Mason-Dixon Trail, PA between Lock 12 and Kohler RD
I planned to meet Jerry Robey, Doug Knowles, Charlie Johnson and Mike+2 (Mike Calabrese plus his two sons, John and Andrew) on Friday evening at the Muddy Run Campground within Susquehannock State Park, PA, near the beautiful Susquehanna River. Since I couldn't get an early enough start to arrive before dark I decided to meet the group early Saturday morning. Wise move! Mike's directions were excellent, but Pennsylvania's road markings leave a lot to be desired. I spent about an hour traveling back and forth along secondary roads, worried that I missed a turn. I finally arrived at our designated meeting spot. We set off about 9 am, thinking this was going to be a piece of cake - a nice trek along the riverbank with little or
At right, Marty Manzano along Posey RD. By Charlie Johnson
see much of the river as we were just a little further inland, and were busy climbing and then descending, only to climb again. This went on for the entire morning. Jerry, Charlie, Andrew, and I stopped at a beautiful spot for lunch - large boulders to sit on, a creek nearby, and a perfect place to rest. After about 45 minutes we decided to go on (the others were still behind us). Jerry left a sign for them which was created with sticks and rocks - a perfect, huge 12:30 - which was supposed to let them know what time we had left that spot. No one saw it however, as they must have been looking straight ahead and not down.
After a short time we came to about a mile or so of road hiking. I was the last of our group of four, and it would have made a great picture -- four backpackers spread out along a rolling country road. We walked that road with no relief from the sun, until at last we turned off on another road, this time unpaved. Finally we were back into the woods and stopped to rest. Charlie brushed a tick off, then another, another, and after finding about 6 ticks on himself he decided to get up off the ground. I jumped up also and never felt completely comfortable sitting on the ground after that. We went on for maybe half to 3/4 of a mile when Charlie realized he didn't have his glasses. He went back to look but didn't find them. He even drove his truck back to that area later in the evening but to no avail. I think our trip was going "downhill" from then on.
We arrived at the Otter Creek campground at a reasonable time and discovered a very nice campground in that the sites were separated by high foliage, and they were staggered so that you weren't in view of other campers. Charlie had planned to leave in the morning to return home, but after losing his glasses he decided to go that evening.
The next morning began the worst of the "trip from hell"! Mike's sons wisely decided they would hang around at the campground that day. Mike and Jerry got an early start. I left about 15 minutes later, and made it out of the campground when I promptly lost the blazes. You will probably think I can't follow a map to save my life, but I assure you I'm very good with maps. Again, I traveled up and down the highway, when I decided to give up and return to the campground. I met Doug and decided to see exactly where those blazes were. He found one painted on the metal side rail of a bridge.
At left, At left, view of power plant on the Susquehanna River. By Charlie Johnson
It was nicely facing nothing! How Doug found it is still a mystery to me, but Doug is still a mystery to me!
We finally were on the trail, which went up into the hills. We stopped for a break at the only beautiful view on the entire trail - a nice overlook of the river and dam. The trail was difficult to follow from then on. In an hour or so we met Jerry and Mike who were looking for the blazes. The four of us stayed together from then on. We came to a road and after much discussion and map reading realized that the trail crossed the road and followed alongside a cornfield. That was pretty easy. It then crossed another road and after more discussion and map consultation, we found the implement road referred to. What was missing was the "pine plantation" which had been clearcut (along with the blazes which were painted on the pines).
We searched at length for some sign of the trail, and hoped that by bushwhacking down a draw which ran toward the river we would pick up the trail. We had to climb down very steep terrain, crossing and recrossing a creek and many huge boulders. The footing was slippery and after some time we arrived at the river but found no sign of the trail. We then were faced with the necessity to go back up, and started up on a slant towards where we thought we might find the trail. The way up was worse than the trip down - extremely poor footing, slippery ground and loose rocks. In some places we had to crawl up the slope and grab on to tree roots to pull our way up. I slipped at one point and stopped my fall back down by holding on to a small sapling. I lost my AT Tag Team hat and wasn't about to go back down the treacherous slope to retrieve it. This went on for what seemed like hours, when Mike & Jerry heard the sound of ATV's in the distance. They yelled while moving towards the sound and finally someone yelled back. They kept calling us and we fought our way through the brush to the sounds.
At last we came to the ATV'rs, God love `em, who directed us to the trail we were searching for. We thought we were close to the end, however, Jerry and Mike determined that we could possibly have 4 to 6 miles to go! What started out to be a relatively short day of 4-6 miles, turned out to be about 12-13! At that point I was sure I would never make it, but somehow the group provided the inspiration to try to survive long enough to make the next climb. We took an unplanned for break while allowing a snake to claim the trail for a little while.
At right, Charlie Johnson along Posey RD. By Marty Manzano
and the sticker bushes and foliage grew into it in many places. I was cut, scratched, bruised, and at a low point mentally when we came to the road which marked the end. We had thought we'd finish at Noon or 1 pm, but completed the hike at 7 pm.
We all agreed that we'd like to go back sometime and sink a few posts in the "pine plantation" and bring a can or two of spray paint to paint some blazes. In retrospect, it was an interesting hike and I learned that I can endure much more I than I think possible. Of course, the best part of all our hikes is the companionship and camaraderie of the group.