This past weekend I returned to the Pinchot Trail for a quick overnight. My friend Ashley and her boyfriend Matt wanted to give backpacking a try, so I suggested we do the south loop of the Pinchot, an easy trail known for its diversity. The Pinchot is described as hike no. 2 in Backpacking Pennsylvania.
We met at the main trailhead under cool, crisp skies as the sun shone through azure skies. Not a cloud was in the sky. The forests softly dripped with melting frost from the morning. After a quick visit to Big Pine Hill’s expansive views, we were soon on the trail as it parsed rhododendron jungles and crossed a meadow with a forest of spruce in the distance. We hiked over a ridge with meadows and descended along wetlands and small streams. Forests alternated from rhododendron to laurel, hardwoods to pine plantations. Soon we reached Butler Run where we went on a side hike to beautiful Choke Creek Falls, a double cascade that surged into a deep, dark pool. We enjoyed this beautiful place, now a part of the Lackawanna State Forest, as the sun began to set.
We continued on the trail, which gradually descended back to Choke Creek into a forest of spruce. Here we found our campsite for the night, and it was a fine one. Our site was on a ledge overlooking a swirling pool on the creek. Deep green spruce and hemlock trees guarded our site. We set up our tents in the fading light, enjoying the beauty.
On this trip I brought my tarp, which is lighter and easier to set up. On the other hand, tarps provide no insulation and are more exposed. It was a chilly night, well below freezing, but I stayed fairly warm in my sleeping bag after a few adjustments. An owl hooted in the distance.
Morning came too soon as sunlight erupted from the thick spruce forest. A layer of frost covered almost everything, including my sleeping bag where I exhaled. We slowly got around, getting our stuff together, trying to fend off the cold.
The sun rose in the sky and warmed this frosted world. We were soon back on the trail, hiking along beautiful Choke Creek, passing meadows and spruce forests.
The trail left Choke Creek and gradually climbed into a beautiful forest of hemlock, spruce, and rhododendron jungles. The forest was so green, it was hard to believe it was still November. The trail was carpeted with moss as laurel and teaberry grew nearby.
As we hiked the road back to the cars, two men were picking up wood from some trees that were cut. One man, who was sitting, questioned us with an exclamation, “You didn’t sleep in the woods last night?” We ackowledged it was chilly, but we survived.
Ashley and Matt enjoyed the trail, finding it perfect for beginners. They appreciated the diversity along the trail and a chance to enjoy the woods for a night.