Loyalsock Trip Report - Thursday Oct 17 thru Sunday Oct 20
I drove up solo and arrived at the Mead Road lot (eastern terminus) about 45 minutes early. The DC group and the shuttle were scheduled to arrive at 5:30 P.M. Since I've walked the LT once and the LT Link loop twice, I knew about Dutchman's Falls just downhill from the parking area. I headed down to the falls and snapped a couple photos. After returning to make final preparations, the two shuttle vehicles arrived a few minutes early with Mark Wilson in a mini van and his friend John in his crew cab pickup. Mike K (Labamba/Beaver Slayer), Alison (Cover Girl), Will (Savage - not official), Dan (Heavy D), and MikeVW (Eeyore) arrived exactly at 5:30 according to Mike K. My watch had them almost 15 seconds late. We said our hellos, quickly organized and loaded our gear, and headed to the western terminus of the Loyalsock Trail. The drive was along the Loyalsock Creek with lots of bends in the road, but Mark drove about 10 MPH slower than his wife Connie. The first time I did the LT, I was almost car sick by the time we arrived at the start.
While getting our packs on, Labamba/Beaver Slayer found a tick on his leg. The group consensus was that the tick had lived in his backpack since the Batona Trail - located in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. When the Batona trip was originally posted, I remember thinking "heat, sand, brackish water, ticks, mosquitoes, and sun burn" - what's not to like. After an initial flat section and missing the first turn up the hill (my bad), we headed up the first STEEP climb towards Sock Rock as the rain started in earnest. My headlamp in combination with my backpack mounted trekking umbrella resulted in my first potential trail name, "Inspector Gadget" that was rejected as too nerdy (already a mechanical engineer). By the time we reached the plateau, the rain let up a bit but the fog rolled in. Visibility was terrible as we walked along the trail including the edge of a cliff. Eeyore, Heavy D, and Beaver Slayer gapped the rest of us, and they found a nice level camping spot at the three mile mark. MikeVW had his shelter set up and was inside before the rain unloaded on us again. Most of the remaining crew took a bit more time and paid the price. Although my shelter (TT Moment) sets up quickly, I noticed Alison struggling with her brand new TT Stratospire 1, so I offered to help. It's a great shelter but trickier to set up than the Moment since two trekking poles are used. We need Brian's assistance! Conditions were so shitty, I did not realize Will was setting up a hammock four feet away! Everyone finally got squared away and we chatted between shelters like the Walton's. On Dan's request, MikeVW gave us an excellent history lesson on the Roaring 20's. Wake up call was scheduled for 5:30 - that's A.M.
The weather cleared at some point during the night, and we awoke to clear skies and mild temperatures. We were all packed up, fed, and ready to roll by dawn and headed down the trail towards the long descent to the Little Bear Ranger station and creek crossing. We loaded up on water at the creek and headed down the trail. The next section is the biggest climb on the LT with Helen's Window overlook followed by some incredible vistas at Smith's Knob. The full setting moon made for some incredible photos. The night before, I kept thinking MikeVW had his headlamp on inside his shelter, but it was just the intense moonlight! We walked through the next forested sections before climbing a woods road to over 2000' and then a descent to the east branch of Snake Run. Around the 15 mile mark, the LT enters private land that is open to hunting. We did not see hunters, but did hear guns discharging. It was archery and muzzle loading season for deer already in PA. Around 16 miles, you hike the Genesee Trail Road built in 1799 and used during the War of 1812 and for the Underground Railroad (take that Eeyore). We were passed by several vehicles as the road continued climbing before reaching the Wind Whistle Inn at the summit - here things get weird.
Labamba was back a ways since he generally takes a long lunch including a nap. The rest of us decided to have a beer and eat lunch at the "inn" - Butler building construction. We were informed upon entering that the inn is a club for members only. After some wrangling with one of the bartenders, she grudgingly registered us so we could have lunch but no alcoholic beverages. When Labamba finally showed up, our servers attitude changed completely - he was in full salesman, charmer mode. The food was surprisingly good and even Heavy D was satisfied with the portions. My son Ian would call them ginormous. After a long lunch, we headed out again for our eventual camp site past Angel Falls. We took the spur trail to the falls at dusk (about 0.6 miles round trip). I was hoping for more light since AF is pretty spectacular, but everyone wanted to get to the camp site and it was growing quite dark. A great site was found after crossing falls run. After setting up, Will built a nice fire with Alison's support. After dinner, we heard several strange cries that kept getting closer. The group decided it was an owl, so Labamba volunteered to scare the nocturnal hunter away. My main memory of the camp site will be the incredible moon light on the tree leaves.
The alarm was again set for 5:30 to start our second full day - it would turn out to be epic. I won't bore the reader with too many details, but this section of the LT is my favorite. Some highlights are the Mary's View vista, Split Rock (huge formation you walk through), Lee's Falls, Rhodes Falls (my favorite), and the Alpine View - a spectacular overlook. This section also has numerous stream crossings. I knew early on that our pace may be too slow to make it through Worlds End Park and outside the park boundaries to the first backcountry camp site. If the rain had not started in the afternoon, we probably would have made it with a little night walking. With my concern for the pace, I failed to drink sufficient water and got a dehydration headache. After rehydrating and medicating, Heavy D paced me back to the pack. We passed Mineral Springs and hiked through a very nice section with ferns and rocks before stopping at the LT Canyon Vista. After enjoying the misty vista, we started the long descent into Worlds End as the light was getting low. The 2-2.5 miles to the park took a long time. The rain picked up, the sun set, and we trudged along. The trail goes east, then west, then east again before finally turning north towards the park headquarters. The last descent was fairly treacherous - at least for me. MikeVW's headlamp was having issues, so he positioned himself mid-pack and descended using the LED from his I-Phone! Labmba was way off the front and Dan had stopped to put on his rain gear and was nowhere to be seen. Just as the four of us (Will, Alison, MikeVW, and I) crossed the road and entered the park proper, a ranger turned his rollers on and drove over to our group. Heavy D arrived shortly to hear the ranger say that we could eat dinner at the covered pavilion and camp at the emergency LT through hiker sites on the Butternut Trail - this process took a good 10 minutes while we stood in the rain.
For he record, I would like to say that I helped LaBamba get his tent fixed during the rainstorm, although I was still drier than most once it started pouring :). Oh, and I got to take home whatever bit of black lung induced hacking that our server had: I've been sick most of this week!
Mike, I've got bronchitis!
That's why I stayed away from the iced tea...
For the record, best music video I've seen in a long time!