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making waves on the Loyalsoaked Trail- T rip Report
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The Legend of the Loyal-SOAK Odyssey
“WARNING: This account contains ample hyperbole, an implementation of exaggeration used by writers to enhance the drama of a story. Reader discretion is advised ;) That being said:
Gather 'round boys and girls, for this is the story of a weekend hike of epic proportions -- unlike anything ever experienced, and probably won't be for a while. This is the story of 4 hikers who set out on the Loyalsock trail, despite disgustingly hot and humid weather and forecasts of imminent torrential rain for the length of the weekend. The objective: Worlds End or bust. Y'all ready for this? Alright, here we go:
Friday 30 Jul
I got all my stuff together and in my car around 7:30 PM and headed out. A couple quick local stops for cash, gas, and EMS for firestarter paste, and I was on the highway by 8. As I was getting close, I noticed lightning lighting up the sky like a Christmas tree in the direction I was headed in and thought to myself, "this is going to get very hairy very fast." Soon I noticed the wet road, and knew the beast had come through there not too long ago.
Anywhoo, 3 1/2 hours after leaving not-so-beautiful New Jersey, I pulled into our campsite at World's End State Park to an absolutely drenched, vacant campsite with one tent pitched. I thought to myself, where the hell are they? I knew EarthNSky (herein refered to as ENS or Comrade) was running late, but not this late. So I proceeded to set up my tent, sleeping bag, etc., and ENS and his brother Russ came strolling on in shortly, thus relieving my anxiety of ENS bailing on his own trip (that would've been an interesting twist, eh?). We stayed up way too late just BS-ing about this, that, and almost everything in between before finally turning in around 2 AM.
Saturday 31 Jul
Up and at 'em bright and early (ok, maybe not), but we did manage to get to the ranger station to meet up with JMitch before 8 AM, so I consider that a pretty good accomplishment. We loaded up our stuff and shuttled ourselves in two of our cars to Brunnerdale Rd, leaving two cars at Worlds End where we would be finishing the hike the next day. Before long, we got to our trailhead and loaded up. My friends, the gods were angry that day; the weather was hot and grotesquely humid; the air would just hang off of you like an overloaded pack after climbing a 2000-ft rise. Folks, it was not pretty. Nevertheless, we set off.
Our first point of interest was Falls Run (Pictures: 1, 2), which featured some nice cascades, and the colossal Angel Falls, which we came upon shortly (Pictures: 1, 2). Absolutely awesome is all there is to be said about it; we just sat there for a while just absorbing the sight. Soon after, we headed up a ladder to the top of the falls -- no there wasn't really a ladder, but there probaby could've been considering the steepness of the grade. The view from the top of the falls was magnificient (Pictures: 1, 2).
From there, it was up over the ridge to the Kettle Creek Gorge, while the heat continued to clamp down on us like a vice determined to crush the very existence out of anything caught between it. We stopped for a quick photo-op/snack break at an overlook along the rim of the Kettle Creek Gorge (Pictures: 1, 2). Here, a snake of an unknown type decided to grace us with his presence while trying to catch some sun off the vista.
Soon after, we were on our way down to cross Kettle Creek, which also had some cute little cascades. The bottom of the gorge did provide some relief from the heat, though. But all too soon, we began the climb over the next ridge, where I almost stepped on this little guy. Fortunately, I was able to put my foot elsewhere, and the little booger got to live. All's well end's well, eh? Not so fast, but I'll get to that later.
Up over the next ridge we went, and back down into the next gorge. This constant up and down roller coaster trail was becoming a regular thing. Hot and sweltering ridge-tops in the sun alternating with cool and shady creek gorges. 'Twas a nice paradox, she was. The next creek was Dry Run, with it's nasty-looking blood-red water, which JMitch had informed us was due to the swamp it drained from (Pictures: 1, 2). By this point, some of our water jugs were drier than the Sahara Desert, but we decided to rough it to next creek, as the blood-red water of Dry Run was about as appealing as the city landfill.
