Trip Report: Fall Feelings on the Allegheny Front Trail


There seems to be an acute case of Pennsylvania-fever afflicting DCULers this season: Standing Stone, Black Forest, Lost Turkey, and now a multi-group trip to the AFT. Only through the long summers of the mid-Atlantic can we feel so impoverished by warm, sunny days that we need to greet halfway the northerly fall weather. And if there ever was a deliverance from that itch for fall, it was provided by the AFT this weekend.

Six of us at Forest Glen at 5, with plans of meeting Stan at Grosvener and Lisa at the trailhead. In part, no doubt, to the holiday weekend, traffic was especially rough. We did not arrive at the western parking lot until 10:30. Equipped with our headlamps, we sped northbound on the trail (counterclockwise) for about 2.5 miles. Alex was out front, hoping to stumble into the campsite that he had in mind. Alas, that campsite was not meant to be. Instead, around 11:30, the group consented to a flat-ish part of the trail to set up their tents. Fortunately, the only thing that washed over us that night was the pale glow of the full moon.

We all more than survived our first cooler night on the trail. The same cannot be said of Shane’s x-lite air mattress, lamentably. It popped in the night on the pokey underbrush that was practically unavoidable given where we spent the night. It seems the rest of us just got lucky. Despite the setback, Shane agreed to carry on knowing we could work together as a team towards a solution. Soon after we left camp, we stumbled upon a lovely campsite with plentiful water access. Go figure.


The only rain we experienced all weekend was a sprinkling in the mid-morning on Saturday. Most of us didn’t even feel the need to put on a rain shell. At some point we reached a modern hunting lodge, situated on an ideal landing high off the Moshannon Creek. Afterwards, the group stretched their legs on a flat, grassy ridge. The spur trails to the alleged vistas along this northern ridge must have been well hidden, because no one seemed to have found them.


The Red Moshannon Creek is a truly tragic example of industrial pollution. It haunted us, bereft of life and tarnished with rust-red decay. When our anti-industrial frustrations were flowing as red as the creek, someone alluded to Tolkien and the enchanted forests of C.S. Lewis. I was reminded of Lewis’ The Future of Forestry:

How will the legend of the age of trees
Feel, when the last tree falls in England?
When the concrete spreads and the town conquers
The country’s heart; when contraceptive
Tarmac’s laid where farm has faded,
Tramline flows where slept a hamlet,
And shop-fronts, blazing without a stop from
Dover to Wrath, have glazed us over?
Simplest tales will then bewilder
The questioning children, “What was a chestnut?
Say what it means to climb a Beanstalk,
Tell me, grandfather, what an elm is.
What was Autumn? They never taught us.”
Then, told by teachers how once from mould
Came growing creatures of lower nature
Able to live and die, though neither
Beast nor man, and around them wreathing
Excellent clothing, breathing sunlight—
Half understanding, their ill-acquainted
Fancy will tint their wonder-paintings
Trees as men walking, wood-romances
Of goblins stalking in silky green,
Of milk-sheen froth upon the lace of hawthorn’s
Collar, pallor in the face of birchgirl.
So shall a homeless time, though dimly
Catch from afar (for soul is watchfull)
A sight of tree-delighted Eden.
Fortunately for us, we only stayed with the Red Moshannon for a bit before turning south along the Six-Mile Run. We traced this down until Shields Dam Road. At this point, around mile 20 for the group, we decided to take a leisurely shortcut to Wolf Rocks in order to comfortably set up before sundown. We found a pleasant bend of a little streamlet fed by a spring. It was our evening’s tree-delighted Eden.
Alex started collecting and processing firewood, and was soon joined by others. Many folks skipped the tarps and rain flies, as the sky was as clear as the night before. We enjoyed a fire, s’mores, apple jack, and fancy scotch (thanks Trip and Maria!). In true DCUL fashion, we were in bed by nine. The group put together their butt pads and extra gear to support Shane, who was down one X-lite from the night before.
The group woke up to a glittery frost and a desire to get moving. Despite the substantial water levels in the creeks, the marshes were relatively dry. Our feet were spared the icy-wet fate we had expected. Much of this is thanks to the well-constructed foot bridges along the Moss Hanne Trail. At some point near Shirks Road, a member of the group felt ill. So most of us headed off trail to manage the immediate issue. Unfortunately, the message did not reach Trip in time. So he finished Sunday’s hike solo. Once everyone was back to full health, we hustled through the open ridges and through Ralph’s many vistas. The last half mile was a challenge, making the arrival at our cars all the sweeter.
We headed to Knickerbocker around 1:30 only to find the other DCUL (Wild Westerners) group arriving at the same time. Food and drink were had, and many belly laughs. You did it again, Pennsylvania.

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