Wilderness Treks, Inc., based in Ralston, provides guided scenic tours for groups through the beautiful and serene Loyalsock Forest Wild Area.
“I enjoy hiking myself,” said Joe Cuff, creator and owner of Wilderness Treks. “To me, well-being is commensurate with activity.”
Last year, Wilderness Treks got underway by obtaining a licensing agreement with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and is entering its first full-season now.
“I hunted back in there and back on the mountain, and it wasn’t until the end of last year that I found a secret trail on the back of the mountain,” Cuff said.
The unmarked trail isn’t even marked on topographical maps, he said.
“It’s a trail that very few poeple have ever used except the local hunters, and they try to keep it a secret.”
Hikes are lead along the path through the summer and into December, Cuff said.
Before he found a long forgotten path, climbing to the top of “magnificent McIntyire Mountain” was nearly impossible.
The trail Cuff uncovered leads up the mountain and into the “old town of McIntyre.”
What Cuff discovered was an incline plane, one of three in the country, that was used until 1886 to haul coal cars up and down the mountain using only gravity.
The tracks and mechanics are long gone, but a “nice hiking path” is left, leading past waterfalls and mine workings, Cuff said.
The scenic Band Rock Vista can also be seen during a variety of hikes.
At the top of the mountain are about 30 grave markers from the second half of the 1800s.
“Our premier hike takes about three hours,” Cuff said of the 1.3 mile hike, adding that customers can also take the six-hour long hike or shorter trips.
A shorter hike takes people to Dutchman’s Run Falls. Hikers can travel at their own pace, sit when necessary and enjoy waterfalls during warmer temperatures.
Hikers meet at the Ralston General Store and are bussed to DCNR land, where the adventure begins.
After the climbers reach the top, a vehicle shuttles them down the mountain and back to the store, where the lunch is included in the cost of the hike.
If the group wants, hikers can be driven to the top of the mountain and hike back down,
Hikes are most often lead on Saturday morning and again in the afternoon if necessary.
“But for special occasions, I’ll take people up most anyday of the week,” Cuff commented.
The hardwood forest features “a great many ancient cherry trees,” he said. To protect the area, Cuff said hikers “take nothing and leave only footprints.”
In addition to “high hiking boots” recommended items are listed on the Wilderness Treks Inc. Web site, www.wildernesstreksinc.com. A light rain jacket is suggested, which comes in handy for taking a seat on a wet log. Prices and futher details can also be found on the site.
For Cuff, the trail provides hikers with more than exercise.
“This is not only a glimpse into the history of this area. This is also a glimpse into the future,” he said.
“What once was the most decimated region on earth because of the industrial complex, is now pristine beautiful forest after 100 years of growth. There’s almost no physical signs of any human activity on that mountain.”
The trail provides “many, many opportunities for photographs.”
To schedule a hike, contact the Ralston General Store at 995-5544.
Hikers and crew of Wilderness Treks Inc. stop along a path up McIntyre mountain ejoy the natural foliage and prepare a hiking trail for future hikers.