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Topic: Michaux Mont Alto hike< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 27 2012, 9:59 pm  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Photos

Well, I've put off writing the trip report for long enough.  Might try to shorten the report (didn't happen).  A week ago I headed up to Michaux State Forest, to take some of the trails I have not done, hoping they'd go through some nice areas.  Expectations were clearly exceeded.

I started at Mont Alto State Park, paring across from the dance pavilion.  I crossed Antietam Creek on PA-233's bridge, and found a trail on the south side of the road, heading upstream between the road and the creek.  Before the Park and Forest, this was clearly an industrial area, and there was a furnace nearby.  The trail heads below tall pine and hemlock, sometimes walking along slag piles.  Three dams of assorted ages are passed.  There are also old spillways, various abutments in the creek, and a line of small pits.  At one point the trail uses the wide road shoulder, as there is not enough space between the road and creek.  The trail ends at gravel Staley Road, across from a water facility.







I head south on the road, just to cross the creek, pass another utility building, and turn west at a yellow gate right before a hill.  This leads to a woods road working its way up a small hollow.  The trail is in good shape, gently ascending underneath mountain laurel and hemlocks, until I reach a junction with a trail on my left.  I take this trail, crossing a small stream on a bridge next to a rhododendron stand.  The trail then slowly ascends a ridge, heading north, on well-made sidehill.  It heads all the way to the north end of the ridge, where I can look down through the trees at the utility structures on Staley Road I passed by earlier.  The trail turns back south, now fully atop the ridge.  At some points, the trail on the other side is only about 20 feet away, clearly visible.  Anyway, I head south, winding my way up the ridgeline, until the trail looks blocked by fallen trees.  Instead, this was the start of a relocation.  The area to the south was recently logged, and thus the old trail had since been obliterated.  The new trail winds along the boundary of the timbered area, sometimes entering for a bit, sometimes leaving for a bit.  It then enters the logged area in earnest, winding its way about.  The trail is, with maybe one or two exceptions, easy to follow.  I reach the logging road, which the trail uses for a couple hundred feet before continuing.  Since the map I was carrying had the old route of the trail, I did not know which way on the logging road I needed to go.  I first head left, gently uphill.  I pass a skid trail, which I soon decide is not what I want. Just past that is the trail, quite obvious.  I went the right way!





The trail continues south, looping its way through the logged area.  Unlike the logged area near Cowans Gap I went through a few weeks ago, this one was not an eyesore.  The ground could still be seen, and leftover trees were not piled up.  Charcoal flats could still be readily detected, along with an old charcoal road.  As the trail mainly ascends, I eventually reach a junction with another trail.  This is another trail that got re-built after the logging.  I head downhill north, and it is clear this trail is primarily used by horses.  It's not as clear as the one I was on, but still readily followable.  It ends at a sharp turn in the logging road I had previously passed.  I head left, westish, away from my prior crossing.  I ascend by a couple of switchbacks, with junctions at each one, until I reach a small clearing.  There is a bit of a view towards the east of the South Mountain Range, which is why I decided to head to the clearing.  There was not a large rock outcropping, as I had interpreted from aerial photos, but rather large stacks of lumbered wood.  After taking in the view, I headed back down the logging road, and back up the horse trail, to the last junction.  I continued south on the trail, and briefly reached the pipeline clearing.



I took the pipeline east, immediately crossing Wirt road.  Just after the road, at the first gap in the northern berm, I head back into the woods on another narrow trail.  This goes through another recently logged area, but does not look as good as the last one.  The trail was re-built more recently than the last one, so has not become as obvious due to use.  There is a deer fence slightly uphill of the trail.  The trail approaches the fence, and appears to disappear.  I thus head along the fence.  This is a very new fence.  Judging by work vehicle marks, and the lack of foot/hoof/bike tracks, it was likely put up in the last week.  Later on, I see trail continue away from the fence, and so I get back to it.  Later on, it again merges with the fence, this time for a lot longer, before again leaving it.  It soon approaches the fence again.  The trail continues, inside the fence.  There is no gate.  So, I decide to continue along the fence line.  There are a couple of spots where you can see the trail return to the fence, before heading back into the exclosure.  I meet two hikers, who also noted that they could no longer take the trail.  Soon, the fence line merges with a logging road, and a short distance later I find myself at Staley Road.





