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Old 04-13-2020, 11:09 AM   #1
jmitch
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Vistas of Fish Dam Run Gorge-Sproul State Forest

https://endlessmountains.wordpress.c...-state-forest/


A hike to two superb vistas over the 1,200 foot deep Fish Dam Run Gorge. There are more in the area. Beautiful place.


https://www.instagram.com/p/B-nlKGXj..._web_copy_link


https://www.instagram.com/p/B-pKXXxj..._web_copy_link
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Old 04-13-2020, 11:31 AM   #2
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Nice photos. The Russell P. Letterman Wild Area is a place I wouldn't mind exploring more fully. I did think that it was odd that the Chuck Keiper Trail only briefly forayed into the upper reaches of the Fish Dam Run drainage, when it appears that a possible alternate route (on existing trails, or at least the public use map claims they exist) would allow hikers to descend down Fish Dam Run past Proctor Hollow, then ascend along Dennison Fork to rejoin the traditional CKT route near the overlook on PA 144.

Although maybe those "supposedly existing trails" don't actually exist (or at least, are not in great shape). Even the CKT is lacking in needed maintenance in a few spots.

There is also a nasty infestation of Japanese barberry in the upper reaches of the Fish Dam Run drainage that I fear is going to be allowed to continue spreading unchecked...
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Old 04-13-2020, 01:11 PM   #3
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I believe the CKT may have used to go further down Fish Dam, but I think a tornado resulted in the current route. Lots of those trails on the state forest maps do not exist, not sure where they got them from. It's surprising how many scenic features surround the CKT that the trail misses. While I like the CKT, a few tweaks to the route would make it a much more scenic trail.
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Old 04-13-2020, 02:00 PM   #4
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Yeah, that would make sense.

And also, yes: I learned pretty quickly on during my early forays into hiking and backpacking in PA that the existence of many trails shown on the official "public use maps" published by DCNR needs to be taken with a grain of salt. For the most part, any of the officially-designated "State Forest Trails" are easy to follow (although even the CKT gets moderately brushy in spots and forced us into navigating by trial and error a couple of times). Any side trails, however, are pretty hit or miss. I suspect that many of them probably existed at one point but they've largely faced into herd paths (or even well into oblivion) as a result of decades of non-maintenance.

Out of curiosity- how else would you re-route the CKT if given the opportunity to do so?
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Old 04-13-2020, 07:41 PM   #5
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Yup, the old route along Dennison Fork is still visible in a few spots, and is really excellent if you don't mind a bushwhack. The trail to access it is completely gone though. I love these old routes on maps; they give you an excuse to explore otherwise unraveled areas.
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Old 04-13-2020, 09:43 PM   #6
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Trailnotfound, what's it like down along Dennison Fork and fish Dam? Anything worth checking out?
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Old 04-13-2020, 09:43 PM   #7
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Trailnotfound, What's it like down there, anything worth checking out?
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Old 04-13-2020, 11:20 PM   #8
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When I hiked the Chuck Keiper West Loop last year with friends, we stopped for a brief packs off break on Fish Dam Run, where the CKT arrives at that stream after climbing up and over the ridge separating the Burns Run drainage to the west. There was an obvious trail that continued downstream along Fish Dam Run but I didn't follow it more than maybe 100 feet, so it very well could have petered out pretty quickly.

All of those drainages on the north end of the CKT- Yost Run, Burns Run, Fish Dam Run, Boggs Run- are places that I wouldn't mind exploring more fully.

Somewhat related: Our night #2 campsite on that trip was on the downstream end of the CKT stretch in the West Branch drainage. I took a bit of a night hike after dark, and ended up hiking some distance up along West Branch (away from the CKT, which follows the Panther Branch tributary). That seemed like a neat stretch of trail along a cascading stream, but I did not have an opportunity to check it out in daylight.
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Old 04-13-2020, 11:21 PM   #9
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Trailnotfound, what's it like down along Dennison Fork and fish Dam? Anything worth checking out?
I really enjoyed it. We accessed it from where the CKT crosses 144 west of the Fish Dam lot. The trail down is completely gone, and it's a steep descent covered with tornado debris. The upper stream has a few nice small cascades but nothing spectacular, and the valley floor eventually becomes relatively wide and flat bottomed. Probably beautiful in the spring, and a nettle hell in the summer. The washed out faint remnants of an old grade that follows (and frequently crosses) the stream made walking somewhat easy. The west slope has some massive hardwoods growing in a wide open forest, which isn't something you run into much, and I thought was the highlight. While there was some tattered flagging, the area feels very rarely visited.

I know you're more of a vistas explorer, but if you get a chance check out Water Trough Trail, Benjamin Run, and Gravel Lick in the center of the east loop. They all barely/don't exist, but are very nice walks along remote streams. If reblazed they'd give some much needed options for smaller loops.
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Old 04-14-2020, 10:25 AM   #10
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Trailnotfound, sorry for the double post. Thanks, I'll need to check that out. I like hiking along creeks as well. If you haven't done so, Clendenin Branch is really beautiful and has a trail as well.
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Old 04-14-2020, 10:33 AM   #11
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DSettahr-

Like you mentioned, I'd take it down Fish Dam, up Proctor, and then along the plateau to three superb vistas. I'd cross the plateau including the meadows, pine and spruce forests. For burns run, I'd stay higher up in the watershed, taking advantage of some meadows, views, and large rocks. There's an open meadow ridgewalk that would be beautiful. On the east loop, I'd include Clendenin and Benjamin Runs. Clendenin is really beautiful and already has a trail. I'd try to include Boggs Run Vista, maybe by a side trail. The area has a lot of potential.
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Old 04-14-2020, 03:47 PM   #12
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If you haven't done so, Clendenin Branch is really beautiful and has a trail as well.
I think it was a post of yours that clued me in, but that's been on my list for years. I just hadn't been able to convince my main hiking partner to go. Now that we've both moved from the area, it may be a bit before I make it.

