[at-l] Mid-State Trail, Crystal Hills Trail journal Part 2

Mark Hudson mvhudson at gmail.com
Thu May 24 15:39:33 CDT 2012

4/28: Anna's Haunted Vista -

Playing around with the maps and guidebook in the motel room yesterday I
realized I was missing yet *another* map, Section 17 between Antrim and
Blackwell. When I went out for dinner I stopped back at the outfitter, and
he knew right where to look. The only question is why the MSTA doesn't call
the map “Section 17” on-line, nothing like missing the obvious.

While I was chatting with the outfitter this older gent with an almost
Santa Claus beard, and wearing a kilt and a rain jacket stopped in. Since
he seemed to know the outfitter I assumed he was a local eccentric, but as
the conversation went on it turned out he's northbound on the MST.
'Handlebar' has done the AT and PCT and is section hiking the CDT, and is
squeezing in shorter trails like the MST.

We ended up having dinner together at the Chinese place – when the days
weather report of rain finally blew in. Ducked next door for a beer
afterward, found out this weekend starts turkey season... swapped some
stories and trail info, and headed off in the rain to our rooms. I was
going to see him again today since he came into Wellsboro from the south
and I came in from the east.

Slept horribly last night, I think the two little cups of tea I had at the
Chinese place must have been loaded with caffeine... <sigh>

Back to the diner for a healthy breakfast of oatmeal and toast, good thing
I got something to stick to the ribs because it was too cold to stop
moving. I was having a horrible time hitching out of town, no fun walking
backwards freezing in the wind. I saw some guys outside a Napa store and
was about to offer money for a ride out to the trail when a guy in a jeep
stopped at the corner and offered me a ride – even tho it was out of his

Got dropped off at the trail crossing, short hop over to Rt 660. Some trail
up the drainage along Mudge Rd – and a LOT of gas development activity to
deal with. Lots of road walking from there, Miller Hill Rd was *awful* with
the wind blowing! Mother Nature can knock it off, the wind has been blowing
since I started, the days are already too cold without adding wind chill –
and the joke is getting old.

Got to what I thought was the Hickory Hill intersection, but no signpost.
The map sends you up Hickory Hill, the guidebook has you continue down Elk
Run Rd. I found a guy about a quarter mile up Hickory Hill that set me
straight, back to Elk Run Rd. So, why is the newly printed map three years
old and out of date with the guidebook???

BTW... back on the road walk, about 9:30 a gent in a pickup pulled up next
to me to ask me how it was going – and to tell me his thermometer read 35

Finally finished the road walk and headed into the Babb and Sand Creeks
area. When I stopped for my 10-15 minute lunch break it was the first break
since I started (around 7:30), and it took me another 10-15 minutes of
hiking to get warm again. There were some *really* nice campsites along the
creek (too early to stop) and some great swimming holes too. Saw two guys
fishing near the Lindrus Rd, and just beyond there near Nickel Run I ran
into Handlebar. We traded todays trail dope – he told me the west side of
Antrim Rd was a mess with gas construction... I went on and got to the
“last camping for 10km” about 2:30 – meaning it was going to be way too
much time in the sleeping bag trying to stay warm if I decided to stop. So
I pushed on to get here, much nicer but I can't really hang out at the view
because of the wind and cold.

I opted for the hunting season route into Antrim via the road – the sun
finally showed up but every time the wind blew I had to cover back up. I
missed the bar in Antrim, probably a good thing since it was farther over
to here than I thought, and I didn't arrive until 5:30. I'm afraid to guess
at today's miles – the road may, or may not, have been shorter than the
trail, but I'm going to say the day had to be more than twenty miles. I was
getting a bit footsore at the end.

Early on in the hike I did something to my right ankle, so this morning on
that little jump over to 660 I managed to step in a damn woodchuck hole
hidden in the grass. The ankle doesn't hurt, but it feels weak, and if I
roll my foot out on a rock or in a hole I can't really catch myself without
using my poles. I'm sure twenty miles didn't help it either.

And – I think it's supposed to be even colder tomorrow.

 4/29: Gillespie Point – just south of Blackwell

Kept hearing something walking around the campsite as I was reading last
night, stuck my head out and it was a hen turkey wandering around about 20
feet away.