So on we went, up yet another ridge; but this one was different from the past few, for it had a lookout...a lookout to a menacingly dark cloud that rumbled its mighty wrath at us over and over again like the Sirens song, only meaner. Much, much meaner. It was about this time we realized that it was going to rain soon, and hard. We quickly donned our pack covers in attempt to keep our gear dry, like squirrels hurrying to get the last nut before the first snowfall. However, we passed up on actual rain gear, welcoming the thought of a relieving thundershower as we set out to continue along the trail.
Little did we know, we would get more than we bargained for; much, much more. Not too far down the trail from here, we suddenly heard some wood snapping, and in sudden panic-stricken anxiety, started looking all around for where the tree was falling much like deer caught in headlights. Much to our horror (and relief), a giant limb came crashing down out of a nearby tree coming to a sudden (and loud) stop on impact with the ground about 50 ft away from us. How's that for a heart-stopper?
Meanwhile, the rain continued it's all-out monsoonish assault. Folks, let me tell you, I've been hiking for quite a while and have never experienced rain like this on the trail before. Ever. About a mile down the trail from the spot where we took the last break -- just before the start of the high-knob climb, I was completely and thoroughly, 100% soaked; boots completely swamped over, we were just walking thru ankle-deep puddles in the trail, as we had given up on trying to stay dry. My only hope was that my gear would survive somewhat dry underneath that pack cover.
And so began the climb up High Knob. 'Twas a monster that lay between us and Cape Run, the next gorge beyond High Knob. We started up the steep ascent to High Knob, which wasn't the stairway to heaven, but it might as well have been. Fortunately for us, it was graded, though still steep, with switchbacks. It was the hill that never ends, that could easily rival the eastbound climb up Cold Brook Pass in the Adirondacks, but I digress. Eventually I reached the top, my tongue dragging along a half-mile or so behind me. There was a lookout about a quarter-mile down the park road we crossed, which we stopped to check out, since our original plan was to do lunch there. Some say there's a spectacular view from there; I wouldn't know -- all I could see was the cloud as it continued to sock it to us, assualting us with its mighty raindrops without end. It was about this time that I started to think the rain was not so funny anymore. However, looking like I had completely fallen into a stream, I once again decided to forego the raingear, figuring how much wetter could I get?
JMitch and I went ahead, deciding stopping at the ridgetop with the impending thunderstorms was a bad idea, while Comrade and Russ stayed behind, as Russ was bent on having lunch at High Knob. The trail followed the ridge for a while and the dropped down into the Cape Run gorge. By this point, the trail was either a lake, stream, or waterfalls, depending on how steep the slope was at any given part, and my boots were now Lake Left Foot and Lake Right Foot. Eventually ENS and Russ caught up, and we stopped for a little break near Cape Run, where ENS and JMitch built little dams in the trail in a feeble attempt to route the rain water into the nearby creek instead of down the trail, which at this point was causing some serious erosion. We also dared to take out the cameras in the torrential rain for the photo-op of these now-rain-swollen falls in Cape Run
Continuing up the trail, I was now starting to feel the fatigue of a long hike constantly going up and down respectable hills. By this time, we were well over the 10-mile mark for the day, and I was really starting to dig the idea of getting to camp and just chillin'. We stopped for a quick snack break under a hemlock grove along the climb out of the Cape Run gorge, where I finally filtered some water from a nearby runoff. I gotta tell ya, with this kind of torrential rain, water isn't very difficult to come by, and ever since the rain started, I completely forgot about the fact that I had no water left. Who would've thought?
We pushed on to Ketchum Creek gorge, our destination for night, as it was only a couple more miles. Mother nature continued her merciless barrage of rain, and the trail continued to flood to "epic proportions," as put by JMitch. When we finally got to the Ketchum Creek crossing, a crossing that is normally done on rocks, much like any other stream crossing, and it was beyond flood stage. Those rocks were under about 2 feet of water, so we just 1, 2, 3). Absolutely marvelous, and breathtaking, with the amount of water gushing that that creek.
