Go Poconos

 

Table Rock

IF YOU GO

Where: Take Route 611 to the village of Delaware Water Gap, Pa. At the Deer Head Inn, take Mountain Road about one-half mile to the first left. Follow this gravel road to the parking area. Be careful of extreme potholes. Additional parking is available a few hundred feet further up Mountain Road.

Trail information: Hike is 2.25 miles round trip. Half of the hike is fairly level, easy walking on a wide woods road. Half is rocky and steep in places.

Path to take: From the larger parking area at the trailhead, go left on the wide path, past Lake Lenape on your right. Head up the slope. You will start to see steep cliffs on your right. When trails veer off to the left, keep bearing right. After about 20 minutes OF walking, you will see a turn to the right. Take this right and continue along the trail with Caledonia Creek on your left (side spurs lead through rhododendrons to the creek). Continue bearing right and you will come out onto Table Rock. Return the way you came.

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

• Trailhead parking is limited.
• No restrooms or trash cans. Pack out what you pack in.
• Leashed dogs welcome. Clean up after your dog.
• No hunting.
• Boots required. Hiking stick suggested.

 


 

Hunting for signs of a glacier at Table Rock

By Carol Hillestad

 

On this cold and blowy November morning, the golden sunlight slants low, burnishing drifts of fallen oak leaves. The first flurries sparkle in the air. Leafless trees reveal views in all directions, including Delaware Water Gap, framed by a fine tracery of bare twigs and branches.

I’m standing with nature educator Pete Steele on Table Rock, a formation of red sandstone about 420 million years old. And the view we’re interested in at the moment is right underneath our feet.

We’re looking for striations — the straight, parallel grooves caused by rock fragments lodged in the base of a glacier. As the mountain of ice moved, hard fragments trapped by its monstrous weight would gouge the bedrock below. The striations at Table Rock have fascinated naturalists since the 1800s.

At 70 feet long and 6 inches wide, the striations documented here are the longest in Pennsylvania. We thought grooves like that would be easy to spot. We crisscrossed the flat, lichen-covered rock. We compared compass directions with a naturalist’s detailed descriptions written in 1884. We wondered why the heck we couldn’t see what had to be right under our noses.

And then, like an optical illusion that suddenly shifts, there they were.

Long, straight, parallel lines revealed by little bluestem, a native grass, growing in the striations. The grooves had filled with leaf litter, debris and soil, becoming natural planters where windblown seeds took root.

As the light changed, one striation snapped into relief. We weren’t crazy. We were seeing evidence of the last glacier to shape our part of the world, 10,000 years ago, just a moment on geology’s clock.

There is a lot more to see at Table Rock — sturdy red cedars with their blue berries beloved by birds, craggy pitch pines and reindeer moss, evergreen Christmas fern and common polypody fern. And of course, the views.

On the way here, we’ve already passed peaceful Lake Lenape along the wide open trail. A couple miles ahead on that route is a high viewpoint on Mount Minsi, but we had sheared off to the west, circling the base of Table Rock. We’d passed a mossy slide waterfall, one of many falls along the clear, cold Caledonia Creek. Pete told tales of “catamount or mountain lion, cougar, puma, panther” that still roamed here in the 1850s.

Now, ready to head back to the trailhead, we take an unblazed path along the ridge, enjoying views to the east and north. We can hear Route 80, then see where it crosses the broad expanse of the Delaware River. You may have crossed that bridge after a heavy spring rain and seen a cascade tumbling out of the forest on the Pennsylvania side. That’s Caledonia Creek taking its last headlong plunge down to the Delaware.

The path zigzags downhill. On the far side of a beautiful rhododendron tunnel, we’re standing at the end of Lake Lenape, in view of the parking area where we’d started.

Pete points to a small fern growing from a mossy boulder. “Ebony spleenwort,” he says. From ancient rock to this delicate fern, itself a relic of millions of years ago, it’s been quite a day.

 

Carol Hillestad is a hike leader and writer for Get Outdoors Poconos, a grant-funded series administered by Brodhead Watershed Association.

 

Photos by Carol Hillestad

 

 
Nature educator Pete Steele inspecting glacial striations defined by grasses on Table Rock.  

 

   
Caledonia Creek is dammed to formed Lake Lenape near the trailhead to Table Rock.    

 

 
A massive mossy root system near Caledonia Creek.  

 

 
Common polypody fern in the leaf litter.

 

Purple-stemmed ebony spleenwort grows from a moss-covered rock.

 

 

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