Very cold last night, mid-20's? Frost on the tent this morning and a hard
time getting started; answer natures call, crawl back into the bag and get
warm. Have breakfast, need to get warm again. It was after 7:30 when I
finally got moving, but sunny and no wind. Pretty easy run out of camp. Met
three turkey hunters over by the yellow trail to Morris. Asked them if the
Blackwell Hotel was still in business, I wouldn't turn down a warm room for
tonight, but they weren't sure...

Lots more up and down and winding around for today. Came down to Stony Fork
and had to ford, the water felt like snowmelt for sure! About a mile up the
other side I stopped for lunch, a half hour or 45 minutes – a REAL lunch! I
had a real morning break too :-) I had to keep reminding myself that it had
gotten warm enough for me to take breathers. Not as warm as it should be
for this time of year, but it's getting better.

Stony Fork was beautiful, lots of falls and swimming holes. As I was
packing up from lunch two younger men came down the trail, out for a
dayhike. The afternoon was pretty much trackless wandering around after the
initial grunt out of Stony Fork. I got down to Pine Creek to find out that
it had gotten warm enough for the gnats to be out. Walked the rail trail to
the village, all too apparent that the Blackwell Hotel was closed; no room,
no beer :-( Got pump water at the canoe pull out, and chatted with an older
fellow who turned out to be an '07 AT hiker.

Uphill grunt out of town, looking for the first available campsite, which
turned out to be just before the viewpoint. Went on just far enough to see
that the point is indeed a point (of rock) with the better, maybe only,
camping being here.

High clouds most of the day, maybe that will keep things warmer tonight?

Hit camp around 4pm, it still seems like a long day even though I started
later than usual. I got out of the wind and the road walking today, and
into some more ups and downs, some of them pretty steep, and into some PA
rocks. I wouldn't mind the rocks so much except for the bastards that move,
and why does it seem they always move on my messed up right ankle?

Looking more than the usual one-day ahead, it looks like I'll be a day
early to Woolrich, and while I don't expect it if the trail turns out to be
*really* easy it could be more than a day.

Pretty quiet on the wildlife front today, heard turkeys (or hunters calling
them) before I left camp, and one bald eagle over Pine Creek.

Well, well... just went and pulled the blister patches <and some dead skin
too :-( > off my heels so I can apply new patches in the morning. My right
ankle got a little stiff after hitting camp (not ther first time it's done
it) and I see the ankle is noticeably swollen. Gotta love those rocks and
roots and woodchuck holes. It's not slowing me down, but I do need to be
more careful of it. An ankle brace wouldn't be bad, but the next shot at
that is State College.

 4/30: Hackett Fork -

Okay, who's the stupid SOB that described this area as a “primitive

The guidebook should have just said “hammock camping only” if they wanted
to be accurate. I'm camped in the only flat spot; across the trail, five
feet from the creek. I should have poached a site in the state game lands!

Now that I've vented... awoke at 3am to find the high overcast had given
way to a brilliant starry night. And a damn cold one at that. Got out of
camp at 7:30, but with only a Cliff bar for breakfast. Short, stiff climb
up to Gillespie Point, a couple of quick pics, and off down the trail
trying to generate body heat. As far as hiking today was one of those days,
one of the GOOD ones :-) The trail was almost entirely woods roads and old
railroad grades, smooth and easy. I don't think I even tweaked my still
swollen right ankle today, but to make up for it my left Achilles seems to
have gotten a bit of tendonitis. Stopped near Hoyt's Hollow for my real
breakfast, if it's that cold again tonight I may have to work things that
way again tomorrow. Lots of waterfalls and streams today, but wildlife was
pretty quiet; a squirrel, a grouse, and two whitetail just before “camp”.

Heard shooting just before Oregon Hill, four guys target shooting at a
cabin where the trail goes through. Had a nice chat and a bottle of water,
then pushed up to the viewpoint on Oregon Hill for lunch. The breeze had
starting picking up, but it didn't have the bite that it did a few days

More woods running after lunch, lots of gas company survey tape – anybody
that wants to do the MST should do it soon. The original target for today
was Silver Run, but it was only 2:30 when I got there. The guide says it's
a good place for group camping, and you could surely find tent spots under
the trees, but it doesn't look like anyone has ever camped there. I decided
to push through the state game lands to here, expecting at least a flat
spot and a fire ring...

