When I first considered moving to Pennsylvania I wondered about hiking on the Appalachian Trail. But then my wife read in a book that hikers consider the Pennsylvania section of the AT to be their least favorite section. Apparently the reason is that the trail misses some of the prettiest parts of the state. So I did a little research and found that the Great Eastern Trail, which parallels the AT for much of its length, runs right through State College and was more carefully designed to hit the nicer areas of Pennsylvania. In fact the Pennsylvania section of the GET was the first section finished and it's called the Mid-State Trail. Ever since then I've been interested to find out where this trail starts and do some miles on it.
I have learned most of what I know about hikes in this area from the website PAhikes.com. The site is apparently run by someone here in State College. From this site I learned that the MST is not the only trail nearby. The nearby Rothrock State Forest is crisscrossed with many trails. Below is a topographical map of the forest near State College.
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On Saturday I followed some directions from PAhikes.com and found the MST. If you look at the northeast quadrant of the map you will see a road called Laurel Run Road. I followed this road up the mountain to where it crosses anther road called Little Shingleton Road. This road is not really a road as it has a gate. I parked my car at the gate. The MST is marked with orange blazes on the trees and follows this road for a hundred yards or so before forking off.
Last post I mentioned the differences in the foliage I have noticed. In the picture you can see one of the main differences along the side of the road -- ferns. There are ferns in the Ozarks but here the numbers and density of the ferns is really impressive. Here's another patch of ferns further on.
After 100 yards or so the MST forks off to run along the ridge of the mountain. The trail is rocky but the hiking is easy because there are no ups and down. Occasionally there are nice views of the valley far below and the next ridge. This picture doesn't really capture the view but it was the best I could do.
I followed the trail for a mile or so and then came this intersection.
Rather than continuing on the MST I took a side trail called the Sand Spring trail. which heads down the mountain. It's very steep in this direction. I found myself huffing and puffing on the way back up. I then continued on the MST until I came to the highest point on the mountain (you can see it in the map). At that point I returned back to my car.
In short I'm enthusiastic. I plan to return for a hike in this location and spend a day or two along the MST -- the first of many I hope!
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