This past weekend a friend and I took a 2-day backpacking trip on the West Rim of Pennsylvania's Grand Canyon http://pacanyon.com/ which overlooks the the Pine Creek Gorge. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pi
. Along the gorge is a rails-to-trails biking/hiking trail stretching along Pine Creek for about 60 miles. There are a few general stores, outfitters, and campgrounds along the trail. Lots of great fishing, kayaking, and canoeing, too.
At the advice of the outfitter, we started our hike at the Refuge Link Trail, leaving our car there for the outfitter to pick up and drop off at the Bradley Wales Picnic Area. This section of the trail was recommended because of the numerous scenic vistas. http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/cs
ocument/dcnr_002045.pdf This section of the trail has spectacular vistas.
These pictures don't do justice to the scenery.
This was our first hike with loaded backpacks, so we decided to hike a very conservative 8 miles over two days. The temperature was in the 60s which was perfect for some strenuous exercise. The trail, which meandered up and down, was not extreme and we found ourselves making much faster progress than planned. In fact, at the rate we were going, we could complete the 8 miles by dinner time.
We passed several groups of hikers and backpackers, all men. We thought it sad that we didn't see other like-minded adventurous women on the trail. The outfitter had told us there was a 100 percent chance of rain in the evening, but it arrived around 2:40 p.m. The rain was light, but heavy enough to begin dampening us and our backpacks. The last thing we needed was wet clothes and sleeping bags, so we stopped to put the rain jackets on and cover our backpacks. The rain didn't dampen our spirits at all, but we did have to find a camping spot quickly before it rained any harder. It is not fun to put up a tent in a downpour.
The campsite we had picked out was occupied when we arrived, which was a shame. It was a beautiful site right along a small stream in a valley. The two men who were there were in the midst of a 2-month backpacking trip. So we had to continue on, which was to our advantage. The next campground we came to was at a vista (pictures above). We set up camp in a light rain and crawled in our tents to read and wait out the rain. We wanted to eat dinner at the overlook. We were quite chilled, so we changed into dry clothes and laid out the damp gear to dry inside our tents. The rain eventually stopped and we had hot tea and chocolate and our dinner. I had cold cheese pizza and my friend had cheese and crackers and some fruit. We are not yet gourmet cooks in the great outdoors.
The rain began again so we went back to our respective tents to read some more. By 8 p.m. we turned off our lanterns and slid into our sleeping bags and listened to the rain fall. I woke several times throughout the night because I was still chilled. I had the urge to pull up the wool blanket, but then remembered I wasn't at home, so I burrowed deeper into my sleeping bag.
At 6:30 I woke and stepped out of the tent to go to the bathroom. Then I looked up and there was a beautiful full moon hanging just above our tents. Then I walked to the overlook and could see the sky just beginning to lighten. I ran back to the tent and woke my friend. She would have been disappointed if she didn't see the moon and the sunrise. We took our sleeping bags over to the bench at the overlook and watched the sun greet the day. Two crows were dipping and soaring on the currents as the air warmed. We made hot chocolate and watched the sky and the birds until 9 a.m. Then we began packing our gear to finish the hike. Watching the clouds turn from dark, to orange and rose and then bright white was the highlight of the weekend.
The trail veered away from the rim and we hiked about 3 miles in the woods. The gold leaves of the ash trees glowed when the sun shined through them. We did high-5s when we arrived at the car.
We immediately began talking about our next backpacking trip--maybe this spring and we'll hike the entire trail over 3 or 4 days. We think we'd like to offer to lead the hike and invite 3 or 4 other women who have never backpacked and introduce them to it.