Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Somewhere New: Susquehannock State Forest

I somehow forgot to post this back in September - oops! For my Somewhere New September I roped Rachel into another little adventure. This time - our first backpacking experience. We realized on this trip that we have been together for some of the most liberating experiences of our lives - like the time we took our pants off on the NYC subway or the time we jumped out of a plane.

I had read somewhere that Cherry Springs State Park in upstate PA - part of Susquehannock State Forest - is one of the best spots to stargaze on the East Coast. Not wanting to be part of the crowds though we decided to go out into the woods and find a more secluded place to stargaze.

Our first night we made camp at Cherry Springs vista. As soon as we set up the tent a fine rain started to fall so we scrambled in (carefully so as not to hit our heads trying to sit in a tent the size of a double wide coffin)and chatted until we fell asleep.

In the morning we crawled out and were excited to see the clouds and mist still blanketing the mountains below us. We set out to Hammersley Wild Area - the 2nd largest area of PA without roads and spent the next two days camping and hiking the mountains.

We never passed another person on the trail so not only was it our first time backpacking but we did so with no real backup support in the way of fellow hikers. The quiet of the forest and all the different trees and ferns were illuminated by the most gorgeous light and I was happy to have Rachel to share it with but not 100 other people.

While we didn't see any bears or dangerous wildlife the trip was not without incident. Mostly it was stupid first-timer incident to be frank. I lost our campstove before we even got to PA by leaving it by the car to be stolen in WV. On the full night we spent camping after hiking all day we both were in the mood for something warm but all we had was cold ramen...which by the way is awful and crunchy.

We both thought this natural table someone built was pretty cool. About an hour past where we set up camp we found this campsite and table.

Another incident was when we decided to go off the trail and climb up a steep incline convinced we would find a vista at the top. We trudged up the mountain only to find it infested with thorns. I rolled my ankle coming down and was grumpy for a good 10 minutes.

Thorns attacking you, sleeping on roots and crunchy ramen are part of the experience though and to be honest none of those things really dampened my awe and excitement to be out in the forest on such a beautiful weekend.

The most dangerous thing we encountered...a snail

As the sun went down and the fire eventually died we got our flashlights out and made our way to a clearing. As we walked we talked about the constellations we could identify and figured between the two of us we might be able to find close to 10. As we stepped out into the clearing we both got silent. There were so many stars that we couldn't even find the Big Dipper. The sky was so clear that we could see the gradation of the Milky Way. Especially now that I live in the city where you never see stars it was enough to dumbfound me into silence.

When it gets warm again I'd like to go back and explore more of the trails - this was a great start to an addiction to backpacking!


Jenn said...

Hello- I tried to find your contact information. We were planning to camp at Cherry Springs State Park this Saturday evening to see the stars and hopefully the milky way. But then I stumbled to this page. It is even better---to backpack and camp out and not be around the crowd. You said that you camped out at Cherry Springs Vista. Which trail did you use to get there? Is it easy to find? Any suggestions for this trip would be appreciated. Thank you so much! -Jenn

Lacey Walker said...

Hi Jenn! Cherry Springs State Park is just gorgeous. It's been a few years now since this trip but that image you see of us setting up our tent over the vista is off PA44. That's actually something we parked at, it's right off the road but we heard maybe one or two cars all night so it was super secluded compared to where most people park. The next day we backpacked in to Hammersly and camped in the forest near the Hammersly Vista. Hope that helps!

Jenn said...

Thank you very much. I didn't see this email until just now. It went to social list. Grr. But I appreciate your reply and we plan to go back and will definitely try what you suggested. Again, thanks :) -Jenn