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Friday, November 20, 2020

Hiking Around Gouldsboro Lake

We ran again this morning, so, as the gorgeous, warm afternoon beckoned us outside, we looked for a shorter hike nearby.  We had wondered about Gouldsboro State Park, which is not far from us and is connected to Tobyhanna State Park by the 3.2-mile Frank Gantz Trail.  We hopped over there planning to hike a portion of the trail that looped around Gouldsboro Lake, which is a man-made lake.

The following is excerpted from a page on the Pennsylvania State Parks website describing the history of the lake and park:

The name Gouldsboro comes from the village north of the park that was named for Jay Gould, the New York railroad tycoon. One of the railroads he owned was the Erie-Lackawanna. 

From about 1900 to 1936, Tobyhanna and Gouldsboro lakes were the site of active ice industries. The ice was cut from the lakes during the winter and stored in large barn-like structures. During the rest of the year, the ice was added to railroad boxcars hauling fresh produce and meats destined for East Coast cities. Boxcar loads of ice were also shipped to cities for use in family iceboxes. 

In 1912, the federal government acquired the land that became the Tobyhanna Military Reservation, Tobyhanna State Park and Gouldsboro State Park. In World War I, the Army used the reservation as a tank and ambulance corps training center.  From 1918 to 1931, the reservation was used for artillery training.  In the early 1930s, the reservation housed Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) enrollees.  From 1937 to 1941, the reservation served as an artillery training center for West Point cadets. During World War II, the reservation housed German prisoners-of-war. From 1946 to 1948, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers used the reservation.

In 1948, the War Assets Administration took control of the property and in April of 1949, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania received title to what is now Tobyhanna and Gouldsboro State Parks and State Game Lands 127.  Tobyhanna State Park opened to the public in 1949.  Gouldsboro State Park opened to the public in 1958.

Here we are at the trailhead: 

But we got ahead of ourselves.  In order to get to the trailhead, we first had to drive a 7-mile gravel Forest Service road --

-- then park at the Gouldsboro Lake boat ramp and stand in awe, gazing at the lake --

-- and watch people out on the lake dock, who were fishing and just enjoying the sunny day:

Now we get back to the hike.  The Frank Gantz Trail marches south along the western shore of Gouldsboro Lake.  We got some glimpses of the lake on the trail, but not as many as we had hoped.  We imagined that the lake would mainly be hidden during the leafy Springs and Summers:

Within 7/10 of a mile or so, we arrived at Beaver Bridge, obviously named for the beaver dam we could see immediately upstream from the bridge.  This dam slowed the stream flow so that the beaver --

-- could take maximum advantage of the wetland s/he created below the dam (more on this later):

We made this a short hike, and so agreed that we would turn around at the sooner of 1.5 miles or when we could see the lake again from the other side as we looped around the south end of the lake and started up the east lakeshore.

Within 2/10 of a mile of our turnaround point, we arrived at the Steamtown Railroad tracks:

If you recall from the State Parks summary above, these had previously been the tracks of the Erie Lackawanna Railroad.  The tracks stretched southward in the photo below, while the Frank Gantz Trail continued across the tracks and headed southeast toward Tobyhanna Lake (on the left in the photo below):

The Steamtown Railroad is based at the Steamtown National Historic Site, where a railroad museum and heritage railroad are located on 62.48 acres in downtown Scranton, Pennsylvania, at the site of the former Scranton yards of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad. The museum is built around a working turntable and a roundhouse that are largely replications of the original DL&W facilities. The site also features several original outbuildings dated between 1899 and 1902. 

All the buildings on the site are listed with the National Register of Historic Places.  Several working locomotives take visitors on short excursions through the Scranton yard in the spring, summer, and fall. Longer excursions are scheduled with separate tickets. These include a ride on a Pullman coach and longer trips to various nearby towns, including the Lackawanna River valley and Carbondale, Tobyhanna and Moscow, Pennsylvania. On rare occasions, excursions are run to the Delaware Water Gap, to Cresco, Pennsylvania, and East Stroudsburg, and Gouldsboro, after which our lake was named, and which sits only a few miles from the state park.

