Last weekend, seven crazies from Berks-Lehigh Hiking and Backpacking decided to brave the impending snowpocalypse and spend 2 days on the trail. We had voted and decided on the Loyalsock-Link Loop long before the forecast even hinted of snow, but when we heard 6-12 inches, we decided to go anyway. This trip was to be 25 miles with splits of 15.5 and 9.5, but it didn’t work out exactly as planned.
As we gathered on Saturday morning, the snow was already starting to fall; coating the parking lot with a fine dusting of fresh snow. We grabbed our packs and hit the trail. The Loyalsock Trail descended a short distance before meeting with an old railroad grade, which we followed for a bit before dropping down along the banks of the Loyalsock Creek. For the next 3 miles, the trail followed the creek pretty closely and we got a few great views of the water rushing by the snow covered rocks. After the 4th mile, the LT crossed the creek on an old iron bridge and started to head away from it. We reached Sones Pond around mile 6 and found it to be frozen and covered in a few inches of fresh snow. Up until this point, we had managed to make pretty good time despite some ice and the continually deepening snow.
We followed the LT without incident until we reached High Rock Vista in Worlds End State Park. This small vista gave us a modest view of the Park Office and the Loyalsock Creek below. This is really where I first realized just how crappy this snow storm was becoming. The park facilities below were barely visible through the dense falling snow. I suggested that we take a detour from our intended route. Instead of following the Loyalsock Trail, which took a narrow somewhat treacherous route into the valley, I thought that the High Rock Trail might give us a safer way down. After slip sliding down into the valley, a few of my cohorts seemed a little skeptical that my route was actually any safer, but I reassured them it was. The High Rock Trail ends at Rt. 154, which we followed into Worlds End. We made use of the public restrooms. This was a convenient place to replenish our water, and we all made use of the electric hand dryers to dry out gloves and hats.
After a very quick look at the guide book, we decided to get back on the Loyalsock Trail instead of the Link Trail as we had originally planned. The Link Trail would have taken us on some rocks right along the edge of the creek. One slip on the ice would have meant an unintended polar bear plunge, and it probably would have ended our trip. We were all equipped with microspikes, but it wasn’t worth the risk. Unfortunately, we didn’t look too closely at the map… Our detour on the Loyalsock Trail added some extra mileage as well as a very steep climb in fresh powder. I’m pretty sure this was the point where most of us started to feel worn out. After the climb, we descended back into the valley where we rejoined the Link Trail, which we followed up a tough climb to Loyalsock Canyon Vista. In good weather, this vista is usually quite pretty, but the driving snow made it difficult to see very much. From there, we hiked about 2 more miles and made camp just as the last of our daylight faded away. According to Mark’s GPS, we had done just under 18 miles.
Hua built a raging fire, which we enjoyed for a bit, but I was in bed before most senior citizens had finished eating their early bird specials. The snow continued most of the night and brought many branches crashing down in the vicinity of our campsite, but luckily our site was free of widow makers. My bivy had a bit of a condensation problem which sort of half wetted out my quilt. It got pretty chilly, so I only got about 2-3 hours of shut eye. I finally got up around 4AM and got the camp fire going again. The task of tending the fire kept my mind occupied while I was waiting for everyone else to wake from their slumber.
In the morning, we discovered that the total snowfall had reached about 12″. Mark and Seth yearned for their snow shoes as we took turns breaking through the fresh snow. It was very slow going. Our pace was barely over 1mph. After a few slow miles of this, we reached Rt. 154 again. Most of us had long drives home and places to be that afternoon, so we made the decision to road walk. After 4 or 5 miles, 154 reached Rt. 202, where we turned left. We then turned left onto Snyder Road, which was basically a dirt road, but at least it was plowed. From Snyder Road we got onto Mead Road, which was covered in between 10 and 12 inches of snow. We followed Mead Rd for a mile or so before reaching the parking lot where our trip had started the day before. Luckily, the lot had been plowed! We all went about cleaning our cars and eventually parted ways. The trip didn’t go at all according to plan, but I’m fairly certain that everyone had a great time anyway.