I head slightly downhill on the road, where, just before a pulloff, there is a trail leading next to a drainage ditch east into the woods.  This trail soon crosses Red Run on rocks; the stream is mostly underground here, but looks like flash floods can affect this crossing.  Past the crossing I reach a trail junction, where I head left, downstream.  This trail son loops around to a bridged stream crossing. It is here my camera batteries die, and the replacements do not work, nor does mixing and matching them, so no more photos past here.



The trail then heads above the stream, following it downhill through mountain laurel and hemlocks. It passes some charcoal flats, some small outcrops, and often approaches an old charcoal road, eventually crossing it, and then at the bottom of the main slope starts to follow it.  It merges with another charcoal road, which I take a sharp right onto.  It crosses Red Run, which would either be a shallow ford or tricky rock hop.  There is also a fallen hemlock stump across the stream, which has clearly seen regular bridge use.  This trail ascends the northeast side of Red Run, usually using the old roadbed, but sometimes diverging it to avoid blowdown jumbles and some wet areas.  As it reaches the top of the hill, it leaves the road a final time, passes some outcrops, and after one final climb reaches an old logging or woods road.

I take the logging road north, continuing as it turns sharply east, uphill, until I reach a junction.  I first head straight to look for a spring listed on my map.  I find its stream, but since I didn't check it against aerial photos, I didn't find the spring itself.  Back at the last junction, I head northwest. This soon leads to a large hilltop clearing.  It is flat enough to not have significant views, but is still a nice area; would also probably make a good campsite.  The trail continues on the far side of the clearing, and it then soon branches.  I first go left, to Eagle Rock, a set of large outcrops where the hill sharply drops off to the west.  I then head back and take the right branch.

This heads down into the top of The Narrows, crossing a dry stream on a bridge, passing near a small stream cascading over white quartzite, and the a rock hop later on to cross that stream.  The trail ends at another old charcoal road.  After getting confused, and almost taking the "wrong" way (which would have only added a little bit of distance), I head left, downhill.  In a slight distance, there was an unexpected divergence of woods roads.  The more obvious woods road headed downhill; the more obvious usage-wise went uphill.  I decide to head uphill; the woods roads fades away, as the trail continues.  It lightly ascends, before making a sharp turn north, ascending a bit more earnestly, next to a long line of rock spines.  

At the top of the spines, I take a sharp left onto another trail, which heads down the west side of the rock spines.  You could probably scramble to the top of some of them from this side; I'm not sure if there would be views.  This trail is also the least obvious of those used today.  I even lose it once or twice, but always quickly finding the trail again.  After reaching the bottom of the spines, the trail makes a short descent down a small rock ledge, and switchbacks its way very gradually down a steep hill, passing many ledges and outcrops.  There is a nice view through Mont Alto Gap at one point in the trail.  Further on, at a set of rock outcrops, is an even better view of the Mont Alto region, other than the haze.  I was surprised that the overlook was there, and even more so that it is clearly far from an unknown place, as there was a group of at least 13 Mennonites around (and later on another group of at least nine on their way up).  After the vista the trail descends down into the narrows.  I can see the woods road heading up through the ravine, but overgrown and would not have been easy to connect with its other end.  Downhill the trail "somewhat" merges with the woods road, but due to continued erosion any woods roads remnants are hard to see in this area.  The trail is easy to find, though.  The bottom of The Narrows is a most interesting area.  The southern wall is a giant steep wooded talus slope.  At it's head it becomes a large tower of rock.  The northern wall, no more than 100 feet away, starts out as another steep sloping rock wall.  Makes me really wished I had working camera batteries at the time.  I'll have to go back.

After leaving the wonders of The Narrows, the trail merges with the one coming down from Eagle Rock, and now becomes an obvious old charcoal road.  This slowly descends towards Antietam Creek, where it merges with another woods road, and crosses a small stream via an old stone culvert.  I continue west on the now wide woods road, until I reach Staley Road at the utilities buildings, directly across from the trail into Mont Alto State Park I started on, and thus ending the nice trip with the easy streamside hike back to the parking area.


