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Mid State Trail - State College: Pennsylvania Furnace Road to Jo Hays Vista

Mark has managed to hike the Mid State Trail from Jo Hays Vista on route PA26 to Blackwell. Towards the south end, he would like to complete the trail down to Water Street, which leaves him with about 20 miles to hike on the Mid State south of Jo Hays Vista. I haven't hiked nearly as much of the Mid State as Mark has (yet) so I told him that I wanted to hike the section from Water Street to Jo Hays with him. So on a nice Thursday afternoon, Mark and I took an afternoon off of work, and along with Shari and Storm, completed 5 of the remaining 20 miles of the Mid State Trail south of Jo Hays Vista.

Trailhead:  N 40° 40.99'
W 77° 58.08'
Total Elevation:  474'
Trail Length:  4.7 miles
Hike Time:  2.5 hours
Hike Type:  Point to Point
Difficulty Rating:  56
Near:  South of Pennsylvania Furnace, accessible from route PA26.


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The Mid State Trail is over 320 miles in length and extends from the Maryland border to the New York border. The southern end of the MST is found on the Mason-Dixon line on route PA326. The northern terminus is located just north of Lawrenceville, PA. The MST is situated on public lands, such as state forests, state game lands and state parks. Closer to the Maryland and New York borders, the Mid State Trail uses private lands by permission.

The trailhead for this hike is located at the top of Tussey Mountain, where the Mid State Trail intersects with the Pennsylvania Furnace Road. The Pennsylvania Furnace Road is a maintained (for the most part) forest road found within Rothrock State Forest. Even though Pennsylvania Furnace Road does extend the entire way from the ridge top to route PA45, the lower section, being on private land and not State Forest land, is not maintained and I do not recommend accessing the trailhead in this fashion. The best way to get to the trailhead is to travel on route PA26 and turn off onto Kepler Road, another maintained forest road. From the intersection of route PA26 and route PA45 in Pine Grove Mills, travel south on PA26 for 1.2 miles. You will then bear right, just past the power line crossing, onto a dirt road. This is Kepler Road. Continue on Kepler Road for approximately 8.5 miles until you get to an intersection of 4 roads. Make a sharp left onto Pennsylvania Furnace Road, and continue up the side of the mountain for 1 mile. Once you crest the mountain, there is ample parking to the left, with the trailhead being on the right side of the road. If you are traveling north on PA26, towards the town of Pine Grove Mills, once you pass Jo Hays Vista at the top of Tussey Mountain, keep your eyes open for Kepler Road on your left, about 0.8 miles from Jo Hays Vista.

We first drove to the parking area at Jo Hays Vista and parked Mark's car here. This was to be a point to point hike of almost five miles and this is where we would be concluding the hike. Mark and Storm joined Shari and I in my car and we headed off to the trailhead.

We hadn't had any lunch yet and it was well past 1:00PM, so we picked up a few subs and decided to have a little picnic before we started off on our hike. Just south of the trailhead, right along the Pennsylvania Furnace Road, is a beautiful vista. We sat here on some rocks, eating our lunch, and enjoying the warm sunshine. It was a little cool when the wind blew but we knew once we started hiking we would welcome the occasional breeze to cool us off.

At about 1:45PM we started on our hike. The first part of the hike is actually down and old forest road that has now been blocked with large boulders to prevent vehicles from driving on it. The trail proceeds along this road for a little over a quarter of a mile until it reaches the remains of a fire tower. There were once seven fire towers in Centre county, but most, like this one on top of Tussey Mountain, have been taken down. Because of the easy access, this area is often used for outdoor parties. It looked like there was a party here recently as there was a folding chair and a half bottle of Mickey's beer sitting by a fire ring in the middle of the clearing.

We were a little cool while eating our lunch, with the winds blowing, but we were soon very warm hiking across the ridge tops. The trail was in pretty good shape with only a few deadfalls across the trail. It was a beautiful spring day to be out hiking in the woods.

The majority of vistas along this hike were on the southeast facing side of the mountain. There was one view to the northwest, though it didn't afford much of a few of the valley below. We could see the Allegheny front in the distance but all in all it wasn't a "top notch" vista. Now, on the other hand, the vistas to the southeast were quite nice and allowed you to view all of the valley below and mountains beyond.

