mornings and there were a few spots where water could collect on the trail following a moderate rain. Aside from that, dress for the weather and take along the essentials.

Heading Out

We started our adventure by crossing the swinging bridge located behind the college library. It’s very sturdy but wobbly and you will feel like you’re walking on a pitching ship.

Once over the creek we explored the short Water Discovery Trail that skirted by some vernal ponds and the creek bank.

Typical Trail marker on the Keystone Campus routes.

In places, there are wooden boardwalks and spurs that lead off to the creek for fishing or just romping in the stream.

The trail then shifted up along the hill’s contour to where it joined up with the Nakomis Forest Stewardship Trail. There’s a place to take a gander into the gorge below, good enough to take a quick break but quickly we pressed on to the next junction and met up with the Trolley Trail that runs concurrently with the Nakomis trail for a ways.

A mossy log in the vernal ponds along the Water Discovery Trail.

Part of the Countryside Conservancy’s network, the Trolley Trail is a Rails-to-Trails project still in development. Once competed, recreationalists will be able to travel from Clarks Summit to Lake Winola on the former Northern Electric Trolley corridor. Currently, only two sections are complete, but you can get a taste of what it will be like. Unlike the footpaths elsewhere on the campus, here the trail was wide and graded. Good for hiking or biking. Soon though we turned off to follow the Nakomis Trail back downhill, across an athletic field, and back along the creek.

Old silo on the campus along the Nakomis Trail.

Wildflower viewing in this area was exceptional and several families were playing in the creek along this portion as well. One more uphill back to the junction where we had stopped earlier, and then a gradual decline back to the bridge and we were done.

Spring wildflowers along the bank of the Tunkhannock Creek

Vital Stats

The network is made up of five trails blazed in various colors, solid for the main trails and dashed for the spurs, visible on the map. Surfaces vary from dirt, to gravel, to pavement.

  • Tunkhannock Hiking Trail (Yellow) 1.2 miles plus spurs to a pond and apiary.
  • Nakomis Forest Stewardship Trail (Orange) 1.2 miles. Hilly but also runs partly with the rail-trail.
  • Water Discovery Trail (Blue) 0.35 miles. Wetlands, boardwalk, creek views.
  • Campus Trail (Green) 1.0 miles. Parts on pavement but also access to the creek and biology pond.
  • Gateway Trail (Purple) 0.4miles. Roadside. Runs with Orange partially. Connects Green and Orange for a bigger loop.

Overall, the terrain wasn’t hard to tackle and some water maybe a snack is all you really need. While tree and plant identification were fun, wildlife wasn’t plentiful. This could have to do with the fact we visited on a Saturday and the trails were busy. Still, it wasn’t as though it was jammed with visitors. We passed a few other families, but no one was so close that it was disruptive to our adventures. With still half the network to check out, we’ll likely return too.