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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

Exploring Conservation Island in Promised Land State Park

It takes just over an hour for me to get to Promised Land State Park. (See also, park map.)

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Because it isn’t too close to home I’ve only been to this park twice. Once two years ago to kayak and again just a few weeks ago with Jonathan Edwards to do a little UAV flying and hiking. We ended up flying and fooling with our photography equipment more than hiking. Which was fine. It was fun just to geek out a bit rather than worrying about step counts. (We did manage to squeeze in about 5 miles somehow though.)

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Jon and I parked our cars just off Pickerel Point Road and walked to Conservation Island. This park is very big and has tons of hiking trails that I hope to someday get back and hike some more. Maybe I’ll hike them like I’m hiking the Lackawanna State Park trails when I find the time. Our first priority was getting our UAVs in the air for a bit.

For those keeping track of my Lackawanna State Park hikes, this exploration of Promised Land State Park happened in-between the Abington Trail and South Branch Trail hikes. I’ve been doing a lot of exploring lately.

We did some flying above the Conservation Island bridge (ended up drawing a crowd too). It was windy and once we had our footage we didn’t take the UAVs back out. From there we walked the loop around the island and toyed with our equipment. There were a few neat spots to check out like some rock outcroppings and a lush area on the eastern side of the island. From what I read the island was created when Lake Wallenpaupak was created.

I was testing out a few lenses for my iPhone (a wide-angle and macro lens) and Jon was toying around with a camera he had borrowed from a friend and a selfie-stick. We managed to get some decent photos. Here are a few of the photos I kept. I’ll be publishing the better ones on the site over the next several months.

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All-in-all it was a good day out.

Hiking Lackawanna State Park: South Branch Trail, Messimer Preserve, Grist Mill Road, 524, Abington Trail, Basset Path

This post is part of a series of posts in my goal to hike every trail of Lackawanna State Park. Also see park map.

Hiked in September 2016Approx. 6.0 miles – I parked in the Cole Road parking area which, incidentally, is where I caught a snapper earlier this year. I began my trek on the South Branch Trail going east. This trail begins just across the bridge from the parking lot in a wide open field and runs parallel to the South Branch of Tunkhannock Creek. This being the main water source going into Lackawanna Lake.

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You hug the tree line through the large open field until you finally hit the main woods. There was something about this area that was pretty great. The difference between walking in a wide open field and suddenly being in among some very tall pines made for an interesting transition.

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The South Branch Trial seems to be seldom used. It sort of dead-ends in what is called the Messimer Preserve. There aren’t nearly as many trail markings in this area of the park as there are in others. Study the map closely to understand where you are long this trail. A few key things to note is the distance of the river from the trail, the power lines, and the road turning in the preserve. There aren’t many other landmarks to go by to understand where you might be or where you want to go. In fact, because of this I ended up walking onto Grist Mill Road sort of on accident. At this point I’d technically left the park. I guess. So, I decided to simply keep going and make a full loop rather than doubling back.

This led me south down Grist Mill Road to Route 524 west to the end of Rowland’s Road onto Abington Trail and finally onto Basset Path until I came back to Cole Road. If you follow this route on the map it won’t look very long but it turns out it was a further distance (farther distance?) than the North Woods hike I had already done. Maps can be a bit deceiving so try not to plan your trips by them too closely. Always give yourself plenty of time and know going in that the map could be inaccurate.

Walking down Route 524 west wasn’t too bad though I don’t think I’d recommend it. There isn’t much room on either side of the road to walk. Even though I didn’t end up seeing many cars I could imagine this being a bit more dangerous, especially at twilight or sunset which could make things even worse.

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Because I wanted to make it back I ended up walking pretty quickly through the Abington Trail and Bassett Path portions of this hike. Which I regret. This area of the park seems very interesting in that the terrain is challenging, the views are pretty nice, and there are a lot of plants to look at. When I return to this Lee Hill portion of the park I think I’ll make it a point to retrace my steps – especially on Bassett Path.

