IF YOU GO
Where: Cresco Heights is in Cresco, Pa. On Route 390/191 in Cresco, just north of the railroad bridge and one-tenth mile south of the library, take Hardytown Road. Follow Hardytown about three-tenths of a mile and go right into the entrance to the PennDOT materials depot. The trailhead is straight ahead on your left.
GPS coordinates: 41.154336, -75.288128
Trail information: The trail is out and back, about three miles. It is moderately difficult with long uphill stretches and often rocky underfoot.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:
- Ample parking.
- Wear fluorescent orange. Something is always in season on game lands.
- Carry water and a walking stick. Tell someone where you are going and when you will be back.
- No facilities. Pack out what you pack in.
- Thanks to the Pennsylvania Game Commission for maintaining and managing wildlife habitat like the 4,675 acres in Game Lands 221, which also protects the pure, cold waters of Brodhead Creek’s headwaters tributaries — Mill Creek, Rattlesnake Creek, Devil’s Hole and many smaller, unnamed tributaries.
Take a hike toward a new point of view
By Carol Hillestad
I’ve driven this stretch of Routes 191 and 390 in Cresco almost every day for 30 years.
Past Seven Pines Park, the road runs straight as an arrow, pointing toward a high, forested ridge rising in the distance. I’ve seen it winter and summer, against skies of boiling thunder clouds, lightning and rainbows. I’ve seen its snow-laden forests against a blue and purple backdrop as the sun sinks. I’ve seen it in pale morning light, tipped with spring green.
I knew its name — Cresco Heights. But that’s pretty much all I knew about it. Last fall, three friends and I bushwhacked our way to the top though thickets of head-high saplings and cat briar. Now, we’re standing on a lichen-covered rock bluff at 1,700 feet, bare except for pitch pines, grasses and scrub oaks.
It’s the first day of bear season here in Game Lands 221, and the leaves are off the trees, opening up a 180-degree view. To the east, we see the long sweep of ridgeline above the wild and scenic Delaware River. Then Delaware Water Gap with a sliver of New Jersey beyond, followed by the slopes at Camelback with early snow, Wind Gap, and south along the Appalachian Trail. That stretch of road I know so well I now see as a shining silver ribbon hundreds of feet below.
The land spread out on all sides is the drainage area of Brodhead Creek. All the water that rises naturally from the heights around me and from springs, wetlands, and creeks, all the rain and snow melt, all the water that is pumped from wells and runs through septic systems — every drop in the watershed streams toward that gap in the hills, 10 miles away as the crow flies. Filtered and purified naturally by the earth (the best water treatment plant there is), it will become drinking water for millions of people before reaching the Atlantic.
It’s getting on for noon. Our maps haven’t been helpful, and none of us are eager to go back down the same path we clawed our way up. Knowing that there’s a fire road that leads back to the trailhead, we decide to keep to the bluffs and head west.
Solid rock underfoot is a delight after our uphill scramble earlier. Lichens like pixie-cup, British soldier, and reindeer “moss” grow in the crevices. We see a variety of pincushion mosses and evergreen ferns, a small bird’s nest, titmice and juncos. An eagle glides by.
Soon we meet a woods road that heads in the right direction, and in no time have reached the fire road. Rutted, eroded, and steep, it takes us back to the trailhead.
Driving home, I have the oddest sensation of being in two places at the same time — on the road, yet also high on the rocky heights looking down at my flimsy, fleeting self. A new, humbling, and uplifting point of view.
Carol Hillestad of Cresco is a writer and hike leader for Get Outdoors Poconos, a free hike series administered by Brodhead Watershed Association.
Comments from other hikers:
ANONYMOUS: A word of caution about the approach to Cresco Heights with pets. While walking up the road about a third of a mile from the parking area, my dog ventured into the brush. A few seconds later he was howling in pain with his foot in a trap. He tried to chew his way out and broke several teeth before I was able to pry the trap open. Needless to say, we made an emergency trip to the vet.
BWA note: Hunting and trapping are allowed on state game lands. Letting a dog off leash is not safe.
ANONYMOUS: Carol Hillestad, thank you so much for blazing trails for us. I find you, your articles and videos to be such delightful resources before going out to hike a trail for the first time. The more I know ahead of time, the more confident I am to explore! 🙂