I am getting tired of being kept out of the woods by snow, and a fatbike really isn’t in the budget for this year. So, I decided to get a pair of snowshoes. I put on my warmest hat, took them over to Boyd Big Tree Preserve and went for a walk.
It was a good time. I even took some Mapillary photos of my walk for the greater glory of Openstreetmap.
As part of my continuing quest to hike all 798 miles of the Pennsylvania State Forest Hiking Trails System, I drove out to the Tuscarora State Forest to pick up where I left off on the Tuscarora Trail.
My plan was to hike from Cowpens Road to Fenton Knob, and then turn around and hike back to the car.
The trailhead parking on Cowpen’s Road is next to a very nice overlook, so I stopped to take in the scenery.
The hike started on top of the mountain, so the first two miles or so were a gentle downhill to a small stream called Laurel Run. I stopped here to top off my water bottles.
The subsequent climb was ridiculous. Forward progress meant picking my way through a jumble of boulders, straight up the steep face of Sherman’s mountain. Also, the rocks were covered in slippery leaves, so it was one step forward, and half a step sliding backwards. Progress was slow.
Once I made it up on top, the trail followed the ridge line of Sherman’s mountain for a little while. I stopped for a rest near the site of an old fire tower before descending into the next valley.
By the time I arrived in the next valley, I was running low on water. I was disappointed to find a muddy swamp instead of a nice clear mountain stream. The only drinking water was full of frogs and tadpoles. Not a problem; I had my water filter, and so I pumped a fresh liter of swamp water, and stopped for a while to eat trail mix and contemplate the universe.
At this point, I had been walking for several hours and had not seen any other people. It was wonderful.
I didn’t make very much headway with my philosophical musings, so I strapped on my pack and continued hiking. After a quick up-and-down over a smaller ridge, I started the climb up to Fenton Knob.
This climb was almost comical. It was steeper, rockier, and leafier than Sherman’s Mountain. It was ridiculous.
After a great deal of grumbling and stumbling, cursing and complaining, I made it to the top!
Now, all I had to do was turn around, and walk back to my car. This meant descending the steep mountainside that I had just scrambled up, which is even trickier. I fell more than once, and ended up scooting part of the way down on my butt. I’m sure it looked silly, but better to look like a buffoon than to run the risk of turning an ankle in the middle of the woods all by my lonesome.
By the time I scooted my way back down to Laurel Run, I was in dire need of refreshment, so I fired up the ESBIT stove, and made a gigantic pot of coffee. Then I sat next to a little cascade in the stream, drank my coffee, and engaged in additional philosophical introspection.
I made a little video of the scene.
Isn’t it lovely?
After consuming a large quantity of coffee (and a considerable number of candy bars), my spirits were much improved. I walked the rest of the way back to the car without incident.
Here is a map of my adventure. (I GPS logged the whole thing for the greater glory of OpenStreetMap.)
My plan for the moment is to try to complete as many miles as I can on out-and-back dayhikes. This means walking twice as many miles, but I also get to go whenever I want, without being beholden to anyone else’s scheduling constraints.
In any event, walking alone deep in the woods is good for your spiritual well-being.
So, I drove out to the Tuscarora State Forest, parked the car at the hiker parking lot, and set out to walk to the northern boundary of the State Forest. I stopped off at Flat Rock Vista to take a photo.
I continued my way down through the Wildcat Hollow, where I came upon a little cascade in the stream. I stopped to shoot some video. I discovered that I am a very awkward personality on camera.
You can see from my hat and the lack of foliage, that I am very far behind on my blogging. This hike was about 6 weeks ago.
I continued hiking north until I crossed the boundary of the State Forest.
At this point I had finished the Tuscarora Trail from PA 233 to the edge of the State Forest. I just needed to get back to my car. Not wanting to retrace my steps, I decided to loop back on the red-blazed Warner Trail.
Not far down the Warner, I came upon a swollen creek.
This was a calamity. I didn’t want to walk around the rest of the day with wet feet, but turning around seemed like a cowardly way out. So, I took off my socks, rolled up my pants legs, and forded the stream.
One of the reasons I hike in trail runners instead of hiking boots is that the trail runners are supposed to dry out quickly if you get them wet. I was now in a position to test that theory. I hiked on for about two more miles, then stopped for lunch and gave my shoes some time to dry out.
