I left the Ironmaster’s Mansion Hostel on Sunday morning and took Route 233 North. As the road climbed and crested South Mountain I turned right onto Ridge Road. For a PA forest road it was in excellent shape – dirt and cinder and gravel, but well packed. The driving was easy, and in about a mile I found the first overlook on the right. This vista is amazing but isn’t on the Michaux State Forest map.
After walking a short distance from the pulloff, I was greeted with a spectacular view of Piney Mountain. It’s not as nice as the view of South Mountain from Pole Steeple, but instead you can view Pole Steeple. The haze and my poor photograph don’t do this vista justice, but if you look closely in the second photo you can notice a speck of quartz. That’s Pole Steeple.
After I spent a few minutes trying to get a good photo and failing, I returned to my car and continued to the next overlook, Hammond Rocks. The first stop was flat, but Hammond Rocks is anything but. The rock formation offers decent views, the better the higher you climb. However, because its a drive up overlook its evidently easy for a disreputable element to reach. There was extensive graffiti on the rocks, and trash strewn around. I enjoyed climbing up the rocks but I was dismayed at the evidence left by other visitors. And when I realized a rock pile on South Mountain is the natural hangout of the Eastern Timber Rattler I decided I’d had enough. Back to the car and continuing down Ridge Road.
The final overlook, Spruce Run, takes some work to get to. Ridge Road deteriorates quickly once you are past Hammond Rocks. But I persevered and on my left was a pulloff with a view of the Cumberland valley. Again better shooting conditions and elevation mean a better photo. (Scott Brown in his photography books mentions standing on the roof of his Jeep to get photos, a feat I was not going to replicate.) The view was pretty, but under the circumstances not worth more than the couple of minutes I gave it. I resumed driving on Ridge Road, which after a bumpy descent lead to Mount Holly Marsh Preserve’s entrance and PA Route 34. When I return to the preserve to hike I might come back to these overlooks and attempt photographs again.