Six of us met up at Shady Grove after work, while Matt and Gig carpooled from somewhere off of 70, Unicorn Dust rolled straight to the trailhead, and Doug made an ill-fated attempt at avoiding traffic by taking off early from MD to get to the AFT parking area. The 2 cars from DC and the one from 70 met up in Breezewood, where apparently the whole area was out of marinara sauce for their meatball subs, and so we had to settle for second choice sandwiches from Quiznos and Subway.
The eight of us pulled into the Tram Rd parking lot around quarter to 10, where Doug and Unicorn Dust had already been waiting. A bit of gearing up, pulling on some layers, and distributing gear that was being borrowed and we were heading north on the trail a bit after 10. The partial moon had a cool fuzzy glow through partly cloudy skies, but it was not nearly enough light to brighten up the woods. We missed the first campsite being aimed for about 2.3 miles in, whether it was just from missing it in the night or the underbrush was a little overgrown and hiding it, but at around 3.5 miles in we hit the next large campsite around 11:30 and quickly settled in for the night.
At 7am we awoke to the fraka-kaka-kaka-kaka-kow of a fox, and were on the trail a bit after 8. The night had stayed in the upper forties, the partially cloudy sky likely keeping it from hitting the earlier forecast of around 40*. We followed the remainder of Rock Run, cut over to the rhododendron tunnels along Benner Run, and then crossed the bridge and made the turn to follow Black Moshannon Creek for a short ways. The Black Moshannon State Forest was already starting to dress for autumn, with a good bit of the undergrowth already changing colors. The ferns were turning their golden yellow-brown, the Virginia creeper was bright red, and even some of the smaller trees were starting to put their red on too.
At lunch, the three of us in the sweep position pulled into a campsite at the Polter Run tributary to Moshannon Creek, where the others were just pulling out from their lunch break, wanting to give themselves enough time to ensure they could pull of the 20+ mile day. When folks asked how far back Tully and Beast Mode were, it became obvious that they had made a wrong turn somewhere along the very well blazed and marked trail we had just covered. It was assumed they had continued straight at the intersection with the Shingle Mill trail, which was also blazed yellow, but where there was a clearly defined trail post indicating which direction the AFT went. Not knowing for certain though, there was nothing to do but leave a voicemail message for the two of them and then continue on and hope for the best, and that these two experienced guys would figure out their error and come up with a way to correct it.
The weather continued to be fantastic throughout the day, warming up slightly in the afternoon as the group spread out along the western portion of the trail along Six Mile Run. At the end of the pine plantation, Unicorn Dust indicated that he wasn't feeling so hot, and Gig and Priya were feeling the effects of their first 20+ mile day. Around 6pm, Matt was found sitting at the road signs along Six Mile Run Rd where he had been waiting for a half hour or so. He had been hiking alone since lunch, and was a little concerned that he had pulled a Beast Mode / Tully and gotten lost on the trail. None of the five of us there had seen any of the other since lunch, so we were hoping the crew ahead had found the campsite for the night, and that Tully and Beast Mode were figuring things out on their own.
Just before things got totally dark, eight of us had arrived at the campsite for the night. There didn't seem to be much energy to do a big search for firewood, and with Doug having set up his cuben tarp not too far from the fire ring, a fire was not going to be in the cards for the night. Besides, Beast Mode hadn't gotten there yet to do his massive fire building thing. Dinner was prepared and eaten, whiskeys and Doug's Drambuie were passed around, and several folks had wandered off to bed by the time Tully and Beast Mode finally rolled into camp. As assumed, they had followed Shingle Mill Trail until figuring out their error, back-tracked north on Shingle Mill rather than following it through to where it connected in the south, and so had hiked a day just shy of 30 miles.
Sunday morning we awoke around 6 am to temps around 35*. We packed up, getting out of camp just after 7 am. The Moss-Hanne trail was actually dry, the trail staying very mild for the time being, and the weather was fantastic, so we were making good time. As we hit the climb up to the Allegheny Front, the pace started to slow as the effects of the previous long day were being felt. Food and finishing up the trail became points of focus, so there wasn’t much time spent lingering at Ralph’s Pretty Good View and Majestic Vista.
The last two miles made folks earn their lunch at Otto’s, as the AFT drops off the Front, climbs for a bit, drops again, and does a final climb up to the Tram Rd parking lot. Weary and worn, everyone finally pulled into the parking lot within a reasonable time span around 1 pm. Doug and Steve took off to get back to DC, while the rest of us headed off to Otto’s Brewery and Pub in State College, PA, where much pizza and beer was consumed.
In all it was great weather and a fabulous time to be hiking the AFT, although the weather felt so fall like I feel it wasn’t quite a true summer experience, but I’ll play the technical date card and call my goal of hiking the AFT in each of the four seasons with in a year span a success. Kudos goes out to everyone for successfully completing the loop even as the group was spread out throughout the day. And congratulations to those that earned their DC UL Veteran Member Status! Way to go!
I think I ended up a touch over 30 mi, depending on which mileages you believe. Tully and I took a few more wrong turns for a few extra 10ths of miles here and there which I think ensured over 30 mi on the day. :)