If you’ve ever been on the water in this area of the park, just west of Cole Road, you know that the lake sort of ends in a swampy area and, depending on the water level, it can come up pretty far east from time-to-time. This is the area that you’re hiking directly above. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed these trails from the water. But knowing they are there I’ll know be watching to see if I notice people from the kayak.

Creating your own hiking checklist

Have you ever bolted out the door to go hiking (or kayaking, photographing, cycling, it doesn’t matter) and when you arrive at your location you realize you forgot something at home? Say, a camera battery or a water bottle?

Here is a simple way to reduce the number of times this happens to you: make a checklist. It doesn’t matter what app or method you use or what is on the list at first (because you can tweak it over time). Just start a list.

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Here is my hiking checklist that I’ve made over the last few months. I use Apple’s Reminders app since it is already on all of my devices and I can make adjustments to it whenever I want.

  • water
  • UAV (flight and controller batteries)
  • UAV camera (cable and memory card)
  • phone
  • waterproof watch
  • camera (battery and memory card)
  • socks
  • shirt
  • hoodie (if temperature will dip below 70)
  • shoes (if it had rained the night before)
  • map (digital or print)
  • snack (if hike will be longer than 3 hours)
  • pocket knife

Most of what you find on my list is pretty self-explanatory but there are a few things that you may wonder about. I list socks, shirt, and a hoodie for a few reasons. First, I sweat when I hike. You probably do too. So if I ever want to do something after the hike on the way home – like grocery shop or get a bite to eat – I am doing everyone else a favor by bringing along a clean pair of socks and a shirt. Second, if the temperature gets chilly and my shirt is wet with sweat I get cold fast. If that happens I will switch to a dry shirt on the loop back to the car just to be warmer. It works remarkably well.

The snack is usually a granola bar or two. I’ve been on a few hikes lately that I had underestimated the amount of effort needed and on more than one occasion I felt myself get a bit shaky. A short rest, a granola bar, and some water and that does the trick. Something I’ve heard of is to bring good quality chocolate along. Not just any candy bar. If you’re really feeling in a lull you can eat some chocolate and it will take quick effect. I believe the pros call this “summit chocolate”. I haven’t done this yet but I might consider it as I’m beginning to get into longer and steeper climbs lately.

A few of the items on my list require power. So, it is important to not just bring the batteries but I must be certain that the batteries are charged. I ensure all of my equipment is powered up before every hike by doing one simple thing; plugging in all of the devices the moment I return from every hike. Even if I only used the UAV for a few minutes I recharge the battery when I return. Once you’re in that habit you won’t find yourself without power.

Make a list, make changes to it as you see the need to, and check the list right before you go out the door each time, and you’ll always be well equipped to get out and explore.

 

Hiking Lackawanna State Park: Abington Trail, Joey’s Trail, Turkey Hill Trail, Ranger Trail

This post is part of a series of posts in my goal to hike every trail of Lackawanna State Park. Also see park map.

Hiked in September 2016Approx. 6.0 miles – I parked my car in the small parking area on Rowland’s Road where Kennedy Creek and Abington Trails meet. I started walking south on Rowland’s Road towards Route 524, crossed the road, and entered the Abington trailhead.

This area of the trail quickly rises from 1000′ to about 1200′. It is a good hike up this side of Turkey Hill and you should be prepared to breathe. You can see some of the lake as well as a few of the farms north. Nice spot for a photo or two.

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I followed Abington Trail south until the very top of the hill which winds around the eastern most border of the park. Most of this area of the park I could hear a lot of yelling and voices. Based on some Google Map sleuthing I see that there is a farm somewhat nearby this area of the park so I assume I must have been there when a party or something was going on. It seemed like they were having a ball. Good for them.

This entire backstretch is varied in the type of terrain and foliage you see. After hoofing up the incline off of Route 524, just as the trail turns south, it levels off and rolls and twists through the woods. This stretch is a really enjoyable spot to hike. There are several spots where the sunlight streaks through the tree canopy and on to the forest floor. I stumbled upon about 4 deer that were bedded down somewhere along this stretch. I was right on top of them and didn’t even realize it until they jumped up. Gave me a jolt!