By the time I had eaten my lunch and was ready to hit the trail again, everything was dry. I put my socks back on and hiked back to the car.
Here is a map of my adventure. The blue line is the Tuscarora Trail. The Red line is the Warren Trail. The green is the boundary of the state forest.
So, That takes care of PA233 to the edge of the State Forest, and I already hiked PA233 to Cowpens road a long time ago. So, I’ll be starting my next hike on Cowpens Road, and heading south.
When we last saw our heroes, they had just arrived at an Appalachian Trail shelter, and were preparing to spend the night with a possibly dangerous maniac.
“I told the VA to go fuck themselves!” he said. My companions and I exchanged worried glances. Perhaps we should just move along, and pitch our tarps a little bit farther down the trail.
Nobody wanted to be a girly-man, and so nobody said anything. When the strange man finished his tirade against the government, he asked us what day it was, and how long we had been hiking. We told him that we had only started hiking this morning. He said that he had been on the trail for about two months.
As we boiled our instant dinners, John (our new eccentric friend) told us that he had thru-hiked the entire AT twice before, and done a sizeable portion of the PCT as well. We had rather less heroic feats to boast of.
Conversation turned to food, the weather, and camping gear; interspersed with incoherent rants about the government and the military-industrial complex.
I found it somewhat unsettling that this man, whose views were extreme to the point of madness, had political opinions not very different from my own.
It started to drizzle after dinner, and so we all went to bed around 8:00.
The snoring in the shelter was unbelievable. After a few hours of tossing and turning, I took my bivy and marched some distance away to try to get some sleep.
Day broke shortly thereafter. We ate our breakfast, topped off our water bottles, and bid adieu to our new friend. He was nice enough to get a group photo of our trio.
The skies were gloomy, and it began to drizzle as we climbed Second Mountain. A V of some sort of white geese or swans flew overhead.
As we neared the Swatara Gap, the trail opened up, and so did the skies.
Without trees for cover, we started to get wet. I considered donning my rain gear, but ultimately decided against it. Without it, I would be cold, wet, and miserable. With it, I would be hot, sweaty, wet, and miserable.
Klinutus avoided this conundrum by deploying an umbrella. This looked highly ridiculous, but actually seemed to work pretty well.
We walked the last few miles down the Swatara Rail Trail into Lickdale, where we feasted on Wendy’s Cheeseburgers and waited for our ride.
Note:I’m about a month late in writing up this post. Sorry if the snow in the pictures causes you any emotional distress.
The winter of 2013-2014 was a long, miserable bastard. My friends and I decided that as soon as the weather was even remotely spring-like, we would undertake a backpacking trip. We decided to hike a section of the AT that stymied Klinutus and I once before.
The forecast was for rain. Cold, unrelenting, pouring rain for two solid days. Sensible people would have rescheduled the hike, but we are not sensible people.
The hike began with a climb. A long, slow, wet climb from the valley floor.
Part way up the climb, we came upon another hiker, who was just starting up from a rest. He was an older man with a gray beard, a wild look in his eye, and what appeared to be military insignia sewed onto his hiking clothes. He glared at us briefly, and then strode briskly up the mountain at nearly twice our speed. His speed was probably to our advantage, because he looked like a crazy person, and we didn’t want to have to share the Rausch Gap Shelter with a lunatic.
Once we crested the mountain, the rain let up a bit, and we were presented with a pleasantly level walk through the foggy woods. I’m normally only good for about 10 miles of hiking per day. It was 13 miles to the Rausch Gap shelter. We didn’t want to stop and pitch our tarps if we could help it because of the impending monsoon. So, we hiked on. Luckily, the rain held off for the most part, but I was starting to run out of gas over the last three miles.
We were all greatly relieved when the trail finally started to dip into Rausch Gap, not long before sunset. We arrived at the shelter to find an occupied sleeping bag already inside it. Not a problem, these shelters are large enough to hold several hikers.
As we set down our packs, the sleeping bag began to stir, and its occupant emerged; wild-eyed, grey bearded, with military insignia on his chest.
“I told the VA go to fuck themselves,” he said.
To be continued…
Day 1 Pictures:
From PA 325, the trail goes up.
From PA 325, the trail climbs up and up and up.
It’s a cold, foggy drizzly climb
Me, huffing and puffing my way up the mountain.
Sign near the top of the mountain.
Once we got to the top, it was a fairly flat walk along the ridge.