On July 31, 2010, I met up with old and new friends for an overnight backpacking trip in the Hickory Creek Wilderness. Our trip started at the Whole Foods Cooperative Association in Erie, PA*, where seven of us had met and planned the event through the Cooperative's Education Program the previous month. Tom Bachelder, a long time Allegheny Defense Project friend who also served on the board of directors for many years, hatched the idea of Hiking 101 to provide a safe, instructive atmosphere for folks who either did not have experience in backpacking or who just needed an excuse to get back on the trail with new friends (Sign-Up for Outings and Gatherings).
From our meeting place at the coop we carpooled out through northwestern Pennsylvania to the new Hickory Creek Wilderness Trail Head (See Map). Those of us with gear or supplies brought our extra equipment to outfit the hikers who had not yet acquired backpacks, sleeping pads, or tents. We set out about 11AM on a new section of trail that led to the Hickory Creek Wilderness, the new section adding about a mile to our journey, a significant bit for our unconditioned backs and feet. We headed south once we hit the wilderness trail loop aiming for the Coon Run Watershed. About an hour into to the journey we halted to eat the tasty sandwich wraps we brought with us from the Coop--not your typical trail food, but we thought some comfort early on would be beneficial and fill us just us in case the forecast rain hampered our dinner plans.
We took frequent breaks to adjust packs, eat snacks, and rest our legs. Tom talked to us about different aspects of the woods: plants, trees, and history. I occasionally spoke of the devastation in other areas of the forest, but tried to keep the gloom and doom to a minimum. Randy Francisco, an ADP board member, was also with the group and relayed lessons learned from his trek on the North Country Trail the previous year.
We made camp by 3PM, with only minor injuries--a sprained ankle, and some blistered feet. Tom had to lie to us occasionally to keep us motivated. According to Tom's reckoning, we were less than 1/4 mile from camp each time we stopped for a break during the last two hours of the hike. We were all very relieved to get to our comfortable spot next to a tributary of Coon Run, where we moved quickly to set up tents and start a fire since we heard thunder rumbling in the distance.
Dinner was a potluck with potato salad, lentil curry, dried snacks, instant couscous, and various rehydrated instant meals that one of the more experienced hikers brought for us to enjoy (lasagna, cheese cake, etc). John Stoneman, of Allegheny Outdoor Adventures, joined us in the afternoon at the camp. He provided plenty of entertaining stories for us that evening as the rain fell, including tales of the Rainbow Gathering, and the classic, "How I met the ADP," which can't be repeated on this site, but has been posted on Hell-If-I-Care, and is likely to be recounted at the Fall Gathering if requested (after the children are asleep).
The night was somewhat uneventful and most slept well, except I almost drowned in my failed attempt to use a poorly designed bivy sac on a rainy night. Around 4AM some relatively large creature dropped out of a tree, shaking the ground at camp and brushing against one of our group as it passed her tent. That inspired an earlier than usual rekindling of the fire, fortunately for me since I had decided to sleep in a bear taco near the center of camp. With someone awake and keeping the fire bright, I was able to get a little rest.
In the morning, we enjoyed instant coffee, tea, granola, dried fruit, and rehydrated instant eggs and bacon, and packed up as soon as we were sufficiently caffeinated (at least me). Packs were a little heavier with wet gear, but we were all very energized and upbeat, happy for our accomplishment. We hiked out of camp, and talked about things we would and would not bring the next time (like half of the food. the enormous volume of food we brought with us made for a hilarious episode of bearbag hanging the night before).
We had a very pleasant hike out on the wilderness trail; the clouds broke up into a beautiful day. Tom and John decided to cut back through the area of the old trail, which led to the wilderness area, to shave a mile off of the hike. As we cut cross-country we noticed the lavender-gray bark of cherry trees surrounding us. Perhaps the reroute was due to logging plans for the area, which is adjacent to, but not in the wilderness area.
We were in our cars and back on the road to Erie by 2:30PM. It was a great trip. The Erie group is meeting again at the Whole Food Cooperative on September 7, 2010 at 6PM to plan our next adventure. All our welcome! We will post the next Hiking 101 outing soon!