A Dam Long Way Around, Part 2

I left Austin and proceeded south to Sizerville State Park. This park reminds me of Hyner Run or Reeds Gap. It is a quiet park with a small campground and a pool. Alas, the pool at Reeds Gap is gone, but this type of park remains one of my favorites. The 368 acre Sizerville is surrounded by Elk State Forest and near large blocks of additional state forest land. If it wasn’t so far, I’d like to come back here.

The drive up to Salt Run Vista was worth it. Yes, someone must drive up here to mow this.
Salt Run Vista
Trees on the way down the mountain to Sizerville.
A bonus vista – the narrower view at Crooked Run Vista.

I then made the long journey to Kettle Creek State Park. In retrospect, I should have done this the day before as continuation of my trip to Ole Bull, but now I know better. The park consists of 1,793 acres along Kettle Creek in western Clinton County. The park is in a valley surrounded by mountainous terrain and wilderness. Many of the existing recreational facilities arose from a joint flood control project developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the former Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources. The park offers camping, boating, hunting, fishing, hiking, and other activities.

Another dam.
A dam with a flag.
Looking down over the edge to the lake. It’s further than it looks.
The valley with the lake is pretty.
A family paddle.

I thought I might be able to save some time getting to Sinnemahoning State Park by driving up to Kettle Creek Vista then cutting across the ridge and down the other side. Of course there were no roads down into the other valley, because there was another lake, with (you guessed it) another dam.

Kettle Creek Vista.

I made the trek back down the valley to highway north to Sinnemahoning State Park. The park, located near the center of the Pennsylvania Wilds’ scenic steep valleys region, encompasses 1,910 acres of beautiful scenery and outstanding wildlife habitat. Situated in Cameron and Potter counties, the park is nestled between the green-shouldered ridges of Pennsylvania’s Elk State Forest and Susquehannock State Forest. The park is long and narrow and includes lands on both sides of First Fork Sinnemahoning Creek — a major tributary to the Sinnemahoning Creek. At the southern end of the park, a 145-acre reservoir created by the George B. Stevenson dam provides fishing and boating opportunities. There is a campground and excellent wildlife viewing opportunities, including elk, bear, and large variety of birds.

Another valley with another dam.
Park office and wildlife center.
A look inside the Wildlife Center.

A Drive Up Route 44, Part 2

The drive north on Route 44 continues with a visit to Patterson State Park. This park sits directly on Route 44 and provides picnicking and a few camping sites. The Susquehanock Trail System passes right near the park, which acts as a trailhead. The park would also be a good overnight camp spot for those doing the entire loop.

One of the pavilions.

Next up was one of the most confounding parks in the entire system – Prouty Place State Park. The five-acre Prouty Place State Park is five miles southwest of PA 44 along Long Toe Road. This remote park offers access to hunting, fishing, and hiking within the surrounding Susquehannock State Forest. There is a grassy area and gazebo with a nonoperational water pump and a notice board. The park feels very remote, yet only a short distance down Long Toe Road were a few very substantial houses a large man-made pond.

Prouty Place was designated a Class “B” campground by the Pennsylvania Department of Forestry from 1922 to 1925. During the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps built a picnic area and campsites between 1935 and 1938. Prouty Place State Park officially became part of the Pennsylvania State Parks system in 1957. The park is a short distance from the Susquehannock Trail System, and is connected to it by a link trail. Prouty Place is tied for second smallest state park in Pennsylvania with Upper Pine Bottom State Park (which we visited in our last installment). Only Sand Bridge State Park (another picnic area) is smaller.

The turn off on Long Toe Road was quite sharp.
Here it is.
A rare contrast in greens on this hillside.
Back along Route 44, we have Long Toe vista.

A Drive Up Route 44, Part I

My trip on this Juneteenth weekend began in earnest when I turned left from Route 15 onto Route 44 in Lycoming County. I was soon at my first stop of the day.

Upper Pine Bottom State Park is one of the smallest parks in the state park system, measuring in at 5 acres. It provides picnic tables next to a stream and access to hunting and fishing. It also acts as an entry point for hiking and cross country skiing in the nearby Tiadaghton State Forest.

Yes, we are here.
A nice place for a picnic, with a stream beyond.

