We love heading up to Pennsylvania in the fall and where better to go than the BFT? Our plan was to meet Friday night at camp. Sophie and Dimitri were the first to start and found a campsite large enough to accommodate us in a grassy parking lot. It even came with a view! Karan, Greg, Chandler, Bryan, and I arrived there around 10:45pm. We admired the stars and Karan went into photography mode. Yvette, David, Alexander and Adrian rolled in about an hour later due to a slow Sheetz stop.
We all got as much sleep as we could before 5:30am. We packed up wet tents and by the time we were ready to hit the trail around 6:30am, the sky started to lighten and reveal the sea of clouds below us.
We hiked down into the clouds. It seemed like a chilly morning but by the time we made it down Callahan Run, folks shed their layers in anticipation our first climb of the day. At the top of the climb, Karan and I came across David, Alexander, Adrian, and Chandler who stopped for a quick drink of water. I initially thought that David was wearing a fedora but it turned out to be an authentic “jager hut,” or German hat (pronounced “yager hoot”). David sure knows how to get into the theme of a trail!
After a little more climbing, we got our first daylight views of the surrounding ridges and sea of clouds. The fall colors were even starting to appear. We descended to Naval Run and then climbed again. At the top of the next climb, we passed by a rattlesnake right next to the trail. Dimitri later confirmed that it was dead which explained its lack of reaction to half a dozen hikers passing nearby. Meanwhile, David was hurrying to get his “10 by 10,” although since he was using his underestimating GPS as a guide, it may have been more like 11 or 12 by 10.
We got a break from the constant ups and downs as we walked along the ridge. Karan, Chandler, Adrian, and I took a short break at the pond and marveled at how clear it was. However, the call of Hotel Manor was strong and we were soon back to walking.
After a steep descent and a few gentle miles, we arrived at Hotel Manor. David, Greg, and Alexander were there already. Everyone made it in their own time and loaded up on food and/or beer. We also took over a good portion of the deck railing to dry out our gear. It turns out that we weren’t the only ones interested in beer though. Karan took a sip of his dark lager and got a mouthful of a bee, which stung him on the roof of his mouth before he could spit it out.
After a nice break, folks started to roll out and make the last climb for the day. It felt more difficult with stiff legs and the afternoon sun. Karan and Alexander checked out the neatly stacked rocks near the top.
Our plan was to camp at some sites at the end of the ridge if there was enough space and water nearby. The vanguard determined that the water was farther than ideal so they continued on to the backup sites. In retrospect, the sites at the top would be great if you tanked up at the spring a few miles before or planned to walk the extra quarter mile or so down to the stream.
We did manage to find two sites close together that accommodated all of us. We were able to get a fire going and once again, Chandler shared his chocolate. Not long after dinner, most of us were ready to sleep so it was an early night in camp. Somewhere around 4am, ultramarathoners started passing by. Luckily, they caused much less disturbance than some other overnight races we have experienced.
We got up at 5:30 am again and started hiking less than an hour later. A few raindrops fell as we packed but luckily the rain held off (at least for a while).
During the first hour of the day, we were constantly moving off trail to allow the ultramarathoners to pass by. Eventually, the race path split from the BFT and we were pretty much on our own. The walk along the nice pine needle-lined path had me thinking about how I’d like to camp in that area. (Maybe next time). Then the stream crossings started. Dimitri counted 18. Some of us were able to keep our feet dry while others didn’t bother. It turned out the “didn’t bother” camp was in the right. It started to rain and came down pretty steadily. Then there was the marsh we had to cross…