The only other note of the day is that I didn't patch my feet up this
morning. I'm finding out the gel blister pads don't breathe, so your feet
don't heal – I figured that if my feed did hurt I could stop and doctor
them, but I did about 28k and didn't have any problems.

Just did a rough calculation that I'm 142 miles into this hike, but my
conversion from kilometers to miles is a rough one. - Time for dinner!

Oh GREAT! Just when I think this goddamn campsite can't possible suck any
worse, I sit up from dinner and a f-ing stick under the tent punctures my
therma-rest Neo. I put a piece of my super-duper duct tape over it, and
amazingly it's holding, but for how long? I may end up trying to figure out
how to sleep on top of my pack tonight. 20 degrees and this bullshit. I'm
going to happily e-mail the MSTA and ask them if whoever listed this as a
campsite was stoned – and ask them to get it the hell out of the guidebook!

 4/31: Bonelle Canoe Camping Flat, shelter, Ramsey -

Couldn't get out of that jinxed campsite fast enough this morning, but one
trick was left: I'm very careful about keeping the bite valve on my water
bladder closed when it's in the tent, but I had blown air back through the
line while I was reinserting it in the pack. While I was putting my boots
on in the tent I found water pooling down the tent floor, fortunately I was
already packed except for the tent, and of course the pack was in the tent
and sitting on the bite valve.

The other note from last night/this morning – I wouldn't have bet a dime on
the duct tape holding on my therma-rest, well, it actually held all night
long! I had to put about two puffs of air in at 4am, but I have to do that
anyway. Oh, and it's not a hole in the air mattress, it's a half inch tear.

Left at 7am without breakfast, damn cold again. A half mile grind up a fork
of Hacketts Fork and I come to a trail register... and a real campsite

I think the easy trails are done with, pretty easy run over into Little
Pine State Park, where the MST dropped off the ridge, then went up the Love
Run Trail – vertically. Up on that ridge I stopped for breakfast, just me
and the birds and sunshine, and the racket from the gas drilling operation
somewhere nearby.

Wound around some nice trail with some views, to drop down to the road at
the state park, right in front of the restaurant that didn't look open.
Already people camped in the park. I could have snuck a hot shower, but it
was still pretty cold out, so I passed on that idea. The trail was supposed
to follow “grades” out of the park, but most of it looked like a very bad
attempt at side-hilling. Then I hit the sadist
let's-run-the-trail-straight-up-the-side-of-the-mountain section. And why
is it that the steeper and rougher the trail the worse the gnats get??? I
ground my way up to the top, and had lunch between two gas drilling
operations. After lunch I started the Ramsey Run run-around, finally came
out at a footbridge crossing the run so I knew what milepoint I was at.
That left me with another hellacious climb, one view, and the trail coming
out on a gas road; double blazes, but which way??? Took a shot at a right
turn, found blazes but going off the right side of the road instead of the
left. And then, crossing a small trickle, and having babied my right ankle
for days, I slipped on a piece of shale. I didn't fall, and I only slipped
3 or 4 inches, but the jolt that stopped the slide was electric and
agonizing. It still doesn't hurt to walk on it, just when I roll it or
slip, so I'm not sure just what I did to it. Needless to say that little
slip made the rest of the drop to Ramsey long and slow. Hit the main road
at 4pm, then walked the railtrail to here. BTW, the campground sign says
“Permits Required”. That's it, no information on how, when, or where.

Two teenage boys rode by on their bicycles a little while ago, so
people-wise pretty quiet. The main road is on the other side of the river,
so there's traffic noise yet. I thought I'd be curled up in the tent hiding
from the gnats that tormented me all afternoon, but even they're only a few
in number.

Oh, and forgot to mention the rest of the noise for today... south of the
state park someone using a lawn vacuum you could hear for a half mile in
either direction, and not much farther on I got the dueling chainsaws.

19Kms into Woolrich tomorrow, distance-wise it's much shorter than what
I've been doing, but I haven't looked at the map yet. Hmm, time to think
about dinner. :-)

You know you're getting your hiker appetite when you make your dinner and
think “This is WAY too much, what am I going to do with it?”, and then
polish it off with no problem :-)

Looked at the map, from what I can tell “only” two rough climbs tomorrow.
Should get me into Woolrich at 2pm instead of 4pm. Now let's hope the
postmaster is as nice as the one in Wellsboro and will let me collect my
drop without a photo id...

