Hiking: Allegheny National Forest

Mark minutes into the hikeMark and I joined our friend George on an over night backpacking and hiking trip in the Allegheny National Forest. We set out for the Tracey Ridge Trail System, in the northern-most part of the forest. We did not see another soul on the trails we were hiking on. Although we did see one boat full of folks with their loud music and after dark we saw two other camp fires across the reservoir.

Deb between bouldersWe were fortunate that the rain cooperated. It did rain, but at all the right times. It rained the entire time we were driving up Friday afternoon. It stopped to allow us to have several hours/miles of rain free hiking, to set up a dry camp and have dinner on a large flat rock next to the reservoir as well as a bonfire (despite the sogginess of available materials) and for night time forest exploration for Mark. Mark disappeared for some time, periodically we would see his head lamp light some distance away. It started raining just in time for us to settle in for the night and a heavy continued rain for most of the night. By morning it stopped and we had clear sunny skies for day two.

I did manage to fall into the reservoir, rather gracefully I might add, as opposed to Mark who went in the water on purpose:
Deb gracefully slipping into reservoir Mark went in on purpose

Since we diverted from the main trail on day 1 in search of a camp site near the reservoir and the GPS kept losing us, I estimate we hiked around 11 miles. Probably 3.5 on the evening we hiked in and the remaining 7.5 on the way out on day two. Early in the hike, any intersection we encountered had a convenient “you are here” map with a tack at the intersection. Very handy, we thought, it is an excellent idea, however, once you were miles into the 33 miles of interconnecting loops, the maps just weren’t there. I mean, they had been there, the poles and bolts were there, the signs were just missing.

Mark and setting sunWe tried a new food strategy for this trip. The morning before we left we pre-cooked and portioned out food for our meals into Ziploc bags. The idea being, use a boil-in-bag strategy using the JetBoil to heat the food. For dinner, baggies of pork tenderloin (one baggie had bbq sauce, the other with teriyaki sauce) over bagged rice. For breakfast, baggies of scrambled eggs to have with bagels and precooked bacon. Preparing the food like this packs small and light and leaves for minimal clean up. I wouldn’t want to be scrubbing cooked on dehydrated camp eggs out of a pot.

Wild life high lights: red eft, large round-leaved orchid, there were Indian Pipes all over the place yet I managed to not photograph any:
Red Eft Large Round-Leaved Orchid

The complete photo set

There were blueberry bushes all along the slope near the water, some of the berries were ready for eating. Give these bushes another week and foraging for berries would have been much more filling than the handful that we ate.

A bit of product endorsement as well. I love my new pack, a CamelBak Alpine Explorer. The reservoir holds 3 liters of water and is made of materials that don’t make the water taste funny. The pack itself expands and holds a surprising amount of gear. Even fully loaded, the weight was nicely distributed on my hips and has super comfy shoulder straps. I’m ready for the next trip already.

Deb between boulders