In April, 2017, I was working not only on my Hike100 Challenge for 2017, but also on my own personal goal of hiking all of the North Country Trail in Pennsylvania. April 1 was a good day weather-wise for hiking - but turned out not to be very good for my NCT-PA goal!
I started out with the intention of completing the last section in western PA that I hadn't yet hiked - from Darlington, PA to the Ohio line. However, it was not to be - we had had very heavy spring rains, and the trail was completely flooded about 1/2 a mile in from the trailhead. I would find out later, when I was finally able to hike this section during a dry spell, that the ENTIRE TRAIL on this section was under water. So I abandoned the NCT-PA quest that day, and re-hiked the other section in Darlington towards my Hike100.
The trail is washed out in Darlington; if you look close, you can see the footbridge halfway through the "puddle"
The river in Darlington flooded its banks, covering the entire trail along this section
A little over a week later, on April 9, I resumed my quest, and started at the Kohlmeyer Road trailhead in Hilliards, PA, and headed towards Branchton Road. The parking lot is off Kohlmeyer Road, and has room for about 10 cars or so. Walking back to Kohlmeyer Road, you follow it for 2/10 of a mile road walk before the trail picks back up in the woods.
Trailhead sign on Kohlmeyer Road, Hilliards, PA
The entrance to the woods is a little hard to see, especially if the weeds have grown up around it, but there is a white stake with a blue top letting you know where to veer off the road into the woods. The trail here is easy to follow, wide and mostly grassy, but does have a lot of wet spots. Eventually, the trail comes back out of the woods into a grassy access area. Keep to the right of the expanse, since the blue blazes are few and far between on this section; the trail then turns right, crosses over a bridge, and heads back into the woods.
View of the marsh along Kohlmeyer Road, on the road walk
The trail remains wide and grassy throughout this section, with some minor elevation changes along the way. Eventually, you will come to a split in the trail where a horseback trail cuts off to the left and the NCT veers off to the right. There are more elevation changes, but the trail stays wide and grassy for about another mile-ish, where it becomes more like an access road and cuts through a tree-lined section with woods to the right, and large, grassy fields to the left. At the end of the tree-lined "road," the trail veers back into the woods - and this is where my April 9 saga turned bad!
Beautiful vine-laced trees are part of the landscape on the NCT in Hilliard
I missed the cut-off. Several times. This hike turned into a two-and-a-half hour journey that only added about 3 miles total to my Hike100, because I walked, and walked...and walked...doubling back, looking for blue blazes, trying to figure out where I had lost the trail. Since the trail mostly followed the access road, I spent a very long time hiking up and down some VERY long inclines, but all to no avail. Finally, on my third try of doubling back, another hiker came up the trail and turned off into the woods!! Noting where he cut off, I finally found the NCT!! It was (not very well) marked with a white stake with a blue top - an NO double blaze to indicate the trail turned right - and the stake had fallen down into the tall grass, which also happened to hide the trail. I had passed right by it - several times - and mostly ignored it because it looked like a game trail. Even looking into the woods, the blue blazes weren't visible from the access road, so it's no wonder I lost the trail.
At that point, I was done for the day, and I headed back to my car. This trail will have to be hiked another day!
BSITO (Be Safe In The Outdoors),