Laurel Highlands Backpacking Trip (Miles 18-0)
At right, the group posing at the beginning of the hike.
By Mike Calabrese
afternoon, July 18. The campground was huge and had nicely spaced sites. The restrooms were first class. They banned taking showers during the time that we were there due to a drought. No problem as we knew we would stink even more after this hike. The weather was iffy. They were calling for temps in the 70's on Saturday and low 80's on Sunday. How could this be? We were seeing 90's in DC all week. The thunderstorms that would roll through the campground later Friday evening would prove to be the way to make the temeratures drop to the mid 70's on Saturday, a low of 47 early Sunday morning. We were sitting around the campfire Friday night swapping stories when it started raining all of a sudden. We had to rush to get our rain flys up. We talked under van tailgates for a while, then retired.
During the night the rain kept us up first. Then, among the campers at the next site over we kept hearing: Git!, Get outta here! Go on, git! They were being raided by raccoons. Our neighbors chased them over to our site. The only casualty was Rasool N, whose backpack was broken into and his food taken away.
The next morning we left at 8am, got Rasool N some more food, shuttled the cars to their proper places, and were on the trail by 9:45 am. The weather was perfect. We decided to hike from the 18.8 mile marker on this trail southward to mile 6.2 and the Ohiopyle shelters the first day, then planned to do the final 6.2 miles Sunday morning so that we could get home Sunday at a decent hour.
The weather was fantastic. Linda E and Chuck B were our newest Rag Tag Rangers. They came all the way from NJ to white water raft and do this hike.
At left, a view of a mountain across the 'Yough'.
By Mike Calabrese
This trail was great to hike on. Water was very plentiful. There were alot of ferns covering the forest floor. No major elevation changes. That was, until we reached mile marker 7. The next mile would see us drop 1,000 feet in elevation. The front of our toes and the muscles in the front of our legs were burning.
We finally made it to the shelter area. These shelters, pit toilets and water pump were first rate. The only problem that we encountered was that another group was occupying the shelter that we were given in our reservation. When I asked them to move, they said that they had been given the same shelter number. I said we could settle it when the ranger came to collect the fee for the night. We took another shelter. The ranger never showed up. I sent the $9.00 fee into the park later that week.
Anyway, we had a leisurely dinner, then started telling some great jokes after dinner. We retired around 10am.
Sunday morning, July 20th was cold! I heard someone else in the shelter's teeth chattering that morning! I got up and immediately got my thermal sweatshirt out of my backpack. It came in handy. Jerry R started a fire in the fireplace at the end of our shelter. It sure warmed things up. We hit the trail at around 8am that morning.
There were 2 moderate climbs and 2 good hollows along this part of the trail. We also caught some great views of the Youghehenny (pronounced Youckahenny) River far below us. The weather was in the low 80s that day. Warmer than the previous day but not unbearable.
We had to make one more 20 minute climb before we reached our cars around 12:30 on Sunday, July 20.
At right, everyone is all smiles because there are only 2.5 miles to go!
By Mike Calabrese
We found a great one about 10 miles from Ohiopyle on US 40 east. I believe the name was Gleasons or Beesons, I'm not sure. But they had fantastic stuffed pork chops, great vegetables and pieces of homemade pie that were almost as big as a breadbox!
We then parted ways. The reviews of this trail that I have read have said that it is great for the beginning backpacker. I take issue with this as I don't consider any trail with a thousand foot elevation change in one mile a beginner's trail. But, the shelter accommodations more than make up for it. The Laurel Highlands trail is indeed a great place to hike, camp or backpack.