Unfortunately, we couldn't hike too far along the railroad tracks or lake, because it was time to turn back.  We retraced our steps until we reached Beaver Bridge again.  This time, Kathy headed downstream toward the lake on a side trail she spotted, while David shot this video of the beaver dam at Beaver Bridge.

Meanwhile, Kathy discovered another beaver dam downstream:

We had this figured out now.  The beaver built a dam upstream to slow the flow of water into this wetland area, and then dammed the bottom of the area to spread the water.  While we were sure that her/his lodge was somewhere in this flooded wetland area, we weren't able to spot it.

While Kathy was down exploring, she had a notion that David was taking her photo of video from the bridge, so she snapped this rejoinder photo of David on the bridge:

It was only about 3/4 of a mile back to our trailhead, and we made fast progress.  David got hung up under a fallen tree he tried to crawl under, but it didn't slow us down:

Soon, as we were nearing the trailhead, we spotted this road marker, which we took to be a military road sign.  We are not sure what its meaning was, but it was interesting to spy it in the wooded area off the trail:

When we started our hike, we did not sign the trail register, but we were so taken with the rewards on the Frank Gantz Trail that Kathy thought it would be appropriate to give kudos in the trail register.  Here she is acknowledging and thanking those unknown people who made this trail possible:

By now, it was after 3:00 pm, and we needed to get back to the homestead to give Ruby Kitten her afternoon outing.  We were able to do that before sundown, and thus ends another day on our Tobyhanna stop for the DavenKathy Vagabond Blog.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Mount Wismer Loop Trail

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Hi Blog!

We woke up this morning to the coldest temperatures so far this stay. It was 23 degrees with a 15 degree windchill. We decided to wait until after lunch to get out and explore. Since we were getting a late start, we looked around for a short trail, just a couple miles. We discovered the Mt. Wismer and Gravel Family Nature Preserves. The trailhead parking lot is home to the Barrett Township Dog Park. 

We began our hike by following an old woods road past the large dog park.

We soon enter an old hardwood forest filled with rhododendron bushes. The start of our loop hike was marked with a large red arrow. We knew the hike would have elevation gain in order to be able to enjoy the panoramic views from atop Mount Wismer. Rather than go straight up the side of the mountain on the red trail, we decided to follow the yellow trail and take the longer route.

The dusting of snow we awoke to still clung to the shady part of the trail.

We slowly began hiking higher and higher. The trees became smaller and the boulders grew larger.

It didn't take long to feel toasty. While the temperature never got above 29, the sun felt nice and warm.

As we climbed higher, we passed several frozen springs.

After about a mile, we picked up the blue trail and began hiking along the ridge line. At the end of the Blue Trail is a scenic overlook. A large bounder marked the spot.

Once we reached the height of land, we soon found ourselves on top of the Pocono Plateau. At over 2000 feet, we could see the Delaware Water Gap.

To see what we saw, click the link to this 360-degree view from near the top of Mount Wismer.

We would have loved to stay longer, but the there was nothing to block the wind. We said our goodbyes to Gravel Pond, and began our climb down.

We did take the red trail down to finish our loop hike. It was really steep and rocky. Glad we took the yellow trail up. Next time, we just might take the yellow trail out and back.

Scouting the Paradise Creek Nature Preserve

 On Monday, November 16, 2020, we had gone for a run at Tobyhanna Lake in the morning, so we were looking for a shorter hike to fill some afternoon time on a gorgeous day.  We decided to scout the Paradise Creek Nature Preserve for a possible hike with our daughter Katie and puppies Maggie and Ruthie.  This would be a perfect distance for the doggos at about 2 miles.

