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Donut Hole Trail: The Tee-Square and Donut Hole Trail

Another July weekend brings about another Prowl The Sproul. This annual event is held by the Keystone Trails Association, Western Clinton Sportsmans Club, and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. For this weekend of hiking I felt like a challenge and signed up for a long distance shuttle hike on the the Tee-Square Trail and the Donut Hole Trail. At a little over 12 miles in length, and quite a bit of elevation gain, this was to be the hardest day hike that I've done so far.

Trailhead: N 41° 27.72'
W 77° 34.33'
Total Elevation: 4103'
Trail Length: 12.1 miles
Hike Time: 8 hours
Hike Type: Shuttle
Difficulty Rating: 203
Near: Hyner Run State Park

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There were only three of us on this hike, which was just fine with me. This was to be a shuttle hike. On our way to the trailhead, we dropped off my car at the Hyner Run State Park, where we would be ending our hike. A quick check for my keys and locked doors, I hopped in the other car and continued on to the starting trailhead.

The trailhead for this hike is located on route PA44 where the Black Forest Trail crosses. To reach the trailhead simply get on route PA44 at it's intersection with route US220 by Jersey Shore and drive north. Around 30 miles you will see a large gravel parking area to the right of the road. Park the car here to start this hike.

We started this hike by following the Black Forest Trail for a short distance. From route PA44 we descended towards Baldwin Branch, following the orange blazes of the BFT. At 0.8 miles the Black Forest Trail beared off toward the right, but we continued straight on the Tee-Square Trail.

The first section of the Tee-Square Trail was steep and overgrown. We ascended about 300 feet in a quarter of a mile. At 1.1 miles into our hike the climb ended, but the trail was still overgrown and not very well blazed.

Somewhere around 1.7 miles we lost the Tee-Square Trail, but we were still following a trail of some sorts, with infrequent, faded blazes. Once we started to descend once again, I took a look at my GPS to realize that we were walking away from a dirt road that we were suppose to cross. We backtracked our steps until we found what looked to be a trail heading in the correct direction.

At 2.1 miles we emerged on the dirt road, but we weren't crossing where we should be. A quick glance at the map showed us about a quarter of a mile east from where the Tee-Square Trail was located. A little road walking had us back on track.

Once we crossed the road and entered the Sproul State Forest, the trail was much easier to follow. The yellow blazes seemed relatively fresh, at least compared to the faded blazes we were following earlier.

For the next 1.5 miles we hiked through some dense mountain laurel. Luckily for us the trail had been brushwhacked the year prior and was not yet overgrown. At 3.8 miles we came upon a dirt camp road where we the trail turned to our left and began a gently ascent.

At 4.1 miles we came upon Six Mile Road. A paused here for a bit to quench our thirsts before continuing on. Once crossing the road we began a gentle descend along one of the feeder streams for Hyner Run.

After 0.4 miles we turned away from the stream and traversed across the hill side. The trail leveled out after another quarter mile and we had a rather leisurely stroll.

At 5.4 miles we came upon some switchbacks where we began a descent into a hollow. I thought we were heading down to Cougar Run, where the Tee-Square Trail ends at the intersection with the Donut Hole Trail. When we reached the small stream we were a little baffled at the intersection being with another yellow blazed trail. We thought the Donut Hole was blazed orange, but with all the changes in blaze colors, we weren't sure. We decided to stop here and have our lunch.

After a twenty minute lunch break we were back on the trail. For the next mile the trail was relatively flat and straight. As we approached 6.4 miles I noticed clear sky through the trees, indicating a clearing or a vista. As we got closer I noticed that it was neither, but instead was another hollow, and a deep one at that. We began a long descent on a rocky switch-back trail into what we now realized was Cougar Run.

At seven miles into our hike we reached the end of the Tee-Square Trail and began hiking on the orange-blazed Donut Hole Trail. We turned right at the intersection and began the long, arduous climb away from Cougar Run.

Additional flat hiking greeted us once we finished our climb and for the next mile it was a nice, leisurely hike. At 8.2 miles we began another descent towards Abes Run. At Abes Run we crossed a dirt road and then had a vertical ascent staring us in the face. This was one of the steeper sections of trail that I've ever climbed. Add on the fact that I had already hiked over 8 miles, this climb was very demoralizing.

At 8.6 miles we finished the climb and took a short break. Not more than a half mile later we were descending into, and out of, another hollow. Luckily this descent and climb, though steep, was short.

At around 9 miles into our hike we entered a large mountain meadow. The trail was well blazed and easy to follow through the brush and high grass. While hiking on this section of the trail, we approached on of the few trees growing in the meadow. This pine tree was not more than 50 feet off to the right of the trail. As we approached we heard a crashing sound, as if a limb had broken off the tree and was falling to the ground. Looking towards the tree we saw the reason for the broken limb: a small black bear was dropping down out of the tree. Soon as the bear hit the ground it took off away from us toward the safety of the woods. The bear was moving at a fast rate of speed, much faster than I would have thought a bear could move, especially through the thick brush. I tried to take a picture, but the bear was soon into the woods and well out of sight.

After leaving the meadow behind, the hike was rather uneventful. At 10.4 miles the trail made a sharp left and soon began to descend in Log Road Hollow. This was the last section of our hike as we made a gradual descent to the Hyner Run State Park and our awaiting car.

We descended 900 feet in about 1.4 miles. I was stumbling along for the last mile of the hike. It was a hot, summer day, with high humidity, and I was exhausted from our 12 mile hike. I was happy to see my car waiting for us at the end of our hike. We all hopped in my car and we took a slow, leisurely drive back to the other car, with the windows rolled down, and enjoying the cool, mountain air.

Our car parked at the trailhead for this hike.

At the intersection with the Black Forest Trail, this sign points the way to the Donut Hole Trail via the Tom Thwaites (Tee-Square) Trail.

Ed blazes his way through the brush.

There were some section of the Tee-Square Trail that were well overgrown and hard to follow.

This sign marks the intersection of the Tee-Sqaure and Donut Hole trails.

After a rocky, switch-back descent, we approach Cougar Run.

Unlike the switch-back trail coming out of the Cougar Run hollow, we weren't so lucky with our ascent away from Abes Run.

It was in this meadow that we surprised a small black bear out of a pine tree.

We begin our long, gradual descent down Log Road Hollow.

Almost finished with our hike, we could here the sounds of people enjoying the weekend at Hyner Run State Park.

This map, located at the Hyner Run State Park, shows the route of the entire Donut Hole Trail.

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