 5/1: Woolrich Park-

Warmer last night, and a thunderstorm blew in about 1:30am; on and off
showers after that.

Today was not what I expected, and not at all in the plans; not quite a
nero, but very easy hiking – all because the blazed disappeared all of a
mile from camp... followed them up to a bend in a jeep road, and... a
couple of VERY old triple blazes (red, white, and blue)... a little bit
farther up the jeep road a set of double blue blazes going down towards the
run, but no trail and no more blazes. Walked up the jeep road, walked back
to the last blaze – no blazes... Not sure how long I searched, plenty long
enough tho. Time to consider alternatives. The jeep road and the trail
connect to the same “road” at the top of the ridge, but I've grown
suspicious of some of the roads, and if I got up there and didn't find the
trail I'd be out in the boonies. So not far below me was the rail trail out
of Ramsey, follow that down to Tomb (gotta love those PA names <g>), pick
up the West Side Rd, then the Gamble Run Trail (looks like a road on the
map). Got rained on a bit on the rail trail, had some pretty views, missed
the first big climb – and was hiking under the clouds instead of through
them. So then... I finally get to Gamble Run, and... no Gamble Run Trail...
<sigh>. More road walking down the West Side Road to get to Dutch Hollow
Rd, hey – this one's a real road! (and I missed the second climb). Easy
road walking, little traffic, farms... picked up the orange blazes just
above Woolrich, and hit the PO and “town” about 10:30. Didn't check what
time I left camp this morning, but I think at most that makes it eight
miles. Since there's a lot more road walking going south from here (no
camping) the rest of today is some time to relax, finish the book I've been
carrying... maybe lunch at the Woolrich shop (right next door). The sun is
peeking out, and it's hard to believe I'm sitting here in a short-sleeve
shirt <g>.

Turned into a beautiful day, still my body is happy to rest. Looks like
I'll be heading for Ravensburg State Park tomorrow, if nothing else it will
be worth it for the shower!

 5/2: Ravensburg State Park -

No joy in Ravensburg... I thought all the parks here were open now, but
somebody forgot to tell that to the Ravensburg campground. So I'm
“picnic-ing” until it gets dark, and then slabbing out in a picnic pavilion
way up in the end of the park. Even a drive through check won't find me,
they'd have to get out of the vehicle and come looking... meanwhile I have
clean water from a fountain, a restroom nearby, and a roof over my head –
just no hoped for hot shower.

The Woolrich Park caretaker passed through not long before dark last night,
he said he'd leave the mens room open for me and mentioned that a big boar
bear had wandered through the park in the morning (6am) knocking over the
garbage cans. I had just enough light left to hang my food.

Rained a little last night, just enough to make things wet. Headed out at
6:45 with an easy start to the morning, 3km down to the end of the section,
mostly across private land, some of it being logged. Then a road walk
across the West Branch and an even longer road walk along Spook Hollow Rd.
The sun tried to break out but it didn't make much progress. Gained some
road elevation on the way to Round Top, and took a roadside break just
before I got there – knowing that I'd need the energy. Slightly tweaked my
still swollen right ankle on the rockpile of a trail leaving the road. I'm
not sure if that ankle is going to go back to normal until I stop hiking,
but the left Achilles tendon is doing better. Question: How can you climb
“the corner” of a mountain named Round Top? I'm not sure where some of this
PA guidebook lingo comes from.

Round Top was steep, steep, and more steep, at least I knew it was somewhat
short, a little more than 1k I think. I was dreading the descent on the
other side since the climb was not only steep, but also rough and rocky and
slippery – the descent turned out to be pretty tame. Woods running over to
Ramms Road, where I met two DCNR clearing the ditches. I asked about turkey
season and one guy thought it was at least four weeks, so my pack cover is
going to stay on. Didn't think to ask about a weather report.

By the time I hit the Kyler Trail my stomach was pretty much demanding a
lunch stop. Some light rain had been spitting as I walked Ramm Rd, but it
stopped in time for me to pick out a rock and sit down to lunch.

