by Wanda Shirk, KTA Board Member
Seven hikers completed the Black Forest Trail from May 19-22 on a KTA-sponsored slackpack of the 42-mile loop. The group camped in three cottages at Little Pine State Park and were guided by veteran hiker, guidebook author, and KTA council-member Ben Cramer, who had completed the BFT four times previously in his 4000+miles of hiking on Pennsylvania trails. Hikers gathered on Friday for a 6-mile, afternoon "warm-up" hike from Manor Fork Road to the Slate Run bridge. They then hiked approximately 12 mile distances on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, completing segments from Slate Run to Rt. 44, then 44 to Trout Run Road, and finally Trout Run Road back to Manor Fork Road.
Trail shuttles each morning and afternoon were provided by KTA board member Wanda Shirk, who also cooked for the group at the park. Hiker-suppers included chicken breasts, pork chops, and taco salad, as well as accompanying veggies and desserts. Breakfast sandwiches and coffee got the gang off to a start each morning, and hikers packed hearty lunches, emptying the crunchy peanut butter jar and choosing as well from lunch meats, fruits, and trail bars.
Hikers came from three states-- Pennsylvania, New York, and Delaware. At least half the group started with some trepidation and uncertainty about whether they were really up for the challenge of the BFT's notoriously steep ascents and descents. Nicole, who notes that the flatness of her home state of Delaware offers no opportunity for her to train for handling hills, was particularly exultant to experience total success on the trail. In her words, "What an amazing adventure we had on the BFT! Thanks to all of you I am able to tell a tale including the completion of this trail that I was not sure possible of myself just one week ago."
The Black Forest Trail is known for its vistas, which include some of the best among all Pennsylvania trails. The slackpack opportunity, which is limited to six because of van capacity, filled quickly after it was announced in February. Last year's KTA spring slackpack was on the Allegheny Front Trail; next year's is projected for the Thunder Swamp Trail. In the meantime, a slackpack on the southern half of the 84-mile Susquehannock Trail System (STS) will run in July in conjunction with KTA's Prowl the Sproul. It's a great opportunity to check out places like the Hammersley Wild and the famous pool on Hammersley Run, and registration is open now.