Flight over sunset. – September 2016
Flight over sunset. – September 2016
Jeff Mitchell, who has inspired me to hike in several locations due to his blog and books, somewhat recently hiked the South Branch trail of Lackawanna State Park. He writes:
What a place to hike on a hot summer day, I thought. It was noticeably cooler in this deep, shaded glen along the creek. We reached a powerline swath and here it got a little confusing. The trail goes up the swath a short ways and then continues along an old grade higher above the creek. It was still a nice hike, although the floodplain along the creek is worth exploring.
Yes, it is a great place to hike when it is warmer. Here are my photos and notes of the trail. And yes it is cooler there. Also, I agree it can get confusing in this area he’s mentioning. Even if there isn’t snow cover it can be a little odd. This area of the park can use some attention.
He ended up going a little further than I did on the trail itself and then doubled back. Perhaps I’ll do the same thing the next time I hike this area because the journey I took ended up being 6 miles.
Lackawanna Lake panorama – October 2016
Along the path – October 2016
Sunset through pines, Lackawanna State Park – October 2016
Aerial, Lackawanna State Park – July 2016
The colors of fall, Lackawanna State Park – October 2016
Fall leaves on the forest floor, Lackawanna State Park – October 2016
Sunlit ferns, Lackawanna State Park – October 2016
Rowlands Road, Lackawanna State Park – September 2016
The canopy, Lackawanna State Park – September 2016
Moss on tree – October 2016
Fall on Bullhead Bay – October 2016
Hiked in October 2016 – Approx. 3.2 miles – I ended up jogging most of these trails rather than my normal casual hike. Because of this I ended up not taking near as many photos as I usually do.
I parked in the same parking location, at the end of Lake View Drive, as I did for my Northwoods hike. This time, however, I found the proper trail to get to the dam as quickly as possible. In order to find this trail you need to start directly behind the bathrooms next to the parking lot.
When I got to the dam there was a father and son fishing just over the waterfall of the dam. It didn’t seem like they were catching too much but I’m sure they were enjoying the beautiful fall day as much as I was. One other thing about this area of the park — you can’t hear anything. The waterfall, small though it may be, drowned out so much sound that it isn’t until your pretty far away that you begin to hear the sounds of the forest or other people in the park again.
I started on Frost Hollow Trail by crossing the Benton Road Bridge. I turned immediately left and hugged the edge of the water’s edge up the cliff. This is a very steep climb. If you’re not able to do this section, you can continue up Benton Road until you hit Sunset Road and there is an entrance to Frost Hollow there that takes a much easier trek.
After cresting the cliff the trail begins to level out and even begins to descend once you get close to the pole lines. I decided to stay next to the water and follow Snowflake Trail all the way to South Shore. Along this stretch are a few opportunities to pop out of the woods and enjoy a full view of Lackawanna Lake and the bridge on 407. From these areas you can hear everything going on in the park beyond. Children laughing, people playing games. The lake might as well be a megaphone for every sound and it funnels them all to you on the other shore.
That is why at this point I could hear planes flying at the airfield. I had my UAV and I had stopped at the airfield on my way to the hike to see if anyone was flying. No one was there. Sometime between me parking, hiking up the cliff, and getting to the edge of the lake someone had showed up and gotten into the air. I couldn’t believe it! So, I jogged nearly the rest of the way.
I really enjoyed the jog. There were a few places where jogging was impossible. My ankles would have snapped like twigs over some of the wet mossy boulders in some areas. But I was able to finish all 3 miles in about 45 minutes. Given the inclines and wetness, and that I was wearing pants, hoodie, etc. I was happy with this pace.
Snowflake Trail isn’t the most interesting trail in the park, but Frost Hollow Trail has some really neat features and is worth meandering your way up the cliff to see.
I got to the airfield to find it empty. Missing the pilot by just a few moments according to two grouse hunters that were also in the parking lot.
On my next and final hike in the park, where I finish up this journey, you’ll see that it is in this area of the park that has the best view in the entire park. So stay tuned for that and tons of photos next week.
