Hi everyone, this is my first time posting, but I've been following the forums for a while. I wish I'd been reading all your advice and tips back in 2007 before I committed to buying my first round of camping gear.
Five years and many pounds ago it took me two long days for my gear and me to trudge around the 20 mile loop at my local state park, and it took me days to recover from the sore muscles and chaffing. Last summer, with lighweight gear crammed into a Flash 18 daypack, I did the loop in 18 hours, including sleeping. In the fall I did it as a day hike in 7 hours, including lunch. No sore muscles, no chaffing. I know that's small beans compared to the incredible adventures I read about in all of your trip reports, but it's a big accomplishment for me and I've sure enjoyed the heck out of it.
So I feel like I've outgrown Raccoon Creek State Park and I'm ready for a longer trip. My current plan is to do the Laurel Highlands Trail (southwest Pennsylvania) over the long Memorial Day weekend next month. This would be my first time ever out longer than one night. Here are my big concerns.
1) Can I do it in three days? That's my current plan, and I've worked out a southbound itinerary that finishes the 70 mile trail over three 20 - 25 mile days (assuming I don't have to follow the detour where the bridge is out over the Turnpike). I know I can do a hilly 20 mile day hike and not be sore the next day, I'm just not sure what that third day is going to be like, especially on the big hills at the Ohiopyle end of the trail.
2) Should I schedule an extra day? I might be able to get another day off work. That would add a margin of error to the schedule, but it might also leaving me sitting for a long afternoon in camp, when what I'd really like to be doing is hiking.
3) If I got an extra day off, is there an even longer trail that I should consider, not too far from Pittsburgh, preferably a loop? Maybe somewhere in the northern part of West Virginia?
Thanks for any advice you can offer.