Nicole and I met at Detweiler Junction and shuttled north to R. B. Winter State Park to hit the section of trail that I skipped previously. Just like last weekend, I didn't see any snow at the trailheads, so I decided to leave my boots in the car and go with my trail runners. It was supposed to rain this weekend anyways, so I prefer wet runners to boots. We started hiking south around 8:30 in the dark.
We moved along in the peaceful silence for a while before it started to snow. The snow was really wet though, which made it look like diamonds were flying at us, which was a bit mesmerizing. Though the night hiking was quite pleasant, we found a flat spot among the rocks and decided to camp under some pine trees around 10 and called it a night. Approximately 4 miles.
We got up early in the morning since we had some miles to do this weekend, and hit the trail just after it was light enough. No snow fell overnight, and it was still dry. We hiked on a bit, straight over a ridge MST style (straight up, straight down), and came to a brand new shelter that was being constructed next to a spring. We could have hiked a little further last night and hit it, and maybe been the first people to stay in it, but tents are fine (and we didn't know it was there).
After the shelter, it began to snow again, and this time it began to stick. When it first started, Nicole pointed out that you could hear the flakes hitting the dry leaves. The snow continued to accumulate as we walked on, and soon the ground was becoming obscured when we came upon a pond at Hairy John's Picnic Area. There wasn't any ice on the pond, and it was quiet (apart from the occasional car on a nearby road).
The pond turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. When we came upon it, we just stood by its edge and watched the snowflakes disappear into the water with a slight pitter-patter. I'm not sure what was so surreal about that pond, but we lingered for a while before pressing on.
The snow continued to fall and got deeper and deeper. We had a couple inches by noon, and the mountain laurel and hemlock were starting to get weighed down. Since it was snowing pretty good, it seemed pointless to stop for a break, but we were both feeling good, so we just kept walking and enjoying the snow and silence. We hiked down valleys, up and over rises, and along the top of ridges. There weren't spectacular vistas or anything like that during the day (maybe one, but it was cloudy), but the accumulating fresh snow coating everything made for spectacular hiking.
After meandering through the woods, we came out on some roads, and hit a railroad grade next to a river for a while. The grade took us to one of the features of this trail that I had been most looking forward to: A TUNNEL THROUGH A MOUNTAIN. That's right, a full tunnel and a ridge we didn't have to climb over. We took quite a few pictures and reveled in the majesty of it before moving on to cross a bridge over the river on an old railroad trestle.
We passed through Poe Paddy State Park, and the snow started to taper off as we continued up our next mountain. Though the snow was great (and we were glad it wasn't rain, as was predicted), we started to fight it at this point since it was weighing down the bushes and trees adjacent to the trail, and we had to brush past them and get constant snow showers. By the end of the day, most places had 3-4 inches of snow, and it was quite a dramatic change from the dry leaves in the morning.
We kept walking all day, and had decided that we would make camp around 6 to allow time to hunt firewood in the daylight. We hiked along a ridge for a while, and then got dumped into a valley after once again trying not to ski down the steep snow-covered trail. Grabbed water at a stream, and continued down the valley until we found a flatish spot where someone had left an actual folding camp chair, which looked like a good enough spot for us to camp (especially since we had another climb coming up). When I later added up our daily mileage, it turned out we did 25 for the day, which was pretty good considering the snow.
We ended up setting up right on the trail because that was the flattest spot. I gathered the typical Max-size firewood pile, and in return Nicole got a big fire going to keep us entertained for the night. We had our dinners, and since tomorrow is St. Paddy's Day, we shared a flask of whiskey and some delicious Guinness bread and whiskey butter before calling it a night at 10.
Up again and on the trail early, and we quickly came to a spring which was bubbling up from underground. With the bubbling, it looked like the spring was boiling sand, and though it appeared shallow, we could put our hiking poles in it and not feel the bottom. Pretty cool. After that, straight up another mountain, then down along another valley for a while.
A steep rocky climb up another mountain, which was a bit tricky with the snow cover, but we made it up and were able to enjoy our first views of the series of ridges were were hiking through, as the clouds had lifted overnight. Straight back down the mountain to US 322, which we didn't actually have to cross since we were provided with ANOTHER tunnel! Not as grand as yesterday, but way better than making a mad dash across the highway.
Up to another ridge after the highway, but this one needed a bit of maintenance, and had some blowdowns and brush we had to push through. We were getting late in the trip, and to the point that we were ready to be done, so we put our heads down to finish it up.
We did see 2 backpackers, who appeared a little disoriented. They asked us a couple questions before we passed. Jeans in the snow in March... These were actually the first backpackers I've seen on this entire hike, over 5 weekends.
We finished the section by hiking across a dam at Penn Roosevelt State Park, climbing one last ridge, and walking down the rockiest railroad grade I have ever seen, while pushing our way through thick rhododendrons. This last section of trail was a natural area, and may have been scenic, but we had to focus intently on the trail to keep our footing and not die. Then after a slight uphill, we were back at the car at 4, with 19 miles for the day. On the way back, we found a fantastic Italian restaurant in small town America before parting ways.
A fantastic hike this weekend because of the spectacular snow!
48 miles for the weekend, and 203 for my section hike so far, out of 324. Three more weekends.
Full resolution pictures with descriptions are at this link:
Awesome writing, Max! 25 miles for a day with snow is great hiking. I agree that more mountains should have tunnels through them.
Can you mention what happened with the trail that made you skip this section and then come back to it? Was the trail closure resolved?
Why isn't Nicole coming down for the Massanuttens? ;)