MST 4: State College to Hairy John, 43 miles; Trip Report

Posted by Michael Martin on

Another weekend, another section of the MST. As Friday, June 6, approached. we all peered at the weather forecast, hoping the super-heated misery, then rain, of MST 3 would not repeat itself. As the cars rolled north on Friday, it looked as it we would be treated to a nice weather weekend. I was having some luck--the Donut Hole over Memorial Day weekend had also featured some very reasonable weather.

A bridge was out near Selinsgrove, and that cost me some time, but I arrived at Hairy Johns Picnic area at 8:20pm. "Hairy John" Callahan was there, as was Blue Blazes. We had dithered about where to leave the ending cars. There were reports of vandalism at Hairy Johns, but a ranger passed by and we chatted with him. He seemed to think we'd be fine. Brian C. was late. We left messages for him to proceed to the beginning point, Little Flat Tower, left two vehicles, then drove south.

My car's headlights pierced the darkness as we drove up the narrow county lane above Galbraith Gap. B.A., Face Plant, Shuttle, Queen Bee, B~~~, and Superman arrived from D.C. just as we parked. As we waited for Brian C., some guys went by in 4 X 4 vehicles. We guess it must have something to do with the race that would be run tomorrow. The Baconator was running in it. B~~~ got out his map and we looked at all the PA trails we've done. At 10:30pm, Brian C. arrived. We ten headed north pm the MST.

Headlamps bright, we passed the old tower, which would have been a great spot to camp, but too early. We had miles to go before we would sleep. Lightning flashed in the distance. We photographed the Thwaites Memorial, observed the ski slope lit up bright below us, and crossed a rockfield.

B.A. got anxious, but there was a campsite right at about 3 miles, as predicted. It was midnight. I scarfed down a sandwich, then headed to bed. It rained half-heartedly during the night.

Saturday, we slept in till 6:30am (we have reached the point where the only way to get more miles is to sleep less), but were soon hiking through early morning fog. Around Bear Meadows we went, walking on trail that was familiar to me. The climb up Detweiler Run was especially beautiful. I waited for Shuttle at the intersection of Shingle Path. Together we climbed for Penn Roosevelt State Park, then climbed some more to regain the ridgeline.

The walking here was generally easy, through tunnels of blooming mountain laurel. The vegetation was starting to feel more plateau-like. The brush grew in close about the trail, so close, in fact, that the footing became invisible. I heard Shuttle yelp behind me. "What?" "A giant rattlesnake is in the trail." Indeed he was. He had obviously enjoyed a meal recently, and was sluggish. I can only conclude that he was somnolent and I must have stepped over him. This felt like a close call. We slowed down, and I used my poles to probe in front of my feet.

After noon, we descended on treacherous footing, stopping just short of PA-322 where B.A. and Face Plant waited for us. We ate lunch, then crossed through road through the culvert, and climbed up for one of the best views on the entire MST, so far.

A nasty, sharp descent followed, but after reaching Laurel Creek, the hiking got easier, and we blasted ENE. Brian C joined us, and we three chatted and we dropped down into the valley of Little Poe Creek. A little farther on forest path and we reached Little Poe State Park. B.A. and the others had been there some time and chosen a nice campsite for us. Shuttle and I debated cowboy-camping but pitched the tarp, after all.

We enjoyed a merry, convivial camp, but we had walked 24 miles on 6.5 hours sleep and the wake up call would be 5am, so we were all soon to bed.

Sunday morning, we enjoyed the dawn on the ridge NE of the park, then up and downed some before reaching Poe Paddy, where we road-walked to the famous tunnel. Once around that obstacle (surely they will re-open the tunnel soon, as it looks like it's in great shape), we road walked along Penns Creek as the day warmed. Then a left turn took us up one of the most sustained climbs we've seen on the MST. I splashed through Cherry Creek, where the bridge was catterwhompus. Climbing aggressively, I reached the top at about 10am, where I settled down to snack and wait for Shuttle. Blue Blazes and Queen Bee passed me here, then Brian C. I photographed a spider, using totally the wrong lens--I need to start carrying a few lenses, I guess.

Shuttle and I continued north, crossing some rugged ground short of Woodward Gap Road. A climb up a boulder field led us to a rocky area thick with rattlesnakes. Plastic snakes where there, too, we guessed, placed in warning. We descended sharply to the road, but then enjoyed very easy walking along forest road, through blooming flowers. At Hairy Johns, just PA-45, we re-united at the picnic tables, between 1pm and 2pm. We quickly reversed the shuttle, paused for refreshment at the Happy Valley Brewing Company, then headed home.

All in all, a magnificent section.

So, finally, that was splits of 3/24/16, or 43 miles in 39 hours total elapsed time, as a group. We've covered about half of the MST in four sections, about 160 miles. It boggles my mind to think of it, but we've only had three full days on the trail--all the other days we've been driving. We found our MST 4 section more pleasant than MST 3. There were still some rugged areas, and challenging hiking, but the section was varied and full interest. And the weather helped tremendously. This was also the first time that our campsites felt like more than sites of expedience. Given the distance from D.C., we've also about reached the breaking point for what can be accomplished in a short weekend, with out being very late on Sunday. But the second half awaits. Labor Day Columbus Day are the magic words.

Karan posted on

This was my favorite section so far - I liked it slightly more than Section 2. There was so much variety and nice stuff along the way [B-)]

Hua Davis posted on

Michael, thanks for the nice reflaction drawing. Can not wait for the next section [:D]

Joffrey Peters posted on

Is "catterwhompus" an alternate spelling of catawampus? Either way, an excellent word, the origins of which I would be interested to learn.

This section sounded much nicer than the last, which sounded a little hellacious with the loose rock.

Daniel posted on

"Catterwhompus"! This made my day.