Explore, Enjoy, and Protect the Planet

On The Trail — August 2013

Eddy Lick Trail Loop

by Gary Thornbloom

Bridge across Eddy Lick Run

Bridge over Eddy Lick Run · Photo by Gary Thornbloom

Eddy Lick Trail Loop — Sproul State Forest just off of PA SR 144 in Centre and Clinton Counties — uses a section of the Chuck Keiper Trail to explore the tranquility and history of Eddy Lick Run. Savor the silence of Eddy Lick Run as it flows over a sandy bed beneath large white pines and hemlocks. The trail along Eddy Lick Run is mostly stream-side, with one side stream crossing and a bridge when you finally cross Eddy Lick Run to head east and back up to the plateau.

The past is present as the trail follows old logging railroad grades. They are often identifiable by observing the steady, gradual grade; rock ballast; rock-work on the downhill side; rock-work building the grade up in low areas; places where the grade ends abruptly and it is obvious that the bridge that was once there is missing (such as where the trail crosses Eddy Lick Run); the depressions where ties have rotted away.

Eddy Lick Run also has an unusual splash dam. It is about one-half mile upstream from where it is marked on the DCNR map. Splash dams were used to hold enough water so that when water was released logs could be floated downstream. Most dams were made of logs and earth; however, this one was made of rocks and remains nicely preserved.

There are several nice campsites along Eddy Lick Run, one just below the splash dam.

Bridge across Eddy Lick Run

Indian pipe at Eddy Lick Run · Photo by Gary Thornbloom

Indian pipe can be seen growing in numerous spots along Eddy Lick Run. Indian pipe is a parasitic plant that, due to its lack of green leaves, must get its nourishment from the roots of other plants. The waxy white stems are covered with white scales and extend 6 – 8 inches from the forest floor. The nodding white flower forms the bowl of the pipe. Close examination will sometimes reveal the yellow glow of stamens in the bowl.

I recently hiked this as a 10+ mile loop by parking at a clearing on the right just off of PA SR144 on the Dehaas Road. Following the path out of the left end of the grassy clearing will take you past a large puddle with steady bubbling along the edge. The natural gas bubbling into the atmosphere is methane that is contributing thirty times the greenhouse gas effects of CO2 — this is part of the downside of this dirty fossil fuel. Despite reporting the GPS coordinates of this location the gas has been destroying our atmosphere for the past 9 months or longer.

After about two miles the trail follows Eddy Lick Run for over three miles before it crosses the stream and climbs north following an unnamed tributary. We saw a scarlet tanager, a species that likes forest interiors, as we made our ascent. We also saw a red eft on this same section of trail. To the west of this section you see the “working” forest.

DCNR defines a working forest as one that includes logging and natural gas drilling sites; DCNR also includes vernal pools and protecting some areas to preserve their wild character. You will find these “workings” very different. As you complete hiking this loop, keep in mind the forest you have walked through along Eddy Lick Run and the ascent to Dehaas Road.

After a short walk on the Dehaas Road there is a sign designating the Walker Trail. Here the Eddy Lick Trail continues to the NE of Dehaas Road.  

Continue on Dehaas Road for a short detour to the SE. As you walk along the road you may smell more natural gas, gas escaping from the pipeline or gas wells near the road. A DCNR employee told me that it is quite normal for companies to release gas — recall again that this is 30 times more destructive of our atmosphere than CO2. Return to the Eddy Lick Trail.

The trail is poorly blazed in this section. As we threaded the maze of roads in the next couple of miles we turned left at each major Y in the road — this returned us to Dehaas Road not far from where our hike began. If you can find the blazes, you should come to the Two Rock Run Vista. This looks out over the scene of the largest wildfire in Pa — 24 square miles. 
As you near the end of this hike you may not be done with experiencing the working forest — the Columbia Gas Dehaas Generator may be sputtering away as you near SR144.

This is a good hike to have someone along who knows the lay of the land. Terri Davis will be leading a Sierra Club Moshannon Group hike on this loop on saturday August 24th — see www.sierramsh.org for details.

Sproul State Forest includes the first purchase of land — in 1898 — for the State Forest system. Protection of water was one factor in creating this system. This is a remote area — 450 square miles with no electricity and no permanent homes. This hike will show you some of the best in the PA State Forest system, as well as a look at an industrialized forest. As our State Forests are subjected to increased industrialization, it is important to see what is there and what is at risk.

Gary Thornbloom is the Chair of Sierra Club Moshannon Group, and can be reached at bearknob@verizon.net