[at-l] Mid-State Trail, Crystal Hills Trail Journal Part 3

Mark Hudson mvhudson at gmail.com
Thu May 24 15:41:42 CDT 2012


5/5: Poe Valley State Park -

Just as it was getting too dark to read in the tent last night, another
hiker pulled in. Actually, it was Michael – he said he got to the steep
part of the climb and heard some thunder, and changed his mind about
camping on the ridge.

Left camp at 6:30, under what I thought was a blue sky, but when the sun
never came up I realized it was a high, solid gray. The cooler temps helped
today, but the humidity made itself all to apparent on the few climbs I did
hit.

The first stretch was a nice, long, smooth mileage run along past the Bear
Gap Trail. The do have some water issues in there, the either need to move
the trail away from the water, or the water away from the trail, some of
the streams I've crossed had less water running than the trail did in
places.

At the first road crossing I ran into two turkey hunters just getting ready
to leave their truck, I would have liked to give them some tips as I
probably just walked through their hunting grounds and scared everything
off, but I haven't heard a turkey since opening day of hunting season.

The next ridge had lots of rock to go with some more water, and did so much
winding around that I was sure the blazes were going to run back across
themselves. The trail finally turned and dropped off the ridge, going down
Libby Run – where I passed a hunting camp full of vehicles. The trail wound
from there down to rail trail in Cherry Valley, more really fast walking.
At the Paddy Mt Tunnel I met a guy with a bunch of boys (Scouts?) that had
seen me passing their camp on Libby Run. The tunnel is pretty funny, the
north end is the size of a road culvert, the south end is a full sized
railroad tunnel, I guess they didn't finish it.

Stopped at Poe Paddy State Park for an early lunch. Went over to check out
the bulletin board and it said there was a pay phone behind me – a little
gray box that I wouldn't have looked at twice – but I called home and
checked in; mostly that I should hit State College on Monday.

Pretty short hop from Poe Paddy to here, one little climb over a hill
Michael complained about (I didn't explain “PUD” to him), and a dripping
with sweat climb up the end of the next ridge. I had a real debate when I
got to the Hunter's Path, right and downhill to Poe Valley, off the MST and
elevation I need to regain in the morning, or onward into a section where
the guide doesn't even mention primitive campsites. Two things really swung
me down here, well, maybe three – first, any extra miles aren't going to
get me into State College before Monday. Second, wanting to get my feet out
of the wet boots as soon as possible, for as long as possible. Third was
the idea of a hot shower. By 2:30 I had the boots off, the tent up,
showered, and was figuring out how to get the embedded tick out of my left
thigh (DEET and tweezers). Interesing spot to find the tick since I've been
wearing long pants while hiking. I need to be more religious with the tick
checks...

Oh, and tomorrow I'm onto the next map!

Sun finally came out about 3pm, turning into a very nice afternoon (the
more so since I'm sitting!) Things are drying out, including my boots. No
rain tonight and tomorrow may be a clean sock day! :-)

Dad said it's supposed to be cooler next week – I won't complain.

Peaceful afternoon around the lake; people fishing, kids riding bikes.
People in the campground, but not many... quiet.

The gnats coming down the hill and up by the bathhouse were nuts, walk down
to the dam or the campground and they're not bad at all.

Looks like Roosevelt State Park tomorrow, 27 or 28k. From there to the
Little Flat firetower above the Tussey Mt Ski Area is only 15k, then the
walk down the hill. I'm leaning towards hitting State College from there, I
should hit the tower around lunch time :-)

5/6: Penn Roosevelt State Park -

Let me get the day's whining and complaining out of the way first. I
painfully tweaked my recovering right ankle, ironically stepping off a
footbridge. Some shit-for-brains had nicely paved the landing with a bunch
of flat rocks – and one pointy-wobbly one. Guess which one I hit? F-ing
rock is now in the bottom of the stream, where they probably found it and
should have f-ing left it...

