Shelli and I met up late in Blackwell, PA and shuttled north to near Wellsboro, in the middle of a stretch of rolling farmland. We parked at a church and hiked in a mile in the dark around some fields, across a highway, past a gas drilling pad, and to a small campsite on private land. It was a clear night with no rain in the forecast, so we pitched the tent without a fly to enjoy the stars and night time chill.
The days have been getting longer, since it is officially spring now, and we woke up with dawn at 6:20 and shortly hit the trail. Shelli went back to her car and skipped up trail a bit since this section started off with some road walking. So I headed off south. After some road, I hit a brand new stretch of trail which was just blazed last weekend. It was all private land in this area, so the trail just skirted some farmland and wove in and out of some wooded areas from time to time, but it was neat to possibly be the first hiker to do this stretch of trail.
Then it was back to the roads, but the roads weren't too bad. Rolling farm country mixed with woods, and the roads were narrow gravel tracks. After a bit of walking and crossing a small ridge I hit trail again. I bumped into a hunter straight off, but he said it wasn't spring gobbler season for a couple weeks yet.
After booking down some ski trail for a bit, I came to the first landmark on this section of trail – Sand Run Falls. The falls were pretty spectacular, with probably a 40 foot drop on a decent size creek. There was even ice left on either side of the falls; it probably would have been even cooler looking a couple weeks earlier. There was a great deep emerald pool at the bottom of the falls, with a campsite right there, but there was still lots of trail left for the day.
Crossing the creek, I slipped on the sketchy rock hop I was trying to navigate and got both of my feet a bit wet, so it made the choice to ford the rockless creek a few hundred yards later a bit easier. This next stream also had some great cascades, a chute, and a waterfall. A spectacular stretch of trail.
After the falls, the trail followed the creek for a bit, and passed the foundations of a few houses and a big pile of slag from an old town. A lot of mining around here. Really pleasant hiking.
I caught Shelli, and we hiked together for the rest of the day. We climbed away from the creek and up onto a plateau which we worked across for a while. We lost the trail at one point when we stayed on an old road that the trail had been following, but we decided to bushwack at a right angle and managed to get it back after a few hundred yards. Then after a bit more hiking, we came out on a road.
The trail across private land here had just recently been closed, so we had to do some roadwalking, which took us through an old mining town between two garbage dumps. On down the road, and we kept being passed by tanker trucks labeled with “RESIDUAL WASTE”. The water coming out of that hill was white, so not a good place to fill up.
We crossed PA 287, and headed up to the next ridge, which was criss-crossed with old mining tracks. There was a big vista on top of an old slag pile (called the haunted vista for some reason), and we then crossed some milky white streams of runoff from a mine water treatment project. Finally, we crossed some fractured ground where we had to jump over deep cracks a number of times before we dropped into a small gully where we found a nice camp spot with a fire ring on a prominence of land between two streams.
Shelli set up camp, and I hunted firewood to get a fire going quickly since we were cooking on it. For dinner we cooked two kinds of pizza; one jerk pork, onion, pineapple, fontina, and bbq, and the other pesto, gouda, mozzarella, capicola, sun dried tomato. Both came out fantastic, and we snacked on the left over toppings while they were cooking. I think I've pretty well got the home made pizza on a fire figured out now. Not too hard if you have a little time.
A few sprinkles during the night, but it was dry in the morning. We slept in for once and got off to quite a lazy start around 10 or so. Just 12 miles today though, so we didn't need to hurry.
After we started, we soon joined an old railroad grade which led to the massive foundation of an old coal transport tower, then over the ridge on a grade which had some snow and ice still left in places, and down to Stony Fork. We had to ford Stony Fork, and we then hiked along it for a while. Stony Fork had some awesome waterfalls with slickrock and small chasms and emerald/turquoise pools. A fantastic stretch of trail, and we stopped often.
Eventually we had to leave Stony Fork, and climbed up to the top of the next ridge along a stream with, you guessed it, more waterfalls. Along the ridge for a bit to a vista over Pine Creek Gorge (the PA Grand Canyon), where we chilled for an hour and a half in the sun, until we became motivated to move on. Then it was just downhill to the Pine Creek rail trail and back to the car.
To finish off the weekend, we went into Williamsport to visit the Bullfrog Brewery for great burgers and beer before the long drive home. A great weekend, with good views and fantastic scenery. 38 miles. 2 sections to go.