Laurel Highlands Trail, PA (Miles 46-70) Backpacking Trip

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This 2 day, 2 night 25 mile linear backpacking trip took place August 9-11, 2002 and covered the northernmost section of the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. Participants were Frank Maida, John Geisler, Andrew Calabrese, Christine DiLapi, Rich Danilchak, Bill Cappalonga, Bill Isham, his wife Chris and myself.

8/9/2002- My son Andrew and I arrived at the US30 parking area/ trailhead at about 1:30PM, way before the 3PM time that we were supposed to meet Frank and Bill I. However, Frank was already there. Bill and Chris as well as John G arrived shortly thereafter. It looked like everyone was anxious to start this hike.

So Frank, Bill and I drove our vehicles to the PA56 parking area/trailhead of the LHT, which is also the northern terminous, while John started hiking north a half mile to secure our shelter at the US30 shelter area, where we would be spending the first night. We left my car and Bill's truck at the northern trailhead, then drove back to the US30 in Frank's pickup. It was fun, though probably illegal, riding in the back of the pickup with all of the gear for the 25 mile plus trip. We arrived back at the US30 trailhead around 4:00PM and started hiking to the shelter. It was a slight up but we made it around 4:30PM, about when I thought we would get there.

So we spent the remainder of the evening setting up camp, making dinner and talking. A lady from Michigan approached us asking which way that we were headed and if there was a phone close to the trail. She was hiking south with 2 teenage girls, decided that the trail was too much for them and wanted to get back to their car and just go car camping. We told her that the nearest phone was probably a half mile west of the US30 trail crossing and the ranger could probably help her out when he came by the shelter area to check on things. Ironically, the ranger drove in as we were talking. He spent awhile talking to them and then came to our site to collect our camping fee. We asked him what he could do for that lady and he said all that he could do was either tell her where a phone was for her to call or call her an ambulance in an emergency. That's all he could do. I thought that was strange as rangers in national parks will do things like give you a ride somewhere or help you to get off the trail if you need to. I hope the lady and the 2 girls made it back OK. Later in the evening Christine joined us as she had to work some that day. So everyone made it and we were ready to start the hike the next day.

8/10/2002- It was a warm and comfortable night. The next morning we packed up and were ready to go by 8:30AM. We were joined by Rich and Bill C, who would be day hiking with us today. We stocked up on water because the guide book said that there was none between this shelter and the next. That is correct. Plan on carrying 100 ounces or more of water if you plan to hike this section of trail. We saw 2 very tiny streams within the first few miles and then nothing at all. The terrain wasn't bad. There was a 400 foot climb about 2 miles into the hike. After that it was mostly small ups, small downs and level hiking. The forest was pretty, though one could see the effects of the drought here. The normally lush ferns were dried up and wilting. We hiked in 2 groups. Frank, Andrew, Rich and Bill C were probably 2-3 miles ahead of us in the second group consisting of Bill I, Chris, Christine, John and me. We passed the historic Forbes Road built in the 1700's. I will investigate the possibility of this being a future hike of some sort for the group. The temps were in the mid 80's that Saturday. It was a little hot but not unbearable. We didn't see any real vistas because of the tree canopy. We did cross numerous dirt roads on this trail.

When we got the the shelter area side trail around 4:30 that evening we had to walk an additional mile to get to the shelter area itself. It was all downhill as well so that would mean an up first thing in the morning. We again spent a relaxing evening at the PA271 shelter area eating, setting up camp and conversing. I was upset that I couldn't pick up the Redskins-Panthers game on my radio. Christine and John were having some pain problems with former injuries so they wanted to pass on the next day's hike. We spent the evening discussing options and decided that the rest of us would finish the hike and come back for them. We hiked about 11 miles that day.