Second was a long section of old woods road walking; if you added up all
the paint they used on the blazes you wouldn't have enough to paint a bird
house..

Day “dawned” solid gray overcast. Hit the road just after 6:30. Stiff climb
back up the Hunter's Path to the MST, then a drop right off the other side
to some very easy valley walking to Camp Keystone, then a busting climb up
the next ridge. I said it only took twenty years for the memories of the AT
rocks in PA to wear off, I bet when I finish this trip I'll be good for
another twenty...

You think you'd be going straight down the ridge tops too, but they jog you
around enough that on these sunless days you soon have no idea which way
you're going. Today's ridges are already running together in my mind, but
the taller ones were inside the clouds, and if I didn't actually get rained
on I was catching drops off the leaves. Took lunch just south of noisy Rt
322 (and the culvert). Took some Advil for my ankle, fortunately it doesn't
seem to be swelling, and tomorrow it gets a short day – and then a rest
day. Since the worst rocks are just south of SC hopefully it will be ready
for them.

Lunch was short, too cool and damp to sit for long; and I didn't want the
ankle to tighten up. Lo and behold! Left lunch and the climb up Bald Ridge
wasa *switchbacked!* See, they DO know what they are! Now why not use
them??? Much more winding the ridge to get here, having to be very careful
of the ankle again, and I still tweaked it a little more.

Dropped into here just after 2:30, much more of a rustic park than Poe
Valley; no showers for one, and maybe twenty campsites and a picnic
pavilion. There's a lake or a pond I haven't been down to yet (bet there's
people fishing? <g>). 3pm the sun tried to come out, but not for long. Hard
to tell what the weather is going to do, but the pavilion is near if I need
it, and if everything gets wet I'll be in SC tomorrow anyway :-)

Goddamit, just found another tick, same thigh but higher... stinking deer
tick too, not a wood tick. The bite from yesterday is red, but not a
bulls-eye.

Thought I'd have a hot shower and a nap when I got here, instead I've had a
tick check, a delve into the guidebook, and a short walk down to the
smaller-than-it-should-be pond; there's a sign that said there's a seepage
problem with the dam, and they lowered the water level until they can fix
it. Two rangers came in on a drive-thru, so I caught them and got change
for the campsite. Also asked them about permethrin, you can get it in PA
(not in NY), but they get theirs through work – I should be able to get
something at the outfitters.

The delve into the guidebook was trying to figure out the State College to
Williamsburg section. First there's the water issue up on the ridge. I can
do the first day to the site of the old Tussey Mt firetower and get water
from a spring just before there. The second day would take me to the start
of the Lower Trail (rail trail). The guide says there's no water on the
Lower Trail, but it follows a river. It doesn't say “No Camping”, so maybe
I can stealth there? :-)

Two days and change to Williamsburg, plan four more to get to Everett.
Right now I'm one day ahead of schedule, if I get another day I could hike
to Hancock, or I could zero in Everett with two days left to finish...
we'll see. I don't want to look too far ahead, but the water situation from
SC south is pretty iffy, not to mention trying to find places to camp. I
guess I'll see when I get there.

6:45 and it's turned into a very nice sunny evening. All those views I
missed today... maybe I'll get some on the way into State College...


 5/7: Autoport Motel – State College

Why do the gray, overcast “dawns” no longer surprise me? There was a
difference this morning tho... Left camp and ground my way up the first
ridgeline, only to immediately drop off the other side. Long valley walk,
and... yippee!... more rocky tramway. Occasional sprinkles to slick up the
rocks, some grown in trail so I couldn't see them, and a tender, slightly
swollen ankle. The ridges are running together in my mind again, but at the
top of one of them it actually started to rain hard enough for me to pull
my rain jacket on. Worse than the rain was knocking all the water off the
brush, soaking my pants and eventually turning my boots to swimming pools.
And worse than no views, when I hit the slick rocky sections where the
views should have been the wind was blowing the rain sideways. No breaks,
snacking on the move. Got to a sign that said the firetower was two miles
away, longest two miles I ever walked. Passed the Thwaite Monument,
dedicated to the founding father of the MST, and with the rain and the wind
and the camera buried in a dry safe spot I have no picture.

