Who is John Wert? (map!)

We determined that this very humid day was the day to complete a survey of the previous lead found along the John Wert Path (formerly the Sinking Creek Trail). We left a car at Bear Meadows, and went to Thickhead Mtn Rd end of the path to begin surveying.

The path departs the road on a driveway to two camps. On its left, RoW is buried under copious rhodadendron. At one or two spots it breaks out to expose rock ballasting. [note: the map does not show this stretch in the correct location, probably due to GPS inaccuracy]

We stopped at the first camp to talk to a resident. He informs us the camp was completed before 1952, and that workers were housed there during construction of the nearby pipeline. We suspect the bulldozing of the driveway dates from that time… does that mean the original access to the camp was via the railroad RoW? Hmmm.

Around the first camp, we found the RoW appears to have dropped down closer to Sinking Creek. Its path is a little vague until passing the second camp, at which point it’s plainly visible alongside the cleared JWP. At the pipeline clearing, it’s pretty easy to extrapolate the path across the interruption. From there on we found it a pretty easy survey, as most of the RoW is very well ballasted with rock. If you go, expect lots of rocks and rhodadendron!

Eventually, the RoW began to trend a bit to the left, away from the stream, and become somewhat vague. At its approximate end, Vince identified a fairly clear logslide (or at least skid road) coming downhill from the left. It appears there was probably a loading area where it met the railroad. Sure enough, Vince found a very large pile of clinkers right about where one would expect a locomotive to sit while loading logs.

Sinking Creek / John Wert Path

We explored a bit around the area to see if we’d missed anything, but it appears this really was a terminus. We continued along the John Wert Path to Bear Meadows, which is a rather nice hike with rather fine large hemlocks and other trees. We still don’t know who John Wert is, but we appreciate the 1.11 miles.

Project Status

  • daily contributions: 1.11 miles
  • survey total: 25.59 miles

Back to Bechtol (map!)

We began the day’s exploration by taking a brief look around Treaster Kettle Rd at the big zig-zag near Reichley Trail. The gnats were bad and things didn’t appear promising, so we moved on.

Next we visited the extreme end of Bechtol Rd, where it enters private land. Walking back towards Thickhead Mtn Rd, I examined the curious scrap curving uphill into Bechtol Gap (see 9/2/07). It sure seems to have tie depressions. I then followed the road, looking for anything on the other side. Sure enough, I quickly found a fairly good trace, complete with tie depressions. Consulation with Vince and “the device” showed it headed towards that last survey. Did we miss a diverging branch during that survey?

We headed out along this new track, crashing through lots of Mt Laurel, periodically assured of our route by rock ballasting. Eventually we reached a modest clearing and intersected our previous survey where we had thought it turned to road. Oops. It appears we lost our way at this point during that survey. It is possible the road we were following was a track into Bechtol Gap, but also possible it was not. We will delete that section of the previous survey.

We returned to the road and the stream down Bechtol Gap. Following the stream, we watched closely for signs that the railroad went that way. Unfortunately, there really aren’t any. We did find a rock-edged “ramp” steeply departing the stream, but it seems to go nowhere and is a bit too steep even for a geared locomotive. Continuing downstream, I was blessed with an encounter with several yellow jackets, which diminished my enthusiasm. I made a quick excursion up the SW hillside, while Vince continued downstream and then up onto the SW hillside. We found nothing, which appears to conclude that Bechtol Gap (at least the lower portion) is–finally!–a bust.

We will have to examine the upper reaches of the gap, where that curious scrap ends, to try to figure out how the railroaders escaped from Thickhead Mtn and its unfriendly stinging insects. Stay tuned!

Corrected route crossing Bechtol Rd

Project Status

  • daily contributions: 0.4 miles
  • daily deletions: 0.06 miles
  • survey total: 24.48 miles

Just for the heck of it…

  • believed under road: 13.81 miles
  • grand total: 38.29 miles

To Bechtol or Not to Bechtol?

We took advantage of a few holiday hours by visiting the Treaster Kettle area. Since yesterday’s hunt seemed to indicate railroad headed through Bechtol Gap, we decided to explore below there.With permission from a cooperative landowner, we searched the area south of Treaster Kettle Rd in the general direction of Bechtol Gap.