Good luck getting the CKT moved; it sorely needs more traffic, and maybe a few vistas would be just what does it.
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Old 04-03-2022, 09:56 PM   #13
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DSettahr-

Like you mentioned, I'd take it down Fish Dam, up Proctor, and then along the plateau to three superb vistas. I'd cross the plateau including the meadows, pine and spruce forests. For burns run, I'd stay higher up in the watershed, taking advantage of some meadows, views, and large rocks. There's an open meadow ridgewalk that would be beautiful. On the east loop, I'd include Clendenin and Benjamin Runs. Clendenin is really beautiful and already has a trail. I'd try to include Boggs Run Vista, maybe by a side trail. The area has a lot of potential.
Resurrecting this old post to say Gantz and I recently explored Yost Run a bit more and had a blast. Starting from where the CKT crosses Fisher Fire Rd we hiked the Yost Run / Eddy Lick combined loop (headed ccw). But, instead of following the CKT we headed north and descended into First Fork (accessed by a recent logging road). This was rocky, green, untrailed, and beautiful. At the bottom we followed Yost Run down to the private property just above the West Branch, then headed back up to the CKT. Lots of wet crossings and nothing earth shaking, but highly varied a whole lot of fun. At Yost Falls we followed the old Kyler Fork Trail up to the plateau, where it intersects with Harbrac(?) Trail at a nice hunting camp. The trail up was rough but easy to follow, and the stream was beautiful and flowing the whole way up. Harbrac Trail then cuts back over to upper Yost Run, dropping back down to the CKT from behind the cabin just above the falls. A really nice way to add a little challenge and distance to a Yost Falls visit.
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Old 04-03-2022, 10:31 PM   #14
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Resurrecting this old post to say Gantz and I recently explored Yost Run a bit more and had a blast.
Nice. When I hiked through there with friends a few years ago, it looked like the Yost Run Drainage really started to open up downstream of where the CKT turns to ascend Second Fork, with some possibly decent/nice camping options. Was the drainage as open as it appeared?

Also, how were the leaves on the CKT? After our April visit to the western half of the CKT, we all walked away with vivid memories of traversing the seemingly treacherous side slopes of the Yost Run drainage, atop the previous Autumn's fallen slippery oak leaves. It seemed pretty clear to us that we were very likely the first hikers to have traversed that stretch of trail since the leaf drop in previous Fall.
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Old 04-03-2022, 11:05 PM   #15
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Nice. When I hiked through there with friends a few years ago, it looked like the Yost Run Drainage really started to open up downstream of where the CKT turns to ascend Second Fork, with some possibly decent/nice camping options. Was the drainage as open as it appeared?
It was pretty open! As usual in these valleys the streams meanders wall to wall so there was a lot of knee-deep crossing, but otherwise it was easy going. I didn't pay particular attention to camping options, but I definitely noticed a few potential sites and even a few ancient fire rings.

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Also, how were the leaves on the CKT? After our April visit to the western half of the CKT, we all walked away with vivid memories of traversing the seemingly treacherous side slopes of the Yost Run drainage, atop the previous Autumn's fallen slippery oak leaves. It seemed pretty clear to us that we were very likely the first hikers to have traversed that stretch of trail since the leaf drop in previous Fall.
It didn't look like it was recently cleared, but we both kept remarking that it was much better than we expected. It's of course still narrow, eroding, sloping side-hill, but there were few spots it felt downright dangerous. Not a ringing endorsement, but nowhere close to your picture or what I encountered last spring.

Honestly, this was such a fun exploration we're already planning some other off-trail excursions in neighboring valleys. It's a great area to set up a basecamp and just go off on day trips exploring whatever looks interesting. That's basically what we did this weekend, but I could put in way more than two days next time.
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Old 04-04-2022, 06:45 AM   #16
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Yeah, judging from the old blazes further down at the bottom of the hollow, the trail was rerouted up the hill and away from the stream at some point in the last ~20 years. We observed something similar in the Boggs Run drainage, too. Given the narrow nature of portions of both of those valleys, the reroutes were almost certainly necessary to avoid portions of the trail getting washed out, and they likely also minimized the necessary number of stream crossings along the way.

But some of those stretches of side-hilling really need a trail crew to go in and dig out a deeper/wider bench in the hillside because it gets a bit tricky/slippery to traverse at times, especially when the narrow existing bench fills with leaves.

To be fair, given the loose and unstable soils on the sides of some of those valleys, it's very possible that when the re-routes were constructed the benches were dug out much wider/deeper... and that they've simply just filled in over time as the soils have continued to shift and settle.
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