Finally got to the tower, and the rain started hosing and the wind kicked
some more – VERY unkind words for Mother Nature. Started down the road,
hooked a right turn on a trail with no sign, going in the right direction
and off the damn ridge! Came out on Laurel Run Rd, long walk down to the
ski area. Found a nice woman manning the go-cart/golf range shed, and found
I missed the bus by half an hour and the next wasn't for another three
hours. She called a cab for me and we talked hiking until it showed up...
she did know about the Rodale Press set – Hiking the Appalachian Trail. :-)

Rode to town with a gent that looked a bit like Santa... ooh! The Autoport
has a bar!

Hot shower – found *another* f-ing tick (on my hip). Got lunch, doing
laundry now. Everything is so grungy the load is getting washed twice!


 5/8: Zero day -

<sigh> Isn't Accuweather supposed to be headquartered out this way???
Chance of showers yesterday, yeah, right. Chance of showers last night – I
think it rained all night, at least it was raining at 4am when I had to get
up. 8:30 am and still raining, or raining again. Got breakfast at 7, was
told the weather report is for rain all day – yesterday they were saying
30% chance of thunderstorms for today. I'll have water up on the ridges
now, but I'd rather skip the wet brush and slick rocks...

Well, I spent longer in town than I thought. Took the 9:15 bus in, found
the outfitter, and then found out that Dave (Handlebar got a ride from him)
didn't start work until noon. Bought permethrin and then went and found a
nice little bookstore/cafe, did lunch and some reading. Went back to the
outfitter and found Dave. Got some good dope on the trail south of here,
and a ride up to the trail on Flat Mt tomorrow morning. I was kind of
expecting Dave to say that 9am would be plenty early enough for him, but he
runs with a group in Rothrock State Forest tomorrow, so pick up time is
6am. I would have bought him breakfast, but I expect that time of morning
breakfast will be from a gas station... so it's early, but I'd be awake
anyway, and it saves me a walk up the mountain :-)

Came back out and tick-treated my pants and socks, now I'm waiting for
happy hour ;-)


 5/9: Tussey Mt Firetower site -

Things were just starting to dry out yesterday, and then at 8:30pm I heard
it pouring out. It didn't last long but I was pissed, knowing that all the
brush would be wet and all the rocks slick this morning.

It was mostly clear skies when I awoke, but the clouds weren't far away.
Dave picked me up at six as the sun was rising into one of those clouds.
Quick stop at Sheetz to grab something to eat, and then out to the
mountain. Said goodbye and thanks, and hit the trail about 6:30. The brush
was just as wet as I thought it would be, the dry socks and boots were
soaked much too quickly.

Typical PA ridge running this morning, no elevation change, easy running on
flat smooth trails, interspersed with sections of slick, tippy rocks that
cut your speed in half. First morning break at an overlook, a bit gray but
at least I could see. Wrung my socks out too. Since I had plenty of water I
decided to stay high on the ridge on the Jackson Trail and avoid the MST
descent and climb. It started off with some awful rocks, but just as I was
afraid that it would be rocks all the way it turned into just your standard
PA rock hop.

