Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Rocky Knob and Quarry Gap in the Snow

We have been spoiled this winter by relatively warm, dry weekends.  Sunday was a reminder that it is, most-assuredly, still February, which is still, definitively, the middle of winter.  It was a chance to try out my new softshell pants.  We haven’t done a lot of hiking in Pennsylvania and one of my goals for this year is to explore the Keystone State more.  We chose a 12 mile loop in Michaux State Forest that included the Appalachian Trail.

We started at Locust Gap.  It was a balmy 25 degrees with three inches of snow on the ground.   Hiking north on the Locust Gap Trail, we were down in a valley, so we didn’t feel the full wrath of the wind.  That would come later.  The Locust Gap Trail follows an old roadbed to Long Pine Run Reservoir, which was partially frozen.  From there, we picked up the Beaver Trail, which skirts the north shore of the reservoir.  We actually did see one tree that had been partially cut by a beaver.  

After reaching a road, we crossed and picked up the Rocky Knob Trail.  It must be beautiful in June, because the trail is lined with Rhododenronds and Mountain Laurel.  The trail climbs gently to the top of the ridge, where we turned south on the Appalachian Trail.  The trail kept to the ridge for a little under a mile.  We crossed another road and began a steep descent to a beautiful creek and a Potomac Appalachian Trail cabin (I think).  We took a break on the porch of the cabin, which provided a nice dry place to sit out of the wind. From the cabin, the trail began the only serious climb of the entire loop, up to the top of the next ridge to the west.  On top of that ridge, we were in the full force of the cold wind.  At one point, we had to stop and adjust scarves or pull on facemasks because the wind was so sharp.  The sun came out very briefly a couple of times.  It didn’t diminish the wind, but it did boost morale.  

We took another brief break at the Quarry Gap Shelter and warmed our hands over some section hikers’ fire.  After that, it was just a flat mile to the car.  All in all, it was a nice, relatively easy hike.  

Pictures (click to enlarge):
 Long Pine Run Reservoir
 The Beaver Trail through replanted pines.
 Our faithful canine escort, Nala.
 Untracked snow on the Rocky Knob Trail.
 Snow on Mountain Laurel leaves.
 Fungus on a dead tree.
Ice over a waterfall near the entrance to Caledonia State Park.

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