My next stop was Ole Bull State Park which lies off Route 44 and a short distance down Route 144. Ole Bull State Park consists of 132 acres along the Kettle Creek Valley in Potter County in an area called the Black Forest because of its dense tree cover, mountainous terrain, and wilderness habitat. The park has a fascinating history. It is named for Ole Bornemann Bull, the famous Norwegian violinist who toured the United States in the 1850s. In 1852, Ole Bull purchased a large tract of land in Potter County and attempted to develop a series of Norwegian settlements. He began construction of a home, at what now is called Ole Bull Vista, which has never finished. After a year of severe hardships, the majority of the colony disbanded and moved west into Michigan and Wisconsin.

The park has swimming in Kettle Creek, a campground, and the usual array of state park activities.

The swimming area in Kettle Creek. I bet this was cold.
A monument to Ole Bull, provided by the citizens of Norway, in 2002.
A bridge over Kettle Creek to the campground.
Further up Route 44 is Water Tank Vista.

Lyman Run State Park was next on the list. One of several parks in this area with a dam, it has a 45 acre lake, swimming, camping, boating and other activities.

Another “refreshing” dip.
A view of the dam.
Nice bridge to picnic area.

A daytime visit to Cherry Springs State Park followed. This park is well known for being one of the best spots on the east coast for dark nighttime skies and astronomical viewing. The park has a public astronomy field for short term viewing and an overnight field. There is also a campground and opportunities for hiking.

A stargazing dome at the park.
A picnic area.
A sunset view at Cherry Springs State Park.

This park is beloved, but I have to admit I was a bit disappointed when I returned the following night. The weather was fairly clear with low humidity, and the moon was below the horizon. However, I didn’t feel that the number of visible stars was significantly better than what I could see an hour from home in southeastern Pennsylvania. I didn’t attempt to photograph any. I have seen much better displays of stars during my adulthood in the Florida Keys and on the eastern shore of Maryland.

Near the park is Cherry Springs Vista, which sits directly on Route 44.

Cherry Springs Vista – this is one of my favorite types of views, all trees as far as the eye can see.

A View from the Top

Big Mountain Overlook, a short distance from the historic Lincoln Highway (US Route 30), is on the border of Franklin and Fulton Counties in Buchanan State Forest. On the ridge of Tuscarora Mountain near its summit, there are breathtaking views of the surrounding ridges to the east, and western views as you head up to the overlook. The overlook is at an elevation of 2458 feet. The lowest points in Path Valley are around 700 feet in elevation, giving views of roughly 1700 feet down into the valley, making this one of the biggest, if not the biggest, elevation differences between a summit overlook and the valley below within the state. On clear days, you can see about 100 miles out to Maryland, West Virginia, and Northern Virginia since this is gives a view beyond the end of the next ridges. The 252 mile long Tuscarora Trail, a spur route off of the Appalachian Trail, goes along the ridge.

I believe the outcropping provides a better view, but I had difficulty finding it when I visited, as it is not well marked.

Is this the way to the overlook?

On my travels, I came across some interesting barns in the nearby valleys. The first, and another like it not pictured here, is a brick construction with some beautiful detailing. I don’t remember coming barns like this in other parts of the state that I have visited.

I like the tile-like material on the silo and the steeples,

A Two-fer in South Central Pennsylvania

If you head west on Route 30 past Gettysburg, you will come across two state parks. The larger of the two is Caledonia State Park. The 1,125-acre park is in Adams and Franklin counties, between Chambersburg and Gettysburg along the Lincoln Highway (US 30). It is situated within South Mountain, the northern terminus of the well-known Blue Ridge Mountain of Maryland and Virginia. The soils on either side of South Mountain are ideal for fruit production, proven by the abundance of orchards in the surrounding area.

Some unique features at Caledonia are a golf course and the Totem Pole Playhouse. It also provides hiking, camping, and hunting and hosts the Pennsylvania Forest Heritage and Discovery Center.

Forest Heritage and Discovery Center
A spartan camp setup,
Let’s enjoy some fall color …
… in the nearby Michaux State Forest as well.

Nearby Mont Alto State Park is a quiet, 24-acre park which features a pavilion, picnicking, and trout fishing. Mont Alto is the oldest park still in the Pennsylvania state park system.