The other end of the Jackson Trail tied back into the MST at the Rt 26
overlook. Wrung my socks out again. Took a few pics, had a snack. There was
a gent there riding his mountain bike over the mountain from State College,
and a couple in a pickup pulled over for some pics. The trail as far as the
overlook went so fast I wasn't sure I did the math right... headed back out
looking for the Indian Steps Trails, knowing that I wanted to hit the next
blue-blaze after that to head down to a spring and get water. Dave had said
there were some flat spots along the blue-blaze, so I took my pack. The
guide says the blue-blaze has “little or no footbed”, it should have said
“blazed bushwhack”. Slow and rocky getting down, but at least it was a
traverse and not a free-fall. New blazes but lots of blowdown too. Got to
the bottom and found plenty of good water, and a “sorta” campsite too close
to the road, no place I wanted to spend the rest of the day. Found my way
back up the ridge, too much weight with the extra water. Headed down the
trail looking for a flat place to pitch, just about settled for a spot in
the trail when I found a pretty decent spot just big enough for the tent
off the trail in some striped maples. It was after 2pm and the sky had
taken on a grim look, so I got the tent up pretty quick, then did a little
poking around. Turns out I'm about 100 feet short of the old Tussey Mt
firetower site, some nice camping there, and I wouldn't expect any party
problems on a Wed night that looks like rain, but the tent was already up.

The rain didn't wait for night, by the time I crawled in the tent and got
organized it was dripping on the roof. Might be a pleasant background sound
for a nap :-)

Changed clothes before the nap, permethrin plus tucking the socks in equals
no ticks. :-)

4pm, dozed off for a bit, and now the rain has stopped. It barely rained
enough to get the tent wet, let's hope that's all it's going to do. I think
the weather is supposed to change tonight and get nicer.

Forgot to mention that when I first crawled in the tent I heard something
large moving around nearby – I didn't get out to see what it was but I
suspect that it was another turkey, we saw two of them driving up the
mountain this morning. Wow! I thought I heard voices – a college age couple
out for a Wed afternoon dayhike. They probably wouldn't have seen my tent
if I hadn't been out moving around. It's not 5pm yet but I decided to do
dinner before the clouds change their minds about rain. I have a Heat N Eat
bag of Punjab Eggplant, so when it's done heating I can keep the H2O for
tomorrow.

I have better options for extending the day tomorrow. The rail trail is
dry, but I'm thinking of camelling up at the last water source. If I can
get to the rail trail it's 18k to Williamsburg (need groceries, and a meal
would be nice), and another 8k out to where I can look for a place to camp.

A few more sprinkles just now, if that's all the weather does it'll be okay
with me – my tent will probably be wetter from the damp leaves I'm camped
on...

<sigh> Why do I even try to look ahead? You think I'd have figured out that
the weather report is more accurate three days out than my hiking schedule
is – I was trying to figure out where I might meet Lynne; we were talking
about the 12th (Saturday). My rough plotting puts me at Maple Run, on a
dirt road outside the little burg of Woodbury. Could she find it? Where
would we go for dinner? We'll see, but I wouldn't be too surprised if it
doesn't happen.

My sense of time is starting to slip on this hike... was it really on this
trip that I got caught in a snowstorm??? Some more misc ramblings...
crawled out of the tent and walked up to PA Furnace Rd, stretch my legs a
little and break up tent time. Nice view just downhill to the east,
hopefully it will be nice enough out to be worth a stop in the morning. On
the way back it suddenly occurred to me how little poison ivy I've seen.
Now, I haven't been delving through all the trailside growth looking for
it, but the only place I recall seeing it was under the bridge crossing the
West Branch. On the AT in PA the poison ivy is all over... Then, just about
back to the tent, I scared up a whitetail. And at the view there was a
barred owl calling down in the valley.


 5/10: South of Barree-

Bunch of minor notes for today, let's see if I can remember most of them.

Turned out that with the boil bag dinner and the pop-tart breakfast I
didn't need hardly any of the water that I fetched up from the spring. Will
the cool and damp weather yesterday I didn't drink much out of the bladder,
in fact what's left now is still from yesterday.