Unfortunately we found no signs that the railroad passed through the gap and extended NE along the north side of First Mountain. Perhaps it passed through the gap and curved around to follow the north side of Little Mountain in a SW direction…? But as Vince has pointed out, they would soon encounter Heckendorn Gap, which seems an impassable barrier.

Frustrated, we decided to explore along Boal Gap Rd. Just downstream from the upper crossing of Boal Gap Run, we found a couple of disjointed fragments which could be RoW. If so, a lot of the RoW has been ravaged by flooding. We will have to explore at additional points along Boal Gap Run to see if we can verify whether this was railroad grade.

Project Status

  • daily contributions: 0 miles
  • running total: 24.14 miles

Thickhead Connection – 0.5 miles (maps!)

Part I

We began the day by heading NE on Greenlee Rd from Whipple Dam state park. We stopped where Greenlee Rd crosses Greenlee Run and briefly explored the area with no findings.

We then proceeded out Beidleheimer Rd. Vince made a quick stop at the summit of Bell Ridge, to inspect whether the RoW might depart from the road there, with no findings. I proceeded to the sharp bend of BR at the headwaters of Croyle Run. This is where I had first discovered a scrap of stone ballasted RoW several years ago. Kline’s map shows a sawmill at this approximate location.

Heading a short way downstream, I noticed two apparent grade scraps on the north slope of the ravine, just below the road. I then became distracted by Croyle Run Trail coming down the hillside, because it sure looks a lot like a well preserved log slide. I followed it down and across Croyle Run, where it seems to turn into a road. I found remains of a building on the left side of the road, though scraps of tin, asphalt shingle, a cast iron stove, and chimney block makes it seem too new to be lumbering related.

On the theory that a log slide would enter a log pond, or at least a stream above a log pond, I headed farther down Croyle Run looking for prospective sawmill sites. I did find one level spot on the north side of the stream, but found no visible remains, and no signs of a dam. Damn.

About this time Vince radioed me and we met near the headwaters. He agreed the two grade scraps looked interesting and concurred with my opinion that CRT was a log slide. We evaluated the road across the stream and the camp remains, and concluded they probably are not relevent.

We then evaluated the couple of scraps. While it seems likely they are in fact portions of RoW, they don’t seem to go anywhere much. About that time, Vince noticed some interesting stonework which suggests a foundation just inside the sharp bend in the road. It could be that these are the only remains of the Beidleheimer sawmill on Croyle Run. It would make some sense, as the main track would have passed above the mill on the hillside (to deliver logs), while the one scrap of track closer to the stream might have gone onto a ramp to remove cut lumber from the stream side of the mill.

If this is the mill location–nearly at the headwaters of Croyle Run–then the mill must have been steam powered. I had always figured it to be water powered, but the size of the stream makes it unlikely.

Vince then surveyed the known portions of the wye track on the NE side of the road bend, while I enjoyed the weather.

Croyle Run Wye

Part II

Next we headed for Bear Meadows, with the intention of walking the John Wert Path from BM down to Thickhead Mtn Rd. Vince had a theory that (based on their ownership of the area east of Bear Meadows), Kulp should have entered the Sinking Creek valley, traversing the south side of Little Mountain.

While delivering a return vehicle, we stopped and examined the area around Treaster Kettle Rd and Thickhead Mtn Rd. If the railroad went up the north side of Little Mtn, it should be in this area. While I found one scrap that looked to me like RoW, Vince was skeptical due to its brevity. We searched the area further and found nothing other than a lot of very large toadstools.

We proceeded to the beginning of John Wert Path, where I distracted Vince with the suggestion that we take a quick look at Bechtol Road, which branches off of Thickhead Mtn Rd toward Bechtol Gap. We had never explored it, and it seemed like it could fit with Kline’s illustration of a route from the Little Mtn area (and previously-explored Thickhead Mtn switchbacks) over Triester and Sand Mtns.

Bechtol Rd ends at posted land near the NE end of Treaster Mtn. It seems a bit steep for grade, but possibly workable. Near the end, we decided to head up the Bechtol Gap stream a bit to look for possible stream crossings. Very quickly I found an extremely curious shelf which initially appears like a road, but which quickly degrades into likely RoW nearing the stream. We headed upstream and were baffled by where it could have been going. The ravine gets narrow and steep; it seems to be a route to nowhere. Returning downstream, I looked for a branch further NE, while Vince followed the road/RoW back. I found nothing of interest, but Vince found that the road/RoW seems to develop tie depressions, and merges neatly onto the gravel road. So. Maybe this was a branch to access some timber. Further exploration may be necessary.

