Traffic was extremely heavy as Pringle and I (Turbo) left DC. We were each driving solo since we had to shuttle ourselves. The traffic smoothed out when we passed Harrisburg. The trip to Little Flat Tower was uneventful but it was strange seeing the green grass covering Tussey Mountain Ski resort.. Driving up the long road we walked down on MST #3 was entertaining. There were a few cars parking in the Tower parking area and the sun had set.
We climbed out of our cars and started gearing up. After a quick double check to make sure we had both car keys pocketed we hit the trail. In preparation for the Colorado Trail next month both Pringle and I were testing new shoes. Pringle was using Brooks Cascadia's and I was trying New Balance Minimus 1010v2.
A short distance up the rod we found the trailhead. Pringle's headlamp started acting oddly - turning of every few seconds. Since she was in the lead we traded headlamps. Since we hadn't been on rocky trails in two months it made for awkward hiking. After a few minutes we steadied out. In the dark the trail seemed to meander. We checked our compass at one point to make sure we were roughly headed north.
After a bit the trail dumped out onto a dirt road near a series of towers. The trail marker seemed to indicate that we were to travel straight ahead. There was a unused cabin straight ahead and part of the grad had been mowed but we didnít see the marker even after walking all the way to the cabin. We consulted the guide book and it mentioned that the tower was closed due to vandalism but there were several towers visible in the night. We walked up and down the road without luck. We again tried walking straight across the road and Pringle finally spotted the marker slightly to the left. We proceeded into the woods.
A short distance up the trail we heard a dog barking. A little spooked, we called out and found a few people camping with a fire alongside the trail. We proceeded on. There were several marked views but it was much too dark.
After a few miles we came to the planned campsite. Most of the way the trail was rocky and damp with few open areas. The campsite was a very nice area perhaps 75 ft in diameter, very flat and very easy to push a stake into. There was an established campfire ware but we chose to set up, eat and crash.
Early the next morning we started packing at 6AM. A few hikers wandered by just before we broke camp. We consulted the map and speculated they had come from a nearby camp parking area.
The weather was perfect in the 70s and sunny so we made good progress. The woods were lush and green and we made good time. Shortly before Detweiler Run we encountered a new reroute. For the next mile or so of downhill the trail was spongy and we had to tread carefully due to small stumps, loose rocks and loose soil. That trail section will be sketchy until the foot traffic packs down the earth. We exited the woods right at the Detweiler Run gate. We crossed the road and proceeded downhill. Overall the walk was very pleasant.
At the lower elevations the trail was frequently damp. We passed through a river valley and the rhododendrons were in bloom. The stunning pink and white flowers were in various states of bloom and the trail felt magical. Around noon we exited the trail near Penn Roosevelt State Park (and 4H camp). There was a decent toilet and a water fountain a short distance up the trail. There was also a small dam and some college kids were swimming. We watched the water flowing over the dam for a minute and proceeded uphill. A few Converse-clad college kids passed us but 2/3 to the top they quit. We chatted as we passed them and proceeded on.
The brush and bramble gradually became thicker and thicker. We marched several miles through brush and bramble so thick we could not see the trail. I procrastinated on putting the legs on my hiking pants but I finally relented when I noticed several scratches. We kept expecting the bramble to clear around the next bend but it went on and on, seemingly endless. You would think the brush of green foliage across the legs a pleasant feeling but in much the way repeated water drops become water torture, the constant scraping of the branches and twigs begins to grate. Eventually we reached the Big Valley Vista crossing and the trees opened up. A bit further up the trail we read an entry in the trail book calling this section "Tick Alley". We didnít find any ticks but it was unpleasant nonetheless.
We shortly heard the passing of cars and trucks and we spotted 322. As we made our way under the bridge we spotted a birds nest with several eggs. The sidewalk under the bridge took us to the other side of the highway. We immediately began hiking up the next hill.
We hiked on and on. The trail followed a stream for a long distance and the ground was frequently mossy and wet. Around 8PM we stopped to decide whether to camp at Poe Valley State Park or proceed onward for another 1.5 miles to descend to a stream and a possible camping area. We decided to take the sure thing and headed to the park. The restaurant by the swimming area was closed (closes@830. We proceeded to the camping area. We talked with the camp manager who set us up with a nice camping site. We set up camp, showered, cooked dinner and fitfully crashed for the night.
Early the next morning we awoke and packed up the camp. The tent was a little damp and the clothes had not dried. We topped off our water and hit the trail.
The morning was a series of up and down hikes. Starting with the steep ascent from the campground. 30 minutes in we were covered in sweat again. We went up the Hunters Trail, turned left on the MST and headed North.
After a second ascent and descent we came out on a cinder road. We stopped and signed the trail log. Shortly after we came to Poe Paddy State Park. The park was pretty busy. Exiting the park we encountered a "Trail Closed" sign before a bridge. We proceeded cautiously. The tunnel was blocked off with gates and there were signs of construction. Peering into the tunnel it looked almost complete. We were a little disappointed about not going through the tunnel. We hoofed it up and over the hill and back down the ex-railroad bed / hiking path. After a long hike on the road we stopped for lunch when the trail wound off to the left.
After drinking extra water to prepare for the hike ahead we started off. We went up a gradual hill then sharply down. Before the trail crossed back to a road there was a damaged footbridge. Pringle forded the stream and we continued on.
The series of uphill hikes over the next several hours was pleasantly gradual. On the map they looked intimidating but on the ground they were not. Whenever the trail narrowed there were many annoying cobwebs. When we reached a high point wit ha rock covered area where I provided a quick minute of entertaining for Pringle and the snake as I hopped back in alarm. In all I counted four snakes, three of which were rattlers.
The trail seemed to wander north though trees and bramble. Eventually we exited the woods on another cinder road that quickly lead to the road where we crossed to Hairy John State Forest parking.
Thanks Trevor, I need to find an easy way of uploading my pics.