Sunday, June 3, 2018

Laurel Highlands - Second Part

The forecast for Friday night, May 18 was for two inches of rain, then heavy rain all day Saturday.  I slept fitfully in the crowded shelter at the Route 30 Campground on the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail in Western Pennsylvania, three days of hiking behind me.  For one thing, a group of scouts woke me from a deep sleep with their hooting and hollering.  For another, I think I felt bad that this trip that I had planned was kind of falling apart with six of the 11 leaving in the morning.  But I was also glad that four others were continuing, and I was not hiking the next 40+ miles on my own.  After breakfast, the five of us packed up, said goodbye to our six companions, and got ready to start hiking nearly 15 miles.

Here is the track for the fourth day, heading southwest.  The purple arrow is where the trail crosses the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and the orange arrow is 35 mile halfway point.  Unfortunately, my inReach didn't have enough battery power after the fourth day to continue tracking the hike.  It was supposed to have enough juice to track for 8-10 days, so I hadn't brought along a spare.  Lesson learned.

The day started cool and humid, but no real rain.  There were a lot of great streams along the way.  Here is the first of them.  By the way, the board bridges were incredibly slippery.  You want to move across them at a speed that your great-great grandfather would find too slow.

This section of the hike had some great rock formations,

and here is the Pennsylvania State Tree, the Eastern Hemlock.

In the early afternoon, we came to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, a special moment for me.  It was driving under this bridge that inspired me to hike this trail.

Here I am at the halfway point - 35 more miles to go.  You can see that I am casting a shadow, and the day is actually quite nice - no rain, and a fair amount of sun, the best weather to date of the whole trip.

By the time I hiked into camp about 5:30, I had hiked about 15 miles, and felt like I was running on fumes.  But after soaking my feet in the cold stream by our shelters and resting for a while, I felt fine, and even better after eating dinner.

We also got a fire going, which was comforting and warm, and allowed all of us to dry our wet socks and other clothing.  Life is good with a campfire!  We got some rain and thunderstorms that night but not a lot.  One of the gals pitched her tent rather than stay in a shelter, and her tent leaked, so she wasn't real happy.  But these things can happen on the trail

On Sunday, we had another long (14.5 miles) day, so we got an early start.  I hiked most of it with John and Donna, Kelly and Wilma having gotten out ahead.  We did meet up at a pre-arranged spot on the trail and had lunch all together.  Here is John and me in a hemlock forest that reminded me of a cathedral - God's handiwork in the natural world.

Donna and John celebrate 30 miles to go.

This was the only area of the trail where I remember seeing a home - a beautiful farm in this case - right by the trail.

We had continually improving weather at the Seven Springs Ski area, which was also our lunch spot where we met the others in our group.

Back in the woods, here are some bracket fungi making a living on a dying tree.

The highlight of the day was Blue Hole Creek.  The three of us stayed here a good 30-40 minutes.  I washed my upper body, getting off five days of grime and sweat, and also washed my hair and shirt.  It felt great.  By the way, of course I didn't use soap.  Even biodegradable soap should never be put into a stream.  If we hadn't had another six miles to camp, I think I would have found a quiet spot and taken a bath.  It was cold but it felt great to be cleaner for a while.

After washing up and cooling off for a bit, we got back on the trail, and went through some great rocky areas again.

We also reached a rare viewpoint on this trail, as most of it is in the forest.

And we came on a really old grave yard in the woods, with lots of flowers planted.

At camp, everyone was tired but happy.  The weather had again been fabulous, and the promised rain had not materialized.  We now had only about 18.5 more miles to hike to reach our cars.

Monday morning, I set my camera on a picnic table and got a group shot, then we started hiking.  After a 15 and a 14.5 mile day, 12 miles didn't feel all that bad.

The trail is beautifully maintained.  I loved these steps.

And it was great how the trail went in between huge rocks many times.

Pack off break, always appreciated!

This is Cranberry Glad Lake, the only lake I saw on the hike.  There is an osprey nest here, but I didn't see it.

Cranberry Glade Stream was really pretty.  We had our lunch break here.

Water drips from the ground down a mossy rock face.

We were hiking towards pretty rugged terrain, and we had some decent views.

We reached camp with 6.5 miles left to hike.  It was the nicest day of hiking and weather for the entire week.  There was a beautiful stream right by the shelters, and I immersed myself in it.  The cold water was shocking, but it felt good to clean off again.  As always, no soap.  I washed my hair in this waterfall.

Tuesday morning, we started to hike out, and on cue, the rain started pouring down.  So, we started and ended our 70 mile hike in pouring rain.  How appropriate!  After a couple of miles, it was not raining as hard, but the first part of the final miles of the hike has two steep climbs and two steep drops, made tougher by the pouring rain.  Here I am at the 4 mile point.  I've now hiked my age on this trail!

It wasn't raining as hard, so I wrung my socks out.  I repeated this two more times, and easily could have filled a cup with water.

Near the end of the hike was a spectacular - even in the misty, rainy air - viewpoint overlooking the Youghiogheny ("The Yok") River.  There was a fin of rock jutting out with a fall of several hundred feet.  We all went out there, but we all stayed away from the edge.  On a sunny day in the fall, this would be an incredible view.

 Soon enough, on the seventh day after starting this hike, we reached the end.

It had been a great trip.  I am glad that we stuck with it and that we finished together.  Now, dry clothing and a big lunch beckoned, then the 6 hour drives home.  I had a great time on this hike, and it will be one of my best hiking memories.  I recommend this trail to anyone who likes backpacking.


  1. Hats off to you and all the others who finished the hike.
    Glad you had such a great time and one you will not soon forget.
    Sure is some beautiful scenery along the way.
    Wonder if the people who live in the house along the trail have hiked any of it.
    Must have been neat to walk over the highway that you drove on.

    1. Thanks, Happy-K. I loved hiking this trail. It will always be a special memory. It did feel special to cross the PA Turnpike, and also to hit the zero milestone. I recommend this trail, even just a night or two, for anyone who loves to hike.