Sam and I braved a snow storm and met at the northern trailhead for my second section of the Mid State Trail, and it took about an hour to shuttle a car down to our starting point – not bad for 2 days of hiking.
We hit the cliff...err...trail at about 9 in 4-6” of the fluffiest fresh powder I've ever seen. No resistance to walking, but it was slick on the steep initial uphill. It was rocky up top, so we continued on for a bit, looking for a couple flatish spots to throw up our tents. The trail quickly went down, and after we escaped a 20 minute showdown with a couple dogs, we found some real estate next to a stream and got to bed just before midnight. I had forgotten my hiking poles, so I had to rig a couple sticks to hold up my tent, but luckily it wasn't windy.
We got a little more snow overnight, but only a dusting, and the temps were in the mid teens. We hit the trail at 8am to a mostly sunny, crisp morning. The trail meandered through a valley at first before it settled in next to a stream. The snow around the stream and on rocks in the stream was cool, and there were occasional patches of mountain laurel and rhododendron that were covered as well. This turned out to be one of the highlights of the weekend.
After following the stream uphill, we cruised some old game commission roads for a while. While grabbing some water, Sam noticed a porcupine sleeping in the pine tree right next to us. He was out cold, so we got some close-up pics.
After filling up, we got up to the ridge for the first time and took a break until we got cold. The trail stayed up on the ridge for a bit, but unfortunately, there weren't the panoramic views of last week. However, our glimpses through the trees were good, with a reservoir in the distance, a few layers of ridges, and sunbeams cutting through light cloudcover.
We dropped off the ridge on some more flat game roads. It was getting late in the day, and we were going to head back up to the ridge, so we did some off-trail hiking to find some water for the night when we bumped into (and scared) a stoned trapper before heading back uphill.
The wind picked up a bit, but we found a flatish spot, gathered some wood for the long night, and set up camp to the ambiance of the ice cream truck song from a truck on a road below us...good examples today of why hunters should have the game lands set aside, where hikers can't even camp.
20 degrees and dropping when we set up camp, but Sam got a huge fire going, and we were actually too hot by it. My stove exploded while cooking dinner, but my water was just warm enough to cook my noodles.
It was 17 degrees when we got out of our tents in the morning; we packed up quickly, and got on the trail uphill to warm up. We ran a ridge, and had some good views at three gas pipeline cuts. Someone built a fire ring right on top of one of the pipelines, next to the gas pipeline sign...genius.
The ridge walk came to an end, and an uneventful roadwalk into Williamsburg began. Took a break in town before the final stretch of trail. The last few miles were on perfectly flat rail trail next to a river. Along the way there were the remnants of a canal and the locks it used, and old coal mines in a few places. The trail wasn't too bad since there were some nice cliffs and there weren't roads by it most of the time, but it still wasn't too exciting.
The rail trail took us back to our car, and we finished our 19 miles for the day at 3pm. Shuttled back for another fantastic dinner at the New Frontier Restaurant, and on home. 40 miles total, 87 for my section hike so far.
A stoned trapper? Is that a kind of bird? Or literally a person who is out trying to trap animals while stoned?
Sounds like you're having quite an adventure with this trail and that you had some real winter conditions (which has been a little scarce on my trips, except December's AFT).
How would you rate the difficulty of the MST?
87 miles over two weekends ain't bad.
This week was pretty easy since it turned out to be mostly game roads and rail trail. Last week was more difficult with miles of trail on rocky ridge. Remember that the first weekend was 3 full days, not two. I'm getting into the really rocky section, so I might schedule fewer miles for the next trip or two.
Where there is actual treadway, it is hard to distinguish the actual trail from the woods, and it is a lot of following blazes. From the registers, it appears the trail sees about 1 hiker per month, year-round. Of all the registers I've passed so far, the closest person was 12/13.