Trip Report: Black Forest Trail: 7/20-7/22

Posted by Michael Martin on

On Friday, Max, Glenn, Nick, and I headed out to walk the 42-mile Black Forest Trail in north-central Pennsylvannia. Effectively, we met up in the little town of Slate Run, where we enjoyed a quick lunch at the Hotel Manor (this really is a great trailside restaurant, BTW). After an abortive attempt to talk our waitress into joining us (she looked like she was thinking about it), we headed out to the trailhead.

At Max's request, we were going to walk the trail clockwise, rather than the more conventional counter-clockwise course (as recommended by the guidebook). I really had no idea what the difference was but, after we parked the cars at about mile 2 (using the guidebook's map mileage), I learned that we'd be going up and down all afternoon and evening Friday, in the rain. Somehow, I seem to be getting a lot of rather adverse weather recently. I hope that trend doesn't continue for Iceland ... The weather made the beautiful views of the trail rather cloudy, as my pictures may convey, but the temperatures stayed very reasonable.

Anyway, we climbed out of Slate Run Hollow, out of Foster Hollow, out of Little Slate Run Hollow. People will say, "Oh, there are no mountains in Pennsylvannia! The hollows top out at only 2,000 ft or so." Those people have probably not climbed three or four of them in quick succession. Anyway, we reached the top of Naval Run (before the climb) at sunset, roughly 10 miles or so from where we parked. It started rainining in good earnest, so the shelters went up, we cowered beneath them, and passed a dank, cheerless night.

We rolled out of bed the next morning at 6am. It had stopped raining, and we were walking. We climbed out of Naval Run, then overcame a particularly steep climb out of Callahan Run. I asked Max if the trail would do this all day. He replied that, basically, the trail wandered around the plateau looking for gullies to dive into. Nevertheless, after Callahan Run, the trail gave us a break, and we flew through the western section, walking about 21 miles, and reaching the 10-mile mark. We camped up high, near a trickle of water, enjoyed a campfire and some whisky, and strung up a bear bag.

We were glad we did, as during the night we heard a great deal of animalistic rustling in the forest. Now, I'm not one to cry "Bear!" easily as there's using some varmit or another rustling around a campsite, but this one was breaking some very large branches. I remember thinking, "That's probably a bear working on some blueberry bushes!" and " It's on the other side of Max so it has to get through him first!" Anyway, the bear, if that's what it was, didn't bother us. Apparently, blueberries smell better than Moutainhouse, if you're a bear.

Next morning, 5:45am, we were powering for the cars. Up a particularly steep and rocky Red Run to lots of views, even with the clouds, and then a long descent past the old slate quarry and back to the cars. There was a discussion about trail difficulty as someone had said that the Black Forest Trail was the "most difficult" in the Mid-Atlantic. We didn't feel that way, but we thought that the subjective impression of difficulty depends on enough variables to make such opinions rather difficult to judge. Honestly, if the entire trail were like the 15 miles in the south eastern quadrant of the map, it might be able to claim that title.

In the end we walked something like 10.5-21-11 over a total elapsed time of 44 hours and 45 minutes. (There's a little ambiguity about the mileage as my GPS read 44.50 miles total.) We reached the cars and headed off to Williamsport, where we appreciated the cuisine and the brews at a micro-brewery called the Bullfrog (another place we should add to our collective hang outs.) From there, it was just the long drive home!

(Incidentally, we came away thinking that doing the trail CW rather than CCW is perfectly defensible. You get the toughest walking early on, and then on the last day have only one serious climb. Opinions will differ, no doubt.)

Nick posted on

Is that all that happened? It seemed more exciting at the time. :)

Anyways great writeup, photos, and trip! Thanks for organizing it!

Glenn Fitzpatrick posted on

Michael, Max and Nick, I want to thank you guys for a great first Meetup! I was appreciative of the good company, and all the tips and tricks I picked up along the way on this great hike. Can't wait to do it again with you guys! And next time, the waitress will come with us!