Came to a register not long after lunch, and Handlebar noted that he camped
at the ruins of the Prohibition still and didn't recommend it. When I got
there all there is is the foundation and you wouldn't know what it was from
unless the guide told you. As far as camping it looked to be on a par with
Hacketts Fork.

Short, steep climb up to a grade from there, no fun with my
six-days-worth-of-food pack, but the grade did make a pretty nice run over
to here. Arrived about 2pm, spent some time scoping things out. I could
have gone on but the next known campsite is another 10k out, and I've
already done 23 or 24k. Sun is trying to come out again...

Two minor notes – in Wellsboro I bought the Napa version of Heet for stove
fuel. NOT the same- isopropyl, but whatever they denatured it with makes it
burn smoky and sooty. GREASY soot, so the pot gets most of it and then
spreads it around.

The second one is – remember that dab of duct tape on the therma-rest? It's
STILL holding! :-)

Looks like the park is a popular dog walking area. The clouds have lifted
and the sun was shining for a bit, but there's an almost nasty damp breeze
blowing down the valley here... can't wait for it to get dark enough for me
to crawl in the nice warm bag...

 5/3: White Deer Creek -

First a couple of pet peeves about the guidebook and the trail. The
“boundary line” trails are starting to get me pissed off – just because you
have a boundary between state and private land does NOT mean the trail has
to follow it – straight up and down the mountains... there's state land –
build some damn switchbacks!

Second, I had planned the day heading here, the book lists “primitive”
(read “desperation”) campsites before and after this site – but not this
one. I can read a map – the contours here are flat, and White Deer Creek
drains a fairly large area (AND the guide says the trail crosses the creek
on a footbridge)... so... either it's a swamp, or a *really* good place for
a campsite. As soon as I saw this one – one of the best sites I've seen on
the entire trail, I knew I wasn't going any farther. And the guide doesn't
mention it???

On with the day, or I suppose I should start with last night: All yesterday
was damp and quiet, but it didn't feel like the calm before the storm.
10:30 last night all hell broke loose – the thunder and lightning lasted
until 1am – when I managed to get back to sleep. Not sure how long the rain
lasted but it stopped before 5am when I had to find my way through the
inside of a cloud to get to the restroom... I didn't plan on a really early
start, but I was ready to go at 6:30.

The climb out of Ravensburg was two pieces, the first was a tooth and claw
boundary climb, then after following a contour around on a multi-use trail
the second part was a slightly less steep climb to the ridge. The guide
warned of several multi-use sections today, gave ways around them, and
mentioned where the “purists” would come back in... multi-use? I'm
picturing horse apples and ATV mud holes, as far as I can tell the other
use is X-county skiing...

The trail was wet and slick from last nights rain, especially fun in the
rocky sections. The sun was trying to break through on the first ridgeline,
then I dropped back into the cloud at the first hollow, like somebody
turned the AC on. It wasn't overly warm to start with, but it's 100%
humidity inside of a cloud, so in addition to being steep the climbs were
extremely sweaty. No views through the mist either. Morning break was at
one of the numerous road crossings, lunch was at Pipeline Spring (another
desperation campsite). By lunch the sun was out, I don't know what the temp
was but I can tell you it was no fun on the hills. The early start did mean
I had 17k in when I stopped and only 7k more to get here.

The climbs from lunch to the I-80 crossing were sweaty but short, the climb
up Nittany Mt to 4th Gap was much easier than I feared. I was toying with
the idea of going on and dry camping on Sand Mountain, but it's just too
nice here. I was ready to stop too, so I'll just save those climbs for the

So, the other good news, besides being under the pavilion last night, is
that I managed to NOT tweak my right ankle today, and if the swelling isn't
completely gone the ankle is much closer to normal.

There's a gent here fly fishing, he said the weather is supposed to be
warmer with a chance of thunderstorms. If I had a choice I'd take 50
degrees and sunny :-)

Okay, 5pm was a bit earlier than I planned on for dinner, but just before 5
it started clouding up in the west and thunder started rumbling... I just
finished cleaning up and crawled in the tent and the rain started pattering
on the roof. Since most of the thunder and dark clouds are to the north I
was hoping it would miss here, but at the very least I'm going to have a
wet tent. At least I'm not on Sand Mt!

