Sunday, December 11, 2011

Allegheny Front Trail -- Southern Section

The day after Thanksgiving Chris and I set out to explore the Allegheny Front Trail.  This trail is relatively close to where I live in State College and my understanding is that it is a fairly new trail.

State College itself is in the ridge-and-valley part of the appalachian mountains (some of the ridges are really sharp as I've noted in a previous post.  But just to the north and west of us is the Allegheny Plateau.  The boundary between these two regions is an escarpment known as the Allgheny Front.  It's easily visible in google maps if you look at Terrain view.  The trail is partially in the Black Moshannon State park which you can see in the map below.

View Larger Map
One thing I wasn't prepared for was that much of the plateau is upland bogs.  In places there are boardwalks as you see below.  But they weren't everywhere so I ended up with wet feet.

One of the reasons we decided to do the southern part of the trail is that that the trail passes near the escarpement and there are views into neighboring Bald Eagle Valley.  These "views" are actually places where they have cleared the trees to allow for views.  They've been given names too.  Here's Chris posing by one of them.

The first day we did about 12.5 miles.  Then we set up camp and had dinner.  Chris was nice enough to make a hot water bottle to warm up my wet feet (he had read up about about the trail and knew enough to wear waterproof footwear).  We had decided to try camping on the ground rather than doing hammocks.  Below you can see me having breakfast in the morning from the sleeping bag.

On of the interesting things about this trail was how many spring we came upon.  In fact our camp was just 30 feet away from a quite substantial one.  You may not be able to tell from the picture but a pretty substantial flow starts from this small spring.

Despite the views and springs though I'm afraid my opinion of the southern part of the AFT is not very positive.  A few years back insects destroyed a huge swath of the forest and for several miles the trail goes though this wasteland of dead trees and open areas where the dead trees have been removed and are being replaced by less desirable foliage.  It's pretty bleak for several miles and just depressing.   But I suppose that is the way with almost any trail of significant length.  It can't all be good.

We're going to go back and do the northern part of the loop at some point.  We hear it's very different from the southern section.