Finding My Way Home

My trip to central Pennsylvania this past October came to and end, and I made my way back home slowly that Sunday. Blessed with some nice weather, it was a great drive.

My first stop was the Logan Mills Covered Bridge and surrounding village. This bridge is located in Loganton, PA in Clinton County. The bridge is a 55-foot-long 12-foot-wide, Queen post truss bridge. It was constructed in 1874 and crosses Fishing Creek. It is the only remaining covered bridge in Clinton County. The bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Logan Mills Covered Bridge.
Some nicely preserved buidlings are adjacent to the bridge.

My next stop was an overlook on Jones Mountain Road in Union County in Bald Eagle State forest. This was a spectacular vista, with nothing visible but trees and mountains all the way to the horizon.

The panorama shot.
Up close with some brilliant reds.
A smoke in the wilderness.

A made a quick drive through Raymond B. Winter State Park and came across this enchanting scene:

A Sunday picnic in the park.

A Study in Contrasts

Greenwood Furnace and Penn-Roosevelt State Park may be close to one another, but they are very different in history and atmosphere. First up is Greenwood Furnace, which is one of those state parks with a lot of different activities available. It is in Huntingdon, PA.

In its 423 acres, the park offers a lake with swimming, small craft boating, hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, as well as a chance to view some local history. The park also provides access to the 80,000 acre Rothrock State Forest. However, a trip to the park begins with its historic district, which contains a blacksmith shop and the remains of an iron furnace. The community that existed on the site from 1834 to 1904 was a 19th century ironmaking complex.

The village blacksmith shop.
An old iron furnace.
The dam at the lake at Greenwood Furnace.
Care for a dip?

Penn-Roosevelt is a 41-acre park is in an isolated area of the Seven Mountains region known as the Stone Creek Kettle. While the park is small in size, it is surrounded by a large block of Rothrock State Forest in Centre County.

Penn-Roosevelt is a good base for those seeking off the beaten track, low-density recreation in the State Forest. Activities include hiking on the Mid-State or other trails, gravel-riding on over 100 miles of Forestry roads, and mountain biking the nearby Cooper’s Gap area. There is also picnicking available. The small campground is rustic (tent camping only with latrines). However, one really does have the sense of being deep in the woods here. There is fishing in the streams in the park and access to hunting in the State Forest.

One of the most notable aspects of Penn-Roosevelt State Park is that it was constructed during the Great Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps Camp S-62, which was built in Stone Creek Kettle. This was, unfortunately per CCC policy, a segregated camp. The members of the camp were all African-American and it was one of only 12 such CCC camps in Pennsylvania. The members of Camp S-62 constructed many of the facilities in use today at Penn-Roosevelt State Park. They constructed a log-crib dam that has since received a stone facing. They also built many of the roads and trails in the surrounding Rothrock State Forest. Remnants of the camp, including two stone fireplaces and a stone bake oven, can be seen today in the woods of Penn-Roosevelt State Park.

Remains of the CCC and a picnic area.

The Roaring Creek Trail … by Car

Sunday, October 13 saw the return of the annual Roaring Creek Trail drive through. The drive through is a unique opportunity to drive on the Roaring Creek Trail in the Weiser State Forest. This multi-use trail is normally restricted to vehicle traffic. The drive-through began at 9:00 AM, starting at the Route 42 parking lot gate. The gate was open until 2:00 PM.  Traffic was restricted to one-way travel on the 8-mile Roaring Creek Trail and exited at the Route 54 parking lot gate.  All vehicles had to exit by 3:00 PM.  Passenger vehicles only (cars, pick-up trucks, SUVs, passenger vans, motorcycles) were permitted to enter.  Enter the trail in Columbia County and leave in Northumberland County.

Kline’s Reservoir at the Route 42 side of the trail.

The Roaring Creek Tract features three large reservoirs currently maintained by Aqua PA. The reservoirs are in a valley surrounded by steep hillsides. The surrounding area is state forest land. Boating is permitted in two of the reservoirs. Fishing is also permitted, and the trail is very popular with hikers and cyclists.

