And what a section it was!
Everything began smoothly enough. After a rather hectic morning (work, manuscript, art), I left home at about 3pm. Traffic plagued me up 270, but I had guessed well, and Savage, Steve (with Blue Blazes), and I arrived at the Lower Trail parking lot in Williamsburg within 10 minutes of each other. Pretty good precision! We piled into my car--which, yes, can handle four ULers--and drove back to Everett. The DC crowd rolled into our favorite eatery, the Union Hotel, between 8pm and 8:30pm, and we chowed down with gusto.
Some of us decided we'd walk over to Tenley Park. Heaven forbid that we miss a few hundred meters of the Maryland-New York route, so we saddled up outside the restaurant and started. A few others drove the cars around. Savage took my car keys, and this is where it all started to go wrong. When the cars and hikers met again, black smoke was pouring from the engine. There was a terrible smell. "Meh," I said. "Can't do nothing about it now." It wouldn't be a section hike without a vehicular casualty. We trooped into the woods and bedded down. It was late for us, maybe 10:30pm. Shuttle and I had snarled up our shelter plans, so all we had was my monk tarp betwixt the two of us. We cowboyed camp together. It was a cool and beautiful night--perfect to sleep under the stars.
Saturday. 5:30am. We are awake for a long day, at least 24 miles, as we have miles to go before we may sleep again. 6:23am, we're all on the trail.
We liked Everrett as a trail-town so much that we found it hard to leave. I had naively assumed that the orange blazes, which we were practically sleeping on top of, were the alternate route. They led us out of the park to US-30 and Stein Road, then dead-ended. Hmmm ... Were we supposed to walk north on Stein Road, then work our way west? I dunno. My compass came out. That seemed like a long way around. We wanted to be on PA-26! We backtracked ... But there was a substantial fence keeping us off the road ... Where there's a will ... Aha ... We found a hole, no doubt made my some other desperate backpacker, and crawled through. We were soon on our way north along Bud Schuster. It started snowing on us, of all things. Dew Street, north on PA-26, Industrial Boulevard ... and finally orange blazes!! My reputation as a route-finder is intact.
But wait ... I count only nine! B~~~, using his mad ninja thru-hiker skillz had sniffed out another way back to PA-26. We had thought that Blue Blazes had followed him, but she is nowhere to be found. We left her some phone messages. No telling where she has gotten to. I tell the group, "Oh, she'll figure it out."
It's 9:40am before we stand atop Tussey Mountain on the MST proper. We have wasted alot of time, and we are determined to make it up. We scramble along the ridgeline, making the best speed we can over the uneven footing. The ridge is beautiful, and affords us good views to the east and west. We drop down to a forest road and observe a bear trap, then reach Loysburg Gap. We have lunch around 1pm at the newly constructed bridge about 1pm. Thanks, MST maintainers! I know that Heavy D, Yeti, and Hang Glider had to ford that creek some years ago. I believe they will envy us that bridge.
I tell the others, "I am sure Blue Blazes has righted herself and is pounding out the miles to catch us." Sure enough, she has texted Pringle that she is on her way. I go ahead with the front group to determine a campsite.
We walk along PA-36, then take on the steep climb out of the gap before walking through the valley of Bear Run. This valley proves unremittingly beautiful. Wet, in places. The trail follows a creek and the pools and rapids make me think of some of the nicer sections of the Black Forest Trail. It is a new side of the MST, which has so far been mainly ridgeline. There are many great spots for campsites and I think that, someday, when the MST is more often walked, many backpackers will love this spot. I take pleasure in thinking that those backpackers will think of this as the Heroical Age of the MST. I sign in at the register at Maple Run Road at 4:20pm. Only Super Man is ahead of me. He lets me catch him at Henrietta Mountain Road, and we enjoy easy walking, at last finding a suitable spot almost on a latitude line with Martinsburg. We unsaddle at 5:30pm, after a 25 mile day. Not bad, given our slow morning. I feel like I could have gone 30-32, easily, but we have chasers. No need to push hard. Everybody else rolls in, including Blue Blazes, who has clocked 33 miles! She went all the way around to the west side of Tussey Mountain and took the old MST. She tells her war stories and we applaud her. She's soon dozing off in her soup, though.
We're all in bed early, anticipating another 5:30am wake up call. The rain never comes and we sleep deeply. A whippoorwill helps us pass the night.
Sunday, the dawn is clear, cold, and cloudless. Shortly after 6am, we're strolling along an easy stretch of forest road. I feel one of those zen-like moments of one-ness with the trail. I wish I were thru-hiking, headed through Williamburg to Rothrock and not back to the workaday world. Superman passes me, jogging along. Steve is up ahead. Pringle and Turbo, too. The rest of us clump at the back, chattering, taking photos at the viewpoints. The trail is marked extremely clearly. The footing is rocky, but not bad. We make good time through the morning.
At last, 11-ish, we reach Tussey Mountain Road and begin the descent down to Williamsburg. The asphalt is a little hard on our feet, but the views open around us as we pass through gorgeous PA farmland. We take lots of pictures. The locals eye us curiously. At last, we tromp into Williamsburg and assemble at the cars. Superman and Steve have been relaxing there for 30 minutes. Turbo and Pringle pull in as we do. Much is made of my having cut off some of the trail in town ... but, come on, I knew where the cars were. So, that's 18 miles by 1:15pm. And splits of 25 / 18. And all ten hikers. None left in the woods.
Too bad about my car.
We roll south for one more meal in the Union Hotel. Much hilarity ensues, as our favorite waitress is there. We determine that it's best to leave my car at Tenley Park, so I hitch a ride back to DC with BA. We spend the drive plotting the next sections. Looks like I will be visiting Everett again to rescue my car, though.
Thanks, everyone, for this great section! My love for the MST continues to grow. I can't wait to be out there again, and headed north. We had an excellent group of tough, seasoned backpackers for this--we even seemed to enjoy our Saturday morning adventure!
Thanks so very much for the detailed trip report U-turn. Little to add: All men are strong, ALL Women are pretty--- GO....DC-UL !! [:D]
I was thinking that your trail name might need an update, Michael, but now I think it's fine just the way it is. :)
Blue Blazes: impressive as always. You were missed on the CKT, but with us in spirit!
Thanks GOD!! Joffrey, you guys survived the CKT (Crazy Killing Trail)[>:)]
I executed about a dozen U-Turns to get where I was going, Joffrey. I feel I am aptly named.
Damn right we'd envy that bridge! Though for the record, Max and Andrew were game for crossing over that creek on some high wire. My pack was way too heavy at the time for that, though...
Funny you should get a bit lost coming out of Tenley Park...on leaving, we simply road-walked for several miles, off-trail, till we reached some random wood lot where we picked up the orange blazes (and shot straight up the steep side of that accursed ridge). As I recall, we'd judged that the more direct route from Tenley Park to said ridge-- the trail itself?-- was problematic, partly 'cause we feared it went through private property.
Anyway, I can tell you that nowhere is it worse to lag behind hiking than on a straightaway road, where you watch helplessly as fellow hikers pull ahead farther and farther like so many Porsches to your tricycle. At least it sounds like you skipped the road walk.
Who said you had to come back to civilization? Isn't there a "telework from the MST" option? Ah, what miles one could conquer with another government shut down...