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Exploring Shoemaker Ridge During Prowl the Sproul

During the weekend of July 17th to July 19th, DCNR Bureau of Forestry, Keystone Trails Association and the Western Clinton Sportsmen's Club sponsored the 6th annual Prowl the Sproul Hiking Weekend. This was the third time that Shari and I had attended Prowl the Sproul. They were enjoyable events and we made sure to mark our calendars for this year's event as well. We arrived on Friday evening and had an opportunity to talk with fellow hikers as well as members of the Western Clinton Sportsmen's Association and DCNR rangers. We chose our hike for Saturday and opted for a 5 mile hike on a trail just off Shoemaker Ridge, located near the Chuck Keiper Trail.

HIKE ALERT: We did this hike during the 6th annual Prowl the Sproul, sponsored by DCNR and the Keystone Trails Association. This was a guided hike on old forest roads and railroad grades. The trail was easy to follow as it did follow old roads and railroad grades, but it was un-blazed. Also, during the summer months, some of the trail could become overgrown, especially along the creek banks. If you plan on doing this hike, please be prepared and take along a map, compass, and/or GPS. Hopefully this circuit hike will become a popular hike and the trail will be maintained and blazed in the future.

Trailhead: N 41° 13.67'
W 77° 40.98'
Total Elevation: 1860'
Trail Length: 5.9 miles
Hike Time: 4 hours
Hike Type: Loop
Difficulty Rating: 96
Near: Shoemaker Ridge Road,
off Beech Creek Road,
off route PA144.

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The trailhead for this hike is located at the end of Shoemaker Ridge Road. In order to get to the trailhead you need to make your way to route PA144. The easiest way to find this route is either at the interstate I80 exit at Snow Shoe and head north, or from the town of Renovo, PA and head south. Once on PA144, you will want to keep your eyes open for a dirt road called Beech Creek Road. Heading north on route PA144, you'll find this road on your right, just past the Fish Dam Run Overlook area. Heading south on route PA144, you'll find Beech Creek Road on your left, just after you crest the top of the hill and begin a slight descent. Once you are on Beech Creek Road, you will want to take your first left. This is Shoemaker Ridge Road. Drive out Shoemaker Ridge Road for approximately four and three quarter miles until you come to the end of the road and the intersection of two camp roads. Park your cars here to start the hike.

There were eleven of us on this hike, so we had a pretty good turn out. This hike was to be on old forest roads, tram roads, and railroad beds. The trail was not blazed and when I asked if it would be, the DCNR ranger stated that it probably would not be. With that in mind, I would suggest taking along a map, GPS, and/or compass if you were to try and do this hike.

We started our hike heading east back a camp lane. Just shy of the camp we cut off to our left on a recently cleared trail and then soon emerged on a forest road. This was about 0.4 miles into our hike. We turned left and followed the grassy forest road along the top of the Shoemaker Ridge.

At about 0.9 miles into the hike we came across a gas well. This was an older, shallow gas well, but it still looked to be in functioning order. At the point, because of the gas well, we had a nice view to our south, overlooking the hollow through which Shoemaker Branch flows. One of the retired DCNR rangers gave us some background information and history about the gas wells in the area as we paused here to take in the view. After a short time we were on our way, continuing to hike east on the forest road.

At 1.5 miles we came across another old road merging from the left. We would head down this road towards Baker Run in a short while, but first we continued out this forest road to a powerline clearing. We entered the powerline clearing at 1.9 miles where we turned right and walked a short distance until we were at our second vista of the hike. We discovered a small den of copperhead snakes under one of the rocks at this vista and of course everyone had to gather around to try and view the snakes. Once that got old we turned around and headed back the way we came, turning right at the previous intersection and descending to Baker Run.

We encountered one switch-back on our descent, and at about 3.1 miles into our hike we reached the banks of Baker Run and our first of many stream crossings. Luckily the stream was relatively low and our guide had been out here earlier in the week making sure that stones were positioned correctly in the stream to make for easier crossings. We all made it across without incident and once on the north bank of Baker Run we turned left and followed it upstream.

For the next mile we crisscrossed Baker Run a few times. Sometimes we were hiking on an old railroad bed, and others we were following a trail that paralleled the banks of the stream. At 4.1 miles into the hike we can to the intersection of two streams; Benjamin Run to our right and Clendenin Run to our left. We went to the left and proceeded to follow Clendenin Run upstream.

After a half mile of hiking we paused to eat our lunch. It was a nice spot with a small waterfall just below the trail. Everyone kind of went off into their own groups and not much talking was done as I think everyone was rather hungry at this point in the hike. After about 20 minutes we were soon on our way.

At 5 miles into the hike we came across an large swimming hole. There was a huge rock next to the swimming hole and one of our braver, and younger, hikers decided to jump off the rock and into the swimming hole. From the expression on his face as he climbed out, the water must have been refreshingly cold. From the swimming hole we hiked another 0.3 miles where we left the stream behind and began a steep climb back to the top of Shoemaker Ridge.

After a quarter mile of steep climbing we came upon a camp. We paused a moment at the camp to catch our breath and then continued our climb, which was much easier now, following the camp road. After another three tenths of a mile of hike we were back at our cars and the trailhead for this hike.

This was a nice hike and I enjoyed the fact that it was lead by a DCNR ranger. We were able to see areas that typically we wouldn't have the opportunity to see. These areas are frequented by hunters and fisherman, but rarely by hikers as these trails were not blazed. There are many, many old forest roads and railroad beds in our state forests, its just that not many people know about them. The Prowl the Sproul gave us an opportunity to explore some of them.

Two DCNR trucks mark the trailhead for this hike.

Descending from Shoemaker Ridge towards Baker Run.

Looking upstream at our first crossing of Baker Run.

The further upstream we went, the more riffles and waterfalls we encountered.

This was a popular swimming hole in its time. One of the braver, and younger, hikers decided to take a dip.

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