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 28 2012, 9:52 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Nice pics and report
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PostIcon Posted on: Apr. 24 2012, 9:47 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

More Photos

I decided to return to the area to get photos of the rest of the hike.  I did change the beginning to new trails, up the old PA-233 roadbed, then a selection of woods roads, narrow trails, and logging roads to go past the golf course and back on the loop I had done.  I was also able to find Tarburner Spring this time.











Back on the familiar trails, went down one side of Red Run, then up a woods road on the other side, spotted a broad headed skink, and made it to the large clearing, this time walking straight thru it, rather than the trail on the edge behind the trees.







Had lunch at Eagle Rock amongst the outcrops, then traversed the top of The Narrows.  The cascade over white quartzite I mentioned previously turns out to be less impressive when I decided to find it up close.  The stream is  a trickle, there are only a few boulders of white quartzite, and a fair number of fallen trees obscures good views, anyway.

Then headed up one side next to a rock spine, and down the other side.





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PostIcon Posted on: Apr. 24 2012, 9:56 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Part II

After the rock spine, I took a narrow trail threading down a steep slope with many outcrops.  Past the "pre-view," and then took a rest at the Mennonite Vista, with a good view of Mont Alto through a gap in the mountains.







Next I continued on the trail down into The Narrows.  This section has seen some care in the past month, all blowdowns have been cut through.  As mentioned, the base of The Narrows is a rather nice place, two rock walls, a giant boulder in the middle, large talus slope on one side.  The only issue is you cannot really get a photograph of everything at once.











Past The Narrows it was an easy downhill walk on an old charcoal road, back to the old roadbed I started on, over an old stone culvert.





I also made a stop at the Oak Road vista, and a short hike/bushwhack to the Mackey Run wetlands, but the less said about that the better.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 22 2012, 10:24 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Even More Photos

Last Saturday I wanted a hike that was closer, easier, shorter, and more traveled than my Martin Hill trek the week before.  I figured that Michaux State Forest, especially the southern third, would give a hike that would fit those criteria.  And, for the most part, this approximately eight mile hike fit the bill.

I started at Mont Alto State Park, taking the trail between PA-233 and Antietam Creek to make my way into the Forest and its unblazed trail system.  I decided that summer was not the time to hike this trail.  It is narrow, and with high grass, but that's not the problem.  Rather, there is poison ivy in plenty of spots along the trail, requiring watching each step, and sometimes some fancy footwork to avoid it (apparently, I succeeded).  After I crossed Staley Road, poison ivy really was not a problem anymore.  Sure, parts of the Appalachian Trail had some lining it, especially on and near the gravel road walk, but that was easily avoidable.



Anyway, after the road crossing, I followed some old charcoal roads, ascending my way up to the base of the Narrows. I first headed into The Narrows, to make a side trip to the Mennonite Vista.  It was a fairly clear day, and I could see all the way to Tuscarora Mountain.  It was nice up on the rocks, only the sounds of birds, insects, leaves in the wind, and only the occasional vehicle-induced wind coming from the road.





After taking in the good view, I made it back down to the base of The Narrows, and turned on to a trail heading up to Eagle Rock.  This was a twisty singletrack trail, good switchbacks, making it way up to the rocks in two stretches, with a level area in between.  Plenty of hemlocks in the first half, though often not in good shape.  I didn't feel like exploring the Eagle Rock area this time, so I continued on, past a trail junction, and made a stop at the large clearing.  Not surprisingly, the grasses were much higher than they were earlier in the year, so I didn't venture out that far.  (Though, I spotted no ticks at all on this hike).



After the clearing, I doubled back to the last junction, and headed down to the top of The Narrows, crossing three small streams, and reached another old charcoal road.  I took this uphill, and at the next trail junction headed east.  This is the trail which headed by the South Mountain Golf Course.  Blowdowns have been cut through since the last time I was here.  However, parts of the trail can still be muddy, especially after you make the closest pass to the golf course.  It enters a clearing, where you have to cross a tall grass field to reach an old logging road.  I took this northeast, until I reached the Appalachian Trail.



And so I started north on that trail I'm not on much anymore, the AT.  This was certainly the most used trail of the day.  And, being in some levellands, often muddy.  It could certainly use some trailwork, or better a minor relocation to avoid the gravel road walk just north.  It gets better after the gravel road, with assorted erosion control work.  There is some readily avoidable poison ivy near the PA-233 (south) crossing.  After that is the easier than I remember short ascent of rocky mountain.  I crossed the utility gravel road, then, when I reached the pipeline, I found a good rock to sit down and have lunch on.  Oddly, I saw no one on the AT while I was there.

