Photos by Rick Hiduk
An eight-mile, six-hour hike of a section of State Game Lands 57 in Wyoming County gave at least 25 people trekking the rough forest with guide Jeff Mitchell (above, right) on Sept. 30 an adventure of which they could be proud. The Scouten Brook trail up South Mountain was heavily damaged by the heavy rains of summer, and the plateau that might have afforded a bit of a break prior to the steep descent was pocked with mud bogs.
“Any hike in game lands will be tough, as there aren’t marked, maintained trails,” Mitchell noted. “As a result, it’s an experience most people aren’t used to.”
Thirty people and two dogs met Mitchell at the first parking lot off Windy Valley Road near Forkston Sunday morning under sunny skies. By the time the entourage reached the trail head about three-quarters of a mile from the parking lot, clouds moved in and light rain fell sporadically. The climb soon ensued which, according to Mitchell, was a vertical ascent of about a thousand feet to a 2,200-foot summit.
As noted, large segments of the trail had been eroded or were now part of the streams running off the mountainside. Several participants opted to turn back when they realized that the hike was not going to be easy. The rugged terrain and the size of the group prompted Mitchell to leave the option of walking down into a ravine for a better view of Cali Falls to the hikers, a handful of whom determined that it was worth the effort.
“People really enjoyed the waterfalls and cascades on Scouten Brook,” Mitchell said afterward. “I heard many comments about how beautiful it was.” This was the largest hike he had ever lead.
Much of the old trail that meanders across the relatively flat top of the mountain through ferns, hemlocks, moss and spruce trees known as the Emerald Forest was covered in standing water, making for some tricky crossings that required teamwork.
“We built log bridges so we could cross rushing water and clambered over rock outcroppings and gullies,” Blennie Saylor wrote of the adventure on Facebook, noting that she would do it all over again.
“One lady said the Emerald Forest was ‘magical,’ and she couldn’t believe the incredible carpets of moss and all the spruce.” Mitchell related. “A couple of people were surprised such scenery existed here in Wyoming County.”
Camaraderie was the rule of the day as hikers shared stories and found common threads among their individual adventures on other trails.
Additional highlights included a rock outcrop that afforded a view of other mountain ridges in the State Game Lands, as well as a glimpse of Red Rock Mountain far off on the horizon. Zion Rocks was once a cliff face that broke free from the summit, resulting in house-size boulders precariously perched on the mountainside, separated by deep crevices and tunnels.
The walk down the other side of the mountain was perhaps the most difficult stretch for participants, some already a bit trail-weary. But the smiles on the faces of the exhausted hikers as they finally reached Windy Valley Road told a story of accomplishment, with some joking that they would meet back there the following Sunday to do the walk in reverse order.
The hike was the second of three scheduled by the Wyoming County Cultural Center as part of the Explore Wyoming County’s Parks & Trails project that kicked off with a presentation by Mitchell, an avid hiker and writer, and project coordinator Rick Hiduk on June 15.
A brochure containing maps that highlight the county’s many public green spaces, trails and waterways was also produced, and free copies can be picked up at the Dietrich Theater in Tunkhannock, the Endless Mountains Visitors Center on Route 6 west of town, and other locations.
Mitchell added that he hopes to lead future hikes in other sections of State Game Lands 57 such as the Bartlett Mountain Balds and Flat Top/Raven Rock Vista.
A much less challenging walk at Little Rocky Glen Park off Route 6 east and Lithia Valley Road is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 20, with a rain date of Oct. 21. Interested readers should call the Dietrich Theater at 570-996-1500 to register.
Additional Photos from Sunday’s hike: