Sunday, May 20, 2012

Cowan's Gap State Park Part 2: Tuscarora Trail and the Standing Stone Trail

A friend and I went out today to hike the other half of the Tuscarora Trail in Cowans Gap State Park, Pennsylvania.  We made a nice 10.9 mile loop with the Todds Trail, and the Standing Stone Trail.  It was nearly 11 a.m. by the time we arrived at the same trailhead we used a couple of weeks ago.  We crossed the dam that forms Cowans Lake and turned right to follow the Tuscarora Trail down the valley. 

The Tuscarora Trail mostly follows an old roadbed that is nearly level, making a pleasant walk through the young, open forest.  We made good time, passing several trails that climb straight up the ridge.  Near our turnoff, we happened to meet a trailrunner and his dog that we met two weeks ago on the other end of the Tuscarora Trail.  He and another woman were signing the turns for the Holy Cowans Gap 50 km Race.  Our trail notes said to keep an eye out for the sharp left turn the Todds Trail makes up the hill and that it was easy to miss.  The signs for the race next weekend made it nearly impossible to miss today.  The climb up from the turn on the Todds Trail was reminiscent of the climb on the Horseshoe Trail two weeks ago - crazy steep.  In this case, though, at the worst part of the climb, there were actually switchbacks.  We were very happy to see them.

We reached the junction with the Standing Stone Trail at the top of the ridge.  We took a short side trip out to a nice view where we took a short break.  The weather was just perfect today:  Breezy and warm, but not oppressively hot.  Back on trail, we headed south on the Standing Stone Trail.  The trail stays to the top of the ridge and is one of the rockier trails I've been on in a while.  It felt like we were rock-hopping for miles at a time.  We made good time on the Tuscarora Trail at the beginning of the hike and we lost that time up on the ridge weaving through fields of rocks and boulders.  Not to mention the blowdowns and brush.  That is not a complaint.  It was pretty spectacular.  The top of the ridge is really narrow and we would occasionally get sweeping views to the east. 

After passing the Horseshoe Trail, we finally reached the Knobsville Road Trail.  From there, we had an easy descent back to the car.  Except for the area near the lake and parking lots, we saw four people in six hours of hiking. 

Pictures (click to enlarge):
Sitting at one of the overlooks on the Standing Stone Trail (photo by A. Ricciuti). 
Sisyrhinchium angustifolium (Stout Blue-Eye Grass) on the Tuscarora Trail
 A little toad on the Standing Stone Trail.
Vaccinium stamineum (Appalachian Deerberry) on the Standing Stone Trail.
 The Standing Stone Trail along the ridge.  The trail follows the rocks. 
 Ferns lining the Standing Stone Trail.
 More ferns (if anyone knows what this one is, let me know and I'll post the identification).
 The view to the northeast from the Standing Stone Trail.
Kalmia latifolia (Mountain Laurel) on the Knobsville Road Trail.

1 comment:

  1. Great pictures, I like the Tuscarora. I don't know if you've done the central section through WV but it's pretty awesome. There's a spot in Sleepy Creek WMA call Devil's Nose, it's one of my favorite hikes. Just be on guard for rattlesnakes. If you ever want to hike that section and need help with parking let me know.