Andrew and I met in Lock Haven and shuttled south to R. B. Winter State Park to start our hike. I didn't see any snow near Lock Haven, so I decided to leave my boots in the car and go with my trail runners.
As we approached the state park, we hit snow. Oh well, can't win them all. We geared up and headed towards the trail, and wandered back and forth a couple times before Andrew spotted it next to a dam, and we set off.
In classic MST fashion, the trail headed straight uphill (though brief). The first stretch was icy and steep, and I was immediately wishing I had my boots and microspikes, but we pulled through and popped out on top of a ridge which we ran on crunchy snow under a clear night sky with no moon. Peaceful.
After a mile, we came to a power line cut, and there was a nice flat grassy patch which was perfect for pitching our tents (apart from some rocks under the grass). Andrew set up his duomid for the first time in the back country, and we hit the brown wine for a bit before heading off to bed.
The night wasn't really too cold, but there was quite a chill from the clear skies that sought us through our layers of down.
In the morning, we continued along the ridge we started on last night. Because of the cold last night, the snow was relatively hard, and we were able to walk on top of it, though we broke through quite a bit.
We came to a power line cut, and the trail turned up it, and we came to a power line laying in the trail. Exciting. Gave it a wide berth, but when we got to the other end of the line it was coiled up, so it was probably not live. We then came to a fire tower surrounded by a fine mesh fence with razor wire on top. That may or may not have stopped me.
Then we began traversing small ridges for a while and crossed our second interstate of the trip – I-80.
Back into the hills, we continued to traverse ridges, but there weren't any big climbs. We were following footprints and animal tracks. Andrew thought they were bear, but I bet him a beer they were just a big dog. Andrew owes me a beer.
As the day went on, it got warmer, and the 4” of snow that we were walking on softened and got wet, and the hiking became not-so-pleasant in our trail runners. We'd walk for a few miles through snow, and get really cold feet, then hit a glorious snow-free stretch of trail, then snow, dry, repeat. The snow really bogged us down, sapped our energy, and made the hiking less enjoyable.
After a pleasant dry stretch of trail, we hit a snow-covered STEEP downhill of death. We had to inch our way down, but made it in one piece. Then through Ravensburg State Park, and around another mountain to our campsite.
On the final downhill to our campsite, Andrew had a bad fall and tweaked his back. We made it to the campsite though, and after a while of scouting, found two spots that were flat enough for our purposes next to the foundations of a still from the prohibition era. A tough 21 miles for the day.
Up and out early Sunday morning, and straight uphill. Not a bad climb though. The trail dumped us out onto a road which actually had one of the better vistas on the trip so far, with the last mountain we went over tinged in some lingering orange from the sunrise.
The final challenge of the hike was a steep climb up Round Mountain. The MST seems to hate switchbacks, which is fine since you get up hills quick, but it seemed to be mocking us on this hill. The trail partially cut across the hill as if it was going to switchback up it, but the trail turned from crossing the hill to going straight up. However, when we got up top, there was a fantastic vista across the wide valley we were approaching with some great views up some valleys on the far side. We stopped there for a bit.
Then down, down, down to the floor of the valley and a road walk through Pensultucky (complete with a junk yard, coal chute, and a landfill), and back to our car.
33.5 miles for the weekend, and 155 for my section hike so far, which is just shy of half way. Four weekends so far, and 4 more to go.
Great description, Max!
Any time you can hit 20 miles in winter conditions, you're really doing well, I think. It is tough. I believe on my trips this winter we've tried for it three times (the full day on the AFT, the AT-Catoctin loop, and the S. Shenandoah trip), and only got it once (the Catoctin trip). Of course, we had several days (like the last day on the AFT), where it was plainly in reach but we just ran out of trail. That last day, we had beautiful winter walking conditions, firm snow, and had done 17 miles by the mid-afternoon. But then there was Rhodendron Rage, and we were at the cars.
Oh well, lots of variables.