++ length: 42 miles | location: Pennsylvania/USA | best season: almost year round, depending on the snow situation; best time to hike in spring and fall ++
The year almost came to an end—time to reminisce on this year’s adventures.
Fall is an extraordinary time along the Appalachian Mountains on the US East Coast. The turn of the colors starts with the first yellow-ish leaves in early October. With the cold nights in mid-late October, all shades of yellow, brown, orange, and red burst into bloom.
I always wanted to go hiking at that time of the year in the Appalachians. Also, it is the perfect time to avoid the heat and humidity that congregate under the thick green roof of the green tunnels of these endless forests in summer.
We decided to hike the 42 miles long Black Forest Trail in Pennsylvania. It’s long enough to get us out for at least two nights, and there were enough other trails in the close vicinity to add some more hiking if we felt like it.
The approach trail already gave us an idea of what was waiting for us: the path was soggy in many places, and when we set foot on the actual Black Forest Trail, it did not take long to get to our first couple of creek crossing. John laughed and pointed out it would probably be the last chance to bail if we wouldn’t want wet feet and do some river fordings. Of course, we continued.
The trail was well-blazed with orange rectangles that were sometimes a little hard to see as they blended in with the fall colors. We ignored a reroute marker in the first day’s afternoon and instead followed the old route up along a creek. We were bush-whacking and climbing over many old rotten trees, and I was swearing about insufficient trail maintenance and the trail itself until we noticed there was a new and better route higher up above the creek. Oh well, we made it to our first camp spot just in time for nightfall.
We quickly realized that three days and two nights were poor planning. Daylight is short and cold nights make it hard to get up early in the morning. Fortunately, we came through the little town Slate Run on day three to stock up on snacks to bring us through an additional day.
The trail is constantly up and down, sometimes over huge boulders typical for the Appalachians in PA. From the ridges, we had fantastic views, especially over the “Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania”. In the valleys, we had to ford creeks and rivers uncountable times. Nights got frosty, but the reward was total solitude, incredible views over colorful ridges, and enough challenges for us to make it exciting, fun, and deeply satisfying to hike.