October arrived with high (85+) temperatures and humidity, but we still decided to spend the day investigating to the NE of our recent survey in Green’s Valley, which would put us up around Panther Hollow. With luck we might make the connection over Long Mountain and the Mifflin/Centre county line to Little Poe Creek where we surveyed some weeks ago.
Arriving at Siglerville-Millheim Pike and Panther Run Rd, we were pleased to note the gate on PRR open, with a nice note indicating it would be open “for hunting” through January. We decided rapidly that we are unquestionably “hunting”! We therefore left a vehicle at S-M Pike and took another out Panther Run Rd to the junction with Little Poe Rd. Along the rather scenic road, we debated whether the Panther Hollow was best described as “sylvan” or “verdant”. It’s a nice place. We also stopped to visit with a wood turtle who seemed to be hot (for a turtle) in pursuit of something resembling a wingless dragonfly.
Arriving at the junction, we did what we do pretty well: crashed about through brush. It seemed likely that we should either find the “main line” running SW-NE along Panther Run, or a fragment of the branch coming over the mountain from Little Poe. Well, it seemed likely! But we didn’t find much. Vince went off towards the summit of Long Mountain and did find a spot on the east side of LPR which (in much wetter weather) might be the “Dinkey Springs” as described by Kline. Regretfully, no dinkeys were present on this day. He found nothing (other than the road) which seemed likely to be the line over the mountain.
After a while spent criss-crossing the rather dry stream, I noticed some faint parallel depressions to the NE of the LPR/PRR junction. I followed them a bit SW until they ran smack into a very large evergreen. Hmmm. We’ve noticed an interesting tendency for very large evergreen trees to be right smack in the middle of logging railroad grade; figure that out. On the other side of the tree, the sort of track ran more or less directly into the LPR/PRR junction. But it was really faint, and not at all proper rock-ballasted right of way.
Crossing the junction, I again noticed a very faint track. Finally, I concluded I had to inform Vince of it, though I knew he was going to skeptical. Too darn faint. Too odd. Like two parallel tracks, not one… And could that be the track branching off onto Little Poe Road…?
Vince arrived and pondered with some skepticism. Wellll…. Vince pointed out that this was Gotshall construction, later passed to Reichley, and that Gotshall seemed to build pretty marginal trackage. We decided we had nothing better and figured we should follow it SW as best we could. It seemed to continue, so we gained some optimism about its faint path. Then–in a Eureka moment–we found the first wooden stringer. Holy cow! We actually have it! Hot damn!
Continuing SW, we found a fair assortment of wooden stringers surviving, sometimes one alone, occasionally two in parallel. Considering these untreated timbers have been lying on the ground here for well over 100 years, it is simply amazing that they survive. One or two still show clean square corners where the top was flattened to accommodate rail.
We kept thinking we must come to the junction with the line over Long Mountain, and that the track would evolve into “real” RoW. Finally, Vince made a wise recollection of Kline’s comment that the (Gotshall-built and Reichley-operated) “…tramroad to Poe Mills was in deplorable condition…”. If, in fact, it remained a tramroad, never upgraded to Reichley’s typical rock-ballast, we could go on like this for some time…
The track continued in its rather bizarre way: more like two parallel trenches in the surface rocks than the single mound of rock to which we are accustomed. Periodically we would encounter stringers, other times there would be none. Sometimes we thought we had lost the track, only to regain it after a bit. Eventually, the land leveled out and path became significantly harder to follow. Sometimes, wandering would turn up a stringer, or a strip of moss likely to have been a stringer, and we could continue. Finally, we began playing tag with various incarnations of the Mid State Trail, and we resorted to walking the trail. At points, it seemed possible we were seeing remnants of stringers along the trail, but we were not thoroughly convinced. One must ponder, however, what inspired the MST designers to follow this route: it could well have been the faint remains of stringers, now regrettably obliterated by many hikers’ feet.
Finally we reached S-M Pike and drove the shuttle vehicle back to LPR-PRR junction.
A bit more exploration
Since we still had plenty of light, we decided to take Vince’s “Toyoter” up and over Long Mountain to meet our previous survey. On the way down this steep and rough road, we kept keen eyes out for possible routes besides the road. The road’s grade just seems excessive at times, even for very crude tramroad.
We reached the MST and our previous survey without finding any potential grades. We then proceeded to crash around a bit in various places without much success. At one curious spot, there is a distinct track where someone had driven up the hillside. Along the track, we found a pink ribbon tied at a point which maybe possibly sorta could be a faint railroad grade paralleling the road. Um, what’s up with this?
We returned up LPR, recording it as probable railroad-under-road, checking a few side spots with no success. We collected the second vehicle and headed south on LPR towards Havice Valley Rd, hoping to find the gate there open as well. A late-day hiker we encountered reported the gate was open, so we made haste towards that exit and cold Yuengling to be had in Lewistown.
The resulting map…
The northeast end of Mifflin county is very scenic, what with rolling green fields, dramatic wooded mountains, Amish buggies and kids, and plenty of horses and cows. If you’ve never visited, it’s a great place for a Sunday drive. Please remember to travel at modest speed and be considerate of the area’s other Sunday drivers, whose total horsepower is often a very small integer.
- daily contributions: 1.34 miles
- total: 28.49 miles
- daily contributions (under road): 1.20 miles
- total (under road): 17.38 miles
- grand total: 45.87 miles