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Topic: TR: Sweet Root Natural Area, Martin Hill< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 19 2012, 9:36 pm  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Photos

For my initial October hike, I decided to head back to the Martin Hill area.  ATV riding season ended with the last weekend of September, so I figured the first weekend in October would be a good time for a hike which involves a fair amount of the ATV trail system there.

I started at the large parking area at the summit of PA-326, or Point #1 of the ATV trail system.  I headed west on the trail after crossing the road.  At first, the trail is directly next to the road, but in a few hundred feet, it diverges and begins a climb, following the forest boundary at first.  Mid-autumn color was prevalent here, and for most of the hike.  Near the top the boundary leaves the trail, while the trail follows a deer fence for a short distance.  The trail then heads downhill, reaching a gate next to Blankley Road.



I leave the ATV trail, to follow the road to the overlook, maybe 100 feet away.  The view is towards the north, primarily of Friends Cove, and also with parts of Martin Hill, and Evitts and Wills Mountains in the background.  From a distance, colors were still mostly green, but with a fair amount of yellow, orange, and red added in.  After the view, I get back on the ATV trail, which is conveniently about six feet below the overlook.



I continue west on the ATV trail, lightly ascending, reaching a succession of logged areas of varying ages.  The ATV trail soon merges with Schaeffer Road, basically a wide woods road.  By this time I realize that the ATV trails are in rather good shape.  There was basically no mud puddles or standing water, and drainageways have been frequently cut to prevent excessive erosion.  The trail itself was not at all threaded.  All of this made the trail in much better shape than Michaux's ATV system.  Along the Schaeffer Road section, the trail is atop a spur ridge of the Martin Hill area, heading northwest.  It drops off sharply through mature woods on the north side, and much more gradually, through old logged areas, on the south side.  There are some above the tree views looking south, but nothing for a camera.  Color is a nice mix of mainly green and yellow here, with orange and red being vibrant along some stretches.



Near the end of the ridge, I reached a trail post for the Koontz Trail.  As I was not expecting a trail here, I checked my maps; none of them showed it.  I decided to see if it may have led out to the point, and perhaps a view. I was able to follow it about 50 feet, before it disappeared after a fallen tree.  (It turns out, after my hike, that the USGS quad shows a trail steeply descending to the forest boundary; this is likely that trail.  Any trail out to the point would be further west.  Perhaps it was near the puddle instead.)

At this point, the ATV system began its long turn to the south.  I pass the junction of Schaeffer Road and Schaeffer Trail (which is basically a two-way junction).  The trail now begins a long descent into a drainage.  There was very good color in this straight section.  At the bottom, I cross the drainage.  Here the trail starts a roller coaster section.  It ascends to a small divide, then into and crosses another drainage.  It next ascends to a higher divide, crosses a logging road, and descends into a not quite dry drainage.  And there is one more divide and stream after this.  As I climb out of this last drainage, I see a cabin above my position.  I then reach Point #2, where I turn left, as the trail levels out, now lightly ascending, and soon reach Blankley Road across from the Refugee/ATV trailhead.



I turn east onto the road, mostly through great autumn color.  When I reach the junction with Martin Hill Road, I stop at the small flower garden and find a good place to have my lunch.



After lunch, I head onto the Tarkiln Trail, continuing southeast, entering the Sweet Root Natural Area on the old woods road.  I descend, cross a small stream and continue into a narrowing ravine.  The trail becomes lined with copious mountain laurel, which opens up when I reach the junction with the Mid State Trail, entering from a side ravine.  I take the MST north, meaning I head straight, continuing southeast on the same woods road.  For the most part, the trail follows the woods road, except for some wet portions.  There is also one bypass around some blowdows where the trail is basically just the blazes, with no improvement to the talus footing underneath.  In any case, in a short distance, I reach the sharp turn to the north on the MST.



One of the reasons I wanted to do this hike was to get as far into Sweet Root Gap as was reasonable.  So, instead of turning with the MST, I continued on down the ravine.  At first, the woods road remains in good shape.  The culvert remains.  The trail is not overgrown and has been traveled with some light regularity.  Blowdowns have been cut through sometime in the past, though there are some present past the cutting, but no difficult ones in the stretch I hiked.  Further on one culvert has been removed, but it was easy to get across the stream.  The ravine is still wide, so I am clearly not in the gap proper yet.  I reach a wet/muddy section of trail.  There are no conveniently placed rocks, and the weather was not the best.  Since I had decided to turn around as soon as the trail was not completely easy, I headed back to the MST.  I'll have to head back sometime to head further down.