The young couple I met yesterday afternoon had the same weather report I
picked up in town – the weather was supposed to break last night... well,
it broke from cool, calm, and sprinkly to chilly, breezy, and sprinkly. Sun
rose and disappeared into overcast... out on the trail about 6:20. The
guide said the worst rocks were between the Ewing and Tussey Trails, but I
thought the ones between PA Furnace Rd and Ewing were worse. But that's
kind of like fighting over the “winner” in an ugly dog contest. The sun did
break through a few times this morning, which was nice but more than offset
by the chill breeze whistling over the ridge. There were views, but it was
too cool to stop for more than pics, I should have had my gloves on. Pretty
fast push to the end of Tussey Ridge, arrived just in time for a sailplane
to go racing overhead. Great views at the end of the ridge but very windy.
Started the descent through the old sandstone quarry, saw some great places
to dry camp on the top level but it looks like no one has ever overnighted
there. I wanted to hit the Little Juniata Natural Area parking lot for
lunch, because there's a spring there and I could cook. I made it there
before noon, and while I was cooking I found a hole in my plans; I wanted
to dry camp on a charcoal flat just before the drop to the Lower Trail, but
when I did the math it falls inside the area that was clear cut some years
ago, so I was back to a short day and camping at the last water.

During lunch a pickup pulled in, a couple with their bicycles – they saw me
and left. A bit later another truck pulled in – two guys having lunch. And
then it rained... just enough to make everything wet, and the stop.

Not a very long walk from there to here, through “downtown” Barree, about a
dozen houses and a few trailers. (Doesn't downtown imply that a place is
big enough to have an “uptown”???). The trail turned immediately after
crossing the railroad tracks, which didn't really sound like the
description in the book, but I was following blazes.

The bottom section of this little valley (the old town dump?) looks like
the kids ride their BMX bikes around (maybe dirt bikes?), but a couple of
stream crossings put that behind me. Found a nice little spot to camp
beside a stream, about 3k left to finish this section, an easy 18k into
Williamsburg (shopping and some kind of early dinner?), and then 8k out to
public land hoping for some kind of campsite...

I was about to write about how nice the day turned out after I hit camp
here; blue skies, a few clouds, some sun, and a breeze. I'm not sure what's
going on but the wind kicked up hard enough to whip the trees around (a bit
dead tree fell about a hundred yards away), it feels like the temp dropped
some more (or is that because of the wind?), and rain is pelting on the
tent now. Yesterdays rain at nap time wasn't even a storm, whatever this is
it's not pleasant at all. Another large tree fell as I got snug and warm in
the sleeping bag... I dozed off for about an hour and awoke to blue skies
and sunshine and a gentle breeze... the weather is going to drive me nuts
yet!

Oh, and there's the tracks that run at the bottom of the hill here. I
started hearing trains towards the end of Tussey Ridge, I'm not sure where
those tracks lead too, but a train goes past every forty minutes or so –
I'm hoping they don't run all night long...

Man, if it's THIS cool out this afternoon, getting started tomorrow could
be COLD, better keep the fleece hat and gloves handy!

BTW, took another look at the guide, and either they're wrong about the
length of the clearcut, or they're wrong about where it ends. They have the
charcoal flat after the cut... but it's all of a mile from here so it's not
worth moving anyway...

The best thing about the weather “change” over night is that the breeze
dried the tent out (less weight), the brush (dry boots, or drier anyway,
and socks too), and the rocks – less slick, so I only had to watch for the
tippy ones, one of which tried to kill me anyway...

There's a B&B in Williamsburg, if tomorrow was pissing rain I'd stay. It
really does look like the weather finally broke, so I'm not expecting to
stay. Won't need the laundrymat in town either. Grocery of course, pizza
place would be nice. Six days of hiking left, maybe even five. Not winding
down yet, but the end will come fast when it gets here, at least mentally.
Not sure I want to get connected to the real world again...

Ah, and not just for today, but all the past days as well, I've forgotten
to mention the birds providing the soundtrack for this trip; I mentioned
the barred owls of course, the other day I hear one white-throated sparrow.
The “everywhere” flickers, hermit (“ee-oh-lay”) and wood thrushes, robins.
Hawks shrieking. Every so often chickadees calling. Red-eyed vireos - “Here
I am, where are you?”. There were a few turkeys clucking early on, but not
since hunting season opened. Wonder which birds I'm missing? <g>...
Pileated woodpecker for one, just heard one calling. Veeries and Canada
geese... whipowills and red-wing blackbirds...


