Saturday, April 14, 2012

Black Forest Trail - Pine Creek Gorge

With my first 50 mile ultra a month away I could not turn down the invite to run both the Black Forest Trail and the West Rim Trail on Easter Weekend. It was an opportunity for great training, reuniting with old friends and making some new friends. And what a weekend it was! Recent weeks of dry weather coupled with a weekend of sunny skies brought the best possible trail conditions one could hope for in early April.

The Black Forest Trail is 42 miles of what most guidebooks call the "most challenging and rewarding backpacking in PA".  Others call it the "most rugged, scenic, and famous" trail in the state. Backpacker Magazine says "averaging one vista per mile for 42 miles the BFT could be considered the Keystone States most panoramic pathway". 

The views and vistas were sure to inspire but I was more concerned with the 8500' of elevation gain and the fact that we would complete in one day what guidebooks recommend 3-4 days to complete. My legs were going to feel the strain and my mental outlook tested before the day was done.

Getting ready and consulting the guidebook. No map required apparently.

Crisp 30 degree air and way too eager legs at the trailhead (a bear and cub are just down the road in the woods.....or so i've been told).

Running the trail counter clockwise means a stream crossing after 5 minutes of running. That is followed by 1200' of elevation gain which helps to warm the legs. Although my shoe laces were frozen stiff at this point.

The first vista of the day.

Now that's an easy stream crossing. I wonder what it's like after a  normal winter/spring? Perhaps the rope is actually needed. Jase must be scoping for trout.

Shawn and Lane providing our only crew/aid at mile 13. A great pit stop of pita and hummus, coke, apples, and don't forget the mexican hats!

Sun's out, Gun's Out!
Slowly climbing up a ridge and then back down. And then up and down again. All day long!

Starting to feel a bit reefed and the day is still early.

The creeks are drying up early this spring.

Beautiful blue sky all day long. Not a cloud to be seen. As the sun is setting the fatigue creeps in.....but the end is now in site with one final descent to go.

Back at the trail head with Jase and Ben looking forward to tomorrow's 31 miles.

I'm just looking forward for dinner and propping up my feet

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