On September 3-4, 2022 eight DCUL backpackers did an overnight counter-clockwise loop over western Pennsylvania’s Loyalsock Link and Loyalsock trails. We had planned a 16.2-mile route from World’s End State Park, but ended up doing a little “bonus” mileage and elevation when the blazing and signage on the trails proved confusing. The weather was cloudy and humid for most of the trip, and it rained heavily at the end, but that kept the temperatures moderate and we got some nice views of the Loyalsock Creek Valley from High Rock, Canyon Vista and elsewhere. The smaller creeks were either dry or running at a trickle in the late-summer drought, and even the normally-substantial Loyalsock Creek was down to perhaps a tenth of its flow. The lack of water to drink caused us to adjust our route, but it had the advantage of drying out normally swampy areas so we could move at a fast pace. It was a fun weekend in the woods, with several climbs and descents to get our lungs pumping, some interesting rock formations, a secluded campsite by the creek, long stretches of gentle forest walking and good conversation.
On Saturday, we met up at the World’s End State Park headquarters. After registering our cars, we headed off to the southeast, and within a mile somehow got off the Loyalsock Link Trail and found ourselves on the Loyalsock Trail. We got ourselves back on track easily, but this set a pattern for the rest of the weekend of repeatedly making wrong turns on the spider’s web of intersecting trails. We ended up having two or three people studying maps and GPS units regularly to cross-check each other and occasionally correct course. We also learned not to follow Artemis, since she just wants to go fast, without caring where she leads. Climbing the ridges and plunging into the hollows of Loyalsock Valley rewarded us with sweeping scenery and allowed us to admire the smaller forms of Appalachian beauty, such as lichens, ferns, and mushrooms.
Unfortunately, all this climbing and descending proved too tiring for one of our party, so when we crossed Route 154, he took the opportunity to return to his car. The rest of us gratefully refilled our water bottles and pressed on along what little water was flowing in Loyalsock Creek. We hurried, since we were now pretty far behind schedule and the sky looked like rain. When we came across a choice campsite on the bank of the creek that was miraculously unoccupied, however, we decided to stop for the night. We reasoned that the creek water was probably of better quality than that from our intended destination of Sones Pond, and we had better privacy at the secluded site than we would have had near the popular pond. In fact, another group of backpackers came through soon afterward, and looked disappointed that we had taken the site already. So, we set up our shelters, ate dinner while trading stories about backpacking trips and other adventures and went to bed to the sound of a hoot owl.
On Sunday morning we set out at first light at a vigorous pace, determined to get back on schedule since two of our participants had family events to get to. We soon crossed the nearly-empty Loyalsock Creek on the “Iron Bridge” and turned off the Link Trail and onto the main Loyalsock Trail. As we paused to take in the view at picturesque Sones Pond, we congratulated ourselves on not camping in the popular area as we had planned. We maintained the rapid pace through the Tamarack Run Natural Area, since the normally swampy section was nearly dry. In fact, Alpine Falls was completely dry and Big Run was reduced to a few scattered puddles.
Then things got a little challenging. Clouds and rain sprinkles closed in around us as we worked hard to ascend to High Rock Vista, but the real rain opened up just as we started the grueling descent down the rock slide area. Thankfully, none of us slipped on the slick and jagged rocks, but we moved very carefully indeed. I’ve heard that section called: “a mile of the White Mountains teleported to Pennsylvania.”
We all made it back to World’s End without incident and we changed into dry clothing. Three of us stopped for enormous burgers, sandwiches and fries on the way home at the covered outdoor patio of D&D Brew Works, on US-220 in Muncy Valley, while others probably got food at a Sheetz station, in keeping with true DCUL tradition.