Thursday, April 16, 2015

Raccoon Creek State Park (PA) - First Hike

At the start of the hike,
the Appaloosa Trail
It had been almost nine months since I last hiked, a grueling twelve plus mile day hike while camping along the banks of Shavers Fork in the Monongahela National Forest. Even though I was recently on vacation I did not have the time to drive several hours down to the Mon to camp and hike, so instead I explored nearby Raccoon Creek State Park, about forty-five minutes from home and just across the state line in Pennsylvania. Since this was going to be my first hike in the park I set out to hike an eight mile circuit described in Bob Frye’s Best Hikes Near Pittsburgh, a Falcon Guide published in 2009.

Wildflowers along the
Wetlands Trail
It was a beautiful spring day for hiking. With temperatures in the mid-fifties I began with a short sleeve base layer and long sleeved wicking top but as the day warmed up into the mid to high sixties I abandoned the long sleeve top. The first five to six miles were thoroughly enjoyable as I passed through naked oaks, shagbark hickory, and walnut trees that had not yet started to bud and then a long, open air grassy meadow laced with a meandering stream leading into the Upper Pond. The only signs of spring were scattered assorted wildflowers and skunk cabbage breaking through wet and damp ground.  This slightly out of shape, overweight, fifty-seven year old started to tire, however, after only about six miles and the last few miles were a tough going. In retrospect, perhaps an eight mile hike was a bit of an over reach for the first hike of the season.

Near the end of the hike,
the Heritage Trail
as it crosses Nichol Rd.
While the circuit hike offered a variety of ecosystems and some nice views, parts of some of trails were very muddy. In one particularly wet section, hikers and horses had created a side bypass trail that was also muddy. In another stretch of trail, even though it had not rained in a day and a half, water was flowing down the center of a muddy walkway.  Several times I was forced to either climb over or hike around downed trees blocking the trail. While there were some small rocks and roots, the trails were still much easier than many in the Mon and with less elevation gain.

From beginning to end I saw, from a distance, only two other people and their dog as they hiked through a nearby area. While crossing a road to get from one trail head to another I saw only one car.  I felt like I had the park to myself.

When I returned to the car and checked the track on my GPS I learned that I had hiked not eight miles but 9.4, reason enough for feeling a bit spent.

1 comment:

nese said...

Sounds like a great way to spend a beautiful spring day and 9.4 miles is not too shabby!