Thursday, May 5, 2011

West Rim Trail Hike

The day after Easter I went with a buddy from Hammockforums named Chris and a friend of his on a hike on the West Rim Trail of Pennsylvania's Grand Canyon, more correctly known as Pine Creek Gorge.  The trail is 30 miles long and we decided to take it in 2 1/2 days.

Chris' friend turned out to be  Curt Weinhold, a photographer from the area. If you have used guidebooks for hiking trails in Pennsylvania then you may have seen his work. If you click on PA Wilds or Nature on his page then you will see examples of his work. Some of the photo's I've posted below are actually his also.

Here's the man in the flesh, just as we began our hike, at a bridge over Pine Creek. We started at the southern end of the trail and hiked north to Ansonia, PA.

Another shot of him looking every inch the outdoorsman that he is. He has spent a lot of time in these woods.  He probably knows this trail better than any many alive actually.

It was wet when we began our hike as it has been all spring. We had a lot of rain during the hike as well. That made things uncomfortable but did make for some gorgeous views of waterfalls and creeks.

There were so many gushing creeks and waterfalls that after a while we realized that if I stopped hiking to take pictures of each one we'd never make any progress.

On top of the rim I was stunned at the quantity of Mountain Laurel. Mountain Laurel is a flowering bush which is evergreen and is the state flower of Pennsylvania. Here's Carl standing on the trail with Mountain Laurel behind him.

A first for me was to see porcupines in the wild. They are actually easy to spot because they make a lot of noise as they scamper up trees to get away from you. It was fun to see but my hiking buddies tell me they are a major nuisance. While you are hiking they will often eat through the tires, brake lines, and other important parts of your vehicle. Experienced hikers put mothballs near their cars when they leave them at the trailhead.  Apparently porcupines don't like the smell.

The problem with hiking a rim trail is the temptation to camp on the ridge to get nice early morning views. That left us exposed to windblown rain from the thunderstorm that raged all night. I was on the ground under a tarp rather than in a hammock so I got quite a bit of spray on my quilt during the night. In the morning we woke up to mist filling the gorge.

As the sun came up I hung my stuff out to dry and watched the mist clearing out.

The second day was sunny for most of the day but then thunderstorms came in the afternoon.  Below you see me hiking in a piece of gear called a gatewood cape that Chris loaned me to try.  It's like a poncho tarp but sets up into a shelter with 360 degree protection. On the right you can see it set up for our second night.

Near my cape setup you can see an ad-hoc creek forming. The ground was so waterlogged and there was so much rain falling that little creeks were forming everywhere. This one got within a few inches of flooding me out.

Here's Chris looking much drier than I was because he was in a hammock. While I enjoyed trying out the cape this hike reinforced my opinion that hammocks really are the way to go in rainy weather.

The next day provided some more great views of the gorge.

Here's me at the end of the hike. Not looking beautiful but feeling good.


Lybi said...

Wow! love the pictures! My favorite one is probably the one with the hiking guy in the mist. But waterfalls, endless foggy backs, nature, and even a porcupine--this post had it all. Thanks for sharing.

George Carr said...

Very cool! I was actually considering do the West Rim Trail this weekend. Thanks for the trip report.

Tyler said...

Wow, absolutely beautiful photo's!

Heber said...

Thanks! Of course the really nice one's are Curt's. He's the real photographer. But we were lucky to have been there at the right time.

IMNoPatzer said...

I've hiked the West Rim Trail three times so far and it easily ranks as one of my favorites. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences, I look forward to getting out there and testing out my custom alcohol stove kits in the wild. Enjoy!

Jessica Shank said...

any suggestions for an entry point to shorten the WRT as I only have saturday and sunday to hike followed by a three hour drive back to philly.

Heber said...

You could do just the northern part of the trail. The Bradley Wales picnic area is accessible by car and is just a short ways from the trail. Then hike north to Ansonia. The views of the canyon are most dramatic in the northern section. It's a very manageable distance for the time you have I think.

Pine Creek outfitters in Ansonia will shuttle you if you like. They know a ton about the trail (the owner literally wrote the book on the trail).