During last nights light show there was a flash/bang, so something close
had gotten zapped. Well, this storm is NOT going to miss, I'm just hoping
it doesn't last two and a half hours!

Not looking too far ahead, my rough calculations put me at mile 206,
resupply I have at State College at 248. No, I'm not planning two 21 mile
days, even three days out I'll still be a day early, and it will be a short
day in – if I calculated right.. Nope, not sure where my numbers are off
but from my planning sheet (which I think is right) it's 60 miles and
change to State College, so that's four more days. I sure have enough food
for it...

The storm was all but over by 6:30, now it's down to the trees dripping on
the tent. Not sure why I didn't hear it before, maybe because the road is
wet now, but I can hear the truck traffic on I-80. Maybe that will tail off
towards dark so I can fall asleep to the sounds of the water and the

 5/4: Hairy John's Picnic Area -

Barred owl calling before dark last night... then yet another thunderstorm
at 2am. I didn't time it but it didn't seem to last too long, and the tent
was already wet.

Left camp at 6:30, skies already clearing and feeling like I was heading
for a warm day. The climb to Sand Mt was short and fairly easy (BTW,
“primitive camping along Spruce Run”? In your dreams!). Amazing how
different two flat, straight trails can be – the trail along the top of
Sand Mt delightfully follows a x-country ski path, pine needles under foot,
sunshine, an occasional breeze. Stopped at Winter State Park for a break by
the lake – two older gents fishing... a bite to eat and chance to wring my
socks out. Then I hit the never ending second trail, the Brushy Hollow
Trail had all the personality of a surveyor's bee-line transit through the
woods... perfectly flat and straight, occasionally rocky. I suspect that it
was a logging railroad tramway. Speaking of which, when they can't find
enough rocks to run the trail over, they look for an old tram line and run
the trail there...

Just after crossing the Pine Creek Hollow Rd I came to the “secret shelter”
Handlebar was telling me about – unnamed but newly completed, perfectly
timed for an extended lunch break. Too bad that wasn't the stop for the day.

Left lunch at 1pm with 8k to go. Not sure what the was, but it was MUCH too
warm in the sun, and the easy ridge running of this morning gave way to
ridge busting, I had to grind over three of them to get here. Coming down
the last ridge the thunder wasn't waiting for me to get to camp today.
Racing some dark clouds down the ridge I almost missed the critical turn
down the Hairy John's Trail – a slight offset in the intersection and a
pile of PA rocks obscured the turn. A couple of drops of rain fell on me
getting off the ridge, but shortly after getting the tent up the clouds
blew off and the sun came back – giving me the chance to dry things out.

Just now the clouds came back with more rumbling, my boots could sure use
some more time in the sun. I was afraid this picnic area would be a
teenagers party pit, but it looks like it's hardly ever used. I was also
hoping for a picnic pavilion, and there is one – but in full view of the
main road. Depending on the weather I may need to cook dinner there, but
it's probably not a good place to try to sleep on a Friday night.

Forgot to note the big pile of bear scat I saw on the Brushy Hollow Trail
this morning... and speaking of scat... god... the smell of my wet boots
and socks :-( More later...

Well, that was a quick little thunderstorm and downpour. Once things got
calmed down I went up to the pavilion to cook dinner – and there's another
hiker out here! Michael is doing his first weeklong solo hike, interesting
trail to try that out on. We had a great chat before he moved on north to
camp at the “dry” site on the ridge. Little bit of sun now, hope the storms
are done for the day!

Was juggling a bit with the maps and guide – looks like this six day
stretch is actually going to take six days, won't hit State College until
Monday. Then the question is whether to bail into town from Tussey Mountain
or 6k farther south at Shingletown Gap. Tussey Mt I have to catch the bus
to town, but Handlebar said there was an AT thru-hiker working at the
outfitters that might be able to give me a ride all the way back to the
firetower on top of the ridge – no humping back up getting out of town <g>.
(Barring that, I wonder if a taxi would take me up there??) Shingletown Gap
would actually be a short walk into the part of State College with all the
services I need. I guess I'll see where I end up camped on Sunday night and
what time I hit Tussey. I do know from Handlebar that Williamsburg has a
good little store, so I'm leaving State College with three days worth of
food instead of six!
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