After lunch, I needed to find the next trail.  And it was easy to find, I just headed west down the pipeline, maybe about 50 feet, until finding it.  I took it north, as it slowly descended Rocky Mountain.  This is an old woods road through mature woods, with plenty of good erosion control work since being converted into a trail.  Growth becomes more dense as it enters an old logging area, and eventually reached a small clearing.  After crossing it, I spot a box turtle, and then head down to gravel Kettle Springs Road.





A sharp turn onto the road, climbing to its summit.  Here I turn west on another old logging road, slowly ascending Mont Alto Mountain.  While this trail seems some use, it is rather light, as there is no treadway, and tall grass covered the entire width.  Only evidence of use is light disturbance visible along the grass.  After passing two clearing, the trail continues as a woods road, back in the woods, and no tall grass.  I reach a triangle junction at the top of the mountain with another woods road.



This north/south woods road forms the western boundary of the Meeting of the Pines Natural Area, apparently the only place in Pennsylvania that has a certain mix of pine species. Though, along the top of the mountain, there is only the occasional pine, and there really isn't any trails into the interior/west slope except for a telephone and a pipeline clearing.  The woods road starts off quite nice, moss-covered.  Blowdowns have been dealt with recently.  The trail remains nice until the telephone line.  First, it requires just a touch of searching to find the continuation (as just north of the line, the trail got relocated west of the woods road).  Plus, it is no longer in as good as shape.  It is clearly less traveled, and blowdowns have not been taken care of in a while.  It is not difficult though, by any means.  And it's not overgrown.  Plus the trail has been flagged.



Or, at least until the pipeline crossing.  Past here, the woods road becomes in worse shape, and gets even less traveled.  It is no longer flagged, and blowdowns have again not been taken care of for a while.  Small, bent sassafras trees block the rail at head level in many places, and sometimes even lower.  The woods road becomes less distinct, and some parts have assorted greenery growing in the road.  There are also some false trail junctions caused by charcoal flats, and so I had to pay attention in this section.  But I made my way, until the trail was ready to descend. Here the trail became a well-constructed old charcoal road heading down the east slope of Mont Alto Mountain, with plenty of rocks from a talus slope removed to make a smooth road bed.  There is the occasional poison ivy stalk along the descent, just enough that you have to watch for it.  At a small clearing, the trail becomes a logging road (or, more accurately I suspect, the old charcoal road got converted into a logging road).  It becomes better traveled here.  A couple of switchbacks later, the logging road meets up with PA-233.



My original plan at this point was to cross the road, and bushwhack my way back, crossing the creek, to the old woods road junction near the beginning of the hike, near Travelers Spring.  Or I could take the road back.  Seeing more poison ivy below the road, I decide to take the paved road back.  Thankfully, the shoulders have been recently widened, and thus the road walk was reasonably safe.  At Staley Road, I decided to head back to the park by staying on the road, rather than dealing with the poison ivy trail I dealt with at the start of the hike.

Again, the Mont Alto area of Michaux has some great trails.  This is especially true for the area around The Narrows and Eagle Rock.  Frankly, the Meeting of the Pines/Mont Alto Mountain area isn't anything special (to me), and isn't necessary to include in other hikes, though the north part is an easy pleasant walk.  And, I learned, in warmer months, use the parking area at PA-233 and Staley Road to avoid the poison ivy between there and Mont Alto State Park.


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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 15 2013, 10:00 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

Photos

I decided to return to the Mont Alto area of Michaux State Forest, to visit in winter, to find the status of potential trails south of the pipeline, and to see if there is a view from atop Snowy Mountain.

Well, some trails existed, others did not, and yet others were in poor shape.  I started off on a good woods road west of a narrow ridge separating it from Staley Rd; I've been on it before.  Where it split into two routes, I took the lower one, to stay in hemlock/rhododendron land.  After I passed the trail leading up to the narrow ridge, any trail maintenance the woods road had received ended way in the past.  It was still easy to follow, past rhodos and charcoal flats; I just had to bushwhack around many blowdowns.  Once it reached the edge of a logged area, it was no longer passable, and had to bushwhack next to the trail and past a partially eaten deer.  I soon made it to the end of a logging road, and then the upper woods road merged with it (which looked to be in much better shape).  I continued on some logging roads, then onto a reconstructed trail up a wide, shallow hollow, light fog increasing.  



