[at-l] Mid-State Trail, Crystal Hills Trail Journal - Part 4

Mark Hudson mvhudson at gmail.com
Thu May 24 17:31:48 CDT 2012

5/12: Maple Run -

The sun comes up earlier when you're camped in a pipeline swathe... and
that sets the birds off... it was a beautiful sunrise tho. :-)

Cool and clear, blue skies. 6:15 start. The “forest” road I was on only
went as far as the next pipeline, so I'm guessing the lines are why the
road was built. Some nasty rock hopping after the road ended, and then the
trail dropped off the side of the ridge and picked up a very nice old jeep
road. That led further downhill to Drab Mill Lane, where the trail picked
up with a forest management road. Pretty quick hiking along there, tho I
was still a bit footsore from yesterday. I took morning break along there,
and called the Lindsey's – Matt was home, I think Lynne was shuttling the
kids to soccer practice. My plans are to finish on Wed. As they stand right
now I'll do the 8k or so to Yellow Creek (wonder if I can get Mother's Day
breakfast at the New Frontier Restaurant?), tank up on water, try for 14 k
or so from there (around the Dunkards Path) to dry camp. That leaves a 10
mile or so day into Everett, where I'm going to get a motel room and let my
feet rest. The room wasn't in my original plans, but things change :-)

So, after morning break I followed that forest road for a good distance,
then an old charcoal road and a pipeline swathe on an easier-than-I-thought
climb back up the ridge. More rock hopping, some blowdown to confuse
things, and briers... fun, fun, fun...

Came out at Rt 164 to more confusion, fumbled my way to the second parking
log, and picked up another forest management road. Met one guy out for his
morning walk, and then stopped for lunch. That road ran me all the way to
Henrietta Mt Rd – met a dayhiker along the way – and a short jog down HMR
to pick up, yes, another forest management road. BTW, who picked the
“orange” paint for these blazes? It's more brown, and you're lucky to see
them, so why bother? Did scare up a turkey in there, then hit Maple Run Rd
down to the Maple Run Trail. Footsore when I got here, stuck my feet in the
small creek. I'm guessing the water is about 50 degrees, so the feet
weren't in long. In camp at 2:30. Thinking it may be nap time.

I did get the weather report for tomorrow from Matt, 71 and a chance of
afternoon (thunder?) showers. With the trail entering the dry section
tomorrow I was concerned about the temp, so Matt eased that fear. From the
guide it looks like the first 7k into the dry section is management road. I
left camp with 2 liters this morning, did about 28k to get here, and was
just about dry. Which means, ugh!, that I should leave Yellow Creek with at
least 4 liters. If water, or anything else becomes an issue, I have the
option of bailing off the east side of the ridge and coming into Everett
from the north, that would save at least a few miles (I think it's the old
route of the MST too).

Wow! People around, sounds like a family coming down the trail, whole bunch
of kids :-)

Given as few people as I've seen along the trails I'm glad to see someone
out, especially with kids. Geez, it's all of 4:30, and my stomach thinks
it's dinnertime. I think the family has to come back this way, and I don't
want to scare the women and children, so I'll wait a bit in the tent <g>.
Too early to eat yet anyway...

Well, of course the family was gone long enough that I figured they had
found a loop trail, and I was cooking dinner when they came back through. I
know they saw the tent on the way down, but they either didn't see me or
they ignored me on the way back.

This has been a good hike (I don't know if I've ever been on a BAD one
<g>), but there are trails I'd do all over again, and ones I have no need
to. I really don't need to do this one again. I'm ready to stop the ankle
twisting and foot pounding, the “Where do I put my feet?”. You look for
blazes and trip, or watch your feet and miss blazes.

All that said, other than the minor detail of the snow storm... I sure
picked the right time of year to do it. Just today's section, buy the end
of June all the seasonal springs will be dry and the briers will be chest
deep. And I don't even want to imagine hitting that twenty miles into
Everett on an 80+ degree day with sunshine. Then again, out of that 31k,
the first 7 are management road, and the last 11.5 is road walking, which
leaves about 13k on the ridge, in the rocks... split unevenly over two
days. We'll see how that goes.