It was at one of these south facing vistas that Shari had her first encounter with a snake for the year. Shari is not found of snakes, especially after her close encounter with a rattlesnake on the Black Forest Trail last year. I assured her that it was still too early in the year, and too cool, for the snakes to be out. Well, apparently this snake thought that the temperatures were warm enough that he wanted to come out and sun himself. Luckily, from Shari's description of the snake, the snake must have been a small garter snake and not a rattlesnake. Of course Shari was very wary of where she stepped for the rest of the hike.

We stopped at the intersection with the side trail that led to the Indian Steps. We had a little to drink and ate some trail mix as I tried to persuade Mark and Shari that we should hike down the steps and back up. We decided not to and continued no our way. Two girls were coming down the trail as we left and they headed down the Indian Steps for an afternoon cardiovascular work out.

As we approached the end of our hike, about 0.5 miles from the parking area at Jo Hays Vista, we came upon the power line clearing. At this point you have an obstructed view, aside for the power lines themselves, the the south and also to the north. We paused here to enjoy the view, sitting on a rock bench facing the valley to the south. As we were sitting there we were approached by a gentleman that we spied sitting on some rocks as we were approaching the clearing. He inquired if we had a cell phone. I told him that I did and he said that we should call emergency services and inform them of a forest fire on the mountains of the Allegheny Front. We looked to the north and saw the smoke billowing upwards in the distance. I called 911 and informed them of the fire. They told me they were aware of it and that there were already emergency personnel on the scene.

Speaking with the young gentleman for a little longer, it seems that the fire had started a little after noon, or at least that is when he noticed a small plume of smoke. It was now 4:00 and the fire looked to be pretty big in size. We also learned that the he was sitting here counting hawks as they migrated north, following the Tussey mountain ridge line. He said he sat here for about 6 hours a day counting the birds, and got paid for it. Seems like it would be an easy, but boring, job.

The trail was in good shape, and Shari, Mark, Storm and I really enjoyed getting out this early spring day to do this hike. With the weather getting warmer I am sure that the frequency of these day hikes will be increasing. As a matter of fact, Tumbleweed and I are planning on continuing our hike on the Mid State Trail, starting at Jo Hays Vista and hiking north, on this upcoming weekend. Make sure to check out this hike of another section of the Mid State Trail as it heads out along the ridge line of Tussey Mountain.

{vsig_c}0|ms7_01.jpg||Here we are at the trailhead, where the Mid State Trail crosses Pennsylvania Furnace Road.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms7_02.jpg||Just a short distance up the trail from the Pennsylvania Furnace Road are the remains of a fire tower that once stood on Tussey Mountain. Shari peers into, what we believe to be, the remains of the outhouse.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms7_03.jpg||One of the few "northward" vistas on the trail. The next north looking vista won't be until we reach the power lines.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms7_04.jpg||Shari and I stand at one of the vistas to get our picture taken. Mark "The Camera Man" has improved quite a bit since last year's hike on the Golden Eagle Trail.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms7_05.jpg||This sign shows the way to Indian Steps, located just northwest of the Mid State Trail. Apparently both Shari and Mark are looking in that direction to see if there were any Indians coming up the steps.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms7_06.jpg||Just to the left of Shari is a lone pine tree located at the top of the ridge line. It isn't portrayed all that well in this picture, but the tree seemed all alone on it's ridge top perch.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms7_07.jpg||The intersection of the Mid State Trail and Campbell Trail. I believe you can hike down Campbell Trail to get water, if you need it, but it's a steep descent, as well as a steep climb back up.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms7_08.jpg||The power lines crossing the Mid State Trail offer great views both north and south of Tussey Mountain. This area also offers the chance to view migratory birds as they follow the Tussey ridge line on their trek back north every spring.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms7_09.jpg||From the power lines, here's one of the amazing views looking to the southeast.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms7_10.jpg||A picture of forest fire taking place on the Allegheny Front, somewhere past Port Matilda.{/vsig_c} {vsig_c}0|ms7_11.jpg||Finishing up the hike, as we make our way to the parking area at Jo Hays Vista.{/vsig_c}

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