We wore our hunter orange on this trail because hunting is permitted in the reserve:

Late Fall and what was now the beginning of Winter had painted the landscape with its sepia brush, but the green of mountain laurel and rhododendron still dominated this trail:

Not far into the trail, we came upon this memorial to Alex and Lillian Kurmes, who donated this land for the preserve and the hiking trails:

It was the quotation on the marker that drew our attention:

And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, 
finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
semons in stones, and good in everything.

This quote is from Shakespeare's play, "As You Like It,"  which follows its heroine Rosalind as she flees persecution in her uncle's court, to find safety and, eventually, love, in the Forest of Arden (Ardennes).  These particular lines were spoken by Duke Senior, Rosalind's father, upon his introduction in Act II, scene i. The woods are romanticized, as they typically are in pastoral literature, and the mood is set for the remainder of the play. Although perils may present themselves, they remain distant, and, in the end, there truly is “good in everything.”

Ironically, the quotation captures our own feelings as we cloister here in the Pocono Mountains, exempt from public haunt, trying to avoid exposure to Covid-19 and Presidential politics, being reminded by nature that there is good in everything.

In fact this is why we love to hike.

But we digress, because it really is about the landscape we explore when we hike.  On this day, there were some wet spots from rain and snow that had pelted the area during the week prior to our hike:

Obviously, this section of the trial must often be wet, because boardwalks were in place, even where the trail happened to be dry on the day we hiked:

Our hike brought us around to Tank Creek, which flowed toward and past us as it burbled its way down to its confluence with Paradise Creek, which itself empties into Brodhead Creek, and that then into the Delware River in the Delaware Water Gap near Stroudsburg:

While winter in the Pennsylvania forest is not as lush as the summer, it strips the cover away from the ground and reveals flowing stream and vistas more dramatically than they can be seen during the more verdant seasons:

We hiked along Tank Creek for a while, watching it dance and listening to its jazzy conversation.  You might get an idea of what we experienced by watching this video of little Tank Creek as it flows down to meet Paradise Creek.

The trail turned upslope and away from the stream, as we worked our way back toward the trailhead.  Along the way, we came across this tree that just invited us to pause and rest on its prone trunk:

The trial wound along a curved ridge that gave us a view of the Tank Creek valley before it turned again toward the trailhead.  As we reached the end of the hike, we had a pleasant surprise when we found a trail register built as a project by a local Boy Scout Troop.  We felt we should register that we had been here and how much we appreciated the work done by all those unknown people in making this adventure possible for us:

Our final verdict:  This trail would be perfect to bring Katie and the puppies!  We hope to introduce them to it the next time they drive up to visit us.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Thunder Swamp Trail - Painter Swamp to Big Bear Swamp

 The Pennsylvania DCNR website describes the Thunder Swamp Trail as follows:

The Thunder Swamp Trail System provides a network of interconnecting hiking trails built by the Youth Conservation Corps during the 1970's.  The trail is maintained by the Keystone Trails Association and the Pocono Outdoor Club in cooperation with the Delaware State Forest District. Following the trail loops, you can view the Pocono Mountains in detail. You will encounter gradual changes of elevation, experience the dryness of ridgetops, the coolness of the wetlands and streams, and witness an array of native plants and animals. The Thunder Swamp Trail System crosses numerous ridges, valleys, and follows the contours of wetlands. The trail surface is often wet, uneven and rocky. A hiking boot which affords ankle protection and reduces water penetration is recommended. 

We found this trail when the ranger at the district office of the Delaware State Forest gave us a map and brochure.  The entire trail system is 41 miles, but that is far more than we can cover in a day hike.  Looking at the trail map, we picked a lollipop hike at the north end of the trail.  It would take us around Painter Swamp and across two ridges, south of the Stillwater Natural Area, to a loop that circles Big Bear Swamp.  Our proposed hike was 7.5 miles.  While we knew little about it when we decided to do the hike, it provided us with ample rewards!

When we arrived at the trailhead, three other vehicles were already there, but, just as we were ready to start our hike, the others returned to their vehicles.  They had spent three nights on Painter Swamp, camping at one of the three beautiful campsites and spending their days paddling around the swamp, fishing, and admiring the late Fall colors.  We were jealous!

