I hiked a post-Christmas 1-nighter with my brother-in-law Loc along the Pinchot Trail in PA's Lackawanna State Forest (near Scranton, PA). The Whole trail is a ~23 miles figure-8 loop, but we only did the southern loop since we wanted to save the whole loop for when our other Brother-in-law Ron could come along.
"Gifford Pinchot (August 11, 1865 – October 4, 1946) was an American forester and politician. Pinchot served as the first Chief of the United States Forest Service from 1905 until his firing in 1910, and was the 28th Governor of Pennsylvania, serving from 1923 to 1927, and again from 1931 to 1935. He was a member of the Republican Party for most of his life, though he also joined the Progressive Party for a brief period.
Pinchot is known for reforming the management and development of forests in the United States and for advocating the conservation of the nation's reserves by planned use and renewal. He called it "the art of producing from the forest whatever it can yield for the service of man." Pinchot coined the term conservation ethic as applied to natural resources.
Pinchot sought to turn public land policy from one that dispersed resources to private holdings to one that maintained federal ownership and management of public land. He was a progressive who strongly believed in the efficiency movement. The most economically efficient use of natural resources was his goal; waste was his great enemy. Pinchot used the rhetoric of the market economy to disarm critics of efforts to expand the role of government: scientific management of forests and natural resources was profitable. While most of his battles were with timber companies that he thought had too narrow a time horizon, he also battled the forest preservationists like John Muir, who were deeply opposed to commercializing nature.
Pinchot was generally opposed to preservation for the sake of wilderness or scenery, a fact perhaps best illustrated by the important support he offered to the damming of Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park." [Wikipedia]
The weather report called for subfreezing weather...no skeeters or mud! There was already a few inches of snow on the ground which had drfted some, but the trail is windy in places, rocky, and somewhat overgrown so waterproof shoes and gaiters were a better option than snowshoes.
The trail is pretty flat with only a few hundred feet elevation gain/loss and that is gradual. There is a bit of road walking, but those roads are mostly jeep trails. We saw a few footprints from a hunter on the trail and were passed by some jeeps and snowmobiles on the road sections since it was the first real snow.
The only real hill is called Stone Tower Hill, which has a stone structure (more of a large cairn than an actual tower).
We saw lots of prints in the 2-day old snow, mostly rabbit, deer, and smaller critters. However, we did occasionally see some feline or canine paw prints.
At mile 8 We got to camp next to Choke Creek, which had an existing fire ring an plenty of flat space. I used a Boseman Mountain Works spinnaker tarp and OWARE bivy to help keep the predicted snow and wind off my Western Mountaineering Alpinlite bag.
I'm working to bring Loc to the light side, so he left his tent at home and slept under his fly, which fits to his style.
After setting up the shelters and collecting some fire wood to dry off the boots, we slipped into our puffy clothes since the sun was quickly setting.
It was nice to have a great water source nearby, but since the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area isn't exactly pristine backcountry we were sure to boil or purify the water with some Aqua Mira.
Gary Dunkel (Zia-Grill-Guy) made me a Ti pot stand to use with Esbit tablets. For a 1-2 night trip and boil/eat meals, I'm not sure that you can get any lighter or easier to use. I used Andrew Skurka's tip of making a cheap but perfectly servicable windscreen from some folded over aluminum foil to make the stove as efficient as possible.
I think that this will be my go-to system when I'm cooking for just myself. Ramen and instant mashed potatoes were welcomed around the campfire.
Loc like to eat well while backpacking, and is good about sharing, so some nicely marinated and grilled steak was the main course. We finished with some libations and dark chocolate for dessert.
The stars and full moon were out for a bit, then the clouds rolled in. With the snow reflecting the moonlight, we hardly needed headlamps to see since the trees were clearly silhouetted. It was a good end to the day.