Laurel Highlands Camp and Hike (Miles 31-18)
The Laurel Highlands Trail, PA miles 31-18 Camp and Hike Trip took place the weekend of September 11-12, 1999. Participants were myself, Charlie Johnson, Doug Knowles and his 3 nephews Josh, Mic and Alex, Bill Isham and his wife Chris and Dawn Reed, our newest Rag Tag Ranger. Total crew of 9. For this hike we decided to try "slack packing" instead of carrying heavy backpacks, having seen this done alot on the AT earlier this year by thru hikers.
After some "problems" with the directions, I picked up Charlie around 11am on Saturday, the 11th. The plan was to drive to Kooser State Park, PA early to be sure that we got some good camping
At left, our campsite at Kooser State Park, PA.
By Mike Calabrese
spots for the night. The weather was perfect! Sunny and highs in the upper 70's low 80's. We took US219 north and were supposed to go west on PA 31 to the campground. However, they opened up a new US219 bypass around Somerset, PA and, unfortionately, PA 31 went over the bypass but there was no access to it. So we drove to US 30 and took a number of back roads back down to PA31 and the park.
Once at the park we set up the tents, ate, relaxed, did some hiking around the park, and waited for the others. I was amazed that the park was just about empty when we got there, and would only get about 25% full by dark. I thought that with this being the first somewhat cool weekend since May, people would be here in droves. I hiked the Kincora Trail to Kooser Lake and then walked back along the park road for a 3 mile loop. Charlie walked the ski trails up to a local ski resort and then came back down again.
First Doug showed up with his 3 nephews Josh, 14, Mic, 7 and Alex, 5. We were amazed that Alex, as young as he was, was going on this hike. He would prove
At right, Group photo before the hike.
By Mike Calabrese
himself ready later on. Next Bill & Chris came in after biking the Allegheny Highlands Trail. Then Dawn arrived after doing the same that day.
We started a fire, ate and spent the evening conversing. During the conversation we found out that Dawn has done alot of backpacking, so we look forward to hiking with her again in the future. We then retired around 11. The next morning we got up around 6:30am and ate, packed up and headed out by 8ish. We shuttled cars to the 18 mile mark of the LHT around PA653, then returned to PA31 to start the hike south. It took about an hour to shuttle the cars, so we didn't start the hike until about 9:45.
The trail itself was fairly easy to hike, compared to miles 18-0 which we hiked 2 years ago. There were minimal elevation changes. We did go through the highest point on the trail and passed through Seven Springs Ski Resort. The forest was green having received much needed rain lately. Doug, Mic and Alex dropped back soon after we started. We hiked about 6.5 miles and stopped at the Grindle Ridge Shelters for a break, some water and some lunch. We were amazed how the majority of the stream beds were dry, so we were glad that there was water at the shelter. Again, the shelter area was well designed and the rest rooms were clean. The commonwealth of Pennsylvania takes good care of this trail.
We waited for Doug, Mic and Alex for about and hour but they didn't
At left, scenic view near milepost 21.
By Mike Calabrese
show. We were concerned and even sent Josh hiking back a mile to look for them. When he returned empty handed and a hiker that passed us said that he didn't see them, we got concerned. All of the "what if's" started going through my mind. We did the next 4 miles of trail, which were very nice to hike on, stopped at an overlook with some great views and then took off again.
Lo and behold, who did we see ahead of us at the 20 mile mark but Doug, Mic and Alex. They passed us while we were waiting at the shelter. We were relieved. We hiked the last couple of miles, passed an old cemetary and got to our cars. It was about 5:30pm.
Alex, Mic and Josh all did an excellent job keeping up with and even ahead of us. We were also glad that Dawn joined us as she was very interesting and a great hiker.
We then shuttled the cars back and went and ate dinner at the Oakhurst Tea Room on PA31 west of Somerset, PA. Excellent smoregesboard. We then said our goodbyes. This was an excellent hike. It was refreshing to do this one with a light pack. I can't wait until we do miles 31-45, which will be a backpacking trip, either next year or the year after!