Oh, more fun for tomorrow... I was going over the maps with Dave at the
outfitters in SC; Loyalsburg is one of the catches. If you can't get across
Yellow Creek in the Gap you get to add another mile of wandering down
through the village to get around the missing bridge. Since you end up just
on the other side of the creek it at least saves me from having to haul all
that water for the mile.

Wondering if the New Frontier will be open when I pass by, the idea of a
second breakfast is really appealing :-)

 5/13: North of Everett -

Let's get today's whining out of the way first. Somewhere along Maple Run I
took my first pratfall of the trip, SOB rock I stepped on tilted and I
couldn't recover. I didn't draw blood, but I was pissed enough that I might
as well have. I can deal with the pointy rock, but the bastards that move
on you...

Second, the blazes – I think we're on the third color of “orange”. This
latest one is more of a burnt-red. Think of the oldest red barn that you
know of, where half the paint is gone, but you don't really see that
because it fell off in tiny flakes. Now, take a 2x6” swathe of that and
apply it to a random gray tree trunk in the woods. Now try to find it...
throw in rock fields, marshy areas, and blowdowns, and look for the blaze
again. Shades of the Kekekabic Trail, screw the blazes, where's the nearest
saw-cut deadfall? *That's* where the trail goes!

Left camp around 6:20, blue skies and cool temps. Made it to the New
Frontier restaurant at 8:30. Have to say I was a little disappointed about
my second breakfast – I couldn't finish it if I still expected to walk!
Blueberry pancakes the size of the plate, hash browns that I didn't need,
and orange juice and water that I probably did need. Pretty good...

Left about 9:30. Road walked down to the old MST turn across Yellow
Creek... decrepit old suspension footbridge there... if I weighed fifty
pounds more I wouldn't have gone near it, as it was I was picking my steps
and treading lightly. I got to the south end and turned around to find that
end of the bridge posted “No Trespassing”. Got water from the creek, found
the MST reroute just up the hill, and started a long upward slog.

Mercifully, by this point the day had turned mostly overcast. I worked up a
good sweat on that climb, and after getting away from some small runs
feeding Yellow Creek the only water I saw was in a small mud puddle on the
management road.

Long walk down the road, then a climb up to the ridge. Going south on the
ridge it started out a nice smooth ridge run, but after the Dunkard Path it
got a LOT rockier and started yoyo-ing up and down. Did see a terrapin and
a grouse along the ridge, the only wildlife all day.

Camped in a wide spot in the trail near an overlook, but WHICH overlook?
Short run into town tomorrow, but not sure how short... I also think I
hauled too much water. With that second breakfast lunch was basically
snacking, which means I can have the lunch stuff for dinner (it's heavier,
so eating it will make my pack lighter)... so I don't need water for
cooking or cleaning up. I did buy some instant cocoa in town, I may make
some of that. All I really need is drinking water for tonight and tomorrow.

Sitting on top of this high narrow ridge, I can hear the dogs and roosters
down at the valley farms, some traffic noise, the occasional clang of farm
equipment. Mostly what I hear right now is the breeze in the trees :-)

Oh yeah, the camera is finally showing the battery not at full charge. I'm
guessing I'll make it to the end of the trip with it (I do have a spare
battery). 242 pics, 3 weeks and change... I'm not unhappy with those
results :-)

So, if I'm where I think I am on the ridge it's about 17k to town (it may
be a bit shorter). Of that distance 11.5k is on road (there's some
woods/farm road I'm not counting). I could be having lunch in town tomorrow
if the rocks show any mercy.

<sigh> I knew I'd forget something. Shortly after cresting the ridge on the
way here I almost stepped in a pile of bear scat. Looks like the farms may
be missing some corn :-)

The breeze is picking up, feels like it's getting cooler, and it's very
lightly sprinkling. I'm hoping it doesn't amount to much, I REALLY don't
need to deal with wet rocks tomorrow morning.

