So this trip starting off more than a little rocky! Due to the government ineptitude, we had to scrap the Grayson Highlands trip and come up with a Plan B that would stay away from Federal lands. Luckily Ben, Jen, and Mike came to the rescue by suggesting the Old Loggers Path, located in the Loyalsock area of PA. Thanks to all the attendees for sticking with us!
Christine (Her Majesty) led the group north from Grosvenor Metro with Matt and Kelley driving. They picked up Kevin (Mexican-Beef - though the group proposed a new name by the second night, Ice Balls - vote below!) in Frederick. I left a couple hours behind directly from Baltimore.
Expecting to have to hike fast to catch up to the main group by night-fall, I was surprised to pass them going in the opposite direction as I turned onto the unpaved section of Pleasant Stream Road. The gravel route to our intended trailhead was out, and though there was a detour it was extremely risky in a car. Kelley wisely turned back after attempting it in her Subaru. After a quick conference, and showing no such wisdom, I shuttled half the group in my Forester while the rest starting walking along the road. We avoided any mishaps (or so we thought) and eventually got everyone to the trailhead and starting hiking North (clockwise around the loop) around 2:30.
One bonus in bringing the trip north, we missed all the rain and had absolutely perfect weather. Fall was in full swing, and our feet crunched on the leaf-covered rocky trail. We had beautiful blends of green, yellow, orange and red leaves to enjoy as we starting climbing. Ben warned us this section could be hard to follow and we weren’t disappointed. The faded orange blazes were hard to spot in all the multicolored leaves, but they were numerous enough we knew quickly when we started off trail and a collective effort kept us on course.
We stopped at a couple of vistas for some photo ops but kept up a steady pace until we reached our first water source at mile 6. Luck was against us again as the larger campsite here was already occupied, and the smaller open site was a one shelter max (all sites save two that we saw on the entire trip were quite small). The two older gentlemen camped here kindly offered to share their site but getting 9 shelters setup wasn’t an option. Daylight was already fading and we opted against pushing on to the next site at mile 11, and instead doubled back and made our own site in a wide flat area off the trail.
While enjoying dinner and a fire, discussion turned to the next days route. We estimated it would be just over 20 miles to the site we had originally planned on for Sunday night (since we didn’t cover all the ground we had hoped for due to the road difficulties). I joked it would be cool to bang out a 20 miles day and get all the applicants VMO status on their first trip! Christine loved the idea and everyone vowed to give it a shot.
We hit the trail early and set a fast pace. The blazes were much better from here on out, with just a couple of sharp turns to watch out for. We made stops every 5 miles to regroup and re-assess. At mile 10 for the day we took a long lunch break at a nice big campsite. We traded stories on the miraculous powers of Leukotape.
We stopped twice more to rally - and since no one was crying or crippled yet - we pushed on. No campsites along the way were worthy, so there was no reason to stop. The last few miles included a very steep climb that got everyone’s heart pumping, but it paid off with the best vista yet. After hanging out for a few minutes and getting some pics Jimmy, Shannon and I pushed on. The only hazard left was the trail taking us literally right along a cliff edge (for apparently no good reason!). We made it to camp before 6, and had a fire going as the troops rolled in. Kevin decided 21 miles wasn’t hard enough, and so added on a couple extra! Everyone made it in fine style before darkness set in.
On the trail at 8am, we knocked out the last mile quickly. Here we had one more hurdle to overcome, as the Forester’s transmission started slipping just a few minutes into the shuttle. A transmission hose was cut, and nearly all the fluid had pumped out onto the gravel. Whether we hit something on the way in or it was just old rubber we’ll never know. Christine, Matt and Jimmy (who luckily was a auto-tech in a former life!) set off down the road in the hopes of finding some fluid while I set about getting things fixed up.
Shannon went back to meet with Kelley, Iru, Kingsley and Kevin who were just a few minutes behind us. They set off down the road as well, but came back just a few minutes later. They had scored some trans fluid from a kindly resident! With repairs finished, it was enough to get us limping out to the car-passable portion of the road. We met up with the rest of the group coming back with more trans-fluid. Jimmy and Shannon’s car knowledge proved invaluable. Big thanks to them and for everyone’s efforts in getting my ride back on the road.
Congrats to Her Majesty, Jimmy, Kingsley, Kevin and Matt for achieving VMO status! Big kudos to Iru, Kelley and Shannon for completing a 20 mile day and becoming Veteran Members on their very first DCUL outing.
Hey Will! Great report. Were you aiming to start at the trailhead that's by Masten? Or the one that's on the western side of Pleasant Stream? Just curious since I'm hoping to get out there sometime this winter. (And I drive a 14 year old Honda Civic....)
Jen, apparently, I caused this problem with the trailhead.
When I threw together the trip plan to give the group an alternate plan on non-Federal land, I very cavailerly Googled Masten, without really doing any research. In my defense, I did it all about 30 minutes. Apparently, it's common knowledge that the one road is tough to use. Andrew, at MAB, knew, and I'm sure Ben did too.
I'm glad it didn't cause a serious problem.
It's all good, made it much more entertaining :). We starting from the western TH, where pleasant stream road intersected the trail. No signage here but the trail is very obvious. I would definitely recommend not going in with a Civic lol. I marked waypoints for two other THs we passed (besides Masten). I'll try to link them for future reference.
This is a great trip, Will. You definitely have the touch! And this sounds like a DC UL classic!
Great trip report and a great adventure, for sure. This was my third DC UL trip and it's something different every time. I'm looking forward to what's next which could be my first winter backpack. This really is a great bunch of people and I'm happy to be a part of them. I've already learned so much including a successful two nights under my $1.50 2 mil DIY plastic tarp. Next stop is a tyvek bivy! I mean with VMO status I feel I need to represent. Now if I could just get my legs to move faster and avoid the bees!
[quote]It's all good, made it much more entertaining :). We starting from the western TH, where pleasant stream road intersected the trail. No signage here but the trail is very obvious. I would definitely recommend not going in with a Civic lol. I marked waypoints for two other THs we passed (besides Masten). I'll try to link them for future reference.[/quote]
@Will -- Thanks! I may follow up with you to clarify the Honda-friendly trailheads. I had seen comments on the Mid-Atlantic Hikes about the road closures but it wasn't particularly clear about the road conditions.
@Mike - Thanks! It was very enjoyable trip to lead with Christine, and fun to write up. We were lucky to have such a strong and laid back group. The OLP is definitely DCUL worthy. It could be broken up into smaller bites to be more leisurely & truly LM, which would also make it easy to camp at the large site where we had lunch.
@Jen - No problem! Here is the link to my GPX track: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/390859312. It seems pretty accurate except for one section where my batteries crapped out. We went in @ N41 29.599 W76 52.732. The next TH we came to walking CCW was @ N41 31.872 W76 52.357 (http://goo.gl/NCvN8y), then another @ N41 31.625 W76 49.852 (http://goo.gl/EzaY1L). There is always the Masten TH itself if you attack from the East side, but like Ben said it's seems like it takes a long time to get to.
@ Kevin - Glad you enjoyed the trip! And sorry about that missed turn, I almost blew by it myself. Nice job banging out the extra miles. Your tarp was awesome, let me know how the tyvek version turns out.