Snow Tubing in The Mountains

I couple weeks ago, I flew north to New York City and then made a short trip to the Poconos in Pennsylvania to visit family, see my old childhood home, and to take advantage of the snowy, cold weather activities in the mountains!  I had been wanting to go skiing for quite some time but, due to time restrictions and traveling, decided on going snow tubing instead.

IMG_5075

I looked up a few of the mountains in the Poconos that offer tubing and decided on Big Boulder, which part of the Jack Frost/Big Boulder Ski Resort.  Although it is a smaller location than say, Camelback Mountain (which boasts 42 snow tubing lanes!), I decided on Big Boulder because it’s super close to my family’s home, it’s a scenic drive (especially if you enter through Split Rock Resort), and the price and time slots available were right.  So the drive from NYC to the Pocono Mountains began!

After arriving at Big Boulder and finding the parking for the tubing area (which is all the way beyond the ski slope parking), I added my final cold-weather layers to my attire and headed out to the mountain! I signed a release form stating I wouldn’t sue if a I died and attached my wicket and ticket to my coat (I had a great moment of nostalgia attaching the wicket to my coat, haha… I hadn’t done that in years!).

I grabbed a snow tube and headed for the “magic carpet” tow that took me up the mountain (more of a hill, in this case).  At the top, there were different lanes you could choose to tube down, so I hopped in line for one and waited to glide down the snow!

It’s such an exhilarating feeling, “teetering” at the top of the hill and then rushing down! I love a good adrenaline rush and snow tubing is great, especially on a steep hill with drops! The snow and ice kicks up while you go down, though, so protect your eyes if necessary.  I saw a number of people with ski goggles on, but I braved the hills without any (I was a little blinded the first time down, but it got better after that).

As time went on, fewer people stuck around into the evening and the lines at the top of the hill got shorter, making for quicker runs and returns to the top. It was a blast!  Eventually, my toes were cold enough for me to consider heading in, so after my final run down the hill, I headed into the small “snack lodge” to warm up.  There was also a large fire pit outside to warm up around.  Now that I live in the south, I really miss simple things like fires in the winter and going out in the snow.

Snow tubing at Big Boulder was incredibly fun!  I miss winters in the Poconos a lot, so it was nice to get back and enjoy a wonderful day outside in the snow!

 

signature_su1awkumwi8wm7wdlr

I Moved To Gator Country

I have pretty much lived in the mountains my whole life.  I love the wildlife, the lakes, the woods, the streams and rivers… everything.  So the fact that I just landed a job and got an apartment today in the middle of Florida, some 1100 miles from the mountains of Pennsylvania, is a pretty big deal and a very big change.

Let me say that I am accustomed to Florida, though.  My family has owned a place on the eastern coast of the sunshine state since the 70’s, and I have lived part of almost every summer of my life there. Disney, Sea World, Universal? Done them too many times to count.  The Florida Keys?  It’s a day trip that I absolutely love making.  Miami?  Down the road.  Florida has always been a second home to me in a way, but actually living here full time is certainly very different.

At first, I didn’t think I could tear myself away from the mountains and woods that I loved so dearly in Pennsylvania.  I know what plants to stay away from, what animals to look out for.  I could read the sky for signs of oncoming weather and I could listen for distant sounds and know the difference between the howling of the wind across a mountain top and the howling of a coyote on the next ridge.  I don’t yet know these types of things about Florida, and it’s a little daunting to know I’ll have to begin a lot of research in order to safely do some long hikes and explorations.  There are many more dangerous things lurking out on the wilderness of Florida than in Pennsylvania (hello wild panthers and poisonous snakes!), so I know I’ll have to be very careful as I venture outside.  I’ll have to adjust to zero elevation, humidity, and hot temperatures.  In the mountains, I knew how much water I needed – that will be something I’ll have to figure out all over again now given climate conditions.  There’s a lot to get used to (on top of the fact that it’s a new town with new people in a new state!).

I’ve done a bit of research and have already found some interesting hiking trails and areas and state parks.  I’m excited to begin exploring!  I’m thinking about investing in some new outdoor gear, too – stuff more suited to the climate here.  I will definitely miss my mountains, but it’s exciting to consider all the new things I’ll see and discover here!

I can’t believe I moved to gator country! Haha.  I’ll always be “girl on a mountain” though.  The mountains will always be my home 🙂

Roman Tower and Mt. Nittany Vista on the Mid State Trail

Ever since doing the Jackson Trail on Tussey Ridge which serves as a short cut for part of Pennsylvania’s Mid State Trail, I’ve been interested in hiking that area of the Mid State Trail.  I thought I was going to do the part near Jackson Trail atop route 26 near Pine Grove Mills because I’m familiar with that area already, but after reading about some other sections of the trail, I decided to be a little more adventurous.