We picked up our packs and headed down to a campsite and few hundred feet down that JMitch found, and after a final ankle-soaking ford, a foursome of exhausted hikers walked into camp and proceeded to set up, make dinner, etc. Luckily, the rain had also let up by this time, but the damage had already been done. I'm glad to say that my pack cover performed well, and the only damage to my gear was a slight dampening of a few things; not too shabby considering the insane amounts of rain Saturday afternoon. We also had a slight incident which, unfortunately, managed to injure JMitch's foot, but that's another story for another time -- perhaps sitting around another rainy campfire somewhere...
The idea of a campfire didn't really interest us (we're such slackers), and being as tired as we were, we decided to turn in soon after dark. After all, we did hike almost 15 miles that day, and ENS, Russ and I only got a max of 5 hours of sleep the night before. The only word I could think of to describe the way my feet and legs felt was jelly, and I was literally passing out standing up. Needless to say, I fell asleep fast that night, to the sound of tree rain on my tent and the overflowing Ketchum Creek.
Sunday 1 Aug
Up and at 'em, bright and early (I've really got to stop lying like that) feeling fresh and revived, I noticed something was very different outside -- THE SUN WAS OUT!!! Nevertheless, my spare dry shorts became instantly wet when I put my wet pants on, and my spare dry socks became instantly wet when I put my still-soaked boots on. Joy.
But despite all our slacking, I still think we made pretty good time getting out of camp. The trail headed down the Kettle Creek gorge, providing us with stunning scenery and the rambling brook. We passed a couple more waterfalls in Ketchum Creek (Pictures: 1, 2), including this not-so-secret campsite (it was right on the trail).
Soon after, we began the ridiculously steep climb out of the Ketchum Creek gorge, and reached a view over the entire Loyalsock valley (Pictures: 1, 2, 3). At this point, the sun was really starting to heat up the place, and the sweaty, nasty, melty process began yet again; fortunately, this time we were armed with ample water, or at least I was. There was also a pretty little cascade near this lookout.
We slugged on through heat up some more
Soon, we came upon a dirt road crossing, and after much deliberation, all things considered -- JMitch's foot, the insane hike of Saturday, among other things, we decided that it would be best for us to take the bailout option on the dirt road, which connected to a paved road along Double Run gorge back to Worlds End State Park, cutting about half of the distance if we had stayed on the trail. Long story short, the roadwalk was pretty boring and uneventful (as most roadwalks are), but I gotta tell ya, the shortcut was very welcomed.
Almost toward the bottom of the gorge, we turned off the road on the the Double Run Nature Trail to check out a couple final waterfalls in Double Run. And it was sooo worth it (Pictures: 1, 2, 3). I guess every dark cloud does acutally have silver lining. In this case, Sunday was Saturday's silver lining.
From the Nature Trail, it was a quick, easy quarter-mile roadwalk down PA Highway 154 to the Ranger Station at World's End, where 4 absolutely drained hikers arrived at their destination. As we basked in the sun trying to dry out (Pictures: 1, 2), we still had smiles on our faces. At Worlds End, we quickly cleaned up a bit and shuttled back to Brunnerdale Road to pick up the other two cars. Afterwards, we went over to the Forksville Inn to grab some real grub, which we pretty much had our hearts set on all day, and I gotta tell ya, I don't remember the last time chicken and biscuits tasted sooo good. Really hit the spot.
After dinner was done, we all said our goodbye's and headed our separate ways home; I pulled into my development a little after 9 PM, after stopping only for gas. Despite the arduous conditions and the butt-kicking hike, I am convinced that a good time has been had by all. This has definitely been a long, strange trip, and one we will be recollecting and retelling the story of for many a trip to come. To those of you who couldn't make it, I'm sorry -- ya missed a keeper. Kudos to EarthNSky and JMitch for putting together the trip route, and to Mother Nature for providing the weather to facilitate such an adventure. Rock on, dudes!
PS - In case I messed up any of the photo links, here's one to the whole album. N-Joy!”