Hiked in early October 2016 – Approx. 5.2 miles – If you’re looking at the map, the trails I hiked on this particular day rest just southeast of Bullhead Bay on Lee Hill. Lee Hill is mostly thick woods from Rowlands Road to the lake and the elevation changes from 1000′ to 1200′ several times throughout the hike.
I started my hike on Kennedy Creek Trail heading north. Kennedy Creek Trail meanders a bit more than the map leads on. At one point, crossing Kennedy Creek, just before it his the conjunction with Abington Trail, Lee Hill Trail, and Basset Path, is an area of pines that came out of no where. I don’t know if it was the lightening on this particular rainy day but the area was a bit striking. In fact, as you loop back out of the pine you see this – a split between the pine and the wood. I quipped on Twitter that it reminded me of West Side Story.
I decided to redo Basset Path since I had been in a rush to complete it the first time. I’m glad I did. This backstretch of the park is a great place to hike. Once I met up with Abington Trail, just above the lake and almost to Cole Road, I swung west. This particular section of Abington Trail – from Cole Road all the way to the Kennedy Creek Inlet – may be the flattest area in the park to hike. I think it’d be great for a leisurely stroll or even a bike ride for most people.
Rather than continue all along the lake for the entire way I decided to head back up hill on, well, the lazily named Abington Trail. (Lee Hill is wrought with terrible names for trails. There is more than one Abington Trail and more than one Lee Hill Trail. It would be a good idea for the park to consider stretching their imaginations to find two more names. May I posit “Colin’s Trail” as an option?) This area is a beautiful uphill climb. Prior to meeting up at the aforementioned conjunction, though, it splits. I believe the trail appears to continue straight but it is really a washout. The signs lead you on the proper path but it doesn’t matter much as you end up in relatively the same location. I hiked both just in case.
I then took Lee Hill Trail – the one that goes over the very top of Lee Hill – and made my way back to Kennedy Creek Trail. You’ll see just about everything at the top of Lee Hill. Woods, open areas with shrubs, younger patches of forest, and more. There was a spot where you could see down the side of the entire hill so I sat there for 10 minutes (I used my watch to force myself to sit that long) and let the surroundings soak in.
When I met up with Kennedy Creek I doubled back on the second Lee Hill Trail – the one in between Lee Hill and Lakeshore – to head back in the direction of Bullhead Bay. All of this back and forth messes with your sense of direction slightly. I remember coming to the lake’s edge once and thinking I knew which feature of the park I was across the lake from only to find out I was way off. Those that have paddled from Bullhead Bay to the Kennedy Creek Inlet know it is a fair stretch between the two. The map doesn’t do the size of the lake justice. Lee Hill is at least a half mile in length.
Once I hit Abington Trail again I needed to get in a bit of the trail that I had missed when I came up the hill. So I walked that section twice just to be sure I could color it in on my map. It was at this point I realized that Abington Trail didn’t really stretch along the lake – but rather Lakeshore Trail did. Again, another confusing bit given the signs on the ground when comparing them to the map.
I followed the flat Lakeshore Trail all the way back to the Kennedy Creek Inlet, which was a nice change of pace from the ups and downs of the rest of Lee Hill’s trails. When I hiked Ranger Trail with my Dad there was a part of the trail I had missed. It wasn’t the part that I got when I hiked Turkey Hill but rather a small piece parallel to Rowlands Road that ends up hitting 524. I thought since I was here and that I’d likely not revisit this area of the park for a while I’d get it.
Lee Hill is about as diverse an area of the park as you will find. Flats along Lakeshore, up and down the hill along Abington Trail and Lee Hill Trails. And the pines of Kennedy Creek near Basset Path.
UAV, Lackawanna State Park, PA – October 2016
Hiked in September 2016 – Approx. 5 miles – For this hike I parked in the second parking area on Lake View Drive and began walking northwest into the campgrounds. Looking at the map it is just above the word “Pine”.
This area of the park that I’m hiking today changes elevation many times throughout the hike. Never so drastic that I couldn’t recommend the hike to just about anyone, but steep enough and often enough that I would plan on needing breaks. This is the only area of the park where you’re close to facilities nearly the entire time if that is a important for you.