Called home to wish mom Happy Mother's Day :-) Lynne got the mail so I'll
have ID again. And her program is later in the week, so I should see her
when I finish on Wed.

The sections out of Everett fall a little strange because of a natural area
with no camping, then I need to count the road walk into Flintstone, so
it's either a 21k (14 miles) day followed by a 30k day plus the road walk,
or a 28k day to a dry camp and with a huge climb at the end followed by by
a 23k + road walk day. The second option probably makes the most sense, but
I'll need to see just how rough that first 14 miles is...

The sprinkling stopped, then started, and has built up into a shower – so
I'll be hiking on wet rocks in the morning :-(

 5/14: Everett, Carolyn Courts Motel -

I'm not sure I got the whole weather report from Matt the other day.
Yesterday's chance of afternoon showers turned into all night showers,
morning showers, and it looks like showers all day today.

Packed up in light rain this morning, not sure what time I left camp
because the watch got scooped up and packed, but it probably wasn't 6:30

Anyone know the name of the mythical PA monster that eats mountains and
shits rocks???

Big rocks, little rocks, pointy rocks, tippy rocks – all of them slick.
Slow going... Wet boots from the brush. Passed at least four eastern
overlooks on the ridge where the book only mentions two. The book also
doesn't note the trail that drops off the east side of the ridge to the
sawmill – I could hear the mill but never saw the trail. Handlebar came up
that way, bet it was interesting <g>.

Finally descended the ridge on a wood road, turning to a long farm lane,
turning to pavement on Lower Snake Spring Valley Rd. Long road walk, but at
least it was fast. The rain would almost stop, then pick up again, never
really hard – just enough to keep everything saturated.

Hit Rt 30, lots of traffic, but after a really short stretch you parallel
it on old road and on an old railroad grade. If my boots weren't soaked
before the grass and brush on the railroad grade took care of that. End of
the grade and a walk down the streets of Everett. On the corner of Main St
is this motel; $30 room and it looks it, but it's warm and dry. The crazy
thing is that it was only 9:30 when I got here. Well, it turns out that I'm
3k short of the end of the section, so I have two long days to finish this
hike with.

Laundry done. Bought snacks, and paper towels to stuff in my boots to at
least get them a little dry. Weather rumor for tomorrow is “a little
better, but not much”. Time to start thinking about lunch, not sure what's
around for food, and since it's still raining it's not like I want to do
much wandering.

Soup and salad and coconut cream pie at the family restaurant at the motel
here. Not too exciting, but it was close... and it's still raining. The
Dollar General is around the corning here, so I bought some razors and
hacked the beard off :-)

Before lunch I caught the weather channel, tomorrow's report is for 71
degrees, showers “early” - I may get wet leaving town, and be hiking wet
rocks and weeds, but it's not supposed to rain all day :-)

Oh, and while this might be a slightly seedy motel, the woman who rented me
the room brought a portable heater over from her house so I can try to get
my boots dry. “Dry” might be optimistic, I'd settle for getting them down
to damp. Probably just to soak them again in the morning anyway :-(

Wondering if I can find dinner and a beer at the same time in this little
town, almost time to go looking. And yes, it's still raining. I don't feel
bad about bailing into a motel room today, especially since I was planning
on resting my feet anyway. It would have been another 8 miles in the rain
to Biddle Place, so I probably would have got there at 1:30 and spent the
rest of the afternoon in the tent listening to the rain patter on the
roof... :-(

Well, back to the motel restaurant for dinner. No beer, but it was nearly
pouring out and I wasn't about to get soaked. The locals say that it's
supposed to rain all day tomorrow, but the TV news says that it's supposed
to break into passing showers tonight and tomorrow and be getting nicer on
Wed. I'm waiting for the Weather Channel to come back around with the local
weather again... and... still waiting.

I was thinking I could have an issue on the other side of Rainsburg Gap –
the trail makes nine stream crossings in short order, but if it's ugly
there's a way around it by road.

