The joys of a 2-car hike

Robert Stanger Contributing writer

During the many years that I have been a seasonal resident along the Allegheny River south of Warren, the times have been few that I’ve enjoyed the convenience of having two cars at the camp.

However, through hikes and river trips I’ve enjoyed when I’ve had my wife drop me off at the starting point of an outing, and then pick me up at the terminal point, I am well aware of the feasibility of having two cars at one’s disposal.

I will cite here a few outings in the Warren area that can perhaps be best enjoyed by those who can leave cars at the respective start and end points of the outings, thus avoiding having to retrace one’s way if on a hike. (River trips, of course, are “one-way” excursions since they are invariably downstream.)

I will start by citing the first hike I made in the area, which I have enjoyed many times over the years.

This is from the river terminus of the Tanbark Trail located on Route 62 about nine miles north of Tidioute and hiking (much of it uphill) about 3.5 miles to the parking lot at Sandstone Springs on Route 357.

The sloped portion of this hike winds among large rock outcroppings through old-growth forest. The walk can be a misty one if made early in the day. The hike was one of the few I made (at times in company with my wife) when first camping in the area, as we vacationed for several years at the former Cloverleaf Campground located just south of the trail on Route 62.

I recall one morning I had just completed a trek up the trail and had started to drive back to the campground when a very large black bear ran across the road from the riverside, climbed the bank for a few feet, and then stood on its hind legs against a tree and looked down on me in my car which I had stopped partially off the road.

The traffic that Sunday morning was sparse, and I motioned a car coming from the rear to pause beside me, and when the driver did, I remarked to him, “Do you see the bear?”

“What bear?” he replied.

“That bear right there,” I replied, pointing to the animal (which at that point got down on to its four legs and moved off.)

“Well, I’ll be doggone,” the motorist remarked before driving off.

In another of my hikes up that trail, I recall seeing a mother raccoon walking though the flat area covered with saplings that commences where the slope up from the river levels off. The mother raccoon was followed by three kits in a line behind her.

In the same area, parking a car at Sandstone Springs and another at the parking lot near Hearts Content on Forest Road makes for a pleasant outing, as that portion of the Tanbark Trail is a scenic one that passes beneath a huge rock outcropping which is a favorite camping site.

This is an easier walk than the uphill one from Route 62 to Sandstone Spring, and it’s only about three miles long.

For a quite long (about 6 miles) and very scenic hike, I recommend the walk from Dunham Siding (located about three miles from Heart’s Content) to Chapman State Park on the service road that runs between those two points.

(To access both the state park and Dunham Siding, I recommend using the Forest Service map of the Allegheny National Forest.)

Starting at Dunham Siding, the narrow service road crosses a portion of the ANF and then enters 9,800-acre State Game Lands 29, where it follows the West Branch of Tionesta Creek all the way to the state park.

Most of this hike is slightly downhill particularly since much of it follows the creek’s northern flow.

Game (wild turkeys, grouse, deer, and bear) is profuse this area, and there is a large beaver dam located on the creek not far from the state park.

The presence of so much game in this area may account for it being the possible habitat of mountain lions as well.

The service road between Dunham Siding and the park was extensively upgraded a few years ago, but before this work was completed, I would often see unmistakable mountain lion signs during bike rides along this road. There would be scat that could hardly come from any other animal, as well as what appeared to be feline tracks in the plentiful patches of mud.

I have not heard of any mountain lion sightings in this area, which is somewhat of a mystery to me. But perhaps their numbers are few and they are very wary, or perhaps they have died out over the years.

The work on this road, which included the replacement of bridges, installation of culverts, and fills added to low muddy areas, had made for easier hiking as well as biking.

Switching to a different area across the Allegheny River, the walk down through State Game Lands 86 from the parking lot off Davey Hill Road near the microwave tower to Althom is also a scenic one. It’s also mostly downhill and is about six miles long

The terminus for this walk is Game Lands parking lot in Althom near the mouth of Thompson Run.

This walk is a colorful one in the fall when the trees turn color.

I have also ridden a bike in this area, and the start of a ride several years ago was the occasion for another black bear encounter.

As I started my ride, I glimpsed off the left side of the road what I thought was a bear that was standing up with its right paw in the air. When I turned back to check out the sighting, it turned out to be indeed a bear that was now on all four legs and was looking up at me. The animal quickly ran off into the surrounding brush.

An interesting feature of State Game Lands 86 are the long swaths cleared of trees that are covered with long grass. These swaths provide grazing areas for deer and would give hunters clear shots at game.

They are bordered by areas of thick brush, which a Game Commission officer once told me to provide needed “refuge areas” for bears.

“There are a lot of bears in Game Lands 86,” the officer said.

There are also a number of fields in this area which the Game Commission plants with crops to feed game.

The road down to the river at Althom divides a mile or to from its start off Davy Hill Road. The straight portion descends into a deep creek valley and then climbs back up. The road to the left follows higher ground and makes for an easier and more enjoyable hike.

The two road sections rejoin later on the slope leading down to the river.

A sharp spur leading off the left portion of the road dead-ends in an area that was once a farm but is now part of the game land.

This spur should not be followed as it makes the walk too long if taken as a side excursion.

But the old farm is an interesting site, with huge old apple trees and an old pond. The Game Commission also grows crops there for game, and there is an interesting assortment of other vegetation on the property.

A sign on one grassy passage through the area is marked “Bear Lane.”

When one reaches the long slope leading down to the river makes and makes the descent, a hiker well realizes that the Allegheny River flows through quite a deep valley.

Robert Stanger has lived seasonally for over 40 years along the Allegheny River and has the stories to tell about it.