by Paul Shaw, KTA President
On June 10-11, participants in the KTA-sponsored Backpacking 101 overnight backpack braved warm, sunny days, a gorgeous moonlit night, and 15 miles of hiking on an array of well-maintained trails in the wilds of Bald Eagle State Forest. The small but enthusiastic crew of 6 included KTA President Paul Shaw and KTA Board Member Dave Gantz as instructors. Participants polished their backpacking skills first introduced at the Backpacking 101 classroom session held May 20 at Little Buffalo State Park.
After a gear review to ensure everyone was equipped properly and packs were adjusted, we began our hike on the Stover Gap East Trail, passing through meadows, deep forest, and several hunting camps before emerging onto Pennsylvania Route 192 west of R.B. Winter State Park. We continued with a gradual climb up McCall Mountain on the aptly named McCall Mountain Trail, stopping for lunch at a suitable spot. At the top, we followed an old, grassy logging road to the Black Gap Trail, which led through a delightful area of hemlocks. The Hall Trail then led to our campsite for the evening at the headwaters of White Deer Creek. Our first camping option was a very pretty site with a fire ring near the creek. Unfortunately, it was also very close to 2 vernal ponds that served as a home base for hordes of hungry mosquitoes. We quickly decided to take option 2: camping in a meadow about 750 feet from the stream. Here there were far fewer mosquitoes, but water was less convenient. After setting up camp, a rattlesnake was spotted on the way to getting water.
After supper, we built a small campfire and watched the stars and planets emerge slowly from the dusk. The next morning, after breakfast and breaking camp, we continued on the Hall Trail through large stands of mountain laurel in full bloom to the Hough and Railroad Run Trails. Railroad Run, with its tumbling waters cutting through a mushroom-strewn hemlock forest, was the highlight of the day. After a brief pause for rest and snacks, we again reached and crossed Route 192 and followed the Shade Path back to our vehicles.
An issue that we discussed is the difficulty in finding others to join in backpacking, especially women. Perhaps KTA can help facilitate a solution.
All greatly enjoyed this introductory backpacking excursion and appreciated the congeniality of the group, as well as the tranquility and beauty of the forest. Participants departed with greater confidence in their outdoor skills and a desire to continue on with more adventures. As one wrote afterward, “I had a great time, learned a lot, and can’t wait to get back out there again!”
If there is sufficient interest, Backpacking 101 may be offered again. Stay tuned!