This event was very popular, and traffic proceeded very slowly along the trail, which is actually a very well maintained gravel road. With so much vehicular traffic, it was unlikely you were going to see much wildlife. It was a lovely drive nonetheless. The leaves were probably a week or two short of their best color, due to lingering warm weather in September. There were places along the route to stop for a picnic.

My view for much of the trip.
A peak at the larger McWilliams Reservoir through the trees.
A good day for a family fishing trip.
You could stop along the way for a picnic.

There was a pavilion at McWilliams Picnic Area that could be used for a stop. Boat moorings and a boat launch are available here as well. There were also restrooms and parking in this area for the day.

Portage your boat into the McWilliams Reservoir.
A walk along the lake.
Smokey the Bear made a very conspicuous appearance.
Because one photo of a giant inflatable bear isn’t enough.

More information about the Roaring Creek Tract is here.

Goodbye to the Roaring Creek Trail.

A Visit to Powdermill Nature Reserve

On my way to Linn Run State Park, I came across the Powdermill Nature Reserve of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. The Museum is in Pittsburgh, but the Powdermill Reserve is in a beautiful area of the Laurel Highlands. The reserve’s website can be found here.

Welcome to Powdermill Nature Reserve.

 Powdermill Nature Reserve is a field station and laboratory where researchers do long-term studies of natural populations in western Pennsylvania. It is a great place for outdoor fun and education.

You can explore the beautiful woodlands around the reserve via the hiking tails. You can also visit the nature center, which features exhibits that highlight local wildlife, a room of beautiful mounted specimens, an indoor stream, a fish tank, and a “marsh machine” that uses a living plants to purify waste water.

The reserve does permit hunting on a limited basis through a annual lottery for 100 permits. Due to some inclement weather and limited time, I confined myself to the visitor center on this trip.

This is an interesting paludarium style fish tank. Forgive the glare from the very bright back light.
Check out the fish in this tank.
The really cool stream tank – I think my little buddy wants to be fed.
.A description of the “marsh machine” that treats the center’s waste water.
Here is a view of the marsh machine.

In Search of Laurels

I spent Labor Day weekend in the Laurel Highlands with a stay at the cabins in Laurel Hill State Park. I also set out to visit some of the other state parks in the area, as well as a few other locations. Let’s start off with a look at my home base for the weekend.

Laurel Hill State Park contains a lake with a beach, boating opportunities, hiking trails, fishing, picnicking, camping and all the summer time fun that accompanies those things. It is located in Somerset County and reasonably convenient to the turnpike. The park is near several other state parks and Forbes State Forrest.

Men working for the WPA and CCC began the process of building what was to become Laurel Hill State Park on July 1, 1935 at CCC camps SP-8-PA and SP-16-PA. There is statue in the park commemorating these workers.

CCC worker, Laurel Hill State Park

The lake is beautiful and surrounded by steep hills on one side.

The beach at Laurel Hill State Park.
Looking toward the dam.

There is fishing on Laurel Hill Creek and Jones Mill Run.

View of Laurel Hill Creek from accessible fishing area.
Handicapped access to fishing area on Laurel Hill Creek surrounded by beautiful flowers.
Lovely jewelweed along the path down to the creek.

I also stopped at some of the other nearby parks. I had quite a time getting to some of them, mostly due to relying too heavily on google maps. I ended up on some really sketchy forest roads, and I’m not typically one to shy away from a forest road. If I had double checked google’s routes versus a map, I would have done much better. At least I a saw a turkey.

Laurel Summit State Park is a small park with picnicking and acts as a trail head for the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail and other trails. It is best accessed via Linn Run State Park. This route provides paved roads for most of the trip up the mountain to the park.

Picnic pavilion, Laurel Summit State Park.

Laurel Ridge State Park has multiple sections along the ridge of Laurel Mountain. The Laurel Highlands Hiking Trails passes through its sections. It is otherwise mostly undeveloped except for backpacking shelters and one picnic pavilion. The best access points are directly on Route 30 or 31 if you want to say you’ve been there and aren’t hiking or wildlife watching.

Sign for Laurel Ridge State Park. This may be the only way you know you’re there.

Finally, I attempted to visit Laurel Mountain State Park, which houses a ski area. I was there many years ago and hoped to drive in and take a look. Unfortunately, the gates were closed in the off season.