I decided to pick up the Mid State Trail in Rothrock State Forest right next to Tussey Mountain.  It’s located right off route 322, south of State College past Boalsburg.  After entering the Tussey Mountain area where the ski lodge is, you continue driving into Rothrock State Forest, which is marked by white boundary blazes.  Eventually, you have to get onto Laurel Run Road, which is an unpaved road that makes very, very sharps turns as it heads up to the ridge top.  There are no guardrails next to the sheer drops of the mountainside and there are quite a few blind curves, so it’s a tricky drive.  I took it all the way to the top until I hit a gated access road apparently called Shingletown Fire Road, but there is currently no sign marking it.  I originally drove past it because I wasn’t sure it was the right gate. Then, when I realized I was descending down the other side of the ridge, I realized that gate was definitely the one I wanted.  When I parked in front of the gate, I saw some faded orange blazes on either side of the road where the Mid State Trail comes through.  I was in the right place!  I was even greeted by this little guy as soon as I began the hike.

Image

I started off by going past the gate and walking down the forest access road.  Not too far in, the MST breaks away from the access road on the right.  If you’re not paying attention, you could easily miss it – watch for those orange blazes! This sign greets you as you step off the access road and onto the “actual” trail:

Image

I always like to do my research before heading out on a hike, especially around this area of the MST because of all the side trails and hidden vistas.  To someone who is a non-experienced hiker, I would definitely recommend checking out some maps of the area first and becoming familiar with the area before heading out.  It’s easy to wind up somewhere you didn’t expect (following the orange blazes aside, that is).

A little ways down the trail was this signpost:

Image

I was interested in the springs nearby, but figured I would do that another day since I could already hear thunder in the distance and I had just begun the hike!  (Also, I looked into the Little Flat Tower which I put together is a fire tower, since when I originally drove past the access road gate I saw a side road with a small sign that said “Little Flat Fire Tower.”  I did drive back there after my hike was over, but the fire tower road was gated off completely, apparently due to vandalism.  I did some research, though, and you can apparently hike to it from the MST on the other side of Laurel Road – I think that’s what I’ll be doing next!).

After awhile, a small sign that says “view” points to the right.  I followed the small side trail and was met with a fantastic view of Mount Nittany.  I could also see the storm that I was hearing coming by in the distance, but it looked like it was going to miss the ridge I was on which was a relief.  The views were absolutely stunning – I could’ve spent much more time there!

Image

I knew after hitting this vista that there would eventually be a small side trail called the 1-2 Link to my right father up the MST.   I read up that it used to be marked with a sign, but is now just marked with a cairn (an obviously human-made pile of rocks).  I did come across the rock pile, but couldn’t determine any real trail.  It was really feeling like much of this portion of the trail is neglected.

I have done some tough hikes before and, although this one was pretty flat and not the rockiest trail I’ve ever been on, it was a little rough going.  About one third of the hiking I did was entirely through brush and vegetation that was completely covering the trail.  There are many rocks underfoot, too, and having to battle brush makes seeing the rocks hard and so it’s slow going.  Even with my experience, I had to stop a couple times and look around for the trail blazes because the trail would sometimes literally disappear because of the tall brush and vegetation.  I talked with a friend after I returned from the hike and we’re considering going up to clear the trail – it definitely needs to be done!

My main goal for this hike was to get to the Roman Tower.  It’s a small foundation of rocks built up in a square shape.  From what I’ve read, it used to be taller.  Currently, the center of it is evidently used as a fire pit.  What’s nice is that the Tower offers some more great views!

Image

From the Roman Tower, I could see the storm blowing past across the other mountains, but the thunder continued to get louder and the sky grew darker.  I stuck around long enough to take some pictures before it started to rain.

Image

Image

Although the trek to Roman Tower was a little tricky because of the overgrowth on the trail, getting back was even a little more difficult because everything was wet now (took much longer than I thought it would!). The rocks underfoot, which were hidden by the overgrowth, were slippery, so slowing down the pace was necessary (I did fall right on my tailbone slipping on a wet boulder – not fun!  No harm done, though, so I was able to get right back up and continue on).  In fact, that only reason why I got so wet was because of having to battle the overgrowth.  If the trail was defined and kept up, this probably would’ve been less of a problem.  The Mid State Trail needs some maintenance love!

Overall, even through battling some intense overgrowth, being bitten by some angry ants, and slipping on a wet boulder, it was truly an excellent hike.  The views were incredible and the Roman Tower was pretty cool!  There were a couple places along the trail that had dry campsites, so I wouldn’t mind spending the night up there.  It was a great trek!  I’m really looking forward to doing the MST on the other side of Laurel Run Road and getting up to the Little Flat Fire Tower.  That will be next!