And I was thinking that if it's REALLY ugly here in the morning I have
enough time to afford a zero day. I just looked outside and the rain is
finally down to a light sprinkle, a couple of cars even went by with their
wipers off.

Well, I guess I'm going to have to wait and see what the weather is doing
in the morning...

 5/15: Everett (zero day)-

Woke up and it was still raining. Low clouds and fog, the ridges socked in.
If the weather was for continuing rain I would have hiked just to get the
trip finished, but the next two days sound like they're going to be really
nice. 9 am now and the rain has stopped, saw a small patch of blue sky, but
still mostly low clouds. With any luck the rocks and brush will dry this
afternoon, and I'll have views tomorrow.

There's not much of a business district here, but I did a little walk
around and found a Italian/pizza place and another pizza place up at the
other end of the street. They believe in duplication here, three pharmacies
and a couple of bars, and lots of thrift shops. I wouldn't say the town is
depressed, but it's seen better days.

Getting ready for a trip to the post office, mostly to get rid of the book
I just finished, tho I did find some other things to get rid of. It seems a
little silly stripping pack weight at this point, but the two days I have
left will be two of the longer ones, so the less weight the better. :-)

 5/16: Martin Hill -

Awoke this morning to a god-awful clatter outside... hail? THAT wasn't in
the weather report! Staggered groggily to the window to find someone had
started a diesel pickup outside.

Up early, planning a long day. Stopped at Sheetz for a blueberry muffin,
banana, and a cup of coffee. Left the motel at 6am and headed out into fog.
Crossed the bridge and... lost the blazes. The next ones I found MUCH
farther on were blacked out. Well, I wasn't doubling back, I'd give the old
route a shot. Ashcom Rd *sucked*... no shoulder, guardrails and rock walls
(nowhere to run), fog... and speeding dump trucks. Don't know where the
reroute went but it has to be better! Found the “obscure left turn onto
woods road” (Dear MSTA, many of the blacked out blazes were easier to find
than the regular orange blazes!). I figured the old trail would meet up
with the new trail. Steep climb up to where the grade eased, and the new
trail came in from the WEST, not the east. Total mystery...

Easy walk on the tower and management roads, and then a short, stiff climb
to the ridge. Easy ridge walking to the first rocks; BIG, DRY slabs – no
problem. The first view I arrived at let me know that waiting in town was
worth it – beautiful!

After some ridge running and more beautiful views the trail dropped down
through the rocks to another easy on the feet forest road. This one wound
through a couple of glens where the springs were more like streams. It also
ran past the road down to some trailhead parking. After a long run on the
road – the *grassy* road (the dew did my boots in) – it was time to head
through the rocks back up to the ridge. The ridge turned out to be a PITA
this time; the rocks were all small ankle-twisters – hidden in tall grass.
And when the trail's on top of the ridge there are only so many places it
can be... this section they dropped you fifty feet off the side into the
scree field, and then the blazes disappear. Traverse? Up? Down? Damn, did I
miss a turn? Slow going. Then they drop you off the ridge to the bench. The
guide makes it sound like they're doing you a favor, but all you get out of
it is the descent and climb and more rocks. No water, no road walk, no
trailhead. Why not stay on the ridge?

When I regained the ridge I stopped at the first view for lunch. Do I need
to mention the views again? Today made up for a lot of the fogged in views
I never saw :-)

Shortly after lunch, dancing through the rocks, I heard the first and so
far only rattler of the trip, just off the trail is some brush and rocks.
He sounded like a really small one, and since we weren't bothering each
other I didn't go poking around looking for him. Also on the wildlife front
I saw about four piles of bear scat throughout the day.

I was making really good time, much better than I expected given how much
of the trail was real trail and not road walking. From lunch to Rainsburg
Gap was an easy 4k, a good part on a nice woods road – mossy cushions for
my feet even :-)

After the gap you start hitting water, lots of it... and I was going to
need some to pack up to camp. First stop was at Sweetwater Run, two quarts
treated for my almost empty water bladder. Second Stop after the Tarkiln
Trail at an awesome spring, piped and cold. Wet my face and neck to cool me
off for the long climb here... which I think would actually be easier if it
was rockier, rocks would at least give you some kind of steps. It must be
really interesting going downhill, and if it's raining...

