Photography, Hiking, Trailrunning and BS in my spare time

Laurel Highlands Trail

One week later and once again the forecast was for scattered thunderstorms.  After being scared off last week, I decided to take my chances this week and head off on the hike.  I settled on doing an out and back on the Laurel Highlands Trail starting from Ohiopyle.

Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail

I left the house at 5:15am on Sunday morning so I could make it to Ohiopyle by 6:30am.  I figured I’d stop off at Cucumber Falls before the crowds showed up to grab a few comps before heading over to the trailhead.  As hoped, the parking area was empty giving  me the place to myself.  I spent about an hour there before leaving.

Cucumber Falls-1
Small chunk of paradise
View down stream before emptying into the Youghiogheny

I drove over to the trailhead and I was the only vehicle in the lot.  I got my gear together and was on the trail by 8:00am.

The day started out pleasant enough with mostly clear skies, however, through the river valley where the trail followed, a thick mass of fog hovered over the river.  Initially this made for nice cool conditions and since I was doing an out and back, any views that were missed early due to fog could be seen on the way back.  Hiking out of the trailhead follows a service road for about a quarter of a mile and then the trail leaves and heads up a steep slope with stairs cut in before leveling back off and continuing to follow the edge of the mountain, railroad tracks and river southeast.  At about the mile and a half mark the trail starts ascending rather quickly to get to the first vista.

Trail heading up to first vista

At the first vista I paused to catch my breath.  The fog was still thick at this point and only the silhouettes of the nearest trees were visible.  As I reached to grab a drink from the side of my pack I noticed some movement around my right foot.  Looking down I realized the movement was a swarm of yellow jackets.  Quickly, I jumped away to see that I was standing right in front of their nest opening.

Yellow Jackets. You can see were I had been standing by the partial foot print in the sand in front of the opening.

After getting away from the nest and being thankful not to be stung or followed, I took a shot or two and proceeded on my way.

Fogged in at the first vista

Shortly after the first vista the sun started to burn through the fog illuminating the trail.

The trail above Rock Spring Run
The bad part about being first one on the trail is cleaning away all the spider webs from the previous night which usually happens with your face as your eyes are focused down the trail

I continued along the edge of the mountain before descending quickly to a small creek called Rock Spring Run.  At this point the trail turns into an a roller coaster where it is continual ups and downs for the next 6 miles.  I had three additional vistas that I wanted to get to and clouds were building as the day moved on.  I was determined to get a good workout in at the same time so I continued on at about a 3mph pace.

Lick Run at approximately the six mile mark

For the most part the next three vistas were pretty much a bust.  There was nothing dramatic or awe inspiring at any of them.  Two of the last three ended just being a small clearing through the trees with a brief view of the surrounding hills.

An unimpressive view

At about the six and one half mile mark the path takes a continual one mile ascent with a 1000 feet elevation gain.  After getting to the top and leveling off I heard some distant thunder.  It was here that I decided to cut 9 mile out hike to 7.5 and turn back with the hopes of making it back before things got ugly.

I worked my way back making good time and getting a good workout.  The storm never did materialized and at worst about twenty minutes of light drizzle fell.  Slowly the sky started to clear up again and by the time I got back to the first vista the weather was nice.

First vista on the way back

I finished up the hike and got back to the trailhead at 2:30pm.  Total miles was 15 and total time was 6:30.

Still having some energy left after making it home, I whipped up a steak salad to get back some (if not all) of the ~2000 calories I burned on the hike.

You know you have a problem when you start taking pictures of food
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