Backpacking 6:00:00  12.5 mi (28:48 / mi) +830m 23:52 / mi
shoes: Asolo 520 Boots (3)
Black Forest Trail - Naval Run Camp Site to Slate Run
Sunday September 27th – Naval Run to Slate Run
Distance: 12.5 miles Cumulative Distance: 43.5 miles
Climb: 2700 ft Cumulative Climb: 8600 ft
Weather: Foggy am, Sunny pm, upper 70’s
Trail conditions: Steep ascents and descents
Breakfast: Oatmeal with cranberries, almonds
Dinner: Battered Haddock Sandwich, Salad, Stella-Artois at Hotel Manor
Again this morning, David left camp early. He wanted to get home before too late so we would not see him the rest of the day. Jin and I hit the trail at 8:00 am. Things were easy for the first mile as we descended gradually along Naval Run to within spitting distance of Pine Creek. Then the fun began with the biggest climb of the day – 1300 ft to the ridge where the Gas Line Trail joined the BFT from the west. We stopped at vistas along the way although some of the surrounding “peaks” such as Hemlock Mountain and Half Dome were enshrouded by clouds.
The BFT makes a left turn off an old woods road at the intersection with the Jerald Trail. The map was a little confusing because it did not show the Jerald Trail. I looked left at the intersection and, not seeing an orange BFT blaze, continued straight ahead. After climbing for a short distance, I yelled back to Jin to see if she had seen any orange blazes. We obviously had missed the turn. But the BFT rejoined the woods road only a couple tenths of a mile further west so we decided it was not worth backtracking. This meant we bypassed the Naval Canyon vista but took us past the remnants of an old cabin area at the top of the ridge. It also allowed us to see a ruffed grouse which exploded out of the brush just to the right of the trail.
Soon enough, we were back on the BFT and took a right turn to descend to Little Slate Run. Upon reaching the run, we passed a camp site with a small group and a fire burning even though it was late morning. They had hiked in a short distance from Naval Run the day before and only had to retrace their steps out today. As we climbed out of the Little Slate Run valley, we encountered another small group on the trail – two men and a woman. They were wearing small packs and one of the men was carrying an igloo cooler in one hand and an empty gallon jug in the other. “Party last night?” I asked them. The man with the cooler laughed and said “Yeah, a little.” They stepped aside to let us pass. We then crossed over an area of blowdown that required some scrambling over downed trees. The BFT is one of the best maintained trails I have ever hiked. This was the first significant issue we had seen. It appeared to be recent – I’m sure the maintainers will deal with it soon. Near the top of the climb we reached a marshy area with sphagnum moss – it was the only mud on the entire trip.
We emerged onto gravel Manor Fork Road and turned right to Slate Run Vista where we stopped for lunch. The sun was now shining bright and the morning fog was gone. Leaving the road, we climbed briefly then began a descent to Foster Hollow. At the junction with the Old Supply Trail, the BFT heads steeply uphill one last time. Completing our final climb of the trip, we reached a small pond and a beautiful hunting camp in a mowed field. The owners had erected a memorial board at one side of the clearing with signs containing the names of members who hade passed on. After a short flat stretch through brush, the woods parted to reveal a spectacular view across and up the Slate Run valley – one of the prettiest of the trip. We took one final break here and then began the long, steep descent to Slate Run Road.
The trail dropped quickly over a series of rock ledges and flagstone formations. The guidebook cautioned us to watch for rattlesnakes but, once again, we saw none. The dry, dusty conditions made it feel like your feet would fly out from under you if you put too much weight on your heels. We reached a lookout where we met a day-hiking couple. After a brief chat, we continued descending and soon reached the road. The BFT crossed the road and then began a much more gradual decline through pine forest. It was nice to end such a difficult hike with a mile and a half of easy trail. Around 3:00 pm, we reached the trail sign with register box and turned right to the parking area to conclude a fantastic hike. The whole parking area reeked of mothballs. We probably protected other vehicles from porcupines as well as our own.
David’s car was gone but Jin and I headed down to Slate Run to enjoy a nice post-hike meal on the outdoor deck at the Hotel Manor. While there, we chatted with a group of young women hikers from Bloomsburg that we saw the night before at Naval Run. One had bad blisters from her boots and had hiked all day in sandals. They were in a celebratory mood. I said goodbye to Jin who was off to start a six day hike of the Loyalsock Trail and turned the car south for the drive home. The Black Forest Trail lived up to its advance billing. Grueling and gorgeous, I will remember it fondly.