Monday, February 25, 2013

Blue Marsh Lake, PA - Stilling Basin to Old Dry Road Farm


ABOUT THE PARK:
Blue Marsh Lake - U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Old Dry Road Farm - Old Dry Road Farm, Inc.

DIRECTIONS:
GPS Coordinates 40.378065, -76.031179

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Stilling Basil Parking Lot
Alternate parking to shorten hike by 5 miles:
GPS Coordinates 40.369050, -76.044071

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State Hill Boat Ramp Parking - $3 parking fee charged May - September at this lot.

TRAIL MAP:
Blue Marsh Lake Trail System - U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

HIKE DISTANCES:
From Stilling Basin - 11.5 miles
From State Hill Boat Ramp - 6.5 miles

THE HIKE:
Trailhead at corner of the Stilling Basin parking lot - the starting point of the 30-mile Blue Marsh Lake Hiking Trail that circles the entire lake.
Stilling Basin is where water is released from the dam.
Looking back at the dam and trailhead.
The trail makes a sharp right turn and ascends to dam level.
Up at dam level but it's restricted area so you can only look from the trail.
Then Blue Marsh Lake comes into view.
A  male and 3 female Common Mergansers in the lake.
State Hill Boat Launch on the other side of the lake.
Blue Marsh Lake
At the 1-mile marker the trail an old asphalt path for a short distance.
The trail crosses over a smaller dam (?) but there is no water on either side.
Running into a very distant cousin on the dam.
In the winter the lake is drawn down five feet to provide for additional flood water storage.
After the 2-mile marker, the trail goes through a pretty evergreen tunnel.
The trail comes out at the State Hill Boat Launch at 2.5 miles.  The continuation of the trail is to the left.  A restroom building (was open!) is at the far end of the lot on the left and a footpath behind the restroom building also leads back to the Blue Marsh Lake Hiking Trail.
Turning left at the State Hill Boat Launch lot, the trail continues at the Squirrel Run Nature Trail sign.  This is a 1/2-mile loop a little farther along off of the Blue Marsh Lake Hiking Trail so the sign can be a little confusing.
At this intersection at the far end of a cove, the Blue Marsh Trail continues straight.  The trail to the right at the "no horses" sign leads to the restroom building in the State Hill Boat Launch parking area (this trail is not on the map).  On the left is a trail that has no sign at all and that is the Squirrel Run Nature Trail which loops around for 1/2 mile back to the Blue Marsh Trail just a short distance ahead.  (The map shows it as a lollipop, it is not a lollipop but more like a horseshoe shaped trail.)
The Squirrel Run Trail loops through a pretty valley with posts numbered 1 - 9 that correspond to a brochure which is supposedly available at the kiosk but I forgot to look for one. 
Descending from the Squirrel Run Trail back to the Blue Marsh Lake Trail.
Back on the Blue Marsh Lake Hiking Trail, after the 3-mile marker the trails goes through woods heading towards Dry Run Road Farm.
At the bridge crossing over the creek and the Dry Road Farm sign, the trail turns right and following along the creek.
There were a ton of birds in this section but this is the only one I managed to get a clear shot of.
After the 4-mile marker ...
... the trail comes up to the fields of Old Dry Road Farm with mountains visible in the distance.
This hike gives true meaning to the phrase "The Rolling Hills of Pennsylvania" as the trail goes up and over every single one!
At an intersection the hiking trail continues straight ahead (for 25 more miles) but a left turn on Sterners Hill Road forms a nice loop to include the Dry Run Farm historic area.
Sterners Hill Road
At the next intersection turn left on Highland Road which runs between Blue Marsh Lake property on the left and State Game Lands on the right.  There are nice mountain views in the distance.  The road is partially gated to traffic but even beyond the gate, traffic would only be cars going to the parking lot located at the gate but not a single car came up that road while we were on it.
Just before Highland Road started to descend we found a spot up high at the edge of a corn field where we could sit and take a break with nice views of the surrounding countryside.
The views on the State Game Lands side.
A little farther along Highland Road, Dry Road Farm historical buildings on the left.

A two seater?
After exploring Dry Road Farm, continue on Highland Road until you come to a farm on the right with ...
... some horses and ...
... a herd of Scottish Highland cattle!
On the left side of Highland Road, opposite the Scottish Highland cattle herd, turn left and take a farm road along the left side of fields.  This is shown as a line running parallel to Blue Marsh Road heading towards mile marker 3 on the map.  Although the map does not show this connecting back to the hiking trail, there is a connection.
There is a distinct side trail on the left (where Shawnee is standing) that runs straight into the Blue Marsh Lake Hiking Trail in just a few steps.  The woods road along the field probably does continue on to connect back up with the trail but I did not go that way so I can't say for sure.  There is a woods road that comes in from the right just before the 3-mile marker on the hiking trail and that is probably it.  Either way, turn right on the hiking trail.
Watch for the cove where the Squirrel Run Trail begins and ends on the right and take the unmarked trail on the far side of the cove on the left (not on the map).
The trail along the cove comes out at ...
... State Hill Boat Launch.  Walk through the parking lot and straight out the entrance to connect back with the Blue Marsh Hiking Trail and retrace back to Stilling Basin.
Back at the dam.

HIKE SUMMARY:
[  0.00]  Facing the dam, turn left at the end of the parking lot at the Blue Marsh Lake Hiking Trail sign and kiosk
[  0.80]  Trail turns left and becomes partially paved
[  1.00]  1-mile marker
[  1.15]  Trail turns right across earthen dam
[  2.00]  Trail turns left at 2-mile marker
[  2.45]  At State Hill Boat Launch turn left to continue on trail at Squirrel Run Nature Trail sign
[  2.60]  Turn left where trail crosses over at "no horses allowed" sign on the right; this is the Squirrel Run Nature trail but there is no sign
[  2.80]  Cross bridge over creek then ascend steps
[  3.10]  Squirrel Run Nature Trail ends, turn left on Blue Marsh Lake Hiking Trail
[  3.50]  3-mile marker
[  4.25]  Cross bridge at Dry Road Farm sign, turn right and follow trail along creek
[  4.50]  4-mile marker
[  5.50]  Turn left on Sterners Hill Road East
[  5.70]  Turn left on Highland Road
[  5.80]  Continue on Highland Road beyond gate and parking lot on left
[  6.50]  Continue beyond another set of gates
[  6.75]  Turn left into Old Dry Run Farm
[  7.25]  After visiting historic Old Dry Run Farm return to Highland Road and turn left
[  7.75]  Farm with Scottish Highland cattle on right, turn left on mowed farm road running along left side of fields; continue straight at intersection
[  8.30]  Watch for footpath on the left, turn left and after a few steps turn right on Blue Marsh Lake Hiking Trail
[  8.75]  3-mile marker
[  9.15]  Turn left at "no horses allowed" sign on path along cove opposite the Squirrel Run Nature Trail
[  9.30]  Come out behind restroom building at State Hill Boat Launch, proceed to parking lot, turn right and continue to entrance of lot
[  9.40]  Keep straight through lot entrance to pick up the Blue Marsh Lake Hiking Trail
[  9.50]  2-mile marker, trail turns right just after marker
[11.50]  Back at parking lot

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