On an unusually warm December Sunday, I got to hike to State Game Land 57’s Bartlett Mountain Balds with none other than Jeff Mitchell himself. Author of Hiking the Endless Mountains and intrepid explorer of one of eastern PA’s most remote areas, Jeff has probably crawled up most streams and seen more of the vast SGL57 than anyone else on the planet.
I had wanted to see the balds since I had first read about them on Jeff’s website. I had previously hiked to the very fine vista on nearby Flat Top Mountain but the balds seemed set apart from that even. Lying in one of the most remote parts of the forest, the top of Bartlett Mountain features large rock balds, featuring beautiful spruce forests and amazing solitude.
I left my house before 7 to take the 3+ hour drive to Wyoming County. I met Jeff in the small parking lot just past White Brook in the area known as the Windy Valley. The Mehoopany Creek flowed quietly nearby. Despite being mid-December, the temperature was due to reach close to 70 degrees on the day.
Jeff arrived a little after 10 a.m. and we were soon on our way up an unblazed grade. I had started our hike in long sleeves, but the way to the balds was all uphill and I was soon stripping down to short sleeves. Jeff joked if that if they were to ever named a trail for him, the grade up to the balds would be appropriate as he’d been that way many times.
We walked uphill for about 2 miles before the trail leveled off. The top of the mountain was wet and we had to skirt puddles as we continued along the trail. We arrived at the edge of the balds as a walls of rock appeared in the forest. There were large rock overhangs and even crevices and caves. We made sure to make plenty of noise to alert any bears in the area.
We found a crevice in the rock that had tree roots growing out of it. It made for the easiest climb up to the balds. We made our way up and climbed to the balds, where the flat, white rock stretched out in front of us. The balds were dotted with Spruce trees and the solitude was striking.
We walked into the balds a little ways and sat down to have a quick lunch. The quiet was outstanding. It seemed a million miles from noisy Philadelphia apartment.
We walked up the north rim of the balds where smaller balds were fully enclosed in Spruce forests. The solitude continued to be impressive. I made plenty of noise to alert any bears that might be out. We even saw a bear print on the ground.
Jeff had hoped to show me the way to the “Spruce Ridge” but we were running low on time, being one of the shortest days of the year. We headed off the balds and back down the trail that brought us up the mountain to begin with. About halfway down the trail, we turned on a side trail that descended more steeply to White Brook.
The stream was beautiful and we arrived at it near a small cascade. The water was remarkably clear and the setting was superb. We made our way down the stream, navigating slippery rocks, tricky ledges, and lots of blowdowns. After about a mile of hiking, we reached White Brook Falls, an impressive 15-20 foot falls.
We climbed out of the gorge and back to the trail where we started. We flushed a ring necked grouse from the trail, but it disappeared impressively in the underbrush before either of us could grab a picture. We arrived back in at the parking area in the Windy Valley as the sun started to set.
Jeff had one last stop for us and we drove up the road out of the game lands into the small town of Forkston. We headed uphill and parked at a small pull-off above Bowman Hollow. The stream, and it’s waterfall, are technically on private property but it seems accessible to the public and no signs were posted.
We hiked down to the stream, which had beautiful slides and cascades. A short ways upstream, we reached the impressive Bowman Hollow Falls, an almost 50 foot falls that canons over white rocks. Despite not having a tripod, I managed a few decent shots of the falls.
We parted way and I drove back to Philadelphia in awe of having seen another beautiful place in the Endless Mountains.
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