I took the paved road towards campsites 1, 2, and 3 on the map. Walking through this area immediately gave me the desire to run back to my Jeep and grab my tent and camp out. It was a beautiful fall day, the sun was shining, and I could smell other camper’s fires. There weren’t too many people on these sites. One of the sites was occupied but no one was currently there. I think it was a bunch of first time campers too. If you’ve done much camping you can always spot the newbies. Nothing in the camp is “square”, the tents are in spots where you think water would puddle, tons of stuff (like food that comes in wrappers) that shouldn’t be left out overnight are all over the camp, and most of the gear looked both inexpensive and brand-new. It is fine to be a newbie. You have to start out sometime. As I walked passed their campsite I just thought to myself; welcome to camping, I hope you love it. Maybe the next time I see their campsite it will be neat, tidy, and full of great cast iron pans cooking freshly caught fish.
I continued on the trail between campsite 2 and the roads north. There are not a lot of markings on the map in this area so it is difficult to describe to you here exactly which way I went. These camping areas all have names so I assume there is a different campground map available. But I followed the paved roads through the campground until I got to the small loop you see that begins the path to Woodland Ponds Trail which leads to Big Bass Pond and Bull Frog Pond.
I spent a fair amount of time at Big Bass Pond. There is a small bridge and island here and I ended up seeing a lot of frogs and water snakes sunning themselves. I love snakes. On a cool fall day I’d bet they were trying to soak up whatever warmth was going to be left in this season. The water snake’s eyes were all getting pretty cloudy. Perhaps one more molt before they need to find a place to hide out for the winter.
Bull Frog Pond was covered in plant life making the entire pond bright green. I should have walked around and found a less shady area to take a photo to show the green but I didn’t think of it at the time. I was just enjoying it. I saw no bull frogs. They were likely on the sunny side of the pond.
From Bull Frog pond I swung south down the North Woods Trail which I had covered on a previous hike. I saw no real way around it but I didn’t mind.
The map, again, may be a bit outdated for the trails I was trying to find simply didn’t exist. You’ll see there is a slight jog between Grouse Trail and North Woods Trail near Big Bass Pond. I didn’t find that trail at all and I was looking for it. In fact, when I found Grouse Trail some ways down North Woods Trail I don’t even know what leg I was really on or when it met up with Beech Woods Trail I didn’t know if I was on it or not.
I don’t mind, really, since no matter what trail I’m on I’m just happy to be hiking. But if I was ever trying to find my way somewhere it’d be nice to have an updated map.
I didn’t take many photos along North Woods Trail since I had taken a few the last time. And Grouse Trail didn’t prove itself to be very picturesque that day. In fact, if you’re looking to shoot photos I don’t recommend these few trails. An upcoming hike that I’ll write about on Lee Hill would prove to be far more productive for a photographer.
Once I found my way back to Woodland Ponds Trail and that loop in the campground I followed Fairground Hill Road – the main artery through the camp – until I hit the campsite you see in-between the words Fairground and Hill on the map. The trails that are supposedly south and east of these campsites are impossible to find. In fact, I believe they begin behind people’s campsites and are not marked at all. I do not believe these should be on the map and I don’t intend to go back and try to find any more of them. I’ll leave these for the campers to enjoy. One other note: The map makes it appear that all of these campsites are trailers only. It isn’t. The trailer icon is for “Camping”. Although I saw trailers I saw far more tents.
Oh, I almost forgot about Aspen Overlook. This is not marked on the map at all and it should be. Between the words Hill and Road on the map (along Fairground Hill Road) there is a bench that faces east. At this point you’re about as high as you’ll ever be in the park and so they’ve taken a few trees down and given you a beautiful overlook east down Route 524. You will see no roads, no power lines. Just a farm far out about 8 miles in the distance. If it weren’t for the rolling hills I’d be able to spot my house from that bench. Great spot to sit and sip some water.
I enjoyed going on this hike as much as any other in the park. It was good exercise and a beautiful day.
Early morning fisherman, Lackawanna Lake – September 2016
Hiked in September 2016 – Approx. 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.
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.
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.
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.
Hiked in September 2016 – Approx. 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.