Over Labor Day weekend of 2003, Mark had decided that he was going to hike the 42 mile loop of the Black Forest Trail. He was planning on doing this in five days and asked if I wanted to go along. This would be my first hike since I was a teenager, well over 15 years ago and I knew that I was not in shape to do such an extended hike. I did tell Mark that I would hike the first day with him and maybe meet up with him at the end of the hike to hike the last day.
|Trailhead:||N 41° 27.48''
W 77° 30.86'
|Trail Length:||8.5 miles|
|Hike Time:||5.5 hours|
|Near:||Along PA44 and PA414
around the village of
Slate Run in the
Tiadaghton State Forest.
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Since I had not done any hiking in recent history, I did not have any equipment at all. I had some boots that, maybe not the highest of quality, would suffice for hiking one day. I did have to go out an purchase a day pack plus some water bottles. I also thought it wise to purchase a first-aid kit because you never know.
I met Mark at his house and we drove separate vehicles to Slate Run. At Slate Run, we took my vehicle up Slate Run Road, about 3 miles, and parked it where I would be coming off the trail later that day. We then drove back down to where Naval Run enters Pine Creek to begin our adventure.
The trailhead for the this hike is located on route PA414 in the town of Slate Run. It can be reached, coming from the south, by taking route PA44 north from the intersection of US220 in Jersey Shore. Just past Waterville, you will bear right off of PA44 onto route PA414. Once you turn onto route PA414 set your odometer and drive for 14.1 miles. As you approach Slate Run you turn left and cross Pine Creek. At the intersection after the bridge, turn left down the dirt road and follow it to the end, near Naval Run, and park in the parking area provided. If coming from the north, once you enter the town of Slate Run, turn right, cross the bridge, and then turn left at the intersection and follow the road to it's end. By the way, if you're hungry and are looking for a bite to eat, turn right at the intersection just after the bridge and stop at the Hotel Manor. I highly recommend the Tri-tip Steak Sandwich, and a beer, of course.
As I mentioned earlier, Mark was planning on hiking the entire trail that weekend, so he had his pack full of five days provisions for himself and a lot of dog food for Storm. I, on the other hand, only had about 2 liters of water in my day pack, some tuna for lunch, crackers, and a first-aid pack.
When we started our hike it was drizzling a little. This was fine with us as it was quite warm that day and the cool rain felt good. The first part of the hike is a very steep climb. I was making good time but I found that Waxman had to stop many times to catch his breath. It wasn't until the following year, when I got a real pack of my own and suited up for an overnighter that I realized the extend of the weight that Waxman was carrying up the mountain side that day. But on this hike, with my featherweight day pack on my back, I was in the lead blazing the trail.
When we reached the summit they're wasn't much to see as it was still drizzling and overcast. We took a moment to drink some water and then continued on our hike.
It was during this first hike that I fell in love with the Black Forest Trail and the Pine Creek area. The woods were lush with vegetation and the paths that we were hiking were well marked and free of obstacles. On the BFT you can walk at a leisurely pace and enjoy your surrounding as opposed to always staring at the trail to make sure that you don't trip or sprain an ankle.
There were areas of this hike that were rocky, especially on descents, but these areas were few and far between. We had lunch at about 4 miles into our hike, along Little Slate Run. There was a nice campsite here and it was quite cool down in the hollow, even on this warm, late summer day.
After lunch we began our second ascent of the day. The total elevation of this climb was only slightly less than the first, but the climb was much more gradual. Once we reached the top we didn't have a vista as we did after our first climb since we were now on top of a plateau, somewhat removed from Pine Creek. The majority of the vistas on the BFT look out over Pine Creek or Slate Run.
We started our hike a little after 11:00AM that morning and we reached the campsite where Mark was going to set up camp that first night just shortly before 4:00PM. I helped Mark set up camp and then bid him adieu. I left a walkie talkie with him that had a 5 mile range so that I could contact him and finish the hike with him on his last day. From his campsite I followed a blue blazed side trail out to Manor Fork stream. I followed the stream directly down to where we had parked my car earlier. All in all I had hiked a little over 8 miles. Not too bad for my first time out in over a decade.
By the way, Mark didn't finish the hike. The next day it was raining so he decided to call it a day. Mark and Chris would hike this part of the trail again in October of 2003. Mark and I, along with Shari and Cathey, hiked this section yet another time on Labor Day of 2004. On Labor Day 2005, Mark and I, with the company of Shari and Storm, finally completed the Black Forest Trail after 42 miles and 2 years.