 5/11: Tussey Ridge, south of Williamsburg -

Not as chilly this morning as I feared. Cool enough to wear the Frogg Toggs
jacket, not enough for the hat and gloves. Left camp before 6:30, half a
mile woods walk to the Quarry Rd, guessing a mile+ on the road. The
charcoal flat? Somewhere on the road walk, so much for camping there. Then
about 400 yards down the steep and rocky Hall Trail, a third of a mile road
walk to pick up the Lower Trail. Besides being a flat, smooth, and easy
rail trail, the Lower Trail is beautiful! It runs along a very scenic river
valley... Passed a retired gent out for his morning walk, and we chatted a
little. Four people passed my on bicycles, one older fellow that I talked
with had lived in Colonie for four years back in the 70's.

Meanwhile the trail stays mostly near the river, at one point through the
trees I heard these strange calls – when I stopped walking so my feet no
longer crunched the gravel I found it was people calling back and forth on
the river, I assume they were canoeing or something, they were making too
much noise to be fishing.

Just before Williamsburg I met the older gent on the way back, he had
bought me a bottle of water and some packages of crackers. I started to
decline and then suddenly realized that he had a right to feel good about
his trail magic :-) I did thank him profusely...

I arrived at the Williamsburg rail trail parking lot at... 10:45 am. 14
miles and not 11am yet? That may be a new record for me. Cooled my feet and
relaxed in the sun at the park for half an hour, then went up and hit the
grocery. Think I bought WAY too much food (forgot about the crackers I had
too) – partly due to the packaging, partly due to my hiker metabolism
starting to kick in (my belt keeps getting looser).

Wandered over to the pizza place and got a nice calzone for lunch... then,
leaving town, found they must run the trail over every street just so
everyone gets to see the hiker <g>. Long, long road walk out of town,
packing extra water for the ridge. Wasn't so bad until I got to Tussey Mt
Rd, thought I'd never hit the top of that. Hit the jeep road/trail – the
good news is I don't see any tire tracks and given the size of some of the
rocks in the road I'm not especially worried about traffic. The bad news is
that I didn't see any places to camp, at least until I got out to the old
gas pipeline swathe. There's a couple of old fire pits here, so I'm not the
first one to hole up here. (And other than the wind, a pipeline is a good
place to camp, they moved all the rocks out of the way <g>). Arrived about
2:30, on something like a 20 mile day, so I'm a little footsore and happy
to stop. Just as I got here some gliders went over, at least three, maybe
more. Not sure because with the timing they may have circled.

A little warm in the sun, but sitting here in the shade I had to put my
jacket on. Cool and breezy... The weather report in town was saying 76
degrees tomorrow. No idea how far I'll go tomorrow, at least 14 miles to
wherever that is, but around 20 I could make Maple Run. I guess it all
depends on how hard the trail is and what I find for water and campsites.

There's a fair sized puddle back up the road a ways, I'm not that desperate
for water yet, and I should hit a spring tomorrow morning, but it was kind
of nice to see it – I HAVE taken water out of puddles before :-)

Another glider just made two passes, I must be on top of one of their
favorite ridges. They are kind of eerie when they're close, you hear a
“whoosh” JUST before you see them; a “What the hell is THAT?” moment...

Oh yeah, also moved into Section 5 and the last map set today!

Later – I'm not sure what surprised me more, the dogs that showed up, or
their owner following them. They went on up the trail, but on the way back
Todd stopped for a chat. He's a trail runner, but he's also been seduced by
the Adirondacks and is working on his 46. I'm more than a little impressed
that he did the Great Range in a day, exiting to the ADK Loj. He's covered
a bunch of the trails in PA, and would like to do the AT sometime too. He
did most of the talking, but a really nice guy :-)
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