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The edge of the park is marked with a stone wall and, for whatever reason, I left the trail to scope out the edge and snap a photo when I happened upon some deer bones. When you walk through the woods a lot you happen upon these sorts of things all the time. You end up getting a feel for what may or may not have happened. You end up doing your own detective work to come up with your own story for what you see. I have no idea if I’m ever right but it is fun to think about. This particular story, for me, seemed like it happened at least a few months prior but not an entire year. The bones were completely clean and yet not covered. And my guess is that a human killed this animal. There is no head or jawbone that I could find. Pretty telltale sign that this wasn’t an animal that died of natural causes or at the paws of another animal. Only humans take souvenirs.

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A few more steps and this area of the trail gets a little odd. The park map isn’t easily followed in this area. You won’t get lost or anything it is just that a few trails run into one another and seemingly have a few intersections that aren’t properly detailed on the map. It could be due to the fact that the most recent revision of the map was made in 2013 and perhaps some of these intersections were created afterwards.

Speaking of this park map – I would love to see an updated map. If you work at the park and are reading this and there is a more up-to-date map or a different map altogether that makes following these trails easier please send me an email about it. In an upcoming post I’ll detail my ordeal of finding my way south on North Woods Trail trying to find a small offshoot that is clearly marked on the map but simply does not exist. I’ve also seen numbers on the trail signs that do not line up with anything found on this map so I’m guessing that there are other maps out there to be had and they simply aren’t available in print-form at the park.

I didn’t cross Route 407 but rather swung northwest and followed Joey’s Trail and Turkey Hill Trail around that loop you see on the map. Like I said, an odd little area of the park. I ended up covering some of these little areas more than once on my walk which is why this hike is noted as being 6 miles for me when the actual trails are likely shorter than that.

Since I was so close to the lake, and I didn’t want to pick up this part of the trail later on, I crossed Route 407 at the Turkey Hill trailhead and walked just north of the park office to the lake. There is a cool path that leads under the road here too which I need to go back and explore more. At the lake on this small peninsula there was a man fishing as the sun was beginning to set on the water so I sat for a while and drank some water taking it all in and, frankly, warming up in the sunlight since there weren’t too many sunny spots on my walk so far.

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Once I was warmed up enough, and bit up by mosquitos enough, I followed the old paved road (marked as “paved path” on the map) until I hit the Ranger trailhead that my father and I first took a few hikes ago. There was a small little piece of Ranger Trail that I didn’t get that day and since I’m trying to cover every step of these trails I didn’t want to leave it out. Where my father and I turned left on Ranger Trail I turned right and crossed over Route 524 to follow Ranger Trail back to Turkey Hill Trail. If this is confusing, look for the pizza sliced shape created by Routes 524 and 407 on Ranger Trail. That’s the small piece I went and grabbed while I was here. Again I had to do a little bit of overlap to make sure I covered each piece of the trail but I’m trying to be thorough here.

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I followed Ranger Trail to Turkey Hill Trail and walked north again to meet up with Abington Trail. Along this stretch of Turkey Hill Trail is a few nice rock outcrops that I should have spent more time with but the light was fading pretty quickly at this point.

When I began winding down Abington Trail on the hill there were some biker bros from “out of town” that were enjoying a good downhill ride. They stopped to ask me how they’d get from there to, I think Cole Road and by Bull Hill and back around Bullhead. But, it was getting late. I wonder if they made it or cut it short by riding Route 438 back? I’ll never know.

From here I made my way back to my car on Rowland’s Road. This was an excellent hike and one that I would only do if you can take a few hills.

I think I missed the unnamed area where Turkey Hill and Abington Trail connect in the dead center of this area of the park on Turkey Hill. I don’t know for sure but I believe I did. I may be crazy but I think I’m going to revisit this area of the park to be 100% certain and maybe even take the time to update my personal printed copy of the map to be sure I got it all. This area of the map needs to be updated for sure.

Here are a few more photos from this area:

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I’m so glad I’m hiking these trails but equally glad that I’m reliving the experience by looking through the photos I’ve taken and writing about it. I’ll know this park fairly well by the time I’m done.

