Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Plans for Camping

or, Eric Gets a Woodsey
The Pinchot Trail Chronicle, part 1

I have been excited about the prospect of a real camping trip for some time now, probably since I started day hiking with Dave and Leo back in the fall of last year. Not car camping, which is fine in its own right, but backpacking, where we would be carrying everything we needed in our packs and sleeping out in the woods in tents. Time tends to fly by and some of these goals get away from me, so I sent an email to Dave and Leo and said that we should set aside time and make concrete plans to do something. My compatriots were game, but the soonest we could schedule was for a few days at the end of June (this was a month ago), so we got the dates on the calendar and began discussing the particulars.

Both of them had some excellent ideas on where to go and what to do. Old Loggers Path, a small section of the AT, and some hikes out in the Michaux state forest beyond Gettysburg were all mentioned. Since they have camped before and I have not, I had a few specific criteria in mind for what I wanted to do and to accomplish on this trip. First and foremost, I wanted this time out to be about the camping part. To that end, I didn't want the actual hiking part to be overly difficult. For the first time carrying a 30 pound backpack instead of a 5 pound day pack, I wanted something that was a relatively flat and easy hike, with nice scenery, and something that wouldn't put us way out in the boonies on the unlikely chance that I really struggled with it. I spent a decent bit of time looking through various hiking books, and came up with something that fit the bill (for me) very nicely. Fortunately, Dave and Leo were both understanding of the limitations I wanted to put on things, and were very receptive to my suggestion. So we had a destination: The Pinchot Trail in the Thornhurst tract of the Lackawanna State Forest in Lackawanna county, southeast of Wilkes Barre, PA.

The Pinchot Trail is a 24 mile loop, roughly in the shape of a figure 8 that almost meets in the middle, but doesn't. The northern part of the loop is about 10 miles with the remaining 14 miles in the southern loop. It is a hardwood forest with many open meadows, and large stands of spruce and hemlock in the many stream valleys. Elevation change and therefore ascents and descents are minimal. Total elevation change is only about 400 feet, which wouldn't be an unusual eighth of a mile on the AT. The main parking area is in the waist of the figure 8, so nowhere on the hike will we be more than about 5 or 6 miles from the car. Water is very plentiful, with numerous streams being followed and crossed. In other words, for what I was looking for, it sounded just about perfect.

There is a brief writeup, with pictures, of someone's day hike of the southern loop here.

So, we had a destination. Along with which came the realization that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. But I would have a month to figure it out.

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