This inspired us to get down the trail, and so we wasted no time:

Within a half mile, we reached Painter Swamp.  Here is the view looking south:

Our path around Painter Swamp was a yellow-blazed trial that took us to a junction with the orange-blazed Thunder Swamp Trail, where David dutifully registered us, to help the state document usage and to protect ourselves in the event of a mishap:

As we worked our way over toward Big Bear Swamp, we passed junctions with Coon Swamp Road, the Stillwater Natural Area, and Big Bear Swamp Trail.  After over 1.5 miles, we reached Little Bushkill Creek.  This stream runs north-to-south through a drainage that includes the Stillwater Natural Area, Silver Lake, Minks Pond and Lake Maskenozha.  Take a look at this video of Little Bushkill Creek where we crossed it on the trail.

The crossing itself was on a bridge -- a very simple one that we wondered might not survive any significant flood.  Kathy snapped a photo of David admiring the stream from the bridge:

On we hiked, and eventually crossed another stream that runs through Big Bear Swamp.  We had to rock-hop to get across the little stream, but no sooner did we get across than we encountered our old friend Burl:

But that was not all!  Soon after, we bumped into Burl, Jr.:

We originally thought we could hike the entire Big Bear Swamp loop, but when we arrived at the start of the loop, it informed us that we would have a full 5 miles to complete it -- which would have resulted in a hike of 11 miles -- three miles more than we bargained for.  So, after consulting the topo map to see which direction might be most interesting, we headed north on the Big Bear Swamp Loop Trail.  We hiked a mile and intended to find a suitable place for lunch.  Don't you know, but, at just about a mile around the loop, we ran into this pretty little campsite which we adopted as our lunch stop:

The campsite is perched on a flat ledge that drops off vertically into the proper area of the Big Bear Swamp.  The drop-off is a huge block of granite that must have been uplifted in one piece from the area below.  After lunch, David ventured down to get a photo of the ledge.  While he got his photo, it does not do justice to the ledge.  Here, you see the corner of a 90-degree corner on the ledge:

We felt re-energized from our lunch and felt ready for our almost-4-mile hike back to the trailhead.  Off we hiked, with a lower sun in the sky and looking back the way from which we had come.  We re-crossed Little Bushkill Creek and noted its colorful character --

-- and then reach a junction with the Stillwater Natural Area, where we crossed Coon Swamp Road again:

Back at Painter Swamp, the sunlight had mellowed with the afternoon, and we had a beautiful view of the water-filled swamp:

The south end of the swamp lake is maintained by a beaver dam that was so well engineered, we speculated that Ms. Beaver must have earned her engineering degree at M.I.T.  Her dam, however, posed an interesting problem for us as hikers.  We were going to have to tip-toe across the dam to continue along the trail around Painter Swamp:

At one point, the trail descended from the beaver dam down to (relatively) dry ground.  We followed it, and found a ladder bridge across the outlet of Painter Swamp.  We carefully stepped across the bridge and continued along the bottom of the swamp:

Here, Kathy is carefully navigating the crest of the beaver dam:

Lo and behold, hiking further along the downstream end of the swamp, we found the beaver's lodge:

We continued west along the bottom of the swamp, then turned north along its western edge.  The soft late afternoon sunlight made for beautiful late Autumn colors:

We neared the top of the swamp and our trailhead, but not before Kathy spotted this beautiful old tree, a survivor of the flooding of the swamp, lending its regal presence to the entire small valley that Painter Swamp occupied:

Even though we had passed along its northern border on our way out the trail, we were surprised how Painter Swamp gave us unexpected rewards at the end of our hike.  We remembered how jealous we had felt of those young people who had camped on the banks of this swamp for three nights and paddled and fished the swamp for three days.  We were even more jealous of their time as we completed our hike.

Perhaps we'll explore other sections of the Thunder Swamp Trail later this year.