Hiking Lackawanna State Park: Dam, North Woods Trail and Orchard Trail

This post is part of a series of posts in my goal to hike every trail of Lackawanna State Park. Also see park map.

Hiked in September 2016Approx. 7.5 miles – I parked in the last parking lot along the main road of the park; Lake View Drive. It is the same lot you’d park to watch the hot-air balloons take off. Or, as one biker bro I met along the trail put it… “Isn’t that where the blimps take off?”

I started from the lot and walked west to the dam. I don’t know if this particular little area has a name. Perhaps Ridge Trail?

Once at the dam I walked to the top of it and watched the waterfall for a while, then I looped around underneath the waterfall to look for crayfish (which I found a few of). Instead of crossing the bridge I walked downriver of the South Branch of the Tunkhannock Creek.

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You may notice that this creek’s inlet is on the direct opposite side of Lackawanna Lake at Cole Road. One of the interesting things about walking this entire park has been to see where water enters and leaves this lake. Perhaps I’ll be able to write a post just about how the watershed of this lake works. I think it’d be a neat research project as well.

Walking up Austin Road, parallel to the creek, I made my way up to the North Woods Trail entry. Looking at the map this next stretch of trail seems like it is one of the longest single, unbroken trails of the park. Perhaps the only competition it has is Abington Trail (which, if you look closely, spans multiple sections of the park) and South Branch Trail. So I was looking forward to a nice long hike through the woods.

North Woods Trail is, for the most part, a canopy covered trail. If you’re ever looking for a hike on a hot day this wouldn’t be a bad choice as the sun only touches the forest floor here and there. There are a few small rain-created streams, though not marked on the map, along this trail which also helps to keep the area cool and lush. As the trail hugs the western most border of the park you’ll end up seeing a few neighboring lands, a few fields, a few cows (you’ll smell and hear them too).

Most of this trail goes sideways along the main campground hill (unnamed?). You’ll notice at the bottom of the map’s legend that each contour on the map indicates an elevation change of 50′. So while North Woods Trail starts off around 900′ you’ll end up at around 1200′ and back down to 1150′ by the time you hit Route 438 to the north. You can sort of imagine that the trail is directly horizontal on the sound of a small hill.

This also means that your right foot is sometimes higher than your left. I point this out because while I feel this trail is relatively easily hiked for just about anyone – if I had a bad hip I may not choose such a long trek with the ground being this uneven.

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One thing to note along this trail is the gnome village. If I had to guess at its exact location I’d say it is found just below where Grouse Trail and Beach Woods Trail meet on North Woods Trail. You’ll know it when you see it.

I followed North Woods Trail across Route 438 and then Route 407. This section of the trail between 438 and 407 is likely really fun for bikers as it is mostly downhill and switchbacks and forth with ramped edges. Once across 407 you have to follow a “path” through the fields to get to the south edge of Trostle Pond and turn right (south) towards Whites Creek. In this area you’re sort of looping around someone’s private property.

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This small little stretch might be neat if you’re looking for just a 20-30 minute hike. The stretch between 407 and over to the parking lot where the aero club flies their planes and helicopters. The field near Trostle Pond is easily walked, and the area under the canopy by Whites Creek is just a neat little area to explore if you don’t have much time.

After a quick jaunt down to Bullhead Bay to see what was going on down there (this is where I’ve put in with my kayak several times) I walked west on 438 until I found the entry to Orchard Trail.

Orchard Trail hugs the lake for the majority of your walk. It too is cut through the side of a hill but is flat for the most part, offers some views of the lake as your walking, and is never out of sight of the main road. Orchard Trail too can likely be hiked by anyone and within about 30 minutes at most even stopping for photos along the way.

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Once I found Route 407, right across the road from the park’s main entrance, I simply walked Lake View Drive back to my car.

There are some small jogs of Bull Hill Trail and Tree Line Trail that I may have touched when finding my way by Whites Creek. I’ve made a mental note to throughly explore this area to make sure I don’t miss anything when I go back into that area of the park.

Hiking Lackawanna State Park: Ranger Trail and Rowland’s Road

This post is part of a series of posts in my goal to hike every trail of Lackawanna State Park. Also see park map.