Arrived here about 4pm, on my longest day – around 35k or so. At least I
can finish on a “short” day tomorrow. 23K plus a two mile road walk.

Thought I'd find a nice place to camp at the old firetower site, but I
think they built an antenna on it – it's all antennas up here. There is a
grassy lawn next to the first equipment building, I'm waiting for shade to
hit before pitching camp. It certainly doesn't look like I have to worry
about traffic up here.

Just went poking around before dinner – there's TWO sets of orange blazes
going south from here, it took me a second to figure out the set in the
woods is brand new, they haven't finished grubbing out the trail yet. I'm
assuming it's going to replace the road and power line walk, but right now
I've had enough ankle twisting and will stick to the old trail, especially
since they haven't blacked out those blazes yet :-)

Oh yeah, forgot a note; bought an elastic ankle brace in town yesterday.
It's not much since it needs to fit in my hiking boot, I'm not sure it's
helping my it's really not hurting. Glad I got a medium too, mens size 9
fell right on the edge between small and medium. I'm not sure I could have
got the small one on, and if I did my toes would turn blue. My right ankle
was really bothering me during the night and starting out this morning, I
think it was from schlepping around town in my crocs yesterday – not enough

Two little notes – this is the highest point on the trail, and the goddamn
gnats are out. There's a nice breeze up here, but it's not steady enough to
keep the gnats down... damn...

Hiding in the tent, looking at tomorrow, and I missed something in the
planning <sigh>.

The map ends the trail just outside Flintstone. The guide ends the trail at
the PA/MD border farther east, at the connection with the Pine Lick Trail.
It's mostly a road walk to the Pine Lick Trail, but there's short portions
of new trail not on my map. So it's end earlier than I thought were the map
ends the trail at Flintstone, or end at the Pine Lick Trail with a longer
than I planned on walk back to Flintstone. Phone call time... great... damn
cell phones... won't connect. All set to mellow out and the last night
turns into a pain.

Thought I'd be ready for a nap or falling asleep right after dinner after
pulling such a long day, but I don't feel any more tired than usual. Laying
hear listening to the birds sing... and there's a piece of sheetmetal on
one of the towers here that keeps doing a really good impression of
thunder. And since they predicted scattered thunderstorms this evening it
keeps catching my ear... there's scattered clouds but nothing like a storm
brewing up. Actually, it's a VERY nice evening...

 5/17: Flintstone -

And the fiasco continues... A few spatters of rain just at dark last night.
The wind blew hard all last night, and the whipowills were going nuts – I
didn't sleep very well at all.

Not sure just when I left camp, early tho... the power line descent wasn't
bad, and then I was moving pretty fast on easy trail. Once I got over to
Tussey Road I was really making time – I figured I had time today to make
it to the Pine Lick Trail and still double back to Flintstone before Matt
headed out this way.

Turned off of Tussey Rd onto the Morris Tr, real trail... green tunnel
ridge running. Much winding, some of it not matching with the guide – think
they rerouted on the Burnt Mills Tr. On a section at the end they pull an
AT trick of routing the trail fifteen feet off the old woods road. Came out
at PA 346... and the blazes turn right instead of left. So the map is right
and the guidebook doesn't match the blazes. The trail ended at the Md
border a short time later, leaving me the walk to Flintstone.

Borrowed a phone at the cafe and called Lynne, caught her at the grocery
store prepping for hre program, too hectic to come get me. She called
Matt's dad and left a message – he's probably out in the garden. So, I'm
either waiting for Matt's dad soon, or Matt around 4pm. Sitting in a little
memorial park, picnic tables and sunshine. It's such a beautiful day that
waiting here is actually a pleasure. And if I'm here for a while there's a
deli, a cafe, and a mini-mart all across the street...
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