Back on the MST, I head north on a good wide woods road, following Sweet Root Run, flowing somewhat better than a trickle.  This section of trail is a long slow ascent, maybe 500-600 feet over a bit more than a mile.  I miss the junction with the Wasson Trail, and soon reach the top of the climb at the junction of Sweet Root Rd (which the MST had been on) which goes west, and the Garlick Trail (which the MST continues on) which continues north, now downhill.  Just past the junction, I sign the trail register.  Reading it, sounds like ticks are a big issue here, and hunters don't like the lack of deer.  While reading the register, the light rain which I had on the climb up here started to turn moderately heavy.  I decided to check my maps, I decided that just continuing on with my hike would still be the best way back to the trailhead.

So, I head north on the MST, first descending through some fern meadows, then into a ravine, and soon following a stream.  This was an especially nice section of trail.  It was rhododendron lined in a narrow ravine.  An assortment of trees including hemlocks made up the canopy.  The side walls were sufficiently rocky. And the trail was also in good shape, usually following an old woods roads.  Parts were relocated to avoid wet areas, and the relocations were on well made sidehill.  Stream crossings had well placed rocks, even though at the time there were not necessary.  After a good number of crossings in this wonderland, I reach Rainsburg Gap and PA-326.





I cross the road, and find the trail. Because of the rain, the first couple of steps up the embankment were done carefully, so as not to slip in the wet conditions.  The trail then ascends steeply for a few hundred feet, soon reaching an old woods road.  I continue ascending on the woods road, though now gently.  After a bit I reach a turn in the MST.  I can either continue straight to get back to the trailhead, or turn right and follow the MST and then a short spur.  It was, of course, still raining.  I checked the time, and figured I might as well take the diversion.

So I continue on the MST, up a short steep climb. At the top the MST turns left on a bench near the top of Tussey Mountain.  I turn right, up a rough woods road along the Buchanan State Forest/State Game Lands #97 boundary.  This takes me to the top of Tussey Mountain.  There are some porthole views to the west.  I continue east at the top, to see if there are any vistas.  I shortly spot an opening to the north, and follow some rough trails or game paths to it.  Sure enough, there is a view from it.  And I see... mostly fog.  Black Valley and Warrior Ridge is all that can be seen, though it is apparent that on a better day one would be able to see further east.





After the view, I work my way back down the rough woods road, then down the MST, turning onto the woods road to take me back north to the trailhead.  A good hike, even after the weather made a turn for the worse.  Reasonably good color and complete solitude; Good scenery along the trails.  And I suspect that even in ATV season it would not be a bad hike; while I suspect some ATVers would be out, I wouldn't expect heavy use.


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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 20 2012, 10:04 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Tomorrow afternoon as I type this, Sunday Oct 21 the township historical society will have another hike to the saltpeter cave from the bottom, crossing the posted private land into the gap from below by permission for the occasion. (No, this time I won't be there, alas.)

Any sign on any of your old photos of a trail or cleared/dug boundary into Sweet Root gap from straight south. I thought I remembered something heading to the north from a series of tracks east of Martin Hill Rd down south but north of Beans Cove Rd.
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 21 2012, 10:25 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I'd been ignoring the old photo site for a while.  Anyway, I checked.  It looks like that there may have been a Forest boundary woods road, heading from Beans Cove Rd (actually an older iteration looping to the north) all the way to above Sweet Root Gap.  Cannot tell what happens as it sharply descends into the gap.  Pennsylvania has 2-foot contour LIDAR data available for download.  That may reveal some trails that aerial photos cannot see.

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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 22 2012, 7:00 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Hmm. Relative to where Gap Trail hits Beans Cove Rd, does this track you're seeing on the old photos on the other/north side, come out up/west, even, or down/east?
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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 22 2012, 9:38 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

East.  I'm not sure how obvious it would be from the road.

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PostIcon Posted on: Oct. 23 2012, 7:19 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I looked up 1939 PennPilot and that boundary trail is very clear then, it shows up more prominently than Gap Trail. I think I see some of the traces I found over to the SW and unless I'm not mistaken possibly another trace heading north from where I thought an old junction might be, diagonally over/down to the edge of the Sweet Root gap meeting the boundary trail at the edge of the old hemlocks. Guess I have something to check out come winter.

The old trace that in part is part of the S side Martin Hill MST relocation in the upper Wildcat watershed shows up too, I had thought it more recent but maybe it was bulldozer reopened in the big 1960s fire up that way.
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 22 2012, 10:57 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I need to continue my work in this area. I didn't know there was an official ATV season in PA. When is it?

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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 22 2012, 9:06 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

ATV seasons list on PA State Forest
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 23 2012, 9:24 am Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

Thanks K ... nice to know.

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8 replies since Oct. 19 2012, 9:36 pm < Next Oldest | Next Newest >

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