You couldn't ask for a better weekend for hiking, at least not in the middle of July. With temperatures in the nineties the week before, and temperature approaching that again the week after, our hiking weekend was the jewel in the rough. We had low humidity, temperatures in the upper seventies, and a slight breeze to help keep us cool. All of this added up to a very enjoyable hike on the Quehanna trail.
|Trailhead:||N 41° 11.67'
W 78° 30.39'
|Trail Length:||19.5 miles|
|Hike Time:||11.5 hours|
|Near:||Off PA153 by Parker
Dam State Park
near Penfield, PA
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We started our hike out relatively early, at least for us, getting on the trail at just a little after 9:00AM. Mark and I thought it would be best to get as much trail behind us as early as we could since we had over 11 miles to walk on Saturday. Even though the weather forecast looked ideal, weatherman have been know to be wrong from time-to-time, and we wanted to avoid the possible high temperatures of mid-afternoon.
We parked our car at the trailhead in Parker Dam State Park in Clearfield county. You can easily reach the trailhead from anywhere in the state: you just need to get yourself on US Interstate I80. Either heading east or west, you will need to get off I80 exit 111, onto state route PA153 north. Follow PA 153 for about 5.7 miles and then turn right onto Mud Run Road. There is a sign along the road indicating that you need to turn to get to Parker Dam State Park. Continue east on Mud Run Road for about 2.3 miles until you reach Fairview Road on the right. This is where the park office and ranger station are located, so you can't miss it. Continue down Fairview Road for another one half mile and there will be parking areas on your right. The trailhead for the Quehanna trail is at the fartherest end of the second parking area.
Our plan this weekend was to hike about 5 miles of the Quehanna trail proper and then take the Quehanna Trail West Cross Connector. The QTCC is about 9 miles long and meets back up with the Quehanna trail along Laurel Run. We would then hike the rest of the Quehanna trail back to the trailhead where we began. We figured the hike, according to our DCNR map, would be just a little over 18 miles total.
The hike started out fine. The trail was cleared and well marked with orange blazes. We had a steady ascent as we walked along side Little Laurel Run, but it was hardly noticeable. At about 0.4 miles into the hike we had our first little incident. There was a small corduroy bridge that crossed a muddy section of the trail. It was at this point that Waxman decided to show me his imitation of a turtle. Luckily the only thing Mark hurt was his pride. This wasn't the last time one of us took a little tumble on this hike.
At about 1.4 miles into the hike there was a reroute of the Quehanna trail. It was well marked with a sign. The sign stated that the reroute was put in place to avoid two stream crossings. The reroute must have been relatively new as this part of the trail was not as cleared as the previous part, but it was well marked with blazes, and we had no trouble making our way through the woods.
One thing that was unique to this hike than any of the other hikes that Mark and I had done was the forest itself. We would be walking along the trail in a dense pine area and then all of a sudden we would come out into a clearing. Here the trail would cross straight through the middle of the mountain glen, and then we would be back in the middle of the woods. Some of these glens were dry and full of wildflowers, while others were riddled with pools of stagnant water and tons of ferns. It was definitely different than spending all of your time hiking through woods where you rarely saw the sky through the tree canopy.
As I mentioned earlier the incline on this hike was barely discernible and it made for easy hiking. We were making very good time. At about 3.1 miles the trail started following an old railroad grade. We took our first break at about 3.5 miles. After a short rest we continued on the trail. This is where we first encountered the weeds on the trail. We were still following the railroad grade with woods on both sides of the trail. The weeds in this section were up to our midsection. Luckily someone had hiked this part of the trail recently as we could see where some of the weeds were knocked down. For the next mile we hiked through the weeds, not able to see our feet, and hoping that a ground hog didn't decide to place a doorway to his underground abode in the middle of the trail. This was definitely the weediest section of the trail and it left a bad impression on us with regards to the Quehanna trail.
Once we were out of the weeds the trail continued through some wooded areas and followed a dirt road for awhile. At 5 miles we got off of the Quehanna trail and followed the blue blazes of the Quehanna Trail Cross Connector. At 5.75 miles we turned off the dirt road and back onto the trail. We stopped here for another rest and met up with two gentleman hiking in the opposite direction. They were kind enough to inform us of a section of the trail that was overgrown with stinging nettle. We inquired about campsites and they told us that there was a campsite by Medix Run, where we were hoping to end our first day of hiking.
We hiked for another 2.25 miles, crossing Caledonia Road and Shaggers Inn Road. At this point the trail followed another dirt road. We stopped here to eat our lunch. After lunch we continued on but were a little concerned as we did not see any blue blazes. We consulted the map and it seemed as if we were still on the trail, but there were no blue blazes to be found. Finally, after three quarters of a mile, we did spy a blue blaze off to the right of the road, almost completely obscured by undergrowth. At the end of our hike we stopped in at the park office to comment about the lack of blazes on this section of the trail. Hopefully they did something about it.
At 9.5 miles we passed an old gas well. At 10.4 miles we started our first descent of the day. It was during this descent that Mark and I had the pleasure of experiencing the insects of the forest. Mark was the first. During the steep descent something stung Mark on his right calf. It must have really hurt as Mark let out quite a few expletives, and almost did a nose dive, as he tried to swat the bug on his leg and yet maintain his balance on the steep trail. Then, just 5 minutes later, I got to experience the same insect that Mark enjoyed only moments ago. I got stung on my left leg, just above my ankle. However, I was not as graceful as Mark and did a small forward roll off to the left of the trail, slid on my back for about six feet, and came to a stop on the switch backed trail. Even as I write this narrative, three day after the "bug" incident, the bite is still itchy. Unfortunately neither Mark or I saw what type of insect it was.
At the bottom of our descent we came upon another dirt road, Medix Road, which paralleled Little Medix Run. We hiked up Medix Road for about 0.5 miles and then followed the blue blazes off to our right. We hiked about another 800 feet and found a campsite. This is where we ended our first day of hiking, after hiking 11.2 miles, and set up camp. We had a nice meal of tuna mixed with shells and cheese. We started a small campfire and spent the rest of the evening relaxing by the fire.
The next morning we broke camp and was on the trail by 9:00AM. Thanks to the advice of the fellow hikers we came across the day before, we made sure we had our leggings zipped onto our convertible pants before we started our day of hiking.
We had a small ascent of about 500 feet to start the day. Once we reached the top it was flat for another 1.5 miles. We then followed a small stream down until we reached Laurel Run. At Laurel Run we were back on the Quehanna trail proper and left the QTCC behind. At this junction we followed a dirt road south for about 0.8miles. We then left the dirt road and followed the trail up along Saunders Run.
We were expecting after following Saunders Run for a half a mile to bear off to the right and make our final ascent of the hike. However, the orange blazes of the Quehanna trail continued southward following the banks of Saunders Run. We continued for another 1.75 miles along Saunders Run until we came across another blue blazed trail. The blue blazed trail went off to the left and the Quehanna trail turned right. It wasn't until later that we discovered that the trail was rerouted to follow Saunders Run. It made for any easier hike as the ascent was gentle compared to what we were ready for, but the map from DCNR was not up-to-date, and there was no sign indicating that the trail was rerouted.
Finally, after 19.5 miles, we completed our hike back to the traihead. We were only expecting to hike 18 miles, but the trail reroute added about another 1.5 miles to our hike. We were happy to be back at the car, and after a quick stop at the park office, we were off to find a nice tavern where we could get a bite to eat and enjoy a nice cold beer.