Come Join us for a series of monthly hikes on the North Country Trail in Pennsylvania.
It's called the "Tour de NCT in PA". We will cover all the non-road portions of the NCT in PA, working alternately from the Ohio border and from the New York border. The typical hike will be between 7 to 12 miles. We may do some car camping and maybe some backpacking. At the end, there will be a special "Tour" patch for everyone who did all the sections during that time period. Click on Photos above to see our tour photo albums.
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Stage 1: On Sunday March 15, 2009 we hiked the first section from the Ohio State line at State Gamelands 285 for 4.1 miles. For those of you who would want to do a make up of that section we will be doing that section again on the Butler Outdoor Club Extravaganza on the Memorial Day weekend. If you want directions and a map for doing this section on your own, let me know.
Stage 2: On April 19 we hiked from the New York state line in Allegheny National Forest. We met at Tracy Ridge Campground on Route 321 at 9:00 AM. We hiked the 11 mile section from Rt's 321 & 346 to Rt 321 to the South. Some of us camped at the Tracy Ridge Campground the night before so that we were ready for a solid day of hiking. We did a one mile section from Rt 321 up to the NY State line the day before to "get our card punched" and so as not to add 2 more miles to the 11 miles already planned for Sunday. If possible, RSVP for planning purposes. If you want to camp with us, or to back pack half way on Saturday or if you want to stay at a local motel let me know so that we can coordinate our activities.
Stage 3: We hiked on Sunday May 31, 2009 a 10 mile hike on the North Country Trail near Wampum PA . We met at 9:00 at the grocery store on Main Street (the town is small - you can't miss it). At 10 miles, this was a strenuous hike, but, the hike was in 2 sections, so if you hiked the first five miles and didn't want to continue you could have skipped the rest. We shuttled to the Western Edge of State Game lands 148 - leaving some cars at the eastern end at Route 18. We started with 17 hikers and ended with 12. I guess some people got behind the sweep. No, actually, 5 had to drop out when we stopped for lunch in Wampum. It was a beautiful hike on the State game lands 148, mostly, in the morning and the Cemex property after lunch. Kudos to the Wampum chapter for a very nice trail. And special thanks to Bob Cody, who helped us navigate the Wampum area to the trail head. And also making sure the trail was in good shape. We walked the 5 miles, then shuttled into Wampum and ate lunch at the bridge over the Beaver river. After lunch we shuttled cars to the end of the next 5 miles to be waiting for us. When the shuttle drivers returned we hiked the remaining 5 miles from River Road to the Sankey Hill trail head where the cars were waiting.
Stage 4: Since the next Allegheny Forest stage was postponed, we decided to squeeze another South-west stage in. This was on familiar territory for those of us in the Butler area - it was the Hells Hollow / McConnel's Mill section, one of the most beautiful sections of the NCT. And we had two of the adopter / maintainers along with us, Kay Thompson and Joe Hardisky; and they didn't disappoint us. The trail was in great shape, and especially nice because we went through the section that was just completed by the NCT Volunteer Adventure project in June. They did an amazing job getting the trail off the creek bed and up on the steep rocky hillside. The stone work was beautiful. Nine of us were able to make the 8 mile hike on the July 5th. A nice way to work off a long and picnic filled holiday weekend.
Stage 5: Seven of us ventured up to the Allegheny National Forest for the 5th stage of the Tour. This was an 18 mile section that continued from where we left off on Stage 2. We went from Sugar Run (about 12 miles south of the NY state line, to Route 59, then down to Chapel Bay, and then to Red Bridge(not in that order) - all in the ANF. A big thanks to Keith Kloss and his crews who keep those trails in great shape, although because of the rain some spots were pretty wet. We did about 7 miles on Saturday and 11 on Sunday. When we had finished the first section on Sunday, I was about wooped and it was threatening rain. I was voting to pack it in ( I think I might have gotten Steve to vote with me), but the women all voted to press on, so I was forced to get back on the trail and complete the plan. In spite of a decent rain, it was a very nice hike. One extra nice thing was the great number of mushrooms springing up on the forest floor due to the very wet conditions. Some of the colors were red, yellow, orange, purple, green and black - and of course white - and some very interesting shapes. I have never seen such numbers and variety of mushrooms. We camped on Saturday night at Tracy Ridge campground and had the whole place to ourselves.
Stage 6: Seven hikers enjoyed a perfect fall day for hiking Stage 6 of the Tour de NCT of PA was in Moraine Stage Park on the North Shore, from Rt 422 to Rt 528 (9.4 miles that we actually walked the oposite direction). The trail is one of the most pleasant sections of the trail in PA because of its gentle hills, beautiful woods and well maintained tread. A special thanks to Dick Boettner and Joe Smith for keeping that section in such great shape. And a nice treat is to stop at the 200 year old Davis Hollow Cabin, one of only two cabins operated by the NCT along the whole trail. And with summer drawing to a close on that last day of summer, the meadows were aglow with Goldenrod, Ironweed and many other colorful flowers.
Stage 7: Five of us went to the Allegheny National Forest for Stage 7 of the Tour de NCT of PA. This was the third section in the ANF, continuing on from Red Bridge to Route 6 and then to the Tionesta Scenic Area. The night before snow fell on the trees which still had their leaves. This extra weight caused many fall downs both on the trail and on the roads in the forest. On Saturday there was a light cold rain; the weather was just a notch above miserable, but all in all we enjoyed it. On days like that you just learn to put one foot in front of the other and take in the sights as best you can - which that time of year are pretty great despite the drizzle. We stayed over night in KOA cabins - much more comfortable than a rainy wet camp site. The next day was a beautiful clear day which made for a much more enjoyable hike to complete our section of 15 miles. The fall colors where in their glory, and with the blue sky and the snow on the ground, it made for a beautiful color palette.
