Laurel Highlands Snowshoeing

Roaring Run Natural Area (1/27/01)
Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail (1/28/01)

Quite a few people in the club had been interested in taking a snowshoeing trip this winter. Jeremy got in touch with Tim Anderson from The Mountaineer in Donegal regarding snowshoe rental and passed the information on to me, so I put the trip together. Tim has 14 snowshoes in his rental fleet, so it was clear that we would either have to limit the number of people on the trip or run two trips, Saturday and Sunday. I chose the second option, as it would get more people out into the woods and also keep the groups smaller, which generally makes for a more enjoyable hike.

Saturday:
Activity Type: Snowshoeing
Trail Name: South Loop Trail
Trip Distance: 6-7 miles
Location: Roaring Run Natural Area, Forbes State Forest
Nearby City: Donegal, PA
Related Maps: Trail Map
Additional Info: Pennsylvania DCNR

The Trip:
The weather looked promising Friday night, with several inches of snow in the forecast. Saturday was intended for more experienced hikers, as it was my first experience on snowshoes and I wanted to know what I was in for before taking less experienced people into the woods. Jeremy, Jason, Jeff, Joel, Erik and I met up at 8:00 am at the Union and headed for Donegal to pick up the snowshoes. Tim’s shop is located very close to a number of excellent hiking areas, including Roaring Run Natural Area. We got a bit turned around finding the trailhead, geared up and began hiking at about 10:30 am.
The trail that we hiked, the blue-blazed South Loop Trail, wasn’t on my topo map, but we decided to explore the area anyhow. It was snowing a bit, but we were not worried at all about getting lost in the snow. As Joel remarked, our tracks looked like someone was tramping around the woods with a size 28 sneaker.
We started the trail at relatively low elevation headed east in 6-8 inches of snow. The snowshoes really didn’t help much in such a small snowfall, but as we gained elevation the snow quickly deepened. Using the shoes wasn’t very difficult at all, and excepting the occasional buried branch or attempt to back up we didn’t have any problems. We reached an intersection about 45 minutes into the trail and took a water break. Jason wasn’t feeling very well, so he and Jeremy returned to the cars. The rest of the group headed south on the steep trail through some very deep snow. Jeremy impressively rejoined us on the way up. As we reached the top, Erik pitched forward on the slope and put a hand down to hold himself, but his arm sunk down nearly to his shoulder. The snowshoes did a very good job of keeping us on top of the snow. We hiked around the summit for a while then headed back down to the trail intersection, dropped over into the next hollow and stopped by a big boulder for lunch.
After some bagels and hot chocolate, took to the trail again. It was snowing quite a lot, and had been for a while. Jeremy and Erik did a great job of breaking trail and we tramped along through some beautiful snow-blasted woods. Joel had some trouble with his knees and hip and headed back for the cars. Erik, Jeremy, Jeff and I pressed on, curious to see how far out the trail looped around. We rounded the hollow and thought for a while that the trail was heading back westward to the cars, but then went up over a ridge and turned back east into some very very deep snow. My legs and hips were really bothering me and Jeff was tiring out as well, so I called to Jeremy and Erik. The four of us quickly concluded that we should turn around in order to make it back before dark and not keep Jason and Joel waiting on us for too long.

The trip back wore me out even further, but was still quite enjoyable. We took a few breaks to cool off along the way, as we worked up quite a sweat even on the broken trail. We reached the cars at about 4:00 pm and returned to The Mountaineer to return our snowshoes.
The trip was a really good time and showed how much work snowshoeing can be compared to regular trail hiking. I do not know quite how many miles we did total, but after the hike on Sunday I can guess that we did 6-7 miles. I was very pleased with the trip and a lot more comfortable taking the less experienced group out on Sunday. We took a few things from the trip, first, the importance of having accurate trail maps. While we did fine hiking without the map, there was a degree of uncertainty not knowing how far we would have to go before the trail looped back and as such we ended up hiking out and back. Secondly, general snowshoeing skills and what to expect as per mileage and difficulty from elevation. Other than that, I was pleased at the performance of the Esbit stove, which quickly and conveniently heated water for lunch. Overall, the trip was very good preparation for Sunday.

Sunday:
Activity Type: Snowshoeing
Trail Name: Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail
Trip Distance: 5.0 miles
Location: Rt. 31 Access, Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, Forbes State Forest
Nearby City: Donegal, PA
Related Maps: Area Map, Topo Map
Additional Info: Pennsylvania DCNR
Ready to hit the trail
The Trip:
Sunday morning the group met at the Union again at 8:00 am and got up to Donegal a bit late due to some inconveniences on the way up. The group on Sunday was a bit larger than Saturday: Ryan, Chris, Marian, Dana, Tara, Eugene, Amy, and myself. I picked the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail on the recommendation of Tim and Jason at the Mountaineer. The plan was to hike in two and a half miles to a cross-country ski warming hut, break for lunch, and hike out. We got on the already broken trail at about 10:30 am and headed north.
We reached the Rt. 31 Shelter Area and took a break to much some snacks and stay hydrated. Everyone was doing a fine job with the snowshoes, and we kept a comfortably easy pace up for the entire morning. We took a few water breaks along the way, and generally enjoyed the scenery. The snow was very deep up on top of Laurel Mountain where we were hiking, but the snowshoes made for easy going even when we began to break the trail ourselves after the shelter area.
We reached the warming hut at a little past noon. The daytime temperatures for the weekend hovered in the twenties, so it was quite nice to eat lunch in the wooden hut with a fire burning in the stove. We talked with several cross-country skiers as we ate lunch and I picked up some maps for skiing in the area….definitely going to plan a cross-country skiing trip sometime in the near future.
After a warm, relaxed lunch we hit the trail southbound towards the cars. The elevation drop to the warming hut was a few hundred feet, which we covered in about a mile. While descending on the way out had provided a bit of entertainment, climbing the hills on the way home was a bit of a pain. It was a good opportunity to practice step-kicking in the snow, however. We made pretty good time on the way out, taking pictures and water breaks as we went. The woods were very pretty as was the weather. The storm from Saturday had cleared completely and the sun made the snow glitter. The trip was fantastic and laid the groundwork for future snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trips…perhaps even some backpacking.

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2 comments

1 sara beverly { 02.06.11 at 3:13 pm }

Need to find some more snowshoeing people that can go during the week while there is still snow. There are 2 of us and both own our own snowshoeing and we are ready to go!

2 sara beverly { 02.06.11 at 3:14 pm }

Please email and connect!

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