I reached the pipeline, headed east and crossed Wirt Road, and ascended Sandy Ridge.  If not for the fog there would be a couple of minor views.  At the top, I took a logging road south, and soon found an old trail which started to wind east.  But, due to a logging activity I was completely unaware of (too recent for aerial photos, and prospectus no longer online), the trail soon was obliterated, and I bushwhacked easily to the east, approximately following the logging edge, until I reached its logging road.  I took it north/downhill until I reached its deer fence and gate.  I followed the fence east, where I walked on the only snow of the hike.  When the fence turned north, I continued east, now bushwhacking with moderate difficulty.  I eventually reached an obvious old stone lined woods road, took it north/downhill to a logging road.  Checking my maps, I thought I knew where I was, and headed east, soon reaching gravel and gated Sand Ridge Road.  I then took this easily down to the junction of Staley and Rothrock Rds, each iced over due to traffic.





Briefly west on Staley took me to an old log skid, which I started north on past a clearing.  It soon narrowed and started to ascend into a laurel area, making a couple of turns along the way.  It headed to another recent logged area.  Aerial photos were ambiguous and suggested it did head through the area.  It did not.  Bushwhacking my way up hill, through tall grass and young growth, slowly, and picking up, then brushing off, a tick.  As the area leveled out, I found a rough trail, leading me to a logging road, and then I headed out to Rothrock Road, passing a second dead deer.  I headed north along the partially iced over road, to Staley Road.

I crossed the road onto gated Chimney Rocks Rd, passing a logged area, an impromptu Christmas Tree, and a trail.  I headed up to the Snowy Mountain Fire Tower, having lunch at its base.  (There's a fence around the tower, so I couldn't go up; no view from the base.)  After lunch, I found the rocky trail leaving the mountain and headed to the Appalachian Trail.  My first plan was to head north on the AT, but I then decided to take the rock-and-moss trail along the telephone line, and took a woods road off the mountain.  After the descent, I took a narrow trail west, first rocky, then often moss covered, which paralleled a horse trail/logging road, through an area with occasional pine.  I crossed Snowy Mountain Road maybe 100 feet north of the AT, continuing west on a woods road, which soon crossed the AT.  I continued on the woods road, then a narrow trail, as it wandered its way down into the South Mountain flatlands.







Thanks to the snowmelt, the flatlands was soggy as I traversed the level logging skids and road.  It did not help that some sort of logging activity (training?) had occurred recently.  I took the connector to another logging road, then traversed the large clearing near Eagle Rock.  As all the rocks were wet, I decided to skip exploring Eagle Rock this time, and headed straight into The Narrows.  This is one of my favorite places, the lowlands below the flatlands, with many streams draining some of them.  Numerous hemlocks and pine, one trail winds through it, which I always take slow for the scenery; it is not a difficult trail at all.



After the traverse, I turn north/uphill on an old woods road, to where it becomes a logging road, where I took a log skid up a ridge to the west.  Heading south on the ridgeline on a trail, soon, a rock spine arises and the trail splits in two.  I take the west branch, as it drops along with the ridge, next to the rock spine.  Some parts are indistinct, but the trail is otherwise easy to follow, though the dampness makes some of the rocks slick.  Down the drop, the trail turns back north, wondering along the side of the ridge, before turning back south.  Here the trail starts to drop from the ridge, following a series of ledges along a steep pine slope.  I pass the pre-View, and stop at the Mennonite Vista overlooking Mont Alto, fogged over.

I head down, back into The Narrows.  The stream crossing is a small issue, as there was more water than typical, but an easy jump over.  I explore the cascaded in this area, on both sides of the big boulder in the middle, and admire the sloping rock walls at the base.  I then head down the sunken charcoal road, merging with an old roadbed at an old stone culvert, and then its just an easy downhill trek on the roadbed below towering pines and back to the parking area.







Still, a good hike, though it is now clear that there is no good connection south of the pipeline to get between the Mont Alto and Snowy Mountain areas.


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