Denise wanted to thru hike the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail and I just wanted to get out and hike, so we posted a last minute trip there. Jen, Dan and Russ managed to join us on the outing. I think that this was good case of posting trip and being flexible about who to hike with and where to go, since I had posted as an AT key swap hike in the hopes of finding someone to hike with.
After meeting at Denise’s place at 6:30am for a brief visit with Denise’s dog, we carpooled to Ohiopyle, PA. We used the commercial shuttle service out of Ohiopyle to access the Northern trailhead. An additional upside of this outfitter is that they have showers in their changing area, which was very refreshing at the end of the trip.
As noted in the trip description, one needs to reserve the campsites ahead of time, so one commits to splits when making the reservations. We did splits of 14/26/26/6.5. Some of it was wanting to make good use of the time on the trail. Some was that I wanted a physically demanding time and definitely got what I bit off. Some was wanting to get home at a reasonable hour on the last day. Since the shelter at 13 mi in was roughly a mile off of the trail, pushing on for another six miles to the next shelter would be a little more time efficient, especially since we had so many hours of daylight. Pretty much any way we slice it, it winds up being a lot of miles in a short time-frame. So doing it at a less demanding pace involves adding more time to the start or end of the trip.
The Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail itself was very nice. We were on actual trails for 98%+ of the hike. Denise noted that the trails would likely be very skiable.
There was a dirt motorcross bike race at Seven Springs ski resort going on when we passed through there. It was interesting, if somewhat bizarre. The Pee Wee boys were racing. The race organizers did a great job of clearly signing the temporary trail re-route so as to accommodate hikers and keep us out of the track.
For restaurants on the trail, we stopped at a bar on Saturday mid-day. The hamburger that I had was a 12oz patty, so a bit excessive. Russ and Dan ordered the full ham sandwiches, which were 24oz of ham, so supplied both lunch and dinner. After getting stuffed, I didn’t eat again for five hours. There was probably better options than the gluttony. Jen chose to just get a beer and a soda at the bar, which kept her hiking without the lethargy that a huge meal induces. Denise probably made the healthiest choice by skipping the bar altogether. Since she shaved a mile and an hour and a half of time, she wound up a camp at a more reasonable hour.
For unusual wildlife, there was a possum that appeared to be more dying than playing dead at the end of the trail. I also screamed like a little girl when I saw a 4+ foot black snake a few feet from me at the campsite slithering straight at me. Thankfully, the black snakes aren’t poisonous. My guess is that the developed campsites tend to have a lot of extra food lying around, which feeds vermin and thus provides food for the snakes.
Overall, it was a fun trip. There are a few things I would do differently next time though. First, I could have saved a few pounds on the pack by using my lighter camera, a different stove and some other misc tweaks. While I viewed it as not a big deal due to recent trips, the back to back 26mi days made it clear that I still need to pack really light to enjoy all of those miles. Second, I should have switched to shorts earlier so as to reduce the chaffing a bit. At the end of the trip I was quite happy to have packed Body Glide. If the restaurant or market hadn’t been there, I would have come up about 1,000 kCal short of food, so need to slightly adjust how much food I pack to get margin.
And now, it’s back to work…
-Andrew L. (Camel)