So, I happened to miss MST Section 5 over Labor Day past year. The crew covered a good 46 miles (aka OSOK) leaving me quite a challenging part to make-up - especially if I planned to do it over a short weekend. I initially thought "We've covered ~42 miles over short weekends anyways, how hard would it be to go to 46, right?" What could possibly go wrong? I learned past weekend that it was pretty hard - damn this section!
Kylie and Patrick decided to accompany me on this mad dash. Having one car between us, we were trying to find a shuttle. And here is where Peter Fleszar, VP MST Association graciously stepped in and offered us a ride. What a guy! He shipped us from Hairy John's to Woolrich on Friday late in the night and made the trip happen. Big shout out to Peter for that! We reached Woolrich around 10:30 on Friday night and nodded off in the shelter by 11.
Saturday morning came and we stepped on the trail at 6. The weather for the weekend was looking glorious. Highs of low-seventies and lows of high-thirties, no clouds -- aaah, perfect. We navigated through the town of Woolrich, then in the woods briefly and then on the roads for a while. Catching the sunrise off Susquehanna river was very pleasant!
Hitting the road on fresh legs helped. Patrick told us stories from his travels around the world and we listened intently. We eventually reached the base of notorious Round Knob and felt the oh-so-steep grade as we climbed it. The next few miles were a blur, the highlight being crossing nice streams with soft vivid-green moss covered rocks.
Lunch was had just before the trail crosses PA-880. We had made solid progress of ~14.5 miles in the past 5 hours so far.
And thus began the tougher section starting with the steep climb to Nippenose mountain. Up we went on those steep slab of rocks. One of the water sources shown on the map was completely dry, so we tried to be conservative on water over the next few miles. We quenched our building thirst in the sun while descending Dunbar Creek. The next few miles of constant climbs started tiring us out. I looked at the maps and realized that we would gain 700ft. more elevation going North to South compared to South to North. Up we climbed and down we went entering the gas pipeline area. We could faintly make out the smell of the gas in the area. It was good to have water every few miles around here. I liked how the pipeline area had some of the straightest trails ever - there was barely any change in our direction for lengthy periods of time.
We finally crossed I-80 and crawled on the last climb for the day and thus arrived at the White Deer Creek campsite - indeed one of the best campsites on MST as U-turn's trip report suggested (Thanks U-turn). Completing 29 hard miles in 12 hours with significant elevation was quite a feat. We were tired and as Patrick rightly said, we were quite out of gas. We soaked in the beauty of the campsite, replenished ourselves with hot food, took a few ticks off before settling in just as the sun started settling in too.
Up at 5:15, on the trail at 6. Well rested from the night before, we felt good knocking out the climbs in the morning. Enjoying the rising sun as we reached the top was a bonus.
When we hit the Lookout Tower on Bake Owen Mountain, Kylie wished that the tower was accessible to enjoy the view. Sad, it wasn't. The trail remained fairly flat as we sped through before descending to RB Winter Park. Here we took a break and saw many people fishing in the lake. We wondered if there was a fishing competition going on. We saw few people catch fish as we snacked.
The trail started to climb Brush Mountain gradually, the rocks did become intense before we reached Stover Gap Road. A little bit of road walk led to intermittent Panther Hollow Run and then to Pine Creek. What a lovely area this was! There were awesome campsites and even a shelter, all next to a nice, calm flowing creek.
The remaining miles were completely full of steep climbs and descents, and really rocky. I was reminded again that MST Rocks……Suck! That final descent off Winkleblech (or Winkleb~~~~ as Kylie liked to say) Mountain pained our joints. Ouch! But we made it. 17 miles covered by 1:30 PM! Success!
No shuttle to worry about (isn't that awesome?), we headed straight from Hairy Johns to Appalachian Brewery in Harrisburg and had a sumptuous meal. The drive back home was mostly smooth.
Many thanks to the original crew for not going the extra 12 miles and relaying some info over (Like the campsite which was awesome). Patrick/Kylie - I had an awesome time sharing the pain in your company. This MST section was challenging, but had some nice highlights innit! I am really glad that I am fully caught up now. Oh, I am so looking forward to that final section, we have an awesome group signed up!