For my final Mid State Trail section (US 6 to NY), we had to come up with a convoluted strategy to set up our shuttle and get everyone to the start of the trail, since we had 3 cars coming from Pittsburgh, DC, and Cleveland. Andrew came along, as well as Shelli and Handlebar from Cleveland. In the end, we left a parking lot and headed south (in the wrong direction) because there was a campsite close by and it was 11:30 or so. Once we arrived, we threw up our tents and were in bed in short order.
It was a chilly morning in the high 30s, in contrast to the 80 degrees it was 2 days ago. Some storms had rolled through before we started hiking last night, but we only had a little sleet during the night. The ground was pretty soggy though for the entire hike.
We set out northbound and retraced our steps from last night before hitting virgin trail. We first passed through some woods, and then crossed some farmland. However, crossing the farmland, we missed a turn, and didn't know how long we were off trail for, so we got to a road. Then we got our north and south confused, and walked the wrong way on the road for a bit before Handlebar realized we were headed south and got us turned around. However, we did eventually meet back up with the trail at Hills Creek State Park.
As we were walking along the lake at Hills Creek, Handlebar asked “what's that falling from the trees, pollen?”. It was actually snow. On 4/20. I think that makes snow in the air or on the ground for every section of this MST winter hike.
After the lake, we entered a big stretch of state game lands. As it was the one and only day for kids to shoot turkeys, we decked out in orange and pressed on with confidence. No hunters, but we did hear 2 gunshots.
We hiked around some ridges for a bit through the game lands, and eventually came to the site of an old firetower where we took a break out of the wind behind some pines to enjoy the view. Until it got cold, and we moved on.
Back downhill, and to a lake and recreation area with a bathroom that worked, but a Pepsi machine that didn't and a closed camp store with the BBQ sauce that I had forgotten. We then had some roadwalking for a bit, but we had a brief dash across a field, and low and behold there was an osprey nest and an enormous osprey took off when we strolled through. I didn't even know those were in PA.
Road walk for a bit, and Shelli got distracted by a graveyard we passed. Some good views of the mountains we just passed through and the surrounding countryside though, so it was worth it. Back into the woods where we wandered for a bit before jumping off a cliff and arriving at a wide stream without a bridge or the possibility of a rock hop. I was a bit ahead of the others, and I spotted a big tree laying across the stream, so I took the time to fight my way through the thorns to it to keep my feet dry. Tough though, and the others just decided to get their feet wet.
Then it was just a short climb up to the campsite where we were staying for the night. It was a private campground, and they weren't actually open until next weekend, but we talked to them before the trip and they invited us to stay anyways. When we got there, we were treated to bowls of chili from the owner before she showed us around. Cut firewood, heated bathroom with running water and hot showers, and a hilltop campsite with a panoramic view of the mountains to the south where we came from. It was a great place with some luxuries we weren't used to.
This was my last night on the MST, so to celebrate we had a potluck dinner. We had grilled t-bone steak, grilled chicken, lentil and spinach salad, cous cous, beer bread, and to top all that off, fresh baked cherry cobbler for dessert. And obviously brown wine and regular wine. One of my best backpacking meals ever (maybe the best). Everyone enjoyed it, and despite the volume of food, we had clean plates at the end.
Andrew quickly went into a food coma, and went off to bed early, and the rest of us decided to use the hot showers since they were available before bed, since it was going to be a chilly night.
29 degrees in my tent in the morning, but my summerlite kept me warm. We packed up in the heated facilities and started our dash to the finish line.
Some trail early, but then roadwalk to Cowanesque Lake, which we did a half circuit around for miles. The south side was marshy and tedious at times, but the north side was old road grades, so it was an easy stroll.
Andrew and Handlebar bailed at our car 2 miles from the end of the trail since it was just roadwalk to the NY boarder, but Shelli and I continued on and strolled into NY around noon, took the obligatory pictures, and that was that. 33 miles this weekend, and done with the 324 mile MST in 8 weekends.
We went to a brewery to celebrate, but they were closed for the day to go kayaking, so we were relegated to an Italian place, but it was good too. No beer though.
Congratulations on finishing the MST, Max!
Sounds like we had some of the same weather. Dan saw the snow first, and I thought he was crazy. We also passed a cold night Saturday--temps in the mid-20s. I was glad I was still trying out my Versalight!