SLB Photography
Clear Shade Wild Area

John P. Saylor Trail: Clear Shade Wild Area

I previously made a trip to the John P Saylor trail back in June 2015. It was a sunny day that turned cloudy. I wanted to be alone in the deep woods. What I didn’t plan for was meeting a group of teenagers who continued hiking with me until we got to Wolf’s Rocks. I got some photos of Clear Shade Creek that I really liked and finally got my alone time in the forest. When I got home the photographs were corrupted coming off my memory card. I hadn’t been able to get back until this past Saturday.

The John P Saylor trail is configured as two loops to make a total of 21 miles. The loops are separated by a really cool suspension bridge going over Clear Shade Creek. I was always fascinated by the suspension bridge and on my first trip out, I really wanted to find it, I didn’t. I found it this time!

We started our hike at the Fisherman’s path. It’s not marked and we weren’t sure we were really in the right place. We decided to head down the yellow blazed trail which was about 0.3. That connected up with the bigger loop of the John P Saylor trail until we hit a sign for The Middle Ridge loop which is the connector trail where the suspension bridge is. The suspension bridge was a cool as I thought it would be and the only true suspension bridge I’ve come across in PA State Parks and Forests. I don’t even think the ones at Trough Creek are true suspension bridges. I stayed behind to make photos of the suspension bridge, while D began her hike. Once I was ready to begin I crossed the bridge and made a left onto the trail and soon we saw the remnants of the old railroad grade. The trail was really wet, drainage was terrible making for some large, sticky, muddy areas. My feet sunk a few times into the mud that covered my entire boots. Shortly into the hike I came across a beautiful meadow with nice red colors popping against the greens. As I continued I was in and out of forest and meadow with the bright sun overhead. It felt good to feel the sun with a slight breeze. About 1.50 miles in I crossed a little stream and made my way back to Clear Shade Creek. Here I decided to go off trail for a little bit and follow the creek as long as I could. When I got back up to the trail I didn’t see any of the orange blazes, but I did see foot prints in the snow that was still on the trail, so I continued. At about mile 3 I came to a crossing on Clear Shade Creek that I didn’t think I could cross. The water was running really high and the trail looked like it ended. Not seeing any blazes I thought I was off trail so I decided to turn back. I ran into three thru-hikers, they seemed like a fun bunch. We said hello and that was it. Shortly after I started seeing the orange blazes again, so I knew I was on the right trail. I just couldn’t figure out where I missed the turn off earlier. I saw someone else hiking toward me, it turned out to be D. Thank Goodness! Turns out she inadvertently did the trail twice! Apparently there is a sharp left turn shortly past the creek where I thought I couldn’t cross. We hiked back together looking for the suspension bridge. You have to veer off to the left, we didn’t realize it was there and that’s how D missed it the first time. The trail is marked really well in some places and not really well in other places.

It was a really fun hike and it was fun exploring a part of the trail I’ve never been, even-so, I don’t think the first time counted. The forest was quiet except for the sound of the stream and the birds. It was really wet and muddy and I’ve never seen those bog like conditions before. The ecosystem there was very surprising. I’m also breaking in a new backpack, which I’ll write about in another post, but so far it’s like carrying a cloud!

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