Heading back onto Thickhead Mtn Rd proper, we went downhill, looking for other possible switchbacks off the road. Bingo! There it is. Neat as pie, another RoW departing TMR and heading downhill (NE) along the north face of Thickhead Mtn. And how have we previously missed this??? We followed this fairly well ballasted stretch downhill a good ways. Eventually it deteriorates into a road, but that’s good because its deep ruts help mark its path. In places, the rock RoW is still clear enough to know you are still on the right track. Eventually we intersected a “Ferns from Hell” section and decided that was a good place to call it quits. Vince reported a nice neat 0.5 mile track, making the day worthwhile. At least as important, we now know the railroad apparently escaped Thickhead Mtn via Bechtol Gap, not Heckendorn Gap (which always seemed unlikely due to its steepness). That should help us locate RoW further NE on Treaster Kettle Rd, almost to Colyer Lake.

Thickhead Lower Switchback

Not content to call it quits, Vince insisted on a brief (solo) jaunt up John Wert Path from TMR. Sure enough, he came back on the radio to confirm that “they ran trains here”. The day thus yielded another area where we will soon log mileage.

Project Status

  • daily contributions: 0.62 miles
  • running total: 24.14 miles

Lingle Valley in the Rain

Ok, this is more like Central Pennsylvania! Rain, or at least the prospect of it… Today we decided to head over to Lingle Valley for a change of scenery (maybe rhododendron and Mountain Laurel instead of Mountain Laurel and rhododendron).

We went up Stone Creek Rd, then over Chestnut Spring Rd to Conklin Rd. Vince had some theory about the rr heading for Otter Gap, as Kline’s map shows it reaching the county line. Since Conklin Rd seems to be solidly between Lingle Valley Rd and Otter Gap, I thought it seemed like a good place for an initial viewing.

We begin by wandering aimlessly about the large horseshoe at the west of Conklin Rd. I noted a nice little spring with an amusing sand spout effect on the bottom. Cute. We then crashed through undergrowth for a while, becoming ensnared in two deer control areas. It sprinkled. Nothing interesting found, other than some suspiciously large and old tree stumps in the area. I then sent Vince to check out the spring before we moved on. It seemed to be taking a long time… Turns out he had developed some theory involving various mounds, dips, and wood scraps around the spring. Ok, ok, I agree it is suspicious. But faint! We followed it a bit upstream, and a bit downstream. It’s suspicious, in that it seems larger rocks are pushed aside, but I’m a little wary. If it is anything, it could be the extreme end of it. Or it could be space aliens. I suggested we move downstream for additional viewings.

We stopped just east of Spruce Mtn Rd on a big curve. We crashed through brush. It rained harder. We saw what could be something. Larger rocks pushed aside? Or not. I suggested we move downstream for additional viewings.

We went perhaps 0.5 mile east on Lingle Valley Rd and found a spot relatively free from brush. Going 100 feet south, I encountered nice, solid, good ole fashioned rock RoW. Bingo! At least we know they came this far. With this waypointed, we decide to head someplace drier for lunch.

After later review, Vince reports that it is almost exactly 5 miles from downtown Milroy to the horseshoe on Conklin Rd. That jibes well with the 5 mile length reported by Kline.

Little Flat Fire Tower

We are still trying to figure out where the large horseshoe shown by Kline might be, so today we decided to explore downhill from Little Flat Fire Tower. We headed out the MST, then I went down Kettle Trail to Lonberger Path, while Vince went down Spruce Gap Tr, cutting east across the end of the mountain to reach the portion of Lonberger Path headed almost due north.

Kettle trail is quite steep, so any grade evidence should be strong. I found nothing. Lonberger Path seems to have some potential in places (e.g. small fills), but seems way too winding in places. Could this really be the gravity tram path? Hmmm.

Vince reported similar steepness where he went. Reaching Lonberger he reported (via radio) a rather nice railroad-scale cut. He decided to walk Lonberger out to Galbraith Gap. While waiting, I explored along Bear Meadows Rd, finding some curious stuff at places. I could believe that Bear Meadows Rd is mostly on the path of the gravity tram, and that these curious bits might be uncovered areas. But then why in the world did they construct Lonberger Path and name it after the operator of the mill at Bear Meadows? I also found a truly odd plant with seedpods (?) that resemble yogurt covered raisins. I think it’s a space alien bush. [Consultation with flora experts reveals that this is white baneberry or doll’s eyes. I will continue to think of it as space alien bush, thank you very much!]