Hiked in August 2016Approx. 2.5 miles – This first hike I completed with my father one Sunday morning. We meandered our way over Ranger trail just off of Route 407 and walked north to east. (center, left on map) We didn’t complete the full circle of Ranger trail, rather we took the bridge after the Kennedy Creek Inlet north until we hit Rowland’s Road parking area. From there we took Rowland’s Road south (also known as Abington trail for this stretch according to the map) and hit 524W and walked back to 407 and then back into the park where we were parked. This was about 2.5 miles or so according to my step counter.

Ranger trail is a darker trail, covered by a lot of thick foliage from evergreens and other trees. Footing can be sort of tricky. We happened to hike on a misty/rainy morning so we got to see a lot of mushrooms that had popped up the night before. My father and I didn’t have much difficulty with this trail but I would say it’d be best if you were the type of person that could keep your footing well enough. There are some steep areas and a lot of roots to navigate.

Here is a photo from the Ranger trail overlooking the Kennedy Creek Inlet followed by two photos of some of the mushrooms we saw.

Ranger Trail Kennedy Creek Inlet Lackawanna State Park

Ranger Trail mushrooms

Ranger Trail mushrooms

I’ve made a mental note for when I hike Kennedy Creek Trail to make sure to get that last little bit of Ranger Trail that we missed.

Hiking every trail in Lackawanna State Park

For several weeks I’ve been slowly tracing my way through the trails found within the confines of Lackawanna State Park and I’m just about halfway through my goal of hiking every trail.

The park boasts over 18-miles of hiking and 15-miles of multi-use trials (hiking, horseback riding, biking) giving me plenty of places to explore. Counting a bit of overlap and my loose interpretation of where some of the park’s boundaries are – I’d say I have about 50 miles of hiking to do in total. The trails wind through fields, next to streams, around large lakes and pass by small ponds.

I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the park better. I’ve come to this park for years but have mainly visited areas near the main lake, near the public pool, and to a few of the launches to go kayaking. It has been a pleasure to see this park in its entirety and I’m looking forward to exploring the rest of it.

Before I begin to lose track of which trail is which, I thought I’d begin to jot down a few notes about each trail, as well as a photo or two for reference, and then come back and update this post as I complete my goal. I was going to make this one long post but as I began to write about each hike I slowly realized this would be better chopped up into one post per-hike.

My list of trails will be in the order I’ve hiked them. I’ll try to give a clear description of what type of trail it is, how hard I personally found the trail (I’m 35 years old and can quite easily hike for the majority of the day), and a photo or two that I took. The photos may not be the best representation of the trail. Also, I’ll note the month in which I hiked the trail as the entirety of this goal will likely span over three months or so.

The list above is incomplete. It shows the trails I’ve already hiked but not all the trails of the park. As I find time to write about each hike the list will become links to those posts. So, stay tuned.

 

Hiking the Dunmore Pine Barrens

Dunmore Pine Barrens panorama

Yesterday fellow UAV pilot Jonathan Edwards and I hiked to the “top of the world” at the Dunmore Pine Barrens to get some exercise, see the sights, and fly a little.

I decided to hike this area because of local hiker, writer and blogger Jeff Mitchell’s blog post wherein he details the hike. He provides specific detail for parking and getting to the top which undoubtedly saved us a few minutes of spinning in circles. Here is a snippet of his post:

According to Google Earth, this place is called High Rocks.  Layers of mist and slow moving clouds hung in the valleys below.  The tops of the plateaus rose just above the mist.  The sunrise cast the cliff in hues of amber and orange.  I could see for about 20 miles across the Pocono plateau.

Mitchell hiked in the wee hours of the morning to catch first light or dawn time. Jon and I left the lot at around 4:30pm or so and hung out at the top until just after the sun dipped below the far horizon. My guess is that dawn is a completely difference experience on that ridge so I expect to give it another go in the future.

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Yesterday’s weather was perfect for a hike. The round trip was about 6.2 miles (according to my iPhone) and I would say that just about anyone could make the trek. Just be very careful on the cliff.