For the past four days, my friend Tim F. and I hiked the Black Forest trail in Northern PA. The last time I completed it was 14-15 years ago. This trail is a 42 mile loop through some of the most remote and beautiful sections of the state. The area also contains some of the best wild trout fishing in the Mid-Atlantic region. We planned and executed our hike to take advantage of the angling opportunities. To be able to fish a different stream each day, we began our hike on Rt. 44 as opposed to Slate Run Road, which is the actual starting point listed in the Black Forest Trail Guide.
Day 1: Rt. 44 to Little Slate Run (23.61 - 35.82)
Began hiking just after 2:00 p.m. Pretty level hiking from Rt. 44 to to the descent into Callahan Run. First tough ascent out of Callahan Run up to Hemlock Mountain. Clear day, great vistas. Began seeing a lot of toads, which would continue to be obvious the rest of the hike. The laurel was past peak, but still blooming at places. Blueberries were just starting to ripen. Tough descent in to Naval Run, then a tough ascent up to the ridge overlooking the Pine Creek Valley and Naval Run. Descent into Little Slate Run, or so we thought. We were tired and didn't realize we had to make another steep climb. Tough going, but then we descended into our camp. Arrived later than expected. Set up camp, made supper and decided to fish in the morning instead of the evening. Fished Little Slate Run in the morning; picked up numerous brook trout on a parachute Adams. A few were pushing the 7"-8" range. Nice fat brookies for a stream of this size. Packed up and began day 2.
Day 2: Little Slate Run to the mouth of Red Run (mile 35.82 - 7.20)
Tough ascent out of Little Slate Run, then fairly level hiking until the descent into Slate Run. This descent was tough, and hard on the quads, but a beautiful section of the trail as it passed cool rock formations. Great vistas overlooking Slate Run. At the bottom, we had a little trouble finding where the trail crossed the road. Had to bushwhack and linked up with the trail again. Continued hiking on the BFT, but made a detour for lunch at the Hotel Manor. Great burgers, and worth the stop. Crossed Slate Run near the Hotel manor and linked back up with the trail. Tough climb out of Slate Run into the Algerine Wild Area. Cool rock formations on the way up to the old slate mines. Hit by our only thunderstorm of the trip. Waited it out under the trees for about a half hour. worst part was hiking through the wet laurel afterwards. Should have brought gators, because of all the water that was channeled down into our boots. Wet feet for the next day. Tough ascent into Red Run, then camped on Slate Run. Again, because of delays, we were unable to fish Slate in the evening. Got up, had breakfast then fished Slate Run. Used a bead-head green weenie and hooked but lost three nice trout including one that was probably pushing 15"-16". After fishing Slate Run, we walked up Red Run to see the mini-glen. Took our rods and caught a few wild brookies. Began day 3.
Day 3: Red/Slate Run to County Line Branch ( mile 7.20- 16.17)
Crossed Morris Run, nice waterfalls here, then a tough ascent out of Slate Run, but gradual. Level hiking the rest of the day. Was able to get brief cell phone reception in the vicinity of mile 11.74 (normally, I would not give a hoot about this, but having two young children has changed my priorities. It was nice to hear that they were doing well.) Stopped at Rt. 44 for lunch, and to dry things out in the sun. Flies were bad, but they were not the biting kind, just annoying. After lunch, gradual ascent into County Line Branch. Made camp early just before BFT crossed the stream and headed up. This is a nice camping area. Two other parties were also in this vicinity. Headed downstream after camp was set up and fished my way upstream. Caught about 20 wild brookies including some really nice 8" fish on a yellow stimulator. I was impressed with this stream and it's trout population. Made supper, and sipped the rest of the scotch that I brought along. Nothing better than a good Scotch cut with mountain water.
Day 4: County Line Branch to Rt. 44 (mile 16.17 - mile 23.61)
Tough ascent out of County Line Branch including a rock scramble near the top. After negotiating the rock scramble, it is level hiking for the most part with the exception of two short but steep climbs. Passed through a really neat high country meadow and a dense stand of Rhododendron, which was still blooming at places. Made it back to the car around 11:15 a.m. Drove into Waterville and had subs at McConnell's Country Store. They were great (A half sub was larger than most places whole sub, tasty, and reasonably priced.) and I was also able to get a Frozen Run Birch Beer , which is a must when in the Pine Creek Valley.
Packing List and Lessons Learned
Tent (Time brought his Kelty Tarp)
Therma Rest with lounger
Two wicking tees
Two shorts (one pair convertible)
Two pairs of socks
Food and snacks)(I highly recommend Enertia Trail Food)
Ditty bag with knife, headlamp, rope, 1st aid kit, snake bite kit, lighter Charmin to-go and candle lantern
Fly rod, reel and small chest pack
Next time, or future trips: Poncho instead of rain suit, because of versatility; gators are a must because of stinging nettles and in the event of wet vegetation; find a shoe that can double as a wading shoe and camp shoe. Teva Proton might fit the bill, I'll have to test it. One extra pair of socks would have helped. Despite being in shape, more "sport specific" prep is need to strengthen backpacking muscles and toughen up the feet.
All in all, a great trip, relaxing and wild. Enjoy the photos.
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