Meeting Vince, he proclaimed that “There is no @$%#%$ way that Lonberger is the tramroad. That last switchback is too steep!”. I think we are ready to move to another area.

On the way up to Little Flat far tar I noticed “something in the woods” on the south side of Laurel Run Rd. Exploration showed what seems a logging road (very rough and rocky) angling up the hillside. It fades out within 75 feet of good rock RoW, which I switched over to. Coming to the sharp curve on the rock RoW nearly at the top of the mountain, I noticed that our recently discovered “alternate roadbed” near that spot looks an awful lot like this logging road. Blech. Vince suggests beer at the Eutaw House. I concur.

Fleet Foot Trail and Bear Gap Road

Today we decided to direct our efforts towards the switchbacks from Laurel Run into Bear Meadows. We started by exploring a bit at the horseshoe on Laurel Run Rd, just below Little Flat fire tower. Upon reexamination, the scrap of possible roadbed we spotted here before sure seems to trend onto Laurel Run Rd. It seems highly likely that the large horseshoe shown by Kline corresponds with the horseshoe in the present road.

We split up, with me headed up Fleet Foot Trail, and Vince headed up the hill near Bear Gap Rd, both starting from Laurel Run Rd. Despite a fresh blue blaze on the signpost at the bottom, I found no blazes on Fleet Foot Trail, and quickly lost it in a burned over area. It was nice having Vince’s new FRS radios to keep in touch, and they generally had no problem covering this distance.

The burned over area was covered knee deep in huckleberry, which made me a bit antsy. Sure enough, after a short distance I nearly stepped on a rather fat rattlesnake lying prostrate in the shrubberies. I decided to continue very cautiously, using a large stick to disturb the area ahead, and sticking to elevated tree trunks whenever possible. I love wildlife. From a distance!

Vince radioed that he had reached the Mid State Trail atop the hill, and after a while I reached it as well. We conferred via radio and decided to meet at the junction of the MST with North Meadows trail, and then explore the saddle in the mountain in that area (which seemed a likely path into Bear Meadows).

The saddle area turned out to be home to the “Indian Wells” mentioned by Thwaites. I had always wondered if these might be areas where rocks were stolen for roadbed building, but examination seemed to rule out the possibility. We saw no good sign of any roadbed crossing the mountain, so maybe we were still in the wrong area.

Vince decided to head directly downhill from the junction, while I chose to go down North Meadows  trail (?) to North Bear Meadows Rd. The descent is rapid, and neither of us saw anything of note. Reaching NBM Rd (gated) at the bottom, we noticed a short stretch on the meadows side which seemed suspicious, but again no clear sign of roadbed. It seems likely the NBM is at least partly former roadbed, so further examination seems warranted.

After picking up the car, we went over to Linden Hall to see if any of my satellite studies seemed to make sense. As on previous visits, clear evidence of the mill’s location seems absent. We gotta find the book on Linden Hall’s history!

After picking up Vince’s truck, we went SW on Laurel Run Rd so I could see his previously-found scrap in Hubler Gap. We stopped several places along LRR which seemed like possible switchback-to-Bear-Meadows areas, with nothing found. In Hubler Gap it turns out they were building nice rock roadbed, even this far out on the system.

We then decided to see if Kline’s map showing track continuing SW along Laurel Run Rd (from the junction with Pine Swamp Rd) was correct. I sent Vince off beyond the stream, which elicited loud shouts. Changing back into boots, I followed and saw what had him so excited. He’d found some really nicely preserved wood-stringers. It appears that at this extreme end of track, they had resorted to a quicker construction method. Ironic that even their garbage track is still visible nearly a century later! We’ll come back and fully document this spur later.

Stone Gap routes?

The path(s) from Stone Creek Rd through Stone Gap seems pretty indeterminate. It seems likely one route is under the existing road through the gap into Penn Roosevelt park. But examination in the SW corner of the gap shows clear RoW headed along the stream into the gap. Then it disappears 🙁 It’s unclear whether it has been wiped by flooding or whether it never continued into the gap. Was this a deadend spur, or was there actually a very big wye formed by two tracks through the gap?