The photo above should look familiar to readers of A Taste For The Woods. Its from a series of hikes I undertook in Pine Creek Gorge in September 2012. And its from the shortest of them, since the hike was a short distance from my campsite. How is that for a morning view?
But back to the start. In September I headed to Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania to hike, ride, and take photographs. Rather than stay at either of the two state campgrounds on either side of the northern end of the canyon, Colton Point or Leonard Harrison, I obtained a camping permit for the Tioga State Forest and set up at Bradley Wales Picnic Area. Bradley Wales was one of the best places to camp I’ve ever been to. True, there is no running water, and its 20 miles of forest roads from the main highway, but there’s a cistern pump, and a building with chemical toilets. And a quarter mile away was the Bradley Wales Vista, accessible by the bumpy forest road. On my first morning at the campsite I was lucky to arrive just as the clouds were breaking up. Anyone who has tried to photograph in a Pennsylvania gorge knows that the early morning is for cloud studies, but here at a quarter after 8 AM the clouds were parting.
I was soon joined by a young man with a better camera and steadier nerves. He climbed up the dew-slicked fence and began shooting hundreds of feet above the canyon floor. I told myself if I were twenty years younger and 100 pounds lighter and were wearing Vibram Five Finger shoes I’d be up on that railing too. However, I didn’t believe it any more than you do now. I contented myself with shooting him against the fog; the image reminds me of Caspar David Friedrich’s painting “Wanderer Above The Sea of Fog”, which I’ve included via a link to a file at Wikipedia. Once the young man climbed down from his perch we chatted about photography, and he showed me other nearby places to shoot. We both left as the clouds broke up and the sun climbed in the sky.
That short hike was followed by a slightly longer one near the north end of the west side of the canyon. The Barbour Rock Trail is a mile hike to an overlook that’s unfortunately getting very overgrown. I was there in 2010 and its amazing how much less of a view there was this time. I tried, even climbing down past the wooden fence to get some down the cliff photos of the gorge, but still, the shooting wasn’t good. The hike itself, however, is pleasant, passing through the woods and over ground that seemed free from the usual rocks one finds on a Pennsylvania trail. One interesting aspect of the trail is that it’s split. The state forest, which is responsible for the trail, put down a layer of crushed stone to create a surface suitable for a wheelchair with oversized tires. You can see the split in the trail below. For my hike I took the left trail and returned on the ADA trail, which meant 1.2 miles of a hike/walk.
Last of the hikes was a 2 mile search for an overlook on what the book 50 Hikes in Central Pennsylvania called “the Refuge Trail”. The trail is located about halfway between Bradley Wales and Route 6, on the series of switchbacks the forest road takes to get around Little Slate Run. While the hike itself was pleasant and not too strenuous, once again the promised overlooks were missing. The photo is the best I found, but one cannot see the opposing forest for the trees. That’s supposed to be Colton Point in the distance. Had I felt like scrambling down a slope through the pine trees, I might have had a better view. Still, it was a great hike, one I felt good about and one that tested my new joints and new motivation. Also, Pine Creek Gorge always sets my soul at peace; I can think of no better place to have a taste for the woods.