Sunrise on Tussey Ridge

Sometimes you just have those nights that are so action-packed, you literally don’t go to bed until after the sun comes up.  And, at that point, you might as well find a pretty awesome place to watch it.  Off to the top of Tussey Ridge I went!

Tussey Ridge is located just a few miles outside of State College and is actually an entry point for the Mid State Trail (see my previous post about the Jackson Trail on Tussey Ridge!).  You can see pretty much all of State College from up on the ridge and definitely all of Penn State.  Luckily, it wasn’t a foggy or too cloudy morning, so the views were great!

ImageThe sun rises right above (or next to, depending on your location) Mount Nittany.  The colors in the sky were absolutely gorgeous.  Sadly, my camera battery died in the middle of taking photos so I wasn’t able to get too many.  On the drive back, there were some pretty great spots that offered prime sunrise-photo-opportunities, but alas, no battery means no photos.  Next time, though!

ImageIt’s always a great adventure to go watch (or wake up to go watch, haha) the sunrise, especially in such a picturesque area.  I plan on heading back up that way to do a portion of the Mid State Trail that goes down into the valley and then climbs back up the ridge. The ridge offers some nice views of the sunset, too, so I’ll probably be on the trail for that.  I’ll be making sure my camera battery is charged, too!  Never want to miss an opportunity to capture a wonderful sight or moment!

Jackson Trail On Tussey Ridge

The last time I decided to try out the Jackson Trail, I got about a mile in before a crazy storm blew in over the mountains and absolutely soaked every article of clothing I was wearing and also my camera (thankfully putting it in a tub of rice saved it!). Today, however, things went much smoother.

Image

The Jackson Trail is located on the top of Tussey Ridge along PA route 26 just outside State College.  It, essentially, is a “shortcut” for a portion of the Mid State Trail (which I realized after examining some topo maps of the ridge).  The Jackson Trail is about 3 miles out and 3 miles back.  At the end of the 3 miles out, it meets up with the Mid State Trail, which makes its way up from the valley below (interestingly, the Mid State Trail is also at the trail head to the Jackson Trail – which I’ve never seen or noticed before – and heads down the mountain rather than along the ridge.  So following the MST “version” is about twice as long, from the looks of it, which makes the Jackson Trail a nice shortcut for those doing the MST).

Image

I was pretty excited to find a U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey benchmark disk along the trail.  I was interested in why it has two years listed and just did some intensive research about the disks to discover where and when they were placed, what the symbols on them meant, and so on.  If there are two years on it, it means the original one was replaced.  The only thing is that I can’t quite determine if the first year listed says 1935 or 1965.  It looks like the one beneath it says 1938, but it is difficult to tell given the marks on the disk (it could quite possibly say 1968).

The Jackson Trail offers some truly great views along the way where the rocks of the ridge peak out from the trees.  The first real over look is David’s Vista, which is gorgeous.  You can see the mountains beyond which include the Bald Eagle Ridge and the Allegheny Front.

Image

Image

The trail is very rocky and at times, it almost feels as if you’re bouldering along the ridge.  There are points where the blue blazes of the trail become momentarily lost when you come across the rocky points in the ridge.  Before setting out on this trail, I knew the MST met up with it eventually, so I was keeping my eye out for orange blazes.  What I didn’t expect to come across were some white blazes about two-thirds of the way in.  I wasn’t sure what to make of these and thought that perhaps they were blazes for an old trail or perhaps that the MST met up earlier with the Jackson Trail than I thought and the white blazes were just old.  After getting home and doing some more intense web research, I found that the white blazes indicated a boundary line with state forest land.

Image

Eventually, there came a point in the hike where it felt much, much longer than 3 miles and it seemed like the blue blazes disappeared entirely on top of one of the rocky overviews.  Only the white blazes were visible of the other side of the rocky section, so it seemed like the end of the trail.  Daylight was also quickly fading and the 3 miles back got pretty dark toward the end.  Unfortunately, it appears as if that wasn’t the complete end of the trail since there is apparently a sign that indicates when the MST intercepts, officially marking the end of the Jackson Trail.  If anything, I must’ve been very, very close anyway.  But given the loss of daylight, it was definitely time to turn around at that point anyway.  In fact, turning around even sooner probably would have been better since there are some pretty big predators roaming the mountains out this way.

Image

Definitely a fantastic day and an excellent hike.  I really want to do the MST part of the trail that heads down into the valley and meets back up on the ridge.   There were more rocks than actual trail it seemed, but it was worth it!

signature_su1awkumwi8wm7wdlr