Despite being a short drive from my house, and the longest trail in the county, I had never hiked the Joe Gmiter Trail. Ironic, since I have hiked trails all over the country.
So, the other weekend, I decided it was time to check this one off my list. Or at least try. I knew the trail was in tough shape, nor ideally routed since it simply follows the game lands boundary. But at over 8 miles, it is a rather significant trail. It was named after a president of the Susquehanna Trailers Club, a local hiking club that built the trail.
It was a clear, sunny day as the temperatures steadily rose. The trail is primarily blazed orange, although there are old, multi-color markings as well, and some side or connector trails. The hike began with some promise as it climbed along a field with some views before heading up the ridge through laurel, only to go back down, and then steeply back up to the top of the ridge. As I said, the route of the trail makes little sense in relation to the terrain. As a result, there is hiking along the side of slopes and seemingly pointless turns, and ups and downs. If there is snow, some kind of traction on ice is a good idea.
After a level walk, the slick trail went straight down before disappearing into a jungle of blowdowns at a “no trespassing” sign. We found an orange blaze and battled through the blowdowns. The trail turned right as the blowdowns receded. A descent followed between some neat multi-color ledges and we reached a pond on private property next to the trail. We descended to a field with some nice, pastoral views. But the trail and blazes were nowhere to be found so we bushwacked up the slope until I reached a rock wall where the blazes returned.
We took a break at some large ledges and decided to leave the trail and simply bushwhack. It seemed pointless to follow the trail through a morass of blowdowns, up and down steep slopes. We crossed a pretty stream and then another ravine. There were some hemlocks, slowly dying due to the adelgid. There were also some huge hardwoods, whether it be ash or oak. It was the finest feature of the trail. We rejoined the trail along a nice section as we hiked up and over ledges with piles of porcupine droppings. The blowdowns soon returned and our battle resumed. It seemed the blowdowns were mostly downslope along the mountain.
The trail steeply descended into another ravine and another climb took us into a forest with huge hardwoods. After another battle with intense blowdowns we followed an old forest road behind a home. We left the grade, and the trail, as we bushwhacked along the slope of the mountain. A climb followed to the top where there was a knoll of pines and then a hike along the ridge until we reached a small valley. The bushwhack continued down through thick laurel where we reached the trail again. As luck would have it after all the blowdowns, it was wide, clear path along an old grade.
The trail took us to an open area where there was recent logging. This area provided extensive views of the surrounding mountains as the sun began to set. We followed the logging road back down to the car.
It was good to finally hike this trail, or as much as I could. It is in very rough shape and appears largely abandoned. Not surprising since it is not really worth hiking due to its route being unsustainable, and at times illogical. This is too bad since there are some nice scenery and forests on Sorber Mountain. Unless the trail is re-routed to a more sensible and scenic loop, I doubt I’ll be back.
Regardless, it was good to be in the woods.