I've wanted to get out and hike this trail for the past two years and have been interrupted by weather or work but a break in my schedule opened up and I had 2 days to go anywhere I wanted within driving distance , I immediately knew that I was heading to the Black Forest to tackle that ever elusive trail. Friday I printed out maps, saw the Counting Crows concert at Stage AE, had my fill of beers and got a few hours of sleep. 4am rolled around way to early. I jumped in the Xterra and headed out to Slate Run where the Black Forest trail starts. After 3 1/2 hrs. I arrived and said to myself "why in all the years I've lived in Pa that I never came to this magnificent area". Rolling mountains and native trout streams surround you. First business was to stop into Wolfes General Store to pick up some amazing sandwiches and pastries which are made in house. They wrapped up my sandwich and pastry so nothing would leak and I said my goodbyes.
I was at the trailhead a few minutes later and donned my gear (HMG 3400 Porter, Enlightened Equipment 40 degree Quilt, Innov-8 trail runners, Caldera Cone, Ursack full of food and a few other items all totaling less than 20 lbs for 2 days).
After signing the trail register I was confronted by which way to go? I never gave it any thought when planning and saw that the guy before me went right, so I decided to go the same way; maybe we’d meet up later and break the boredom of the trail that sometimes happens. After a few hundred yards you’re confronted with your first obstacle, a creek that you cannot rock hop across, so off came the socks and I crossed in my trail runners. This decision would be the correct one; going left I would have faced an ascent that is brutal while the ascent on the right was much gentler.
Making it up the first ascent you are presented with a glorious view of the area known as the “Black Forest”
The next 40+ miles you are exposed to all the topographical features you can think of - Peaks and Valleys; Humid, Damp, Dark Draws that make you think that night is closely approaching when in reality its only 4pm. The sun is totally obliterated by the forest. Then there are the streams - clear cool and teeming with wildlife. Native Brooke trout live here. It’s a catch a release policy that keeps the population from dwindling.
Being a ground dweller you must pick your camp sites ahead of time. I knew that there was only about one hour of light left and I had already put in 17 miles that day. The map showed a camp site along the creek that I could make before darkness set in. I finally arrived at my destination for the night and setup my cuben ground sheet, neoair xlite and quilt, I was cowboy camping tonight under the stars. Knowing that I was the only person around, off came the clothes and it was time to wash up. Fresh, cold spring water never felt so good. A dinner of chocolate nuts and Fritos tasted so good! Morning was upon me and it was time to pack up. I could remember waking up during the night, there was a frog that was curious to whom I was and kept jumping on my cuben gound sheet. I’m glad he did wake me for the stars were out in full blast. This area of Pa is known for its dark nights, so dark in fact that the Milky Way cast it's shadow here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherry_Springs_State_Park.
Day 2 was to be etched in memory for a long time. As I walked along the trail surrounded by blooming mountain laurel I came across an area that was cut for timber. There were numerous white birch trees along the trail that were rotting away. Knowing that birch bark is an excellent fire starter I decided that I’d pull off a swath and pocket it for later on to start a fire. Well this was where Mr. Rattlesnake was laying out and catching the morning rays and didn't take lightly to my hand so close. As I put my hand down to peel off a slice of bark I didn't see him there less than 2 feet away. He immediately let me know that this was his area with that all distinctive rattle. I jumped back thinking “what did I just do”!! A rookie mistake, putting your hands into the brush when you know this area is known for Rattlesnakes. After a pants check I broke out the GoPro and shot some video and a few stills. He stood his ground and I’m guessing he had to be over 4 feet long and almost as thick as my forearm.
The route continues to traverse through much of the same features as before; steep ascents, rocky descents and beautiful creeks.
Half Dome in Pa- This is what this mountain looking out is called.
I must of spooked him and this was a very large paw print
Walking through the forest
Looking down into Pine Creek from one of the many vistas
Typical Pa Trail