“Edit to TR from above (I messed up the tags, omitting a huge chunk of this paragraph:
We pushed on to Ketchum Creek gorge, our destination for night, as it was only a couple more miles. Mother nature continued her merciless barrage of rain, and the trail continued to flood to "epic proportions," as put by JMitch. When we finally got to the Ketchum Creek crossing, a crossing that is normally done on rocks, much like any other stream crossing, and it was beyond flood stage. Those rocks were under about 2 feet of water, so we just slogged right through the 3-ft deep Ketchum Creek, boots on and all, figuring our feet really couldn't get any wetter than they already were. Here, we left our packs at the trail and bushwhacked
“there was an awesome spring along Double Run Rd that came straight outta the rocks in a pipe. Man that water tasted sweet. Delish!”
“great report PS! I can't figure out why the heck I am still awake right now.”
“Yeah, me neither. Writing that story took up the better part of my night, but I didn't get home from the office today till about 8 PM.
Oh well, hope it was worth the wait...”
“Speaking of the Lehigh River, it looked crazy high from the Turnpike bridge near the Mahoning Valley exit...
“Kettle Creek was a tougher crossing than I originally eluded to. Russ just walked right through the more than foot deep water, Jmitch found a narrow log and walked across it, I think PS did the same. I was as usual carrying the obsenely heavy pack ( i think it weighed about 45 lbs) and crawled across the log. PS has a pic of me doing that. Didn't want to fall in.”
“And to think...that was one of the "smaller" creeks we had to cross...”
“that was before the monsoon. We thought it was going to be the biggest of the creek fordings at the start of the hike.”
“PS- excellent report and pics.”
“pennsy and richb- wish you could've made it, awesome trip. the waterfalls were unbelieveable.”
“what about me?
“Hey, I bought your book too, y'know!”
“... I even bought a copy for my Mom and Dad!”
the LT is your home! why weren't you there? a truly epic trip. get back up to NEPA soon.
hope you and your parents enjoy the book.
thanks also for buying the book, hope you enjoy it.”
“I seriously need to get Jmitch's book. I can't wait for the new on. I can't wait for the next trip to the Loyalsock Trail.”
“Nice pics, Phantom! Great job with getting those silky waterfall shots. I especially like the pic of you guys crossing through Ketchum Creek. That baby was engorged!!!”
“Ketchum Run was the hardest of the creek crossing. My boots are still wet.”
“sounds like it was a good hike, even with all the wetness.
Wish I coulda made it but I had to drive Sunday and Monday to pick up my kids and come back to gatorland.
I did grab one last night in the smokies Sunday night on my way home though, it was good. Slept out under my tarp and watched the sun set and the moon rise thru the trees.”
“Hey Bobo, engorged? That's an understatement. About 2 feet under all that water was the regular stone crossing that normally would've gotten you across without a drop of water on your boots. So much for that eh?
We also tried to take a picture of me on standing on the trail with the flood water halfway up to my knees (that's how bad the trail flooded). But unfortunately the camera had trouble focusing that shot for whatever reasons, and it didn't come out... :(”
“Phanthom Soul, very nice trip report with excellent pictures. I've camped up at Alpine view a few times many years ago and always liked that spot along with Ketchum Run. I hope I can get out there this fall.
Jmitch, I would have loved to make this hike but, I'm still sick with a fever for a week now and it is getting worse not better.”
“great pics Soul Man! Wow, Ketchum was really roaring.
Get well soon Rich!”
“Hope you feel better Rich. See ya on the trail some time soon. The return to the Loyalsock trail will be in the near future.
Yeah, Ketchum was raging. The was the biggest water crossing of the day and the most treacherous I have ever done.”
“Dude, that sucks Rich...have you seen your doctor? Maybe he can get you something to make you feel better. Hang in there and feel better soon; the trail ain't going nowhere, despite mother nature's futile attempts to wash it away...”
“Thanks for the good wishes. I did see my doctor today at the University of Penn and spent most of the day there getting tests. I won't know until Friday what they found if anything with those rounds of tests. My arms are like pincushions after today. I started thinking that maybe I had West Nile virus, but I don't have all the symptoms. I still have a fever and it was 102.9 at the clinic. I don't know how I drove down there and home. Now my ears are ringing. Whatever this thing is, it really knocked me for loop and if it goes away, it's going to take me a long time to feel strong again.”
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