Stage 8: On Sunday, Nov 8, 09, nine hikers showed up at the Old Stone House for a brilliant day to hike stage 8 of the Tour de NCT of PA. We went to the Rt 528 Trail head and walked the 5 miles back to the OSH. The trail was in fine shape, (if I must say so myself) thanks to the local Butler chapter. We stopped to enjoy the view at the overlook, and otherwise had a rather leisurely walk in the morning. At lunch we were joined with 4 more hikers and lost 2. We were also met with a swarm of Chinese ladybugs which were very bothersome with their bites. We moved on to the the next section 5 miles to the east, parking our cars at the Glades dam and shuttling back to Pry Road. This was also a very nice hike through land on Waste Management land that they have graciously permitted the trail to be put on. The trail then connects to the state game lands and along a wild life santuary and lake. Unfortunately we did not see the promised Bald Eagle . Thanks to NCT volunteers Carol Atwell and Phil Lenko and our hikers Steve and Carol Bickel who are the maintainers of this section. Nice job! The hike seemed to be moving along at a very nice pace as we approached the end, until one of our hikers, Tim Ramsey, who had a GPS, informed me that we were way short of our 5 plus mile planned length. I guess I mis-read the map. I think some of our all day hikers (that would be me) weren't too disappointed to have the gift of time and relief to the feet. As a group we decided not to shuttle to the full planned length, but rather to discuss it over at the North Country Brewery, over a hardy meal and cool beverage. Tim and Ceci who joined us at noon still had some hike left in them, so I understand they pressed on to complete the planned distance.
Stage 9: Ten hikers showed up for a perfect December morning, with a light overcast no wind and around 28 degrees. A perfect day for a walk. We met at the Glades Dam parking lot and shuttled over to Leonard road to begin the 7.5 mile trek through State Game Lands 95. It was the first Sunday during deer season, and we saw neither fur nor feather for the most of the hike. The first half of the trail stays along a wide valley, going through meadows, woods and along lakes, beaver dams and creeks. Thanks to the care of the Butler Chapter,the trail was in great shape, and because of that we made excellent time. Before we knew it, we were at Vulture Rocks for our lunch break. It seemed so fast that I thought that I overestimated the length again, like I did on Stage 8. But it turns out we were just making excellent time, around 3 mph. After lunch the sun came out full and warmed us for the rest of the hike. At around the 6 mile point we took a side excursion to see the overnight camping area, called Tamarack Trails at the Glades Camp Site. This area is adjacent to the state game lands and provides a place for the through hiker to stay overnight. And we want to give a special thanks to Bill Stegman who is the adopter of this last segment. We finished the hike in good time, and many of us were able to return to the trail head at Leonard Road where the local Glass Blowing Center was having a holiday open house. The craftsman were demonstrating their art and we were able to check out their many fine items for sale. The Glass Blowing Center also is eager to cooperate with the NCT as regards providing facilities for hiker.
Stage 10: The Tour de NCT of PA came out of hibernation to beautiful first day of spring. 40 of us met at the Foxburg Inn parking area from where we drove to the trail head on El Dorado Road. Many of these hikers were not from our regular group of contacts, but came from the local area, thanks to advertising in the local newspaper - The Progress News. 3 of the 40 were in support with transportation and encouragement. 33 of us started the hike at El Dorado Road. And one car load got diverted and didn't start their hike till later. The hike through the hemlock and deciduous woods along the North Branch of Bear Creek couldn't have been more picturesque. A fact that is illustrated by Tammy Veloski and others at http://butleroutdoorclubphotojournal.shutterfly.com . The two arched bridges, which were built by Dan Mourer and the local chapters, that cross the creek made a perfect accent to the trail. If your have to take your trail through a town, then Parker, the smallest city in the US, wouldn't be a bad choice. The trail crosses the Allegheny river there, over a metal truss bridge set at an angle said to be the steepest ever for a bridge of that type. Well, it was an uphill climb, but it probably didn't violate the 20% max incline acceptable in the NCT guidelines. The rest of the hike followed a rails-to-trails along the beautiful Allegheny River, also crossing the Clarion river. When all was done some of us hung around to enjoy sampling wine at the Foxburg Wine Cellars. Then we had a nice dinner at the Foxburg Inn. A perfect end to a perfect day.
Stage 11: We will be resuming our march in April (April 17 and 18), as we work our way down from the New York border. We have already come 50 miles. We can pick up where we left off at the Tionesta Scenic Area just South of Route 6. On Saturday, start at Tionesta Scenic Area (Road 133) and go to Route 948, (5.3 miles) then go 3.7 miles to Route 666 (total 9 miles). Then on Sunday from Route 666 to Road 179 (7.3 miles) and the to Minster Road - 2.7 miles (total 10 miles). After the hike on Saturday we plan to stay at the Microtel Suite in Marienville, PA on the night of April 17. If you plan to stay there, you can get special rates by calling the hotel directly at 814-927-8300. Ask for the rooms set aside for the Tour de NCT. This is the first day of trout fishing season, so this is one of their busiest weekends of the year. If you want to come, you will want to book a room as soon as possible. RSVP to me to arrange the meeting point and time to start the Saturday hike.
John Stehle Cell 724-256-0674 Email firstname.lastname@example.org