8/11/2002- The next morning I got started about an hour before the rest of the group. The reason was that I knew that I was the slowest hiker and wanted to get that long up out of the way first thing. But, you know, that up wasn't so bad. It was nice hiking by myself in the cool morning. I got the cobwebs out of the way for the rest of the group for a change. I told Andrew that I would stop and wait for him at mile post 60. Andrew caught up with me right before mile post 60. We stopped there and rested. Frank came through, stopped for a minute or two, then hiked on. After we started back up Andrew got ahead. Bill I and Chris then caught up to me. I would be hiking with them pretty much the rest of the trip. The rest of the group met a gentleman between miles 57 and 58 that appeared to be stealth camping. We were undecided as to whether he was just a camper or maybe was living near the trail.

We got to a road that we had to walk along for awhile. It was easy walking but the sun was tough. We did not see a mile marker 61. There was also a fenced in area to let vegitation grow so that deer would not get to it. A sign said that if you saw a deer inside the fenced in area, it was OK to shoot it. Now, that's real sporting! From this point on the trail would again have slight ups, slight downs and some level walking. Mile post 63 was missing. We ate lunch at the PA56 Shelter area side trail and mile post 65. We then had one last big up, then started a long down towards the end of the trail. It was not a total down as there were "blips" along the way. However, it made for a fast hike. We did not see any views of the Conomaugh gorge again because of tree canopy. We saw some men picking berries near the trail. We also saw lots of berry laced bear scat along the trail, though no bears.

The final down was along rocky, crappy trail. Our feet were hurting from those Pennsylvania rocks. We did not see a single stream today and finally saw water in the form of a local reservoir at mile 69.5. When we got to mile 70 and the end of the trail, lo and beyold John G was there! It seems he and Christine got a ride from a couple camping at the PA271 shelters back to their cars at the US30 parking area. Christine went to the Flight 93 memorial about 15 miles away and went home. John drove to the PA56 parking area/trailhead and met us there so that we would not return to the PA271 shelter area and panic when they weren't there. We finished the hike at 3:30PM. Not bad for a 15 mile day. We shuttled Frank back to his truck by 4:30, then went and had another great smoregesboard dinner at the Oakhurst Tea Room on PA31 just west of Somerset at around 5:30PM. Andrew and I spent the night at the Holiday Inn in Somerset, then leisurely drove back to northern Virginia the next day. Temps were in the low to mid 80's on the trail and low to mid 90's when we got off the mountain.

My thoughts on this hike: It was a good one. This is indeed one of the best trails in PA. I'm a little sad that this was my last section on this trail but glad that I accomplished it. I would be willing to do another section of this trail with someone else that is section hiking it. We didn't pass anyone the first day on this trail and only the "stealth camper" at the beginning and a father and son just starting out at the end of the second day. One thing that concerns me is the lack of water along this trail. It has gotten worst over the last 5 years that I have section hiked it. I fear that this drought will have devastating effects to the wildlife and flora not only here but along other trails. I also fear that we will have to start carrying more water when backpacking the various trails that we have planned in the future. But to end on a positive note, we had a great time backpacking the northernmost 25 miles of the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail in PA. I recommend this trail to any hiker. Just bring lots of water!

Mike C

More Pictures

Setting up camp at the US30 shelters
  Setting up camp at the US30 shelters.
  By Mike Calabrese
Shelter 5 at the US30 shelter area
  Shelter 5 at the US30 shelter area.
  By Mike Calabrese

Bill and Chris setting up camp
  Bill and Chris setting up camp.
  By Mike Calabrese
John G at Shelter 5
  John G at Shelter 5.
  By Mike Calabrese
Sitting around the campfire
  Sitting around the campfire.
  By Mike Calabrese
Rock maze around mile 49
  Rock maze around mile 49.
  By Mike Calabrese

PA271 shelter area
  PA271 shelter area.
  By Mike Calabrese
Andrew C at mile 60
  Andrew C at mile 60.
  By Mike Calabrese


Local reservoir at mile 69.5.
  Local reservoir at mile 69.5.
  By Mike Calabrese
Group picture